In English, many people like to use phrasal verbs when talking and writing.  For many, it is simply easier and more natural to utilize these words.  Some examples might be to look up, ask for, or put off.  Once again, it’s very normal for people to use these phrasal verbs.  However, in a formal setting like an email or a meeting with superiors, it may be better to use formal language.  This sets the tone and makes you seem more professional even though the meaning of the words are exactly the same.

 

Let’s look at a table of some of the most common informal phrasal verbs and their formal counterparts.

Informal

Formal

say sorry

apologize, apologies

go up

increase

go down

decrease

set up

establish

look at

examine

blow up

explode

find out

discover

bring about

cause

put off

postpone, delay

make up

fabricate

stand for

represent

find out

discover, ascertain

point out

indicate

go against

oppose

get in touch with

contact

It’s about

It concerns, It’s in regards to

need to

required

think about

consider

get

obtain

put up

tolerate

deal with

handle

seem

appear

show

demonstrate, illustrate, portray

start

commence

keep

retain

free

release

show up

arrive

let

permit

fill in

substitute, inform

block

undermine

give the go ahead, greenlight

authorize, authorise

 

As you can clearly see from the above table, English has a large variety of ways to express yourself.  This flexibility can be excellent if you are very strong at English but it also has the downside that it is extremely difficult to know which words to use when.  As ESL speakers, many times you may just want to get the idea out there and the tone may be second in importance.

Although, the meaning is the most paramount, discounting the tone and setting may be a bad idea so if you really want to impress your boss and show them that your English is top-notch, you may need to add in a bit of more formal language in you letters, emails and business meetings to reveal just how good your formal business language can be.

 

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