Formal and Informal English – BUSINESS ENGLISH PODCAST EP.4

Business English Podcast

Episode 4: Customer Service & Formal and Informal English

Formal and Informal English

Main ways of being formal:

  1. Vocabulary
  2. Grammar
  3. Tone of voice


1: Formal and Informal English : Vocabulary
  • There’s a range. For example:
Slang Informal Neutral Formal  Very formal (often antiquated)
‘sup? / What’s the craic? / Story? Hi / Hey  Hello Good afternoon Good day


  • Formal words often sound like Latin (and so Spanish, French, etc)


Please proceed to gate 12 Go

What time would be convenient? Handy /Good 

At what time does it commence? Start


  • Phrasal verbs are almost always informal/neutral

Look into investigate

Make up invent

Do up renovate

Look over review


  • Formal vocabulary tends to be similar across different English countries but slang changes hugely, often from city to city or generation to generation


“A man” might be: a bloke / a dude / a fellow / a lad / a geezer / etc


  • Very formal language is much more common in written English than spoken (e.g. reports, emails, proposals, etc for work)

There are lots of fixed phrases we rarely use in spoken English, especially in emails. E.g 

To whom it may concern / Dear Sir / Yours Sincerely / etc

With reference to / Regarding your recent inquiry…

I look forward to…


  • Finally, there’s how we address people – Jane v Ms Murray v Dr Murray, etc


2: Formal and Informal English : Grammar / Sentence Structure


Another thing we can do to be formal English is change the sentence structure. We often use modal verbs or conditional structures or we make things into questions so it sounds more polite.

Help me ->  Would you mind helping me?

Can I have some time off? -> Would it be possible to get some time off?

Can I open a window -> May I open a window?


3: Formal and Informal English: Tone of Voice

In many ways this is the most important way of sounding formal or informal. 

“Go over there, please” could be formal or informal depending on how you say it (just adding please isn’t enough!)


Customer Service

So, let’s have a look at all of this in relation to customer service. When dealing with a client or customer you need to be polite and relatively formal (depending on the type of job)



  • Greetings 


How can I help you?

Are you alright? (a phrase students often get confused by)

What can I do for you?



  • Explaining / Selling 


If I could interest you in X

Could you tell me what are you looking for exactly? 

Do you need me to explain anything again?



  • Giving instructions


If you could just follow me over here

If I could ask you to sign here

Would you mind waiting here for a moment? 

If you’ll just take a seat, I’ll call Mr O’Dea



  • Saying “no” 


I’m very sorry but…

I’m afraid that…


That’s not available at the moment, unfortunately, but what I can do is…



  • Saying goodbye


Thanks again for everything

Very nice to meet you / meeting you

I’ll be in touch

All the best / Take care


In Everest we offer Business English classes in our Dublin English School. Contact us today for more information. We also have lots of podcasts that you can listen to for free!

For more on this topic, check out this BBC video on youtube.

Learn more about our English courses


We will send you our brochure, prices and accommodation options, so that you can start planning your trip to learn English in Dublin with Everest!