Formal and Informal Language: What’s the Difference?

As you learn a language, knowing when to use formal or informal language should become second nature. Understanding the difference between formal and informal language in English, and when to use each one, will help you communicate clearly in any situation.

Formal Language

Two girls having a conversation

In English, formal language is most commonly used in serious situations or to show respect. It involves the use of full, complex sentences and perfect grammar. You’ll probably use formal English when emailing teachers, during job interviews, and while giving presentations. Formal language is used in most types of writing, including many English language exams.

Informal Language

Informal language is more relaxed than formal language. In English, most people use informal language in everyday conversations. When speaking informally, you can use shorter, broken sentences, slang, improper grammar, or words like “um.” Informal language is used when talking to friends, family, and other people that you know well. You can sometimes use informal language in writing, such as when posting on social media, texting friends, or sending letters and postcards.

Should I Use Formal or Informal Language?

In English, we generally speak to other people informally, even if we don’t know them well. In many other languages, though, people speak formally to strangers. If you aren’t sure about how to communicate with someone in an English conversation, pay attention to how they speak to you and copy what they do. This is especially true for making conversation in work situations. If you don’t know which type of language to use in an email, formal language always sounds polite and respectful.

Learn More Today

When you sign up to learn English at ALCC American Language, be prepared to learn more than just the basics of grammar and vocabulary. We will teach you how to communicate effectively as you continue your education or enter the workforce. You will also learn valuable skills to help you navigate life in New York. To learn how to enroll in our courses, call ALCC American Language at (212) 736-2373.

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