Formal vs. Informal English Words

English, like many languages, has a variety of registers or levels of formality that can be employed depending on the context, audience, and purpose of communication. Understanding the differences between formal and informal English can enhance your ability to communicate effectively in diverse settings. Here, we will explore a selection of words that are distinctly formal or informal, providing definitions and example sentences to illustrate their use.

Commence (formal)
– Definition: Begin or start.
The ceremony will commence at noon.

Begin (informal)
– Definition: Start an activity or event.
Let’s begin the game now.

Inquire (formal)
– Definition: Ask for information from someone.
I will inquire about the conference details.

Ask (informal)
– Definition: Request information from someone.
Can you ask him to call me?

Purchase (formal)
– Definition: Acquire something by paying for it.
Please proceed to purchase your tickets at the counter.

Buy (informal)
– Definition: Obtain something by paying for it.
I need to buy some groceries.

Assist (formal)
– Definition: Help someone, typically in a job or task.
May I assist you with your luggage?

Help (informal)
– Definition: Make it easier for someone to do something.
Can you help me with this report?

Terminate (formal)
– Definition: Bring to an end.
Your contract will be terminated following a 30-day notice.

End (informal)
– Definition: Stop or finish something.
When does the movie end?

Reside (formal)
– Definition: Live, especially on a permanent basis.
She resides in a quiet neighborhood.

Live (informal)
– Definition: Make one’s home in a particular place or with a particular person.
I live in New York City.

Require (formal)
– Definition: Need for a particular purpose.
Your presence is required at the meeting.

Need (informal)
– Definition: Require something because it is essential.
I need some water.

Utilize (formal)
– Definition: Make practical and effective use of.
The company will utilize the latest technology.

Use (informal)
– Definition: Take, hold, or deploy something as a means of accomplishing a purpose.
Can I use your phone?

Obtain (formal)
– Definition: Get, acquire, or secure something.
She was able to obtain a copy of the report.

Get (informal)
– Definition: Come to have or hold something.
Did you get the tickets?

Discuss (formal)
– Definition: Talk about something with someone, typically to evaluate or decide something.
We will discuss the project tomorrow.

Talk about (informal)
– Definition: Speak about something with someone, often casually.
Let’s talk about your weekend plans.

Perceive (formal)
– Definition: Become aware or conscious of something.
She could perceive the tension in the room.

See (informal)
– Definition: Be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.
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Understanding when and how to use formal and informal English can significantly impact your communication effectiveness. Whether you are writing a business email, speaking at a formal event, or chatting with friends, being mindful of the register of language you employ can help ensure that your message is delivered appropriately and received as intended.

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