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Business English vs General English

Akshat Biyani
Akshat Biyani

English is by far the most popular language in the world, with 1.5 billion people speaking the language either natively or as a second language. That figure accounts for almost 19% of the world’s population. More and more people across the world are now learning English to gain access to better education and employment opportunities. Another factor behind the increasing popularity of the English language is the ever-growing influence of British and American cultures. The widespread acceptance of English in most corners has made it the preferred language of social and business communications worldwide. 

1 in 5 people in the world speak English natively or as a second language

This brings up a key difference between the two types of English being talked about here. The English that we learn through textbooks and language classes tends to be formal and somewhat official in nature. On the other hand, the English spoken on the streets is more informal and conversational. It is important for non-native speakers of English to fully understand the distinction between these two forms of the language to be able to use them to their fullest advantage. 

Let’s explore the two different types of English in more detail to understand the difference in their usage. 

Business English 

Business English is the form of English used in formal interactions and official communication. Business English is always used in a professional context and is characterized by a refined vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. It usually does not use common phrases and idioms and largely avoids expressions involving sarcasm, slang, or other types of usage more commonly reserved for conversational English. Let’s understand this in more depth with the help of an example. 

Consider the phrase, “What’s up?”. This is a common phrase used to greet someone. While this is a perfectly legitimate phrase to use in an informal setting, it may not be quite appropriate for use in a formal work or business environment. The business English equivalent of this statement would be something like “How are you going?’

As this example suggests, business English typically avoids literary and non-precise expressions that, while eloquent, are rarely fit for clear and formal communication. 

General English 

General English is a broad term that includes all the regional and cultural variations of the language as it is spoken around the world. It includes everything from geographically-defined accents, idioms, slang, contractions, and other informal usages of words and sentences that make conversations more relatable and engaging. General English comprises both spoken and written forms of English as they are used in everyday situations. While it is difficult to describe a standard set of rules followed in general English communication, it does have a few defining characteristics. General English expressions are often:

 

  • Longer and more informal, with frequent use of idioms, sarcasm, and slang. 
  • Devoid of a set syntax or structure outside the general rules of the language. 
  • Greatly varied in tone and vocabulary depending on the region where it is used. 

Summarizing the Differences between Business English and General English 

Here are the key points of difference between business English and general English. 


Business English General English
Primary Use Strictly professional settings like business meetings. Day-to-day conversations.
Elements Jargon and formal English words. Slang, idioms, sarcasm, regional phrases, etc.
Vocabulary Limited but refined. Vast.
Purpose To clearly communicate ideas. To connect with other speakers and convey ideas and emotions.
Scope Strictly used in business and official communication. Varied usage across spoken and written forms, including books, letters, songs, etc.

Knowing when to use what kind of English 

Both business and general English are used under starkly different contexts and to serve different purposes. This gives rise to many structural and functional differences between the two. For instance, the primary purpose of business English is to allow businesses to communicate clearly with each other and their customers. That is why sentence structures in this form of English are minimalistic and goals-based. However, while this style of communication is ideal for businesses, it doesn’t work as well in day-to-day life. 

Business English is too formal to be used in everyday conversation. General English, on the other hand, has elements like sarcasm and irony that can add humor and cultural depth to a conversation. It also helps non-native speakers engage listeners better and connect with them through a shared familiarity with terms and phrases usually used by native speakers. Non-native English speakers must be well versed in both forms of English to be able to hold a conversation in any setting, formal or otherwise.

If you need help negotiating the finer nuances of English, Immigo is your trusted partner. You can learn to speak more naturally by taking our classes at a fraction of the cost that most other businesses charge.

Browse through our wide selection of live speaking classes specially curated to help non-native English speakers like you become fluent in English.