This is the first of many posts on Basic Business English.

Container Terminal - photo courtesy Wikipedia

How do we make sure that the right goods end up in the right place? – photo courtesy Wikipedia

A huge amount of international business goes on in English, and most of you don’t have English as your first language. The result can be confusion and misunderstandings. I also understand that most of you who use English as a common language in business don’t have the time or energy to keep on studying. So, to help you out, I am going to teach you to write clear, basic English that your non-native reader will thank you for.

In this post I am going to focus on verbs. How many verb forms are there in English? Estimates vary between 12 and 41! It depends on how you look at them. But you can manage with just four. I’ll show you how. You only need:

  • one for now
  • one for the past
  • one for the future
  • one for generalities

1. Talking about what is happening now
(using the present continuous)

I am attaching a photo of the damaged part.
We are checking the progress of your order.
The repair engineer is driving to your factory right now.
I am writing the report.

2. Talking about what happened in the past
(using the past simple tense)

We launched three new products last month.
Sales increased by 15% during the first quarter.
We dispatched a replacement part by courier this morning.
I met the client yesterday and he seemed very interested.

3. Talking about what will happen in the future
(using will + present simple)

We will launch three new products next month.
The new ad campaign will increase sales.
We will check the faulty part and will send a replacement by courier.
The new system will increase productivity by at least 20%.

4. Talking about things that happen often.
(using the present simple)

We launch three new products every month.
We review the effectiveness of our ad campaigns every week.
We check faulty parts and send replacements within 24 hours.
We continually improve productivity.

Of course, if you are comfortable using other verb forms also, then go ahead, but you don’t actually need them. You can get by very well with just these four – and not sound like Tarzan!