Mar 02

Tense Table Download

Tense Chart Small

Hi all,

Just a quick one. We have created a great new tool for English communication trainers and participants alike. Below is a little preview (Vorschau) of how it looks and I hope you will find it helpful. Feel free to download a free copy from – direct download.

Naturally, you need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.


Jeremy Hamann

Jul 14

Top Ten Business Idioms (Medium)

ID-10042672Firstly, what is an idiom and where do they come from? They have been in use since the late 16th century and the best way to think of an idiom is something that essentially ‘sums it all up’, which means that an idiom says in a few words how we feel about a particular situation or experience. The actual Latin root of the word idiōma means something closer to a peculiar or strange event rather than the idea of something. Today, we use idioms to talk about everyday things that communicate an idea of something experienced by other native speakers, and which are relatively commonplace.

Top ten list of idioms

  1. Go ballistic – It essentially means to go a bit crazy or angry. It has a double meaning whereby somebody could go ballistic on the dance floor for example in the UK (positive), or your clients will go ballistic if you increase your prices by 50% (negative).
  2. Dive off the deep end – In business this would suggest risk. I.e. You’re going to have to just jump in and get involved and take the risk that it might not work and the risk is that you may drown.
  3. Barking up the wrong tree – Your blaming the wrong person or company for doing something wrong and would be better off finding out who or what is actually at fault.
  4. The devil is in the details – A bit like those annoying contracts you sign in Germany for various services whereby a company can charge you for a lot of things you didn’t know about or read.
  5. Can’t see for looking – Yes, you were looking and couldn’t see an object that was right in front of you or in front of your nose.
  6. The bottom line is – The final point, summary or conclusion. Has a double meaning which shouldn’t be confused with improving profitability.
  7. Stuck in a rut – Unable to move forward in a  job, career or life moment. Could be used for a company that is unable to grow further.
  8. Low hanging fruit – The easy sales or fast sales you can complete. They could be low-cost or highly profitable.
  9. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t – A dilemma of what to do next. Both options present results that look equally negative.
  10. Them’s the breaks – In effect, someone is saying “Oh well, too bad” or is using a nicer version of “Shit happens”. You can get a good break, or a bad break but them’s the breaks is used to talk about bad or poor chances we get or happenings.

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Feb 05

Talking about the Future Tense – Part II (Medium)



So how do we use a future tense to talk about business situations and what vocabulary do we use?

This is a typical sentence by business people to discuss future plans.

“I believe BBE should open an office in Paris. We would be able to offer translations services in French as well as in German and English. I am currently working on a revenue forecast for the next three years but I think it will be a success.We could employ one person to begin with and see how it goes. I mean, we are going to expand anyway, so why not start with a large neighbour like France and with some of our customers that need French translations now.”

In this statement, we use almost all of the ways you can to talk about the future. As well as ‘going to’ and ‘will’ we also use model auxiliary verbs such as could, would and should, which express the possibility of something happening in the future. Can, may and must are other examples of model auxiliary verbs that express possibility. Model auxiliary verbs can also be used to express events in the past (e.g. I could speak English when I was three) and in conditional sentences that express possibility (e.g. If I won the lottery, I would buy a Porsche) but we might talk more about these points next time and get back to the future.

Sometimes other words before would, could and should make them stronger or more possible or alternatively less possible. Let’s analyse some of the possibilities to see how the speaker really feels….

  1. I believe BBE should open an office in Paris. = 60-70% (higher = I strongly believe we should)
  2. We would be able to offer translation services in French… = 100% (it is possible after an earlier future event happens i.e. as a result of opening the new office – would is the past of will and able is like CAN DO)
  3. I am currently working on a revenue forecast… = 25-75% complete (it’s present continuous but it has a future meaning – I am working on it ‘now’ in general but I plan to finish it soon..)
  4. I think it will be a success. = the result is 25-40% possible (the person expresses a little doubt – stronger = I definitely think it will be a success 50-75%)
  5. We could employ one person to begin with… = 50%
  6. and see how it goes = 50% (interesting expression in the present simple form that really means 50/50 like will)
  7. going to expand anyway… = 90% (the decision was made before the time of speaking)

In examples 1,2, & 3, there are additional words that make the future event more or less possible. (believe, think, able, strongly believe, definitely think)

We can also use present continuous to talk about future plans – (subject + am/is/are + verb + ing). E.g. I am currently working on a revenue forecast. This doesn’t mean I am working on it right now as it suggests. This means that if you go to my desk you will find the excel sheet ‘forecast.xls’ open on my computer and maybe 50% complete. I am in the middle of it ‘in general‘ and I PLAN to finish it soon. Compare to…I am having a party on Saturday. It’s  a future event and a plan I am in the middle of!

As with ‘see how it goes or see how it works out’, which also have a future meaning, some managers in meetings and conference love to use ‘going forward’ in every second sentence.

E.g. John, going forward, what do you think your sales will be next quarter?

or in other words….John, what do you think you are going to sell next quarter?

For exercises on future tenses visit: Going to

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