Business English Quiz
Do you speak English at work? If you work for an international company, the answer is probably yes. So the next time you're speaking to a supplier in Sweden, a client in Canada, or a coworker in Colombia, try to sound more natural by avoiding these typical mistakes that Germans often make when speaking business English.
For each part, I've written a sentence or two in German. Your job is to translate it into correct, natural English. Click on "translation and tips" to see the right answer. If you have another way of translating it that you think is also correct and natural, write it in the comments below and I will let you know if it's ok.
1 – Ich rufe Sie morgen um 14 Uhr an.
I will call you tomorrow at 2 pm.
I am going to call at 2 pm tomorrow.
Don’t use the simple present (‘I call you…’). It sounds awkward to a native speaker’s ear. When talking about something we are going to do in the future, we use the simple future (either ‘I will…’ or ‘I am going to…’). In English, we only use the simple present to talk about events in future when they are based on facts in the present (normally a timetable or official schedule – NOT just a promise or offer).
In the US, it is not common to use the 24-hour clock. Instead, use ‘am’ or ‘pm’ to specify the precise time.
2 – Ich antworte auf ihre E-Mail bis Freitag.
I will answer your email by Friday.
I am going to answer your email by Friday.
I will reply to your email by Friday.
I am going to reply to your email by Friday.
As above, don’t use the simple present in this case.
When using the verb ‘reply,’ make sure to include the word ‘to’ after it.
Be careful about the difference between ‘by’ and ‘until’ – BY is used for actions that will be completed before a given time, UNTIL is used for continuous actions that will be happening the entire time until a given time. More info here:
3 – Ich freue mich darauf, Sie nächste Woche kennenzulernen.
I am looking forward to meeting you next week.
Make sure to use the ‘ing’ form of meeting. Even though the word ‘to’ is in front of it, and normally ‘to’ + verb is an infinitive, this is an exception to that rule.
4 – Wir sehen uns nächste Woche.
We’ll see each other next week.
See you next week.
Don’t use the word ‘us’ as the object. This is a reflexive verb. That means we have to use words like myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, each other, yourselves, and themselves.
The second form is an abbreviated form that is often used by native speakers.
5 – Ich bin bis Freitag bei dem Kunden.
I will be at the client’s until Friday.
I will see the client by Friday.
Don’t use ‘by’ – when talking about where you are or where you work, we use ‘at’ in English. ‘By’ is just used to say that you are near someone.
Notice that the German word ‘bis’ has two possible meanings – you will be there the entire time or you will stop by at some point before the end of the week. In English we have two words that tell you which one we mean!
6 – Leider haben wir einen Fehler gemacht. Ich ändere die Daten gleich ab und schicke Ihnen sofort die neuen Zahlen.
Unfortunately we made a mistake. I will revise the data right away and send you the new figures immediately.
Unfortunately we made an error. I will change the data right now and send you the new numbers immediately.
In English, we ‘make’ mistakes (we don’t ‘do’ mistakes).
7 – Ich schicke dir die Informationen so bald wie möglich.
I will send you the information as soon as possible
I am going to send you the information as soon as possible.
Again, make sure you don’t use the simple present tense.
Also, information is uncountable. There is no such thing as ‘informations.’
8 – Unser Hauptsitz ist in Hamburg.
Our headquarters are in Hamburg.
Our headquarters is in Hamburg.
We can use either are or is (headquarters can be seen as plural or singular).
However, we have to put an ‘s’ at the end of headquarters. There is no noun ‘headquarter.’
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