Tag Archives: vocabulary

Giving Instructions in English, clear but polite, a fine balance.

Being able to give good clear instructions is an important skill to learn both for your career and family life. To avoid having to do everything in life yourself, you are going to have to learn to delegate, but to do that you need to be able to give good clear instructions. If you neglect to tell people how to do something, the chances are that the task will be done in a different way (not necessarily worse I hasten to add) but giving instructions gives you a handle on quality control.

Delegation frees up your time for what you do best.

Coco’s Britspeak Byte

The Brits are a polite nationality, we insist on pleases and thank you’s. We are a little odd; we apologise, even though it was us that got pushed and shoved. We are a generally quite a chaotic nationality by German standards and yet we like to keep things fair by joining a queue in an orderly line. We complain about those very same queues but would never push without asking or sneak in at the front.

We generally try to avoid confrontations and keep to first names because being liked and approachable are seen to be key leadership values. Ultimately being liked and a team player are both more important than being right or first.

Giving instructions and taking on the role of boss can be a real challenge for many Brits because clear instructions are clear and consise, the Brits feel bossy without politeness to protect them and nobody likes a ‘bossy boots’. (A  poem to demonstrate)

The right structures to give easy to follow instructions.

In theory at least, in the English language, we use the imperative form to give directions.

1. “Take the bus to Zoologischer Garten, then walk to the Hop on/Hop off bus stop on Kururstendamm, Keep going until you get to Kaufhaus des Westens. The sightseeing buses stop right there!”

(not ride the bus, that would make it sound like you were sitting on the roof)

2. “Turn left and go straight on.”

3. “Do something in English for at least ten minutes a day, every day!”

4. “Be careful!”

5. “Take your time” can loosely be translated as ‘pay attention to the details’, depending on the situation.

6. “Please take a seat.” Request

7. “May I take your coat” Invitation 

8″Take a seat.” Command

NOT “I take your coat” Daylight robbery 😉

Instructions Vocabulary
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Infinitives first for imperative Instructions

Let’s take a look at how to use the imperative. Firstly, you need to work out what the infinitive form of the verb is (to go, to sit, to take, to drive etc), now just forget about the ‘to’ and you are ready to put that infinitive at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis.

Get ready

Go to the meeting, I’ll join you in there

Try to contact the client again, we need his support with the beta testing by the end of the week if we are to keep to schedule.

 To make it negative, it’s easy, just put a  “do not” or “don’t” before  the  verb.

 Don’t is less assertive or strict than “do not”.


Don’t go to lunch without me, I’m just finishing this email!”

Do not leave your computer on when you leave the office.”


Giving instructions

You might well be familiar with the imperative form if you are the

type of person that reads instruction manuals. In the spoken English

language we also use the same format to show someone how to do

something. Check out the huge range of “How to…” videos to see

how versatile this structure is.

It is helpful in terms of helping someone to get their head around

the bigger picture.


We tend to use “sequencing” words to give details of the steps in the process.



For example “firstly“, “secondly” and”finally” helps a lot.

Even simple instructions can be broken into ‘byte sized’ chunks.

Firstly, open the lid of the printer

Secondly, check which cartridges need changing

Then, unwrap a new cartridge and slot it firmly into position

Finally, close the lid and test the printer.


Watch this How To Video

It’s about how this father to a teenager tries to break down the clearly monumental (huge) instructions of changing a toilet role.


People also say “after that” instead of “then” and “first” / “second”

instead of “firstly” and “secondly”.


Breaking something down into manageable steps will make it much

easier for people to understand the process, making your business

communication more effective.

Tips & Tricks

When you are giving instructions, you can help the other person to

follow your instructions with additional information and advice.

Remember: have the cartridge handy, before you open the printer

Be careful not to … put the empty cartridge down in a way that left

over ink can leak and damage a desk or the carpet.

Try to … have your printer at a height where it is easy to get to

Try not to … change the cartridges unless they are really empty

You need to … check that the paper is correctly aligned too

It’s important to … order more cartridges when there are only two

more in the storage cupboard.

Examples of Imperatives in a Dialogue to provide instructions.

It helps to … get the cartridge before you open the printer

Make/Be sure to … reload the paper at the same time so that any

backlog in printing can be quickly processed without further


Always … check your printer in tray and delete any duplicate print


Never … take the last cartridge without checking that new ones

have been ordered.


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This clarity would make it easy to understand.  Unfortunately, native

speakers like to take the sting out of instructions by adding

colloquialisms without even realising it,

Use adjectives and adverbs.

This adds an element of ‘how to’ to your instructions. Compare.

1. Rehearse your speech beforehand, making notes on your script.

2. Rehearse your speech repeatedly beforehand, read slowly and

clearly and make notes on your script in green so that you can edit

your script to reflect your own personal speaking style.




We can also use the imperative form to give a warning or advice,

and (if you use “please”) to make a request.

The Devil is in the Detail

Subsequently (after you have given the basic instructions) , to be more specific, you might want to use words like simultaneously, immediately, incidentally.

Instructions Made Easy

Big words perhaps, you might think. Is it really necessary to use such complicated words? Well it depends on whether you are giving instructions to your child about how to open a can of sweetcorn or whether you are showing your deputy how to handle the press in a crisis doesn’t it?


Instructions Ask for the Meaning
It is better feel silly for a moment than ignorant for a lifetime

One thing is certain, if the person carrying out the instructions does not understand these words and is not self-confident enough to confirm their meaning, then frustration is inevitable.


Native Speaking Trainer Takes You From Procrastination to Professionalism.

You know how it is –  you keep meaning to “do something about your English” but find yourself reaching for your English novel, thinking “Well it’s better than nothing”.

It is.

Continue reading Native Speaking Trainer Takes You From Procrastination to Professionalism.

Business English Conversation from any Device

Have you noticed how this cooler autumn weather makes it is far less appealing to walk around the block mid afternoon – as our energy fades? I wanted to come up with a way that you could take a constructive break at work, one that would boost your English at the same time.

Take a brain break.

Sometimes your brain needs a break but it doesn’t mean that you should have a complete break, you can just switch to another activity. This helps you re-energise. Time to have a conversation, just switch into English.

Networking or Escaping?

You see, it is easy to head off to the coffee machine and linger as you chat with colleagues. Some of those conversations can be classed as informative or relationship building, but a lot of the time – it isn’t, is it? Not really.

I work from home and I often find myself on social media in that late afternoon energy lull and indeed a lot of Twitter Hours are held at that time. It seems I am not the only one.

Business English Conversation via social media.

I wanted to create a regular time and day for people in business or careers to practice their business English or business conversation skills from any device.

In contrast to in-house business communication or business conversation courses, where you are learning with collegaues and team members, I wanted to make it possible to learn from and with people from a wide range of different backgrounds. That makes any conversation richer and more meaningful. I wanted to welcome men and women from all over the world in different time zones, cultures, companies, industries and functions to be a part of this.

It's time to disrupt adult education. Try #BizEngChat to power up your business English. Click To Tweet

Now business conversation without ‘speaking’ or actually saying anything (unless you speak out loud as you type) might seem like an odd concept for some.


Let me explain. If you think about it, engaging in an online conversation or discussion requires you to activate your language learning skills. You’ll be searching for words or vocabulary, terms or phrases. You will be thinking about how to express yourself (grammar) and reading  lots of posts too. Just because you are not physically speaking, does not mean that a conversation isn’t taking place.

If you work with suppliers in India, it makes sense to invite those suppliers to join your online or blended learning business communication course, which worked well for us at #Heidenhain. It takes a special corporate culture and a strong leader to make that happen in reality across time zones.

Make language learning accessible and relevant, it’s not rocket science!

However if getting ‘bums on seats’ or attendance is a challenge and I can see heads nodding, and if time and flexibility are a problem, then a Twitter Hour could be a fabulously simple workaround. Just find one that is relevant to your needs, industry or market it’s practical too, you can take part even if you are travelling, via any smartphone or device.

If you want to work on your business conversation, try #BizEngChat

Set yourself a reminder, it's time to work on your Business English!
Set yourself a reminder, it’s time to work on your Business English!

So what about if you aren’t really on Twitter a lot or at all?

Well only you can decide which social media works best for you. As a former Twitterphobe though, I can assure you that Twitter is worth investing some time in. For me Twitter is like my professional learning playground because I can get inspiration and information, tips and advice from thought leaders and experts. It is the social land of brilliance to my mind. It took some time to ‘get my head around it’ or understand but I am really glad that I made the effort.

Just log in to www.twitter.com and search for #BizEngChat, the hashtag is the life blood of twitter, so don’t forget the funky # symbol.

Some regional or business Twitter Hours have an unstructured format, and are designed to be easy going, where everyone just shows up and chats, you’ll soon see that there is a fair bit of selling going on. I’m not appealed by that.

Teacher Coco
As a language trainer it is important for me to be able to shape the conversation and give you a vocabulary workout. Sure it WILL push you out of your comfort zone and it will get your brain working but isn’t that what success in our business or career always requires?

To really improve your English,  you need to activate or use your English.

Only by actually using your Business English, will your business conversation become more fluent and effective. If you are keen to improve, but don’t have time for classes, then grab your diary.

Set yourself an alarm, online training sessions tend to get overlooked as an appointment. If you are committed to improving your Business English, you should commit to coming regularly. Make it an appointment that is fixed and a part of your commitment to your personal development
Set yourself an alarm, online trainings tend to get overlooked as an appointment. If you are committed to improving your Business English, you should commit to coming regularly. Make it an appointment that is fixed and a part of your commitment to your personal development

After all, someone with your expertise, should be able to talk about their knowledge and experience in English so that you can expand your network and ultimately cross borders, taking your brand to the markets that need it most?

So Thursdays at 3pm is when we meet and I will be trying to get an expert to join us each time, to provide their opinions, examples, lessons learned and much more. If you are an expert in marketing or communication and you want to practice talking about it in English then get in touch.

Women are often doing the school run at some time between 3 and 4pm, but if you can join us even for 10 minutes, that is fine too.
Women are often doing the school run at some time between 3 and 4pm, but if you can join us even for 10 minutes, that is fine too.

But between 3 and 4pm is a bad time for me!

If you can’t make it because you are in a meeting or picking up the children or something, then no problem. You can join us at any time during the hour, it isn’t frowned upon to turn up ‘late’ at all, in fact nobody will really notice.

Often there are more people ‘following’ the conversation than contributing to the discussion anyway. We call these lurkers in the online learning industry but it is fine to do just that at the beginning, it’s like observing from a distance at a networking event. Of course the more you get involved or post, the more practice you get.

After Party

If you can’t make it until after the Twitter Hour then you will be able to read the whole conversation afterwards, just search for #BizEngChat. It is easy to catch up on the conversation later, (less stressful too sometimes). Feel free to add your comments later and the chances are that you will meet other people that would be interesting for you to connect with, so it is a combinination of English conversation and networking. That’s effective time management I say.

What about if I make a mistake?

I can identify with this one, my German is fairly good if I am talking to you in person, but when it comes to writing, I feel like a little girl again, all knotted up with apprehension and fear or making a mistake.

But I ask myself this?
What is the worst that can happen?

If you have something of value to say, people will be more interested in what you have to say than how you said it. In an ideal world we would wait until our foreign language was perfect before we engaged in social media, but what is perfection anyway?

Those of you in business or with a family will know that there is no such thing as the perfect time to do or start anything! Sometimes you just have to start and from there it can only get better – especially if your host is a language trainer.

I will never draw attention to any mistakes via #BizEngChat like they did at school, but those of you working with me will see that I incorporate any of those mistakes into our coaching.

One thing is for sure, I will be there on Thursday at 3pm and I would love you to join me, let’s revolutionise the way that business conversation is ‘taught’.

Let’s learn together via #BizEngChat so that we can get it right when it counts!

How approachability and sharing mistakes, helps English learners to relax.

As promised in my blog ‘Venturing out of my Comfort Zone‘ I will be sharing the teaching reminders I gained from teaching German to three English speaking expatriates in Berlin recently.

The first blog post in this series talks about empathy and being on the same page/wavelength as your learners.
Continue reading How approachability and sharing mistakes, helps English learners to relax.

Undercover English – Learning Vocab on the go

Undercover English >>> Try this language learning game…next time you are out and about – either on your own or with friends that are telling a story that you have already heard – go undercover.

REMEMBER You need to resist staring at the people in question – not good for street cred.

Now, look for people engrossed in conversation and try to work out what they might be saying to each other and see if you can interpret in your head. (in English of course!)

You can take it seriously or be a little far fetched and dramatic or just plain silly and rediculous.

Now I know that this isn’t rocket science, but that is exactly the point, learning a language can be a lot of fun. This is just one of many time effective ways of revising without any paper, pen or solitude that will point out your weaknesses.

AND ACTION …. Try it out and report back on our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/bytesizedenglishclub/
for more tips and tricks  … for the techie chicks (just had to add that because it rhymes)

Language Learning Games