Business English- tense review


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Published: 10th Mar 2008

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Business English tense review- Upper Intermediate/ Advanced 

A: Time Clauses 


1. Match at least one of these time clauses with each of the sentences below. 

when I joined this company 

in the 1990s 

the other day 

during a meeting 


since January 

hardly ever 

by Tuesday 


for a year 

in a fortnight’s time 

this week 


a) I didn’t have a lot of experience 

b) My boss uses a laptop 

c) I was looking for a different job 

d) I worked for my present company’s major competitor 

e) I have been working on this project 

f) I last made a conference call in English 

g) I’m flying to Munich 

h) I’ll finish this report 

i) I was caught making personal phonecalls 

j) I’ve had a lot in my in-tray 


2. Make true sentences about yourself using each of the time clauses.   


3. Read out one of your sentences without the time clause and see if the other students can guess which 

time clause is true for you. 


Written by Alex Case for © 2008 


Discussing Grammar 

B: Grammatical similarities: Aspect and voice 


What are the similarities between these different forms? 


1a) I can’t talk. I’m meeting a client. 

1b) I was just closing the deal when my direct boss walked in and ruined everything. 

1c) My plane will be landing just as yours is taking off. 


2a) I’ve been in exactly this situation many times. 

2b) They had already accepted a rival bid by the time we had ours ready. 

2c) They will have increased sales by 50% well before the projected time. 


3a) A good team is made from good individuals 

3b) The computer, like so many other inventions, was invented to help us wage war 

3c) Wine has been produced here since the year dot. 


C: Grammatical differences 


Why are different tenses used in the contrasting sentences? 


1a) I work for a well-known multinational 

1b) I’m working on restructuring the company 


2a) What were you doing when the headhunter called? 

2b) What did you do when the headhunter called? 


3a) When we arrived, they introduced the main conference speakers 

3b) When we arrived, they were introducing the main conference speakers 

3c) When we arrived, they had introduced the main conference speakers 


4a) I’ve worked with several very prestigious clients 

4b) I worked with several very prestigious clients 


5a) I’ve been replying to customer enquiries all day 

5b) I’ve nearly cleared the backlog of enquiries from the Xmas break 

Written by Alex Case for © 2008 


D: Short forms pronunciation 


1. Listen and complete the gaps 


In this country, ________ better start looking at the job ads if you want to climb the corporate ladder. 

There _________ many shopping days left till Xmas. 

_________ sign on for another 5 years if you just increase the bonus a little. 

____________ rather have no deal at all than lose face. 

__________ probably the place with the best balance between work and play in Europe. 

Our competitors    __________ given bribes to get that last deal, they have such a bad reputation. 

Business conditions _________ improve much in the next financial year. 

____________ only work if we change the whole corporate culture of the company. 

If you improve your time management, __________ only find more work for you to do. 

We _____________ taken more holidays last year, as it would actually have improved our productivity. 

If we just ignore it, _______ go away. 

I don’t know _________ replacing my boss, but I don’t envy him. 

I’m always late, ___________? 

Proper grammar’s really important in Business English, but I _______ got none. 


2. Which of the sentences above are standard spoken English? Repeat those sentences, paying attention to 

the pronunciation of the short forms. 


3. What are the long forms of each example? 


4. Which of the sentences above are true for you? Change the ones that are not. Read out the true 

sentences and discuss them with your partner. 



Written by Alex Case for © 2008 

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