avril 4, 2010 à 11:50 | Publié dans advanced english, business english, english (all) | Laisser un commentaire

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Read through the following paragraphs and start to think about the differences between them.

(A) There are myriad identifiable differences which separate the formal and informal styles of English. It is the aim of this particular lesson to examine “register”, and investigate the ways in which English can be moderated in order to provide the appropriate language for the situation.

(B) Formal and informal English are very different. This lesson looks at the differences and how you can change the “register” of English when necessary.

register: registre (de langue)




Think about the following points.

– Which paragraph is formal, and which is informal?

– How are the sentences structured differently in both examples?

– Which kinds of verbs, adverbs, nouns etc. are used?



Now look at the following topics, and how they are used in formal and informal register.



Using the passive form in English is more polite. It is more common in written and academic writing, and less common in everyday speech.

Remember, we use BE + past participle to form the passive.

e.g. is created, was scheduled, can be found, has been decided

The active form is much more frequent, clearer and easier to form. Here is an example of the difference between the passive and the active form.

The government has passed a new healthcare bill.

A new healthcare bill has been passed by the government.



There are varying degrees of politeness in English. In general, the more words used, and the less direct the language is, the more polite a sentence will be.

Look at the following scale of politeness –

Non-specific order        The phone!

Imperative                    Answer the phone.

Imperative + please      Please answer the phone.

Question                       Can you answer the phone, please?

Question + explanation   Can you answer the phone, please – I’m a bit busy.

Conditional form            Could you answer the phone, please?

ffffff fff   ff ffff ffffffff Would you be able to answer the phone, please?

Using “mind”                Do you mind answering the phone, please?

fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffWould you mind answering the phone, please?

Tentative request            I wonder if you would mind answering the phone, if it’s not too much trouble for you. Sorry, I’m too busy myself.

Remember that greetings also vary in terms of formality –

more informal



Hi James

Hello Mr. Smith

(written only) Dear …

more formal

When closing a conversation the same scale applies –

more informal


Best wishes



Yours sincerely

more formal



The use of a particular verb in a sentence can reveal whether the speaker/writer is aiming for a formal or informal register.


We’re gonna have to put off the meeting.

The meeting is going to have to be postponed.

Here, the phrasal verb “put off” is informal, and the Latin verb “postpone” is formal. Generally, a phrasal verb (Anglo-Saxon; Germanic) is less formal than a Latin or Greek (or French) verb.

The use of person also changes the register.


I have processed your order.

We have processed your order.

Using the plural form is common for companies and businesses, gives a sense of unity and importance, and absolves any one individual from praise or culpability.



Informal English is always looking for short cuts. Abbreviating words and contracting verbs and negatives are an important part of this process.


I will be responding to your query as soon as possible.

I’ll get back to you ASAP.



English separates linking words according to their degree of formality. Generally, the short the word, the less formal.


but, yet, also, so, then, first, last, and, with, plus

in addition to, therefore, moreover, furthermore, however



Using commas, semi-colons and colons to extend sentences is considered formal, whereas splitting clauses up into separate, short sentences, and using hyphens, is less formal. Also, things like bullet points, lists and numerical ordering are sometimes less formal.


The uses of formal English are numerous, and include situations such as the writing of a business letter, a CV or resumé, correspondence with a superior or boss; in fact it would be useful to provide a short summary of the main uses: (i.) business letters, (ii.) job applications, (iii.) communication with superiors et cetera.

The uses of formal English are numerous. They include –

  • Business letters
  • Resumés
  • Communication with superiors

These rules are guidelines only.


Convert the following from one register to the other. Possible answers are provided at the end of the article.

  1. …But
  2. I sent a letter
  3. Complete
  4. Organize
  5. They had sent all of the information before midday
  6. A summit was arranged by the UN
  7. Stop arriving late for the meetings
  8. Also
  9. Could you please finish the report by Friday?
  10. Yours sincerely



Now read through the following text. It could be a short e-mail, a note, information used in a conversation, or a voicemail message.




Hi James,

I got the loan letter you sent last week. I sent a copy to HQ with a memo about your credit history. Are you free April 2nd @ 10.30am to talk more? Let me know ASAP.

We need to go over a few things (i.e. missed/late payments) before you can get the money, and chat to an SM.

Also, fill out the forms I’ve attached and bring them with you.






Using the guidelines provided in this lesson, rewrite the following text in a formal register. Try to be clear, accurate, and as polite as possible without being excessive. A sample model answer is provided at the end of the article.

e.g. Dear Sir, thank you… a copy was sent… furthermore…



Adamique offre des cours d’anglais et de français à Montréal. Visitez notre site web pour plus d’informations !

Adamique offers French and English classes in Montreal. Visit our website for more information!











  1. However
  2. A letter has been sent/was sent
  3. Fill in/fill out
  4. Set up
  5. All the information had been sent by them before midday
  6. The UN arranged a summit
  7. Please would you mind not arriving late for the meetings in future, thank you
  8. Additionally/moreover
  9. Get the report done by Friday
  10. Thanks

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your letter, received 10th March 2010 concerning your bank loan application. A copy has been sent to our company headquarters in addition to a memorandum detailing your financial situation/client data.

A meeting has been scheduled for 2nd April 2010 at 10.30am to discuss your request for a further bank loan. Therefore please inform us as to whether you are available at the appointed time at the earliest opportunity.

However, a number of issues concerning our income and expenditures may be queried prior to a loan being granted. Furthermore, a senior manager needs to be consulted before a loan of this nature can be authorized. Moreover, your previous failure to meet payment arrangements will first need to be addressed.

In the interim, your completion of the enclosed application form and business plan would be greatly appreciated. Please could you bring both along to the meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Dupont

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