Posts Tagged ‘formal speech and writing’

Formal and informal speech and writing

November 18th, 2010 in Improve English

People speak and write in different ways on different occasions. There are, however, some words and structures which are mainly used in formal situations  – for example report writing, business meetings, conferences, polite conversations etc.

There are also some words and expressions which are mainly used in informal situations – conversations with friends etc.

In writing, we almost always use formal words and expressions. Speech, on the other hand, is often more informal.


Some grammatical structures have two forms – formal and informal.

For example, in informal speech and writing we use contracted auxiliary verbs and negatives.

Formal: It is working.
Informal: It’s working.
Informal: He‘s gone.
Formal: He has gone.


In informal language prepositions often come at the end of certain structures.

Formal: To which nation does he belong?
Informal: Which nation does he belong to?

Some determiners are followed by singular verbs in formal language and plural verbs in informal language.

Formal: Neither of us likes him.
Informal: Neither of us like him.

Some pronouns have different forms in formal and informal language.

Formal: Whom did they elect?
Informal: Who did they elect?

In informal language we often leave out words.

Formal: She said that she would come.
Informal: She said she would come.
Formal: Have you seen Annie?
Informal: Seen Annie?


Some words are mainly used in informal situations. In formal situations other words or expressions are used.

Informal                                               Formal
Fix                                                           Repair
Begin / start                                        commence
Thanks                                                   Thank you
What? / Pardon? / Sorry?              I beg your pardon?