English is the official language in a total of 67 different countries around the world. In this article, we are going to learn how to speak more professionally by turning basic/ general English into business English. By doing this, you will sound more confident and professional in the workplace.

In order to transform your English vocabulary, we first need to look at the differences between the two types of English. Business English is learned and used for specific purposes. There are many generic terms in business English and regardless of the industry you work in, you have to know these terms. On the other hand, basic English contains day to day vocabulary. While both are forms of communication, the approach and objectives of learning and using these two vary from each other.

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Differences Between Basic English and Business English

1. Difference in Purpose 

Basic English focuses more on day to day conversation and involves the use of basic vocabulary and grammar. It leans more towards an informal and casual tone. On the other hand, business English has a purpose, a direction and need. It is more specific because it is applied in a more professional context. It is more task-oriented.

2. Specific Terms

Business English vocabulary has specific terms a speaker can use for the business he/ she is representing such as accounting, marketing, and so on. While in general English vocabulary, a speaker may or may not have a specific term related to his/ her everyday situation. Those who learn the basic might not find they need to learn specific terms since they are only required to use words that are conversational.

3. Formal and Informal

The simplest difference between business English and basic English is that the latter is more informal. Business English mostly uses formal language and tone.

Basic/ casual English is often used in business contexts too, such as with your colleagues. However, in formal situations, such as with clients or people you do not know very well, you might want to use more formal language. Differences between the two are mostly shown through a change in vocabulary. Let’s look at some really easy, common examples of transforming your vocabulary for different situations:

Requesting something:

We commonly say, “Please make sure you arrive on time.” Which piece of business English vocabulary could you use instead of ‘make sure’? To upgrade the sentence, you could say “Please ensure you arrive on time.” 

In the sentence “Please give her your immediate travel plans,” instead of using ‘give’, you could use ‘provide’. “Please provide her with your immediate itinerary.”

Also, instead of using the word ‘travel plans’, you could use the word ‘itinerary’. An itinerary is usually a document that lists your travel plans, when you’re departing, arriving, where, when, how and so on.

Another example is using the business English word ‘inform’ instead of ‘let them know’. If you want to sound more formal you could say: “Please inform them of your arrival” rather than saying “Please let them know when you will be arriving.”

Asking for help:

Suppose you need help from someone, you would say “I need your help” or “I need some help.” Which more formal word could you use instead of ‘need’? You could change this to: “I require some assistance”. You could also change more than the verb in sentences, but remember, the verb is the key to upgrading your English.

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When you receive something:

In everyday English, we say “I got your email”. Very simple, right? If you want to upgrade this sentence, you could say “I received your email.” Now that sounds more formal and more business-like.

Another example is instead of just saying “When will I get the reports back?" you could say “When will I receive the reports?”

Talking and discussing:

“Let’s talk about important matters later” is a simple sentence. You could say “Let’s discuss urgent matters later.” Change ‘talk about’ and ‘important’ to ‘discuss’ and ‘urgent’. These business English phrases will make you sound more professional.

When in a discussion and you want someone to explain something to you, we can simply say “Let’s talk more about this idea.” Instead of saying ‘talk more about’, it’s better to use ‘elaborate’. “Let’s elaborate on this idea.” “Elaborate’ is a very useful peice of vocabulary. You could use this word if you go to a conference or a meeting and you want someone to speak some more about a particular topic.

Another example is saying “Please explain why you’re late” instead of just saying “Please tell me why you are late.”


Both basic English and business English vocabulary are suitable to use in a work context but they depend on the context. Business English terms are mostly formal and its usage is mostly to enhance your professionalism at work. Also sometimes it can make you sound smarter and more confident in what you're saying. Basic/ General English leans more on the simple, conversational, day to day use of words. It's important to remember that it is common to use both forms of English in a work environment.

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