Learn Intermediate Business English Vocabulary Skills

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Why are Vocabulary Skills Important in Business Communication?

Companies worldwide have recognized English as the universal language of business. You could be an employee visualizing a lucrative career in the corporate world or a company owner seeking success in expansion overseas. Besides the requisite expertise in business management, the common denominator for anyone involved in a multinational company is having solid skills in Business English. Since vocabulary is the foundation of any language, including all parts of that language reserved for particular functions, building vocabulary skills is vital to achieving a strong overall aptitude.

Business English is a branch of the English language that consists of business-specific terminology. The skills in mastering this entail more than just learning new words. The ability to enlarge your background knowledge for potential use in the future is an example of a vocabulary skill. Others are learning which words would apply best in different contexts and knowing what language to use in certain business tasks. Well-developed vocabulary skills enhance every aspect of the English language: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Fluency means you’re able to communicate effectively in all areas. It will develop your confidence in business communication and increase your value at work. 

What Factors Produce a Richer Vocabulary?

English proficiency is commonly divided into three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The most instrumental element to move forward through these levels is vocabulary. However, vocabulary knowledge differs significantly among individuals. English language learners are all too familiar with the extent of the imbalance between the gaps. But what makes vocabulary skills so dissimilar? Here are the main reasons:

  • A love for reading.
  • A wide background experience.
  • Strong word consciousness development.
  • Sufficient exposure outside academic settings.

English language learners who have inadequate vocabulary skills are often reluctant readers, hesitant conversationalists, and indifferent to the intricacies of the English language.

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4 Learning Strategies for Intermediate Business English Learners

Enrolling in classes that teach English for Specific Purposes (e.g. Business English) is a giant step for language growth and career advancement. But achieving substantial and constant success with your English language goals would be impossible without self-study. Since real-life exposure to English is limited for a lot of students, intermediate-level students know the value of creating a personal “English environment”. There’s an abundance of methods geared toward developing vocabulary skills. Ultimately, it comes down to what works well with your learning style. Here’s a list of popular and reliable techniques recommended by experienced teachers and students.

1. Develop Prior or Background Knowledge

For many English language learners, reading is boring because it requires a lot of brain power. However, reading is an absolute must in strengthening your vocabulary skills. In the business context, there are many reading materials you can consume to add to your background knowledge. You will encounter unfamiliar words and see how they’re used in an assortment of business situations. If reading seems tedious, try to develop your attention span by starting with short selections of text until you can move on to lengthier articles. You can begin with company or product descriptions, brochures, and service or product reviews. Try to find business topics that are interesting or relevant to your work. Business journals, news, blogs, and articles are valuable sources. Reading will provide a powerful foundation to build and call upon when you need it. Fluent English speakers and writers are often consummate readers. For example, you’ve gone through competitors’ websites and read about the history and mission statement of every company. When the need to describe your own company to a potential client arises, you’ll activate your background knowledge and give your client a great explanation.

2. Make Inferences by Using Context Clues

Inference means a conclusion, an estimate, or a guess based on logic and evidence. Whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, you don’t always need to use a dictionary. You can conclude what the word means by reflecting on the meaning of the sentence where the word was used.

Take a look at this sentence: “Sylvia was judicious regarding the budget for the corporate luncheon, showing good judgment in choosing a top quality but cost-effective caterer and negotiating discounts with the venue and the event organizer.”

What does ‘judicious’ mean? First, ask who is being judicious. Sylvia. With what? The corporate luncheon. You don’t really need to know what judicious means to understand it. You’ll soon find the definition of the word in the sentence itself. How is Sylvia behaving? She’s showing good judgment. And the meaning of judicious is? Exactly that: showing good judgment.

Sometimes, the clues appear as examples that help explain what the word means. Let’s consider the following sentence: “Tommy procrastinated to avoid writing the proposal, doing tasks that are lower in his daily list, reading pamphlets from a previous client, and occasionally playing games on his phone.”

What is the meaning of ‘procrastinate’? In this example, you won’t find the definition anywhere in the sentence. However, you have examples. You know that Tommy is supposed to write a proposal. Instead, he’s doing other things such as tasks that aren’t urgent, irrelevant reading, and playing with his phone. You can infer that procrastinating means delaying your duty by doing other useless things.

3. Learn Synonyms and Antonyms

Synonyms are words with similar or almost the same meanings The words “evaluate” and “assess” are synonyms. You can either say “I’ll assess the damage.” or “I’ll evaluate the damage.” without a significant change in meaning.

Nonetheless, you shouldn’t forget that not all word pairs in the English language can be used interchangeably. There are differences in meaning, even with the closest synonyms. While some of these distinctions might be small or subtle, they can mean a world of difference.

To illustrate, discussing someone’s wages when they’re earning a salary will confuse them. A “wage” is an employee’s hourly rate, while a “salary” is a set amount regardless of the number of hours.

The words “colleague” and “counterpart” both mean people you work with. But “colleague” has a broader meaning, which includes everyone in the same profession as you. Meanwhile, a “counterpart” is someone who has the same position and does the same job as you. If you work as an HR manager in your company’s headquarters in Dubai, you’ll have a counterpart in the Singapore office.

Antonyms are word pairs that have opposite meanings such as “frequent” and “rare”, “permanent” and “temporary”, “qualified” and “unqualified”, and so on.

Synonyms and antonyms are important in Business English, especially in writing, because you would want to sound knowledgeable, fluent, and confident when communicating with the people you meet at work. Having an extensive vocabulary that you can cite anytime with ease helps you achieve this. You’ll develop a keen improvement in your vocabulary skills: a sharp overall sense of Business English and effective word use that corresponds with proper context.

4. Collect Specific Terminology in Language Sets

You’ll be exposed to language that relates to specific purposes at your job. Make a list of these expressions by categorizing them into their appropriate functions. You’ll be able to remember the right vocabulary when you encounter these situations. Doing this can quicken the pace of learning and help your fluency forward to the next level. To jumpstart the habit, continue reading to learn several ways of navigating the usual circumstances that happen in the workplace.

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3 Polite Ways to Say No

At work, it’s normal to decline requests, offers, or invitations. However, it’s important to do so in a polite or diplomatic manner to avoid offending your colleagues and customers. Learning how to soften your tone is a vocabulary skill and a requirement in the workplace. The following are sentence starters that tone down rejection.

1. Making a statement of regret

  • I appreciate the offer but…
  • That’s very interesting. However…
  • I’d love to. Unfortunately…

2. Explaining why the answer is no

  • I wish I could, but right now I need to focus on…
  • That would be great, but I’m already working on…
  • Normally I’d be able to, but right now I have to…

3. Offer an alternative, if possible

  • I’m afraid I really can’t right now, but I might be able to…
  • This isn’t really a convenient time. How about…
  • I’m sorry I don’t think I have time, but (Tim) could…
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4 Indirect Ways to Deal with Questions

There will be times during business interactions when you won’t be able to answer questions directly. It could be that the question isn’t clear and you need more information. Sometimes, a counterpart or client would ask hypothetical questions when they are doubtful or anxious about the subject. There might be instances when you can’t give an immediate answer, or you don’t want to give an answer at all. The language you use becomes crucial in these cases. You have to maintain a polite stance to avoid offending your colleagues or customers. Also, you wouldn’t want to sound off-putting, indifferent, or dismissive. Here are 4 ways that people react to questions and phrases to use in several kinds of situations.

1. To seek clarification

Did you mean to say that…?

When you say… do you mean…?

I’m afraid I’m not sure what you’re asking.

I’m not sure I understand. Can you say that again?

Would you mind rephrasing what you asked? I didn’t quite understand it.

2. To give reassurance

I see your point. However…

You don’t need to worry about that.

I can understand your concern but…

3. To give yourself more time to think

Let me see…

I’m glad you asked that question.

That’s a very interesting question.

4. To evade or avoid giving an answer

Perhaps I could give you an answer later.

That would depend on a variety of factors.

I prefer not to comment on that at this time.

I’m afraid I can’t answer that question for now.

Can I give you an answer later? I don’t have all the information at the moment.

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15 Common Business English Words and Phrases for Intermediate Learners

It’s always sensible to practice compiling words in a personalized vocabulary notebook. When working for a company, you’ll come across a commonplace language that you’ll hear or read countless times. If a journal-writing type of activity isn’t something you want to do, you can write a word on a piece of paper and collect them in an envelope or a box. In time, you’ll have a hefty collection of words that you can access and review yourself with. Here’s a list of Business English words and phrases to add to yours.


  1. Bottleneck – a difficulty in continuing to do something because of a problem. Ex. The bottleneck at the city’s distribution point caused the delay.
  2. Fluctuation – the irregular rise and fall of a number or amount. Ex. There’s been a constant fluctuation in sales over the past five months.
  3. Hectic – very busy. Ex. I’d love to attend the buyers’ gala, but I’m on the night shift and work has been very hectic.
  4. Leverage – to utilize something to the advantage of the business. Ex. When the star chef left the restaurant to open her own, she leveraged her popularity to gain support.
  5. Optimistic – have a positive attitude or perspective. Ex. We are very optimistic about meeting the deadline.
  6. Preliminary – describing an action in preparation or preceding the main event. Ex. I passed the preliminary interview and will be assessed by a panel for the next one.
  7. Stakeholder – anyone involved in a project that possesses some authority. Ex. Our stakeholders were quite pleased with the results.
  8. Tailspin – a sudden and irreversible decrease or failure. Ex. We’re glad to confirm that while the crisis sent our competitors into a tailspin, our company was largely unaffected.


  1. Clearance item – items included in a special sale dispose of certain products for one reason or another. Ex. I’m afraid the clearance items aren’t covered by your loyalty card’s discount.
  2. Distribution point – the place where items are divided up for deliveries. Ex. Their company established ten distribution points in the city.
  3. Economic fallout – the negative effects on the economy. Ex. The most recent economic fallout caused the company to go into debt.
  4. On the same page – to have the same point of view as someone. Ex. Both branches have to be on the same page to succeed in the new venture.
  5. Pull some strings – to use your influence to make an impossible event happen. Ex. I had to pull some strings from the alumni association to get an audience with him.
  6. Raise the bar – increase the standards. Ex. His incredible accomplishment in securing high-profile deals raised the bar for everyone.
  7. Bite off more than you can chew – take on a job that ended up too big for you to finish. Ex. I wonder if I bit more than I can chew with this proposal. 

From Intermediate to Advanced Business Vocabulary Skills with LillyPad.AI

One excellent addition to your studies is to use English language learning software. LillyPad.ai is a leading online learning platform in the ESL industry, we provide the best solutions for improving your Business English language skills. LillyPad.ai’s team of world-class ESL specialists design and collect materials for our members, employing industry-standard principles and methodology. You can think of it as a massive collection of English language courses modified to suit any of your language needs. Our English experts ensure that our members learn professional business vocabulary by building a library that comprises authentic or real-world resources for Business English communication. You’ll be able to move forward to advanced levels through these online programs. LillyPad.ai also offers a personalized page for our members. A user-friendly, personalized space where English language learners can collect their favorite lessons and materials and manage their progress. 

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In order to enhance learning and achieve a higher level of English skills, you need to acquire vocabulary for different professional contexts that take place at the office. Furthermore, you’ll be able to navigate any professional interaction by following consistent and dependable strategies to enrich your vocabulary skills. There are learning principles and methods that intermediate-level students must keep in mind to improve continuously. Increasing background knowledge of business concepts, developing the ability to infer, studying word pairs, and fostering a genuine curiosity about English vocabulary are all vital components. As long as you practice daily, are dedicated, and make the most effort, you’ll soon join the ranks of advanced-level students and gain success in your business career.  

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a professional vocabulary?

There are many English phrases, words, sentence structures, etc. that aren’t typically used in normal everyday interactions. But there is another collection of English vocabulary that is only used in particular scenarios. Professional vocabulary involves a specialized body of words that are used in business communication. Within this body of words are other segments assigned to different industries. While there are similarities, a doctor’s professional vocabulary will also contain a lexicon (jargon) unique to their occupation.

Why is vocabulary important in business?

Business communication tasks have different language needs or requirements. Take emails, for example. Many of the phrases you use in written correspondence won’t be applicable to face-to-face interaction. The tone used in business settings is also generally formal. Formal language is courteous, at times verbose, and occasionally indirect.

Not knowing which vocabulary to use in, say, a proposal to a foreign counterpart will lead to detrimental results. Verbal communication in business follows the same principles, with proper changes to its lexis. Communication breakdowns in business can cause a loss of morale, rejected deals, poor customer service, and negative branding.

How can I learn business vocabulary?

Exposure to business-related materials and real-world experience can teach you business vocabulary. You must also consider learning it by yourself. You can achieve this by compiling resources that have to do with jobs and companies: business news, product reviews, company profiles, and so on. You can also learn by watching business media, listening to podcasts, and having conversations with native speakers or other learners like yourself.

How can I improve my business English vocabulary?

Business experience will get you there. The workplace is bursting with business expressions for everyday situations. What you need to do is to nurture a keen interest in listening, understanding, and applying the language. You’ll probably encounter common business terms in your first week at work. Create a framework from that and categorize your learning into the various aspects of business such as business conference expressions, customer complaint responses, copywriting, and many others. The more you communicate with colleagues, the larger vocabulary you’ll acquire.

If you aren’t employed yet, be aware of your industry. Learn jargon or words, phrases, collocations, etc. commonly used in that industry. “Stitch it up” would probably have a similar meaning for a tailor and a medical professional. But the same phrase means to fix something in the context of damage control. Try to utilize your free time by exposing yourself to business news and other media. Read business textbooks and understand the impact of language in the corporate world. 

What is Business English?

English for Specific Purposes or ESP is a field of specialized English instruction that includes Business English. It’s where you learn language applied to all aspects of business. Its primary objective is business vocabulary development and corporate communication.

Business English students have already accomplished an acceptable level of General English. Enrolling in, say, a corporate language training program is aimed toward their purpose of getting a job or getting better at the job they currently have. The pace of learning is a priority in these courses, so teachers usually assess a student’s learning habits and preferences, and the tasks required of them from work or potential employment. Then they design language programs with the results in mind. Business English is necessary to succeed in any career that requires it. And since English is the main language used in business nowadays, it’s a gateway to getting a lucrative occupation.

How do I learn Business English vocabulary?

Reading is one of the best methods to learn vocabulary. The ESL market is filled with books for business students. The internet is also saturated with academic resources suitable for all English language learners, from beginner to advanced-level students. In addition, these references will cover a wide range of topics. So try to read about business contexts applicable to your tasks at work: business negotiations, telephone conversations, customer care, business meetings, business correspondence such as emails and training videos, and so on. Acquiring vocabulary from these sources will improve your vocabulary skills and allow you to accomplish the primary objectives of business communication.

Also, you should think about studying a complete learning program in Business English schools. They will accommodate your level and your own pace of learning. Contextual learning is a priority for these courses, where teachers use authentic business readings and practical business situations to train students.

How can I improve my English from pre-intermediate to intermediate by myself?

Apart from your exposure to Business English at work or the classes you attend, self-study is a helpful course of action. The pre-intermediate level requires a lot of vocabulary learning, so try to do as much reading as you can. There are resources you can find that cater to all levels of language aptitude. If you’re currently enrolled in a Business English program, you can ask your teachers to give you some tips and techniques that you can apply on your own.

The methods detailed in this article will help you create your own learning process. Just ensure that you have a grasp of your limitations and that your learning material is at the appropriate level of difficulty. Additionally, consider using a comprehensive learning program like LillyPad.ai that integrates effective learning methods and authentic Business English language with an easy-to-use interface, interactive features, and a customizable learner’s page.  

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What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! She is a personal English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating! 

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At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

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Valentina Gagliardi

Valentina Gagliardi

Valentina has always been a teacher at heart. After spending eight years teaching college-level English, she realised that her true passion was helping people learn and grow – especially when it came to learning English. She firmly believes that in order for language learning to be successful, it’s important to create a comfortable and welcoming environment where students feel safe to experiment and take risks. When she’s not writing for the Lillypad community, Valentina loves travelling, reading and going for long walks with her dog Freddy.

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