Formal and Informal Language


Formal describes a more serious register. We use this for talking to people we don't know or who are in positions of authority. It is also used for talking to people older than us. It shows that we want to respect or impress the audience.

Informal describes a more relaxed register. We use this for talking to people we know well like friends and family. It is also used to talk to people the same age as us or younger. It shows that we feel comfortable with the audience.

Activity 1

Which situations are formal and which are informal?

Writing an email for a job application
Sending a friend a message on social media
Making a speech at a wedding
Writing an article for a magazine aimed at young people
Calling your internet provider to complain about the service

Activity 2

Text A

Hi Katy!

I'm just dropping you a quick line to see how you're doing. I hope you're getting by okay. Call me any time you want a chat. You know you're welcome to pop round any time. Give my love to you and yours. Take care!

Speak soon! Claire xx

Text B

Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to our attention that there may have been an error with this order. This is due to a technical mistake, so please accept our apologies for the inconvenience and delay. Please could you send the correct delivery address and confirmation of receiving this message.

Yours faithfully,

The Management.;

Activity 3

Match the example to the correct language feature


Activity 4

Which language features are more likely to appear in informal or formal texts? Which can appear in both? How would you use each feature? 

Phrasal verbs
Direct address
Prepositions and nouns
Modal verbs
Single word verbs


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