9 Mistakes You’re Making When Speaking English at Work
May Smith, ESL teacher, London
18 September 2019
If your job involves speaking English then you’ll know how stressful it can be if you worry about making mistakes in front of colleagues and clients. These may be mistakes with grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation.
Of course, when learning a second language mistakes are natural, but in a working environment you want to show that you are confident with your English because it looks more professional. Therefore, limiting the mistakes as much as possible should be your goal.
In this article, we’re going to highlight 9 of the most common mistakes we see with our students and show you how to fix them! All of the mistakes are in the context of business English.
1. Uncountable nouns
So our first common mistake is with uncountable nouns. While most nouns in the plural form have an ‘s’ at the end, uncountable nouns do not.
- Can I get some more informations about the product?
- Correction: “Can I get some more information about the product?”
- “Could you give me some advices?”
- Correction: “Could you give me some advice?”
- “The company has bought lots of new equipments.”
- Correction: This can be changed to “lots of new equipment.”
If we need to give a number of something and it’s an uncountable noun we use (piece/pieces of + noun)
- “I did 2 researches on it.”
- Correction “I did 2 pieces of research on it.”
Some common uncountable nouns in business English are: information, accomodation, money, equipment, luggage, work, research.
2. “The meeting went good”
Perhaps one of the most common mistakes we see students make is using adjectives instead of adverbs. The correct sentence should replace ‘good’ with ‘well’. This is because ‘well’ is describing the verb ‘went’ in the sentence and therefore must be an adverb.
- “The meeting went good.”
- Correction: “The meeting went well.”
3. Can you vs could you
In order to get on well with colleagues and clients, it’s essential to learn how to be polite in English, especially when making requests. If you ask a colleague, boss or client to do something for you, it’s best to use the conditional form because ‘can’ will make your request sound more like an order.
- “Can you check if the client’s replied?”
- Correction: “Could you check if the client’s replied.”
4. “I’ve got 3 works to do”
As previously mentioned in the first point about uncountable nouns, ‘work’ is an uncountable noun so this would have to be changed to:
- Correction: ‘I’ve got 3 pieces of work to do’
- Alternatively you could also say: “I’ve got 3 projects/assignments/jobs/tasks to do.”
5. Not using the gerund where needed
“…without take some precautions.”
Correction: “without taking some precautions”
- “Are you looking forward to going on holiday.”
- “I’m thinking about taking a year off to go travelling.”
- “We need to avoid losing more customers.”
- “I’m considering taking that job.”
- Most of the time we use the gerund when it follows a preposition – about, of, without.
- It also follows specific verbs – avoid, consider etc.
6. The misuse of prepositions
One of the most common mistakes in learners of English is the tendency to use the wrong prepositions.
“I’m working in a big project.”
“I’m working on a big project.”
“It depends of the situation.”
“It depends on the situation.”
7. “I look forward to hear from you”
This phrase is used at the end of formal letters and emails as a way to tell someone that you hope to hear from them or expect that they reply. A common mistake is to forget that it should always be followed by the gerund form of the verb.
- I look forward hearing from you.
- We look forward to hearing from you soon.
- I look forward to meeting you.
8. “I’ve worked here since 2 years”
When you use the present perfect tense and mention a time you have to use either ‘for’ or ‘since’. The rule is this:
‘For‘ is with periods of time, e.g. “I’ve worked here for 2 years.”
‘Since‘ is with specific points in time, e.g. “I’ve worked here since 2017.”
9. “I don’t have time enough”
People often get confused as to where ‘enough’ comes in a sentence. The rule is ‘enough’ comes before a noun but after an adjective.
“I don’t have enough time.”
– ‘time’ is a noun therefore ‘enough’ comes before it.
“My office isn’t big enough.”
– ‘big’ is an adjective so ‘enough’ comes after it.
So that brings us to the end of our list of business English mistakes. Were you making any of these mistakes? Don’t worry if you were, it’s better to learn them late than never!