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Guide to Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous for ESL

Guide to Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous for ESL

Past Perfect

There are two past tenses used to describe things that happen before another point in time in the past. Use the past perfect to talk about an event which had happened at some point in time before something took place.

Tom had interviewed five times before he got his first job.
She had already eaten by the time they arrived.

Past Perfect Continuous

The past perfect continuous is used to express how long something had been going on before something important happened in the past.

Jane had been studying for four hours when he came home.
Jack had been driving four over six hours when he finally pulled over to have lunch.
Past Perfect Structure


Subject + had + past participle

I, You, He, She, We, They had finished before I arrived.


Subject + had + not (hadn’t) + past participle

I, You, He, She, We, They hadn’t eaten before he finished the job.


Question word + had + subject + past participle

What -> had he, she, you, we, they thought before I asked the question?

Past Perfect Continuous Structure


Subject + had + been + verb + ing

I, You, He, She, We, They had been working for two hours when she telephoned.


Subject + had + not (hadn’t) + been + verb + ing

I, You, He, She, We, They hadn’t been paying attention for long when he asked the question.


Question word (often ‘How long’) + had + been + subject + verb + ing

How long -> had he, she, you, we, they been working before he arrived?


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Vocabulary for Writing Business Letters

Vocabulary for Writing Business Letters

If you are a teacher, you might find this specific English terminology and letter lingo useful as well.

Oftentimes, these expressions are employed in very specific trade sectors, and thus the core vocabulary sheets go a long way in helping both the instructors and the students inform their formal written expressions.

Opening / Greeting / Reply

1. Messrs
2. to the kind attention of
3. the aim of this letter
4. we wish to inform you that
5. in reply to your letter
6. following your instructions

Ending / Complimentary Close

1. always at your service
2. awaiting your reply
3. best regards
4. our kindest regards
5. to look forward to / looking forward to an early reply
6. we look forward to your kind reply
7. looking forward to hearing from you
8. we remain
9. we thank you in advance
10. we would appreciate it if you could answer
11. we would appreciate your reply
12. Yours faithfully / sincerely (GB)


1. as per your request
2. as requested
3. please allow us
4. please send us
5. please send us your instructions
6. would you please let us have
7. would you please let us know
8. you ordered
9. you requested
10. you sent us


1. as soon as possible
2. at your convenience
3. at your earliest convenience
4. before the date we agreed upon
5. in due time – in due course
6. on arrival of the goods
7. on delivery
8. on receipt of the order
9. on short notice
10. on written request
11. short-term
12. to be late
13. to inform in due time
14. with two weeks’ notice
15. without delay
16. within the end of the month

Send / Receive / Address / Notify

1. inside address
2. outside address
3. sender address
4. to notify in advance about
5. to let someone know in advance
6. to reach the destination
7. to send under separate cover
8. we acknowledge receipt of
9. we have received
10. we sent you
11. without notice


1. letter opening – beginning of the letter
2. letter heading – heading
3. body of the letter
4. enclosure – attachment
5. circular letter
6. claim – letter of complaint
7. covering letter
8. from order receipt
9. further to our letter – following our letter
10. to return a letter to the sender
11. the letter remained unanswered

Price / Payment

1. as far as the payment is concerned
2. as per invoice
3. at your expense
4. half-price
5. in partial payment
6. on advanced payment
7. payable in advance
8. prices are increasing
9. to be in arrears with payments
10. up to an amount of

Goods / Items

1. goods listed below
2. the following items
3. the goods are available in our warehouse
4. the goods are not similar to the sample
5. the goods are sold out
6. the goods arrived in good conditions
7. to make the goods available
8. we hope we’ll receive the goods soon


1. we apologize again for
2. we apologize for
3. we apologize for the delay
4. we apologize for the mistake
5. we are sorry to have to
6. we are sorry to inform you
7. we must apologize for

Regarding Something or Someone

1. (to act) on behalf of
2. as far as I’m concerned
3. as per to the conditions
4. as follows
5. due to oversight
6. hereby
7. in compliance with – accordingly
8. in the absence of
9. on condition that – provided that
10. to refer to
11. to correspond with
12. to suit the quality – to meet the quality
13. to take into consideration
14. the matter in reference
15. with/in reference to
16. with the compliments of
17. within which

Meetings / Negotiations

1. the meeting was canceled
2. to fix an appointment
3. to stop negotiations

Meet the Needs

1. in case of need
2. to meet a demand
3. to meet customer’s requirements


1. our best attention
2. to pay the maximum attention to the matter


1. as agreed
2. to agree with


1. to have the pleasure to
2. to be delighted to

Sell / Order

1. to sell at the best
2. to be overrun with orders
3. order to be confirmed


1. to come to a decision
2. to come to an agreement – to reach an agreement


1. similar to sample – up to sample
2. correspond to the sample
3. to submit a sample

Other Useful Expressions

1. to be able to
2. to be authorized to
3. to be characterized by
4. to be confident in
5. to be interested in
6. to be prepared to – to be willing to
7. to be held responsible for
8. to be in difficulty
9. to cope with the competition
10. to have the power to
11. in good condition
12. in our favor
13. to our mutual benefit
14. our offer is still open
15. (with the) utmost care
16. with no obligation – without commitment


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How to Writing an Inquiry Business Letter

How to Writing an Inquiry Business Letter

Hard-Copy Letters

For professional-looking hard-copy letters, place your or your company’s address at the top of the letter (or use your company’s letterhead stationery) followed by the address of the company you are writing to. The date can either be placed double-spaced down (hit return/enter twice) or to the right. If you use a style that has the date on the right, indent your paragraphs and do not put a line of space between them. If you keep everything flush to the left, don’t indent paragraphs, and put a space between them.
Leave a line of space before your closing, and four to six lines of space for you to have room to hand-sign the letter.

Emailed Inquiries

If you use email, it’s easier on the reader’s eyes to have paragraphs with a line of space between them, so flush everything left. The email will automatically have the date of when it was sent, so you do not need to add the date, and you’ll need only one line of blank space between your closing and your typed name. Place your company contact information (such as your telephone extension so someone can get back to you easily) at the bottom after your name.

It’s easy to be too casual with email. If you want to appear professional to the business you’re writing to, stick with the rules and tone of formal letter writing for the best results, and proofread your letter before sending it out. It’s so easy to dash out an email, hit Send right away, and then discover a mistake upon rereading. Correct errors before sending to make a better first impression.
Important Language for a Business Inquiry Letter

1. The start: “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” (very formal, used when you do not know the person to whom you are writing). If you know your contact already, that’s better than being anonymous.
2. Giving reference: “With reference to your advertisement (ad) in…” or “Regarding your advertisement (ad) in…” Give the company context to why you’re writing, right away.
3. Requesting a catalog, brochure, etc.: After the reference, add a comma and continue “could you please send me information on…”
4. Requesting further information: If you have more that you’re seeking, add, “I would also like to know…” or “Could you tell me whether…”
5. Summary call to action: “I look forward to hearing from you…” or “Could you please give me a call between the hours of…”
6. Closing: Use “Sincerely” or “Yours faithfully” to close.
7. Signature: Add your title on the line following your name.


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ESL: Improve Your English Telephone Skills

ESL: Improve Your English Telephone Skills

Practice each dialogue with a friend or classmate a few times. Next, write your own telephone dialogues, go into another room, and use your smartphone to call your partner. Practicing by using a real phone will make future conversations with native speakers much easier. After you’ve practiced with a friend, try these tips:

1. Call local businesses: The best way to get better is by practicing calling various stores or businesses. Before calling, jot down a few notes on the information you would like to find out. Use your notes when you call the stores to help you feel more confident when you speak.
2. Call yourself: To practice leaving messages, call yourself and leave a message. Listen to the message to see if you can understand the words clearly. Play the recording for a native-speaking friend to see if she understands the message you have left.
3. Introduce yourself properly: When on the phone, use “This is…” rather than “I am…” when introducing yourself in English.

Don’t be shy about asking the speaker (politely) to repeat names and numbers to ensure that you get the right information. Repeating names and numbers will help slow speakers down.


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How to Have a Business Conversation

How to Have a Business Conversation

Most of the time, small-talk conversation is required for networking in the corporate world. It requires a lot of practice, but having couple of tips to get started will speed you up with the progress. Ben Stein at Yahoo! Finance did a nice piece on how to have a business conversation:

1. Begin by knowing that the people you’re talking to mostly want to talk about themselves.
2. Establish common ground.
3. Say kind, generous things to your conversation partner.
4. Keep your comments brief.
5. Get back on common ground again as soon as you can.
6. Don’t brag unless you do it in a funny way.
7. Unless you’re specifically asked about it, don’t talk about religion at all.
8. The same goes for politics.
9. If you talk about current issues, do so in a genial, friendly way.
10. Make whatever points you need to make in a hurry, and then leave.

Having a common ground can create a very good ground for building a friendly relationship and lead to many different topics to talk about. I recommend to begin with asking them many question on their background, and find the something in common.


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