ТОП 10:

Read the text and say what the main feature of the language of meetings is.


Many professionals — diplomats, agency representatives, and business people —


have to take part in meetings which are conducted in English. The language of such


meetings follows definite patterns. Even if your English is good, not all of the language of meetings is obvious.


Effective communication in meetings is partly a matter of knowing certain special expressions. Some of the ways we change the basic message are, however, generalisable. Look again at the example in 3.1.1; how many of these features did you notice?


· Using would, could or might to make what you say more tentative.


· Presenting your view as a question not a statement.


· Using a grammatical negative (adding n't) to make a suggestion more open and therefore more negotiable.

· Using an introductory phrase to prepare the listener for your message.


· Adding I'm afraid to make clear that you recognise the unhelpfulness of your response.

· Using words which qualify or restrict what you say to make your position more flexible (a bit difficult, a slight problem).

· Using not with a positive word instead of the obvious negative word (not very convenient, I don't agree).


· Using a comparative (better, more convenient) to soften your message.


· Using a continuous form (I was wondering) instead of a simple form (I wondered) to make a suggestion more flexible.


· Using stress as an important way of making the message more effective (It is important...)


All of these features are common and necessary for effective communication in meetings. So, let us look at them in more detail.




Would is often added to make any statement more tentative. It takes away the


dogmatic tone of many statements.


That is unacceptable. – That be unacceptable.


That does not meet our requirements. – That not meet our requirements.


We need further reassurance. – We need further reassurance




Often suggestions are presented in question form:


That is too late. — Is that too late?


That would be too late. — Would that be too late?


Adding to suggestions


The examples above all sound more tentative and negotiable if they are


grammatically negative:


Isn't that too late? Wouldn't that be too late?


Introductory phrases


Often we introduce our reaction with a word or phrase which tells the listener


what kind of comment we are going to make. In particular some phrases warn the listener that disagreement follows. Here are the most common introductory phrases. Which ones are warnings?


Actually, With respect, In those circumstances,
Well, To be honest, In fact,
Frankly, As a matter of fact, To put it bluntly,




The most common phrase in spoken English to show that the speaker recognises that his/her reaction is in some way unhelpful or unwelcome is I'm afraid. It may warn of disagreement, but its general meaning is wider and indicates the speaker sees his/her reaction as unavoidably unhelpful:


Could I speak to Jack please? – I'm afraid he's out of the country at the moment. Would next Tuesday be convenient? – I'm afraid I'm tied up all day.



Successful meetings often depend on avoiding direct disagreement. The more general the statement, the more likely it is to produce disagreement. Not surprisingly, therefore, good negotiators often restrict general statements by using qualifiers. Here are some of the most common qualifiers in English:


a slight misunderstanding a short delay



a little bit too early some reservations

a bit of a problem a little more time


N + + positive adjective


Often English avoids negative adjectives, preferring not + positive equivalent:


The hotel was dirty. — The hotel wasn't very clean. The food was cold. — The food was not very hot.


This feature is not only true with an adjective construction. Notice these examples:

I disagree completely. – I don't agree at all.


I dislike that idea. – I don't like that idea at all.


I reject what you say. – I don't accept what you say.




In offering an alternative suggestion, the comparative is often used:


Wouldn't the 31st be more convenient? It might be cheaper to go by air .


The implication is that the other person's suggestion is acceptable, but yours is moreacceptable. For this reason the use of the comparative is more tactful.


Sometimes comparative phrases, not including adjectives, are used. You will need them in these examples:

NGOs provide funds for projects like this.


The Belgian plant has capacity in the short term. Research is needed before we make a decision.


Continuous forms


In English, the simple past is used if the speaker sees the event as a single whole, while the past continuous is used if the speaker sees the event "stretched out" in time. For this reason the continuous form of the verb is more flexible, because the event can be "interrupted", while the simple past is more often used to express facts or events seen as finished and complete.

I tried to ring you yesterday. – I was trying to ring you yesterday.


We intended to make new arrangements for next year. – We were intending to



make new arrangements for next year.


I wondered if you'd come to a decision yet. – I was wondering if you'd come to a decision yet.


We hoped you'd accept 8%. – We were hoping you'd accept 8%.


We discussed the problem yesterday. – We were discussing the problem yesterday.

Notice, in every case the simple past gives the impression that the speaker means "this is what I/we did before we started our present discussion"; it gives the impression that the person s/he is speaking to is excluded.


In contrast, the continuous form, used with verbs like hope, discuss etc., gives the impression of including the other partner in the discussion. For this reason continuous forms seem more friendly and open, and are often appropriate if you are trying to engage the other person in an open negotiation.


Stressed words


Grammar and vocabulary are, of course, important in getting your meaning across. Less obviously, but equally importantly, the words which you give special


stress to can change the meaning of what you say.


It's rather a house.
It's a large house.


The most important use of this kind is the word quite. If quite is stressed, it is a


qualification ( interested, but not ), but if the following adjective is stressed,
quite means very (quite ).  


Remember, native speakers often use quite instead of very, but if it has the meaning of very, it is the word following quite which receives the heavy stress.


Stressed auxiliaries


Many English verb forms which look the same on paper, have two different forms in speech. In one case, the auxiliary verb, or part of the verb (be) is stressed, and in the other case this word is unstressed. The two sentences do not mean the same thing. Usually parts of (be) in auxiliary verbs in English are unstressed. Sometimes, there is a special way of writing these unstressed forms:


I've sent you the details already. It's four o'clock.


In every case, however, it is possible to give a heavy stress to the normally unstressed part of (be) or the auxiliary. If you do this, it shows special emotion is attached to what you say. It can be used to correct the other person:


I thought you were Belgian. – I Belgian.


Or to give special emotion to what you say. Different emotions are possible — annoyance or surprise, for example. If you are listening to native speakers, however, it is important that you recognise the emotional force behind what they are saying.




As well as vocabulary, grammar, and stress, there is another important way in which you can improve your control of the language of meetings. Certain words often occur together — a short term solution, a high priority. There are a very large number of these collocations (groups of words which often occur together) which are used in the language of meetings.



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