Business English Vocabulary: Office Terms
All jobs have some common phrases and expressions that are helpful to know. Here is some basic English office vocabulary and phrases to get you started in an office job.
When you are a new-starter:
If you have some qualifications or certificates you need to show someone in your company, or some contract or visa documents to sign, then you will probably need to ask a colleague or your manager:
“Where can I find HR? I need to give them some paperwork.”
HR is a common abbreviation of “Human Resources”, the department that handles your contract, your pay and any problems you might have with the company.
When you’re starting out, you might also need to pick up some pens or notebooks to help you do your job, which most offices will give to you. You can ask someone:
“Where is the stationery cupboard?”
Stationary means “not moving” but stationery, pronounced the same way, is also a collective term used to describe pens, pencils, paper, staplers, folders, paper-clips, notebooks and things like that.
Office equipment questions:
If you have a phone, you might not know how to dial number outside of the company, so you could ask:
“How do I get an outside line on my phone?”
An outside line is what you would call a phone number that is outside of the company. You will often have to dial a specific number first before the rest of your number to reach it.
You might also have problems with your computer, especially when you are new to your company, so you might have to ask someone:
“Where can I find the IT department? My computer is not working.”
The IT department, said by pronouncing the letters I and T as opposed to just saying “it”, will handle computer related issues. If you want, you don’t have to say the word department and colleagues will understand what you mean if you just ask for “I T”.
To your manager:
There are some things you might want to ask your manager.
“Can I book some time off?”
Ask this if you want to take a holiday or have some time out of the office. You could also ask to book some “annual leave”, but this is a bit more formal.
“Can we arrange a one-to-one, please?”
A one-to-one is a meeting that you have with your manager to check up on how you are doing and to give you a chance to raise any problems you might be having.
Whilst you are working, you will deal with many different colleagues who will need your help for different things. Here are a few useful phrases:
“Can you email me the details?”
This is a useful phrase if someone is telling you about something and you are worried that your notes might have missed something out.
“Can I get back to you on that?”
You can say this when you are asked a question but are either busy with something else, or need some time to think about your answer.
What about department specific vocabulary?
Different departments, like marketing or finance, will have specific vocabulary and professional slang that you will need to pick up and we will come to some of that in the future!
Have you had any experience with business expressions that you didn’t understand right away? Let us know in the comments!