Here’s a new way to think about English for office professionals.
You’re the star of your very own play.
You’re holding a script, which contains all the sentences you’ll speak on stage.
No searching for English words. No grammar mix-ups. No bad translations.
It’s not that far from reality.
There are several situations in the workplace where you can use a “script” to communicate with colleagues and clients. In the office, we’re constantly meeting new people, working on projects, sending emails and even just hanging out in the break room. All of these things have their own expected dialogues.
As you memorize these English for office expressions, you’ll be able to hold more conversations and feel more confident in your business English overall.
Master These 6 Areas to Rock Business English for Office Professionals
Throughout this post, we’ll be using brackets—which look like this: [ ]—to indicate parts of a sentence you should fill in with your own information.
Looking for an in-depth business English course to sound like a native speaker at the office? FluentU is the most fun, personalized option. FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.
FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!
1. Meeting People at the Office
Meeting people can be a stressful experience if you’re not sure what you should say. Thankfully, there are many key phrases and office English conversation starters you can memorize to make meeting new people a pleasant and easy activity.
When you’re approaching someone new, it’s nice to start the conversation with a polite greeting. Some common phrases you might use are:
Hi, how are you today?
It’s generally polite to introduce yourself to new people and learn their names as well. Here are some phrases you can use to tell someone your name and to learn his or hers:
I’m [your name], what’s your name?
I’m [your name], I don’t believe we’ve met.
My name is [your name], I don’t believe we’ve met.
After you’ve learned a new person’s name, it’s nice to indicate that you’re happy to have made introductions. For example:
It’s nice to meet you.
Pleased to meet you.
To keep the conversation going with someone new, it’s a good idea to ask some broad questions about his or her background. Some common questions (and ways to respond) are:
Where are you from?
Reply: I’m from [your home country].
Where did you go to school/college/university?
Reply: I graduated from [university you attended] in [year you graduated].
When it’s time to end an office English conversation with someone you just met, it can be nice to reiterate that you’re glad to have met them:
It was nice to meet you.
I enjoyed meeting you.
Thank you for introducing yourself.
You can also say “goodbye” to your new friend in a few different ways, such as:
Have a nice day/morning/afternoon/evening.
I hope you have a pleasant day.
What if you could speak fluent English in calls, and connect comfortably with your customers, colleagues, and managers?
Imagine... you could look forward to these calls instead of worrying about them.
What could this newfound confidence do for your career?
Did you know there's a course that can help you with that? It's called Creativa.
Don't miss this opportunity to improve your English and your career — get started with Creativa today.
2. Business Related Idioms
There are endless English idioms (expressions that don’t translate easily) used in the office. Some common ones you’re likely to encounter include:
In the red (In debt/operating a loss)
Keeping your eye on the ball (Staying focused on your goal)
Steep learning curve (Difficult/requires lots of effort to learn)
Back to the drawing board / Back to square one (Both of these idioms mean you have to start your goal/project over from the beginning.)
Some other terms you’ll need to be familiar with are used to shorten words or expressions.
For example, “24/7” means “all the time” and “ASAP” is an acronym that stands for “As Soon As Possible.” You can find several more examples of business English idioms here.
It’s important to become familiar with these sayings so you aren’t left confused when you hear them in the office.
3. Telephone Use at the Office
Answering the Phone
The first impression you make with someone might be over the phone. It’s a good idea to use a professional greeting if you’re not sure of your audience beforehand:
Hello, this is [your name] speaking.
Hello, you’ve reached [your company’s name], this is [your name] speaking.
During a phone call, you’ll likely need to identify the caller and find out how you can help him or her. Sometimes, you’ll have trouble understanding what has been said and other times you may get interrupted by another call.
These are some useful phrases to memorize so that you’re prepared to tackle phone calls with professionalism.
May I ask who’s calling?
How may I help you?
Excuse me a moment, I’m getting another call.
I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
Ending Your Phone Call
Ending a phone conversation on a pleasant note is easy with phrases such as these in your vocabulary:
It was nice speaking with you.
Have a nice day.
Have a nice afternoon.
Thank you for calling.
4. Email at the Office
The funny thing about email is that sometimes it needs to be perfectly formal and other times it may need to be more casual. It’s very important to know the purpose and audience of your email as you’re writing it to make sure that you present yourself properly.
If you’re sending an email to a potential employer you would want to use a formal format. However, to send a quick note to a coworker about a project, a more casual approach is likely best. Be sure to pay attention to the culture in your office environment and write accordingly.
Common Parts of Business Email
As I mentioned above, make sure you know the intended purpose of your email as well as your audience so that you can choose the proper format for things like the greeting and closing phrase.
Dear Mr. Smith: (Formal)
Hi, John, (Informal)
Sincerely, [your name]. (Formal)
Thank you, [your name]. (Formal or informal)
You can also simply leave your name at the end of an email, which is considered a more informal closing.
The biggest email mistake you might make is, as I mentioned above, using either an overly formal or overly casual tone for your intended audience.
Some other problems you may run into involve spelling errors and word usage that even native speakers struggle with. A common issue when writing in English is confusing similar words, such as:
Their, They’re or There
It’s or Its
It can also be easy to mess up your subject-verb agreement:
“The projects announced at last month’s meeting is on track.” (Incorrect)
“The projects announced at last month’s meeting are on track.” (Correct)
Another common mistake when writing in English is to confuse the words “effect” and “affect.” Generally, “effect” should be used as a noun while “affect” is used as a verb.
“The advertising campaign had a positive effect on sales.”
“I walk to work every day, so my schedule isn’t affected by traffic jams.”
Lastly, be sure to avoid “texting” language, such as TTYL (talk to you later) or slang terms, such as gonna (going to).
5. English for Office Small Talk
It’s always nice to make some work friends. You want to sound comfortable around them, so using some more casual greetings will make you seem more at ease.
How’s it going?
How’ve you been?
Long time, no see. (It’s been a long time since we saw each other.)
If you don’t know exactly what you should talk about, these are some easy conversation starters for a casual chat:
Did you see the [sports team] game last night?
How about this weather we’ve been having?
Did you do anything fun last weekend?
Got any exciting plans for the week?
Ending Your Chat
When you’re parting ways, keeping that conversational flow going is a breeze with phrases like these memorized:
See you later.
Nice chatting with you.
See you around.
6. Ending a Business Discussion
Sometimes a simple “bye” isn’t enough when speaking with your boss or coworkers. Perhaps you need to indicate that you’ll follow-up on your discussion or that you value the time they’ve spent speaking with you.
If you need to take further action on your own or look into something, you can end the conversation by saying, “I’ll get back with you on that tomorrow/next week/next month.” That means you’ll pick up the conversation again in the future.
To show you appreciate the conversation, you can say, “I’m glad we could discuss this.”
Being unsure of what to say in new situations can feel intimidating. However, with a strong idea of what English for office phrases and words to use you can feel confident in your interactions at work every day.
Sarah Frady spends her days chasing after her two little girls. She has a B.S. degree from the University of South Carolina. She spends her evenings as a professional writer and entrepreneur. She endeavors to uplift, inspire, educate and encourage other moms on her blog Our Happy Imperfection.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.