Describing a product

WD external hard drive
How would you describe this product?

Does your company manufacture products? Do you have to talk to customers about those products?

How do you describe a product?

One way is to start with the questions that customer might ask about the product.

Watch our video. We ask and answer questions about a common piece of computer equipment. At the end we put the answers together to create a short, clear description of that product.

Now test yourself

Here’s information about another product. See if you can make a question for each piece of information and then write down the answers to create the product description. The answers are at the bottom of this page.


Steam iron

Product type steam iron
Dimensions 275mm x 117mm x 150mm, 550gms
 For use with silk, nylon, wool, cotton, linen
 Country of origin China
 Price €30



These are some suggested answers.

What’s this? It’s a steam iron.
What do you use it for? You use it to iron or press clothes.
How big is it? It’s 275mm long, 117mm wide and 150mm tall.
What does it weigh? It weighs 550 grams.
What materials can you use with it? You can use it with silk, nylon, wool, cotton and linen.
What’s it made of? It’s made of metal and plastic.
Where was it made? It was made in China.
How much does it cost? It costs €30.


How well did you do? Did you make any other questions and answers? Use the comment box and share them with us.

Do you need to expand your business English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.


Lose your job – vocabulary mind map

Last week’s Words making the headlines looked at the vocabulary of losing your job.

This week we have a vocabulary mind map on the same topic. It’s divided into three reasons for losing your job. Those are then split into verbs (blue boxes) and nouns (pink boxes) with an example sentence to illustrate each one.

You can see the mind map on the Popplet website or download an image file.


lose your job - vocabulary mind map

We also have mind maps of Internet vocabulary and vocabulary for talking about trade.

Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk how we can help.


Words making the headlines – lose your job

You receive a P45 document from the tax office in the UK when you leave your job

This week the Bank of England forecast that 75,000 people working in the banking sector in the UK could lose their jobs. This is because many financial services companies are making plans to leave London to avoid the impact of Brexit.

Lose your job is just one of the many ways of saying that a company has stopped employing you. If a company decides they don’t need you any more, they make you redundant, lay you off or let you go.

Grammar is important here. If we focus on the actions of the company, we use the active voice:

“The bank made 2,500 people redundant when it closed its High Street branches.”

If we focus on the person affected, we use the passive voice:

“I was laid off by the insurance company at the start of the year.”

We use a different set of words if you lose your job because of something you did. For example, if you broke the company rules or broke the law. The formal word is dismiss. However, there are lots of slang terms: fire, sack, get the sack, get given your marching orders.1

So, the company report might say:

“Barry Johnson was dismissed for stealing from the Production Department.”

But Barry would probably say:

“I was fired for nicking2 stuff from work.”

Nobody likes to be made redundant and we all hope we’ll never get the sack. However, there’s one day many of us will welcome. That’s the day when we reach the age that we can retire and don’t have to go to work anymore.

Practise your listening. Click on play to hear Barney reading this text.


In the US they also say terminate. However, in the UK this word makes us think of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film so we associate it with something much worse than losing your job.

To nick is a British slang term which means to steal something.

Find more Words making the headlines.

If you would like to suggest a word from the news for future blog posts, please use the comment box.

Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.


Using email templates

Every day, all around the world, business people write hundreds of millions of emails.

However, there is a limited number of different types of business emails. This means that many of the emails you send are very similar. For example, they are emails requesting information, asking for and confirming payment, arranging and confirming meetings and so on. They contain the same standard email phrases. It’s just the specific details that vary.

One way to save time and make your emails more accurate is to use emails templates. A template has the structure of a common email. All you need to do is change the details to fit the specific situation.

Watch the video to see some examples of using email templates.

The emails in the video use standard business email phrases. Download this pdf for more information about those phrases.


If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you need to write emails in English? Contact us to talk about doing a writing course.


Words making the headlines – test yourself

In Words making the headlines last week, we focused on the word deal.

This week you can test yourself. How well do you know the words that go together with deal?

Read and listen to the text again then try the exercises.

Words making the headlines – deal

Signing a dealAll across Europe, people, companies and governments are trying to make deals with each other. The British government wants to get a deal on Brexit so that it can then negotiate trade deals with other countries. Taxi company Uber is hoping to strike a deal with the transport authorities in London over its licence to operate in that city. French public sector trade unions want to cut a deal with President Macron over budget cuts. In Germany, newly re-elected Chancellor Merkel is working hard to close a deal with possible coalition partners.

Of course, everybody wants to get a good deal. Prime Minister May is worried that the UK may not get a fair deal from the European Union. She is even making plans for a no deal Brexit in case any deal with the EU falls through. Many people in Catalonia think they get such a rough deal from the government of Spain that they want the region to declare independence.

Across the Atlantic, however, the author of a book called ‘The Art of the Deal’ is not interested in doing deals. President Trump says he wants the USA to back out of the deal to address climate change made in Paris last year. At the same time, he has made it clear that he doesn’t want to discuss a deal with the leadership of North Korea to avoid military conflict.

Mr Trump, famously, is not an easy man to deal with. Try to remember that next time you’re finding it difficult to make a deal with a customer or colleague.


Exercise A

Read and listen to the text and then answer the questions.

1. What three expressions can you find in the text which mean ‘make a deal’?

2. What expression in the text means the opposite of ‘a good deal’?

3. What expression can we use when a deal is unsuccessful or does not happen?

4. What expression in the text means to change your mind after you have agreed a deal?

Exercise B

Now use the expressions in the box to complete the sentences.

fair deal cut a deal fell through backed out of the deal
close the deal rough deal deal with


1. Although they have not announced an agreement, negotiators from both sides are working hard to ____________________ before Friday’s deadline.

2. The young entrepreneur is hoping to ____________________ with financiers which will enable him to start production of his latest invention.

3. A recent report claimed that budget airlines were giving passengers a ____________________ by charging extra for services such as hold luggage, meals and seat selection.

4. Strepco and Matrite had agreed on a merger but the deal ____________________ when the two sides failed to agree on the members of the new Board.

5. The company said it would refuse to ____________________ unelected union representatives.

6. United had agreed to buy City’s goalkeeper for an undisclosed sum, but ____________________ at the last minute.

7. Consumer rights groups said payday loan companies were taking advantage of customers, and new lending regulations were needed to help customers get a ____________________ on short-term loans.



Exercise A

1. strike a deal, cut a deal, negotiate a deal

2.  a rough deal

3.  to fall through

4.  back out on a deal

Exercise B

1. close the deal

2. cut a deal

3. rough deal

4. fell through

5. deal with

6. backed out

7. fair deal

How many did you get correct? Make a note of the vocabulary that is useful for your job and use it when you speak and write in English.

Text and picture by Barney

Exercises by Joy


Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.


Working prepositions

All these prepositions are from photos of signs and notice around Stratford upon Avon

Prepositions are little words but they can have a big impact on the meaning of what you say. Sometimes using the correct preposition can make the difference between successful communication and confusion.

There are some rules for using prepositions. For example, we use at when we give a clock time: We’re meeting at 2 o’clock. And we use in to describe the location of something: My phone is in my bag.

However, it’s usually better to learn prepositions as part of a collocation or word partnership. For example, we use in in partnership with the adjective interested: I’m interested in musical theatre.

How do you find the correct preposition? You can probably guess our answer: look in a learner’s dictionary.

Here’s the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary entry for interested. Notice the bold words in the first example sentence.

Or, this is what the Macmillan English Dictionary says about interested. Again, interested in is in bold.

Now you have opened these two learner’s dictionaries, try this exercise. Each of the sentences use the verb work in partnership with one of the prepositions in the box. If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess, look in a dictionary.

on as in in in for with at

1. They work ____ a large pharmaceutical firm in Switzerland.
2. She works ____ a software developer.
3. For the last three months, we’ve been working ____ a project in Canada.
4. It’s a multinational company. I work ____ people from all over the world.
5. When he graduates, he hopes to work ____ the film industry.
6. Do you work ____ London?
No, I work ____ Head Office in Edinburgh.
7. Before she moved to Sales, she worked ____ the Production Department.

The correct answers are at the bottom of this page. After you check them, think about the word partnerships in the exercise that you didn’t know. Are they useful to you? If they are, you need to learn them. Modify the sentences from the exercise and make them about you and your job. Think of situations in your life in which you could use those sentences.

Here are a few more learner’s dictionaries:

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries

Collins Dictionary



1. They work for a large pharmaceutical firm in Switzerland.
2. She works as a software developer.
3. For the last three months, we’ve been working on a project in Canada.
4. It’s a multinational company. I work with people from all over the world.
5. When he graduates, he hopes to work in the film industry.
6. Do you work in London?
No, I work at Head Office in Edinburgh.
7. Before she moved to Sales, she worked in the Production Department.


by Barney

If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

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Trade – vocabulary mind map

A good way to collect and organise vocabulary is using mind maps.

Mind maps allow you to group together related vocabulary. This could be vocabulary for a topic or a situation. You can do it on paper or use a website or app. Here’s an example using the vocabulary from our most recent Word making the headlines article about trade.

Click on the image to investigate the mind map more closely. Or view it on the Popplet website. The black boxes have collocations using trade. The orange boxes have examples sentences using those collocations.

Trade vocabulary mind-map

This mind map was made using Popplet. You can create and share Popplet mind maps using their website or iTunes app.

There are lots of mind map apps for Android and Apple.

By Barney

Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.