Sometimes formal and informal English can seem like two different languages. Sian's here to show you four features of informal English - and some ways you ...


00:00:00

Hi, Sian here for BBC Learning English. In

this Masterclass we're going to look at some

00:00:05

differences between formal and informal English.

00:00:12

Hey, how's it going? Good afternoon, how are you?

00:00:18

Sometimes formal and informal can seem

like two different languages. In the same

00:00:24

way you wouldn't normally wear shorts and

a t-shirt to a job interview, if you use language

00:00:29

that's too formal or too informal, you can

give a bad impression. Let's look at some

00:00:36

Now, I received an email this morning. Have

00:00:42

a look at this email - do you think the language

is formal or informal - and why?

00:00:50

Dear Mrs Brown,

00:00:51

I'm writing to find out whether you have any

jobs in your company this summer.

00:00:55

At the mo I'm studying Economics at uni.

00:00:57

I have been working part-time in a shop and

recently they promoted me to the role of manager.

00:01:02

I am enthusiastic. I work hard. I pay attention

to detail.

00:01:06

Ok, so that email used informal language and

it's too informal for this style of letter.

00:01:13

We're going to look at four features that

make this informal and we're going to change

00:01:18

it to make it more formal.

00:01:21

Number one: choice of vocabulary. In informal

English we use more common words and more

00:01:28

phrasal verbs. For example here we have a

phrasal verb: find out. It would be better

00:01:34

to use a more formal equivalent like enquire.

Same with jobs, this is quite informal, so

00:01:40

instead let's use vacancies here. Instead

we have "I'm writing to enquire whether you

00:01:49

have any vacancies."

00:01:52

Number two. It's more common in informal language

to use abbreviations, contractions, shortened

00:02:01

forms of verbs. Let's have a look. So, here

we have at the mo, which is short for at the

00:02:08

moment. This is OK when you're speaking, but

not when you're writing. Here, we could use

00:02:13

currently which is even more formal. Same

here, uni is short for university, so don't

00:02:20

use this short form in a letter. "Currently,

I am studying Economics at university."

00:02:28

Quite often in formal language we choose passive

structures over active. Let's have a look

00:02:35

here. The active sentences they promoted me

is quite informal - it'd be much better to

00:02:40

use a passive form here to make it more formal:

I was promoted. So, "Recently I was promoted

00:02:50

to the role of manager." This doesn't mean

don't use active structures in a formal letter,

00:02:57

but have a think about whether a passive one

is more appropriate.

00:03:01

Finally, in informal English, short, simple

sentences are much more common. Whereas in

00:03:09

formal English, we use more complex

structures. Take a look at this one. Here

00:03:15

we have three short, simple sentences and

this is fine in informal English, but in formal

00:03:21

English it's better to use a complex structure.

We can do this by adding relative pronouns

00:03:27

or linkers. For example, "I am an enthusiastic

person who works hard and pays attention to detail.

00:03:45

So, would you kindly visit our website...

ah, we're friends, that's too formal. Go to

00:03:52

our website bbclearningenglish.com for more

information about this and to practise formal

00:03:58

and informal English. See you soon - goodbye!

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