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Learn Study English Grammar

English Grammar Proficiency Skills

Improve and learn English grammar for business and professional purposes. Find English grammar notes, tips, suggestions, information, and, maybe, a  few business English worksheets on this page. Have fun with business English grammar worksheets. These English grammar topics are typically included in English grammar classes and English grammar courses. Though there may be one, two, or three advanced grammar topics that aren’t always in ESL grammar courses and classes or that likely do not receive enough attention.

  1. Arrange a Meeting Correct the Errors  – Business letter to set up a meeting.
  2. Arrange a Meeting Corrected – This is the correct version of the letter.
  3. Recommendation Letter Correct the Errors – Business recommendation letter.
  4. Recommendation Letter Corrected – This is the correct version of the letter.
  5. Business Leader Grammar Gap Fill – I adapted this from a letter I wrote for a colleague.
  6. Business Leader Grammar Gap Fill Answers – This document has the answers.

Let’s start with a sentence from a business email that I revised, corrected, and edited for a client here in the Boston Cambridge area. These English grammar topics are typically included in English classes and English courses.

A) Passive or Active 

Example sentence: It is strongly recommended that all partners attend the next project meeting, which will be held at 5:00 PM on Thursday in the Cambridge room on the second floor.

Learn English grammar.

Who’s doing the recommending? If you are the one doing the recommending, it’s, generally, better to not use passive voice. Passive voice draws attention away from the person doing the action. Why would you want to do that? You might have a good reason to use passive voice, but if not, use active voice. Here’s active voice.

I strongly recommend that all partners attend the next project meeting, which will be held at 5:00 PM on Thursday in the Cambridge room on the second floor.


B) In On At 

in the Cambridge room – Use “in” for enclosed areas. A room is an enclosed area.
on the second floor – Use “on” for surfaces. A floor is a surface.
at 5:00 PM – Use “at” for locations and numbers that represent points on a line, such as the hour of  the day. Time is a line: a timeline.


C) Which or That – Relative pronouns and clauses English grammar

I strongly recommend that all partners attend the next project meeting. It will be held at 5:00 PM on Thursday in the Cambridge room on the second floor.

Use “which” to combine these sentences into one. Replace the word “it” with “which”. Use a comma to separate the clause beginning with “which” from the rest of the sentence because it’s additional information, meaning it’s a non-restrictive clause.

I strongly recommend that all partners attend the next project meeting, which will be held at 5:00 PM on Thursday in the Cambridge room on the second floor.

For restrictive clauses use “that”, and do not use a comma. The clause, “that Julie emailed all the partners about”, identifies “the meeting”. This clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. It’s not additional information. Note: It’s possible to use “which” in place of “that” for a restrictive clause, but it’s not possible to use “that” in place of “which” for a non-restrictive clause.

Are you going to the meeting that Julie emailed all the partners about? Yes, I’ll be there.


D) Will

Here are some notes on using “will”.

Use “will” for certain predictions or promises:

  • Are you going to the meeting that Julie emailed all the partners about? Yes, I’ll be there. Or Yes, I’m going.
  • Can you meet me for coffee after work today? No, I’ll be at a meeting. Or No, I’m going to a meeting.

Do not use “will” for something you’ve already decided to do. This is a common error.

Are you attending today’s meeting at 5:00? Yes, I am. (attending the meeting)  Obviously, “Yes, I am (attending the meeting)” is a reference to future time.
Can you meet me for coffee after work today? No, I have to attend a meeting. No, I have to be at a meeting from 5:00 to 6:30.
Can you meet me for coffee after work today? No, I’m going to a meeting. > This is the WRONG answer: No, I will go to a meeting.

Use “will” to ask someone to do something: Will you, please, attend the Thursday afternoon meeting this week? You haven’t been to one in a few weeks, and I think it’s very important that you be at this one. Yes, okay, I’ll be there.  

Note sentence correction: It’s incorrect to use will in this way, after the subject, in an adverb clause. A clause that begins with “when” is a time clause. A time clause is a type of adverb clause.

Incorrect: When I will have the deadlines I’ll talk to the department managers.
Correct: When I have the deadlines, I’ll talk to the department manager.


E) Wish for hypothetical language – Wish Conditionals 

Use wish to express the idea that something is not how someone wants something to be. Circumstances make it impossible or it is simply impossible in the first place.

Here are examples of wish conditionals in a business context. Do you understand how to use “wish”? Read the examples and find out.

I wish it were not so difficult to deal with this recruiter. – It’s very difficult to deal with this recruiter.

  • I wish we had more time to put this training program in place. – We don’t have more time to put this training program in place.
  • I wish we could extend the deadline. – We can’t extend the deadline.
  • I wish we could’ve extended the deadline. – It wasn’t possible to extend the deadline.
  • I wish the department manager would be more cooperative. – The department manager is not very cooperative.
  • I wish we had considered the deadline sooner. – We did not consider the deadline sooner.
  • I wish it were not so difficult to deal with this recruiter. – It’s very difficult to deal with this recruiter.

F) English Subjunctive 

  1. Present Subjunctive – This is an advanced level grammar topic for proficiency in American English.
  2. Subjunctive Expressions – Subjunctive expressions are for advanced level English speakers who want to know what else they can learn about English.
  3. Past for Politeness – Past verbs in English are not always for past time. Use the past to be polite in English.
  4. Past Means Present – Sometimes the past is the present in English.

Here’s an external link to a relevant page: The English subjunctive: scholarly opinions.


G) Present Subjunctive and Imperative 

What’s the difference between imperative and present subjunctive?

An imperative is an order, a directive. You can add “please” to an imperative and make it sound as polite and friendly as you want, but it’s still an order, a directive. Imperatives can only be statements that mean, “I, or we, say to you do this or do that”. Imperative Example: Please, be at the Monday morning department meeting at 9:00. We are no longer starting this meeting at 10:00.

Present subjunctive statements can imply “do this” or “do that”, but the literal meaning of a present subjunctive sentence is not the same as an imperative, which is an order or a directive. A present subjunctive statement can start with, for example, “I suggest that”, “we are asking that”, or “she recommended that”. Present Subjunctive Example: We are asking that everyone be at the Monday morning department meeting at 9:00. We are no longer starting this meeting at 10:00.

  • Imperative: “Be at the Monday morning department meeting at 9:00.” This means I am, or we are, telling you to do this.
  • Present Subjunctive: “We are asking that you be at the Monday morning department meeting at 9:00.” This means we are asking you to do this, and we want you to know that we really want you to do this. Though this is not a directive or an order in the same way that an imperative is a directive or an order, the expectation is that people will understand it as something that they must do.

For practical purposes, both statements mean that you must be there at 9:00 or you are required to be there at 9:00.

  • Imperative: “Be at the Monday morning department meeting at 9:00.”
  • Present Subjunctive: “We are asking that you be at the Monday morning department meeting at 9:00.”

More comments on imperative versus subjunctive

An imperative tells someone what to do even if it does start with “please”: it’s a directive, not a request. Though they express a sense of urgency, present subjunctives don’t send the literal message of directive, minus spoken subject, which is “do this” or “do that”. There is a strong implication of “do this” or “do that” with subjunctives, but it’s not contained in the literal meaning of a subjunctive phrase that starts, for example, with “I suggest that”, “we are asking that”, or “she demanded that”. Also, imperatives, unlike subjunctives, can only come from the speaker, the person issuing the directive: imperatives can only be “I say to someone or others “do this” or “do that”.

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