English for Accounting: 30 Key Terms to Unlock Financial Fluency

If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper, or planning to become one soon, you’re going to need some English for accounting.

In this post, you’ll learn 30 English terms for accounting with examples to show how these words are used in context.

Then, you can take a quiz to test your knowledge and identify the terms that need some extra review!

With this lesson in accounting terms, you’ll expand your business English vocabulary and boost your confidence in working with English speakers.


English Terms for Accounting

1. Assets

Definition: Everything a company owns, including cash, accounts receivable (money a company is going to receive, see below), property and goods.


The company’s assets were easy to calculate, but it was difficult to quantify the value of the employees’ expertise.

2. Liabilities

Definition: Everything that a company owes to others, like loans and mortgages.


Liabilities are recorded on the right side of the balance sheet, while assets are listed on the left.

3. Balance Sheet

Definition: A document that records a company’s assets and liabilities at a certain moment in time. If we’re talking about a public company, it also shows the shareholders’ equity (how much the shareholders own).

The balance sheet is based on the accounting equation:

assets = liabilities + owner’s equity

The balance sheet is important for potential investors because they can see how the company is doing.


We studied the balance sheet carefully to see if the assets exceeded the liabilities and shareholders’ equity.

4. Debit

Definition: An entry that shows what a company spends. Debits are recorded on the left side of an account.


She recorded the purchase of the new laptops as a debit entry.

5. Credit

Definition: An entry that shows how much money a company receives. Credits are recorded on the right side of accounts.


She realized that the total debits didn’t equal the total credits, so she had to check each entry all over again.

6. Double Entry

Definition: An accounting system in which each transaction is recorded as both a credit and a debit, an asset and a liability.


Double entry bookkeeping gives you a better perspective than single entry bookkeeping because it helps you make sure each transaction is accurately recorded.

7. Net

Definition: An amount of money that is left after taxes have been paid.


She couldn’t tell me her net salary because she didn’t know all the taxes she was paying; moreover, salaries are not transparent in her company.

8. Gross

Definition: An amount of money before taxes are deducted.


Her gross income exceeded his, but they still couldn’t afford to get the house they’d been dreaming about for such a long time.

9. Profit

Definition: The money a business is left with after deducting all the expenses.


In order to decide if the company was worth investing in, they wanted to look at the profit it had been making over the previous year.

10. Revenue

Definition: The total amount of money a company receives from the services or products it sells. The revenue is higher than the profit, because in order to calculate the profit, you need to first see the costs of doing business.


Our company has experienced a decrease in revenue due to the financial crisis.

11. Capital

Definition: Cash and funds, but also machinery and tangible assets that can contribute to earning more money, like computers, company vehicles, etc. Intangible assets like expertise or reputation are not considered to be capital.


He couldn’t start a business because he didn’t have enough capital, so he decided to work as a freelancer for the time being.

12. Cash Flow

Definition: Money coming in (inflows) and going out (outflows) of a company.


They had a cash flow problem because only a small percentage of their customers decided to use early settlement discounts, which meant that they had very high financing costs.

13. Payroll

Definition: A list of all a company’s employees and their salaries. The word payroll also refers to the total amount of money paid by a company to its employees.


They have a lot of employees on their payroll, so they employ quite a few payroll accountants to calculate employee earnings.

14. Accounts Payable

Definition: Money that a company owes to other parties—companies or people—called creditors. Accounts payable are considered liabilities.


All of the accounts payable need to be cleared before we can invest in new software.

15. Accounts Receivable

Definition: Money that a company has to receive for products or services bought by customers or clients.


You can calculate the accounts receivable by adding up all the invoices the company generated.

16. Appreciation

Definition: The increase in the value of a company’s assets. Appreciation can be the result of an increase in demand for a product or service. The verb form is to appreciate.


Although their balance sheet didn’t look very promising, the company seemed worth investing in because of an anticipated appreciation in the value of their product.

17. Depreciation

Definition: The decrease in the value of products or services a company offers. Depreciation can be due to a high supply of similar products or services offered by competitors. The verb form is to depreciate.


Because the company had almost no competitors just a year ago, nobody would have thought that their products would depreciate so much.

18. Overhead

Definition: All the expenses a company needs to pay for, like the costs of advertising, labor, bills and taxes.


Their overhead expenses were so high that they had been making very little profit, so they decided to cut back on marketing.

19. Accounting Period

Definition: The time period over which financial statements are produced, usually a year.


The accounting period the investors were interested in was longer than a financial year because they wanted to get the big picture of the company’s profitability.

20. Financial Statements

Definition: Documents that show the financial situation of a company. They include the balance sheet (showing assets, liabilities and shareholders’ equity, see above), the income statement (showing revenues and expenses) and statement of cash flows (showing cash flow fluctuations in a certain accounting period).


The accountants were all busy working on the financial statements as the company was planning to refinance its loans.

21. Share

Definition: A unit of ownership in a company. The person or organization who owns shares (the shareholder, see below) is entitled to dividends (usually cash), but they also share the responsibility if there are losses.


He decided to invest in shares of a very profitable company instead of considering a savings account, because he was sure he could make money fast and he enjoyed taking risks.

22. Shareholder

Definition: A person or organization (company or any other institution) that owns shares in a company. Shareholders are, in a way, the owners of a company. If the company is doing well, the value of the shares goes up. If, on the contrary, the company is not profitable, the value of its shares decreases.


Because he was a shareholder in the company, he had to attend annual General Meetings in order to keep up with the latest news and to vote for new members of the Board of Directors.

23. Owner’s Equity

Definition: A part of a company’s assets that the owner has. It’s calculated as assets minus liabilities.


Unfortunately, in his company’s case, the owner’s equity didn’t amount to much: they had a lot of liabilities and not enough assets.

24. Auditor

Definition: A person whose job is to evaluate accounting records in order to make sure they have been done properly and to check if the company is being run efficiently.


When the auditors asked for additional information about the financial statements, our accountants complied without delay.

25. Bookkeeper

Definition: A person whose job is to record daily transactions, issue invoices and complete payrolls. Bookkeepers are usually supervised by accountants. Bookkeepers are required to have less experience than accountants and don’t need a degree in accounting.


She was training to become an accountant, but in the meantime she had a part-time job as a bookkeeper.

26. Chartered Accountant

Definition: An accountant who has a certain amount of experience and who has passed certain exams that qualify them to be a member of an institution, such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in the UK. In the US a similar title is that of Certified Public Accountant (CPA).


She’s been studying to become a chartered accountant for a few years now, but she just couldn’t manage to pass the final exam.

27. Creative Accounting

Definition: An accounting practice that tries to present an improved image of a company’s financial situation by highlighting mainly the aspects that are favorable. Creative accounting is considered to be legal, but is often seen as unethical.


As soon as our potential investor realized we had done some creative accounting, they decided to hire an auditor.

28. Income Tax

Definition: Money that individuals and companies owe to the government, based on the income they make.


She was a sole proprietor and she hired an accountant to file her income tax return every year.

29. Value Added Tax (VAT)

Definition: A tax that consumers pay on most products and services, except most food and drugs. Not all countries have a VAT system. In the US, most states have something similar, called a sales tax.


The bookkeeper had to calculate the Value Added Tax in order to issue the invoice.

30. Return on Investment (ROI)

Definition: The profitability ratio of a certain investment. The return on investment is calculated as the benefit gained from the investment divided by the cost of the investment.


As their return on investment hit the lowest point in the last 5 years, they decided to stop investing in our company.

Quiz on English Accounting Terms

Look at the following sentences and choose the correct answer to test your understanding of the terms you just learned.

Courses on English for Accounting

To learn more English for accounting, check out one of these highly-rated courses:

  • English4Accounting: This is a great resource because it offers a variety of activities to practice accounting vocabulary in context: reading exercises, multiple choice questions, listening comprehension exercises, spelling and recognition questions and teacher-graded speaking and writing activities. 
  • Mastering English for Accounting: Grammar Rules and Examples on Udemy.com: This course will teach you how to use various English verb tenses and grammar rules with an accounting context. It’s for intermediate English learners with previous knowledge of accounting.
  • Tax & Accounting English Masterclass on Udemy.com: In this course, you’ll learn how to pronounce essential accounting terms, general tax terms, frequently used verbs in the accounting profession and more. It’s for students with a basic level of general English and previous knowledge of accounting and taxes. 
  • Virtual immersion programs like FluentU: While not specifically focused on accounting, this type of program can help with getting a grasp on the more general vocab that will surround more specialized words. With a huge collection of authentic videos in English, interactive subtitles and other learning tools, FluentU can help you improve your language skills and communicate more clearly in your accounting work and beyond.


Now that you’ve learned and practiced all these terms, the only thing left is to incorporate them into your speaking and writing!

With this new knowledge and some resources for additional learning, you’re well on your way to doing business in English with ease.

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