How to Speak Formal English
Although formal English is most commonly used in writing, there are circumstances in which formal speech is also desirable. English becomes more formal when it is used correctly and in a more complex manner. Grammatical errors and careless word choices are common in spoken English. Fixing mistakes and using creative and precise vocabulary will lift your speech from casual to proper.
- Be aware of the parts of speech. English speakers commonly replace adverbs with adjectives in casual speech, so ”I’m well” becomes ”I’m good” and ”She runs quickly” becomes ”She runs fast.” To speak more formally, be precise in your use of the parts of speech.
- Use correct grammar, even in phrases where the average person does not. Instead of ”Who did you give it to?” ask ”To whom did you give it?” Include the word ”that” when introducing relative structures: ”She believed that it was true” is more formal than ”She believed it was true.”
- Choose precise vocabulary words, and avoid the word ”got.” Instead of ”She got a new thing,” say ”She acquired/obtained/bought a new item.” Instead of ”It seems like it,” say ”It appears so.” In general, words that derive from Latin roots are more formal than words that derive from Anglo-Saxon roots. For example, ”pedestrian” is more formal than ”walker.”
- Avoid idioms. In an idiom, the words do not mean the same thing together as they do individually. For example, ”to kick the bucket” means ”to die,” ”to come up with” means ”to create or find” and ”to take the plunge” means ”to commit to something.” Idioms are inherently informal and should not be used in formal speech.
Informal Presentation Task
Let’s talk about your home country:
- what is the population of your country?
- what is the capital?
- what are you proud of with your country?
- what is the most interesting with your country?
Let’s talk about your home town:
- what kind of place is it?
- what’s the most interesting part of your town?
- would you say it’s a good place to live? (why?)
Let’s move on to talk about accommodation:
- tell me about the kind of accommodation you live in?
- how long have you lived there?
- what do you like about living there?
- what sort of accommodation would you most like to live in?
Formal Presentation Task
Do the same task, but this time pretending it is a formal presentation to a big
Choose the most formal of each of these groups of phrases:
• Can I have your attention, please?/ Excuse me./ Attention please.
• Let’s get started./ Let’s make a start./ Can I start?/ I’d like to get started, if I may.
• Hi/ Hello
• Morning!/ Good morning
• … everyone/ ladies and gentlemen/ guys
• It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to…/ Welcome to…/ I’d like to welcome you
• Thanks for coming to…/ I’d like to thank you for attending…
• I’m going to talk about…/ The topic of my presentation is…
• What I’d like to present to you today is…/ I’ll present…
• I’ve divided my presentation into… parts/ My presentation is divided into…parts.
• I’ll start by…/ I’ll commence by…/ I’ll begin by…
• First,…/ Firstly,…/ First of all,…
• Secondly,…/ In the second part of my presentation,…/ Second,…
• Then/ And then/ The next stage will be to…/ After that/ Next
• Last/ Last of all/ Lastly/ To finish up/ The last stage will be to…/ Finally/ I’ll end with
• My presentation will last for approximately…/ I’m going to speak for about…/ I’ll
speak for more or less …
• Please leave any questions until the end./ I would be grateful if any questions could
be left until the end./ If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them at the
• If anything I say isn’t clear, please let me know./ If you have any questions, please
raise your hand and ask at any time./ Please feel free to interrupt me at any time.
• To sum up,… / To summarise,…/ To recap,…
• And on that point, I will bring my presentation to a close. / That’s all./ That’s it./
• That brings me to the end of my presentation./ That’s the end of my presentation.
• Thank you for listening./ Thank you for your kind attention./ Thanks for your time.
• We’ll now move on to the Q&A stage./ And now, if anyone has any questions, I’d be
happy to answer them./ I’m sure you have plenty of questions, so please fire away.
• I’ll be around all day if you’d like to chat about this more. / If anyone still has any
questions, I’ll be happy to answer them individually.
• No more questions?/ If there are no further questions,…
• We seem to have run out of time./ Time’s up./ We’ve run out of time.
• If no one else has any questions I will leave it there./ Let’s leave it there/ stop there.
Explaining your aim
Showing awareness of the audience/ Connecting with the audience
Giving sources of further information