English Business Vocabulary Flaky British Businesses Ep 351

A photograph of a professional small business florist, used to help explain English business vocabulary.

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💬 2044 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 11 min

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English Business Vocabulary

If your going to speak English at some point you will engage with a company, either as a buyer or seller of some goods or services. Today we will walk through a typical example of an interaction with a small company in the UK. Along the way we will hear and use English business vocabulary that you would expect in an everyday conversation.

Obviously there are many types of business communication at many levels. If you’re the boss of an enormous company, you might use less commonly used business language specifically to say mergers or high finance.

If you're a corner shop owner retailing sweets and newspapers, you will use a different business vocabulary. However, you will almost always find a common set of ideas and common ways of talking about them. Today’s English language lesson focuses on the common ideas and vocabulary. You can learn more about how learning through listening works here

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
⭐ Steve Jobs

Ideas like having a competitor, issuing an invoice, getting quotes or estimates for products or services, you might want a guarantee before doing business. This business vocabulary works regardless of the size of the business you are interacting with. So jump in and listen and learn your way to fluent English.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 4 word phrases:

To Come And Quote3
To Do The Work3
At The Front Of2
Going To Tell You2
Just Didn’T Show Up2

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: English Business Vocabulary Flaky British Businesses

Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Let’s do some practice today at English conversation. Feel free to talk back to me of course, that’s good practice. I’m sorry I can’t hear you, but I’m going to tell you something in the way that I might talk to a close friend about it. This is really good English conversation practice with vocabulary you might hear in an English conversation.

Today I’m just going to tell you about an experience I had recently, which may surprise you, but which I think is typical in the UK – and quite a bad thing! It’s something which I think as a nation we need to improve on!

Quotes for work

What I’m talking about here is an experience I’ve had over the past two weeks, trying to get companies to come and quote for some work in my garden. When I say ‘quote’, Q-U-O-T-E, this is a word which is both a noun ‘a quote’ and a verb ‘to quote’.

If you would like to have someone come and do some work for you, in return for payment of course, then generally you start by contacting people and getting them to come and do a quote. So if someone ‘quotes for work’, that means they come, look at the work, what you want them to do and then they give you a figure, an amount of money which they’re willing to do the work for – that’s the money they’ll charge you, when they’ve completed the job.


A photograph of a stone patio to help explain the English business term quote or estimate.

©️ Adept English 2020

So I’d like to have a small area of my garden paved – that means putting flat stones over it, so maybe we can put some chairs and a table there. If you have a patio, P-A-T-I-O, then that’s usually a paved area, an area with stones, or at least a hard, flat surface, within your garden.

It’s not complicated work, but it’s not something which I’ can do myself. I’d probably have difficulty even lifting a bag of cement or sand to do the work! So I enjoy doing the gardening, but this patio laying is too heavy work for me. So I’ve saved up some money and I’m ready to go.

The ‘invitation to tender’ goes out!

So two weeks ago, I phoned a number of companies in my area who do building work and who put in paving – that’s a ‘paved area’. So businesses who put in patios or driveways. I made lots of phone calls and I left lots of messages. Finally I managed to get four different companies to book appointments to come and view and give me a quote for the work. An appointment, A-P-P-O-I-N-T-M-E-N-T is an agreed time to meet. So you might have an appointment at the hairdresser, or at the dentist or for someone to come to your house.

Bad performance

Well, perhaps you can imagine what happens next. The first man to come and quote did show up on time, but he quoted me a figure that was around 4 times what I’d expected to pay. The second man was meant to come on the same day, but he just didn’t turn up.

He did message the following week – and we arranged for him to come the next Friday at 10 o’clock. He eventually appeared with no apology, around 4pm. Fortunately I was home and he looked around and did send me a quote, but this time twice as much as what seemed reasonable. Man number 3 was scheduled to come also Friday afternoon – he just didn’t show up.

No message, nothing. Man number 4 did actually come on time. He was very pleasant, had a look around. We discussed the work – he said I’ll get back to you, which is what British people say to mean I’ll send you a message later, when I’ve had a think about it. However, I’m still waiting – I think he’s forgotten!


A rescuing factor – word of mouth and observation

Anyway, I noticed that my next door neighbours were having some work done at the front of their house. I noticed also I’d seen this van belonging to the company a number of times before, in our road. So I asked the builder to come and quote for my work in my garden. He did and the amount he wanted to charge was very reasonable – pretty much what I’d expected to pay.

So he told me that he’d done the work for my neighbour at the front of the house, which I’d seen, he’d also done their whole extension at the back of the house. An extension, E-X-T-E-N-S-I-O-N is when you build a whole new section to your house. And he’d done the extension on two other houses in our road and installed a new bathroom for another neighbour and he was about to start work on another neighbour’s house.

So this man and his team have done lots of business just within the street that I live on. So now I know he does a good job, he’s reliable and people are happy with his work. I’ve also seen these builders, doing work on my next door neighbour’s house and they turn up every morning on time and they clean up after themselves at the end of the day. So he’s the person who is coming to put in my new patio.

Why are British small building businesses so flaky?

My question is – why are people so unreliable? We’re being told that the economy in the UK is at an all time low, because of the lockdown and the pandemic and that lots of businesses, lots of companies are having problems, because they weren’t able to work for the last few months. Now they can. So you would think that companies would be keen to get business.

It’s surely not in their own interests to be so flaky! ‘Flaky’, F-L-A-K-Y is a word we use which is a bit informal. It means ‘unreliable’, erratic, not very functional. ‘Flaky’ is someone who promises to do something, but then doesn’t do it. Flaky is someone who is late and disorganised.

In a sense, I’ve got more understanding of the guys who just didn’t show up. I still see that as bad manners – it takes 20 seconds to send a text message to tell me you’re not coming – it would’ve been nice! But the one I really don’t understand is the man who turned up and spent 25 minutes discussing the work and then just couldn’t get his act together to actually send out a quote. And if he didn’t want to do the work, he could have just given me a high price! Why would you waste your time like that? I find it mystifying.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

I don’t know if this is a problem in your country or whether it’s something that’s particular to the UK. But if you want to set up a business in the UK, doing property maintenance and building work, it seems that you can distinguish yourself fairly easily, you can easily be the best option for your customers simply by turning up, coming at…...coming when you say you will! SO there’s plenty of opportunity here – and lots of businesses that don’t really deserve to be successful.

Well, I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest! Let us know if flakiness and unreliability are problems in your country. I hope not! And I hope I’m not podcasting in a couple of weeks’ time to talk about ‘shoddy workmanship’ because my patio is all wonky and they’ve done a bad job. Fingers crossed it will go well.

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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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