Formal language is less personal than informal language. It is used when writing for professional or academic purposes like university assignments. Formal language does not use colloquialisms, contractions or first person pronouns such as “I” or “We”.
Informal language is more casual and spontaneous. It is used when communicating with friends or family either in writing or in conversation. It is used when writing personal emails, text messages and in some business correspondence. The tone of informal language is more personal than formal language.
Examples of formal and informal language are shown below:
1. Informal vs Formal English Verbs
- Ask - Enquire
Informal: The interviewer asked me about my future plans.
Formal: The interviewer enquired me about my future plans.
- Ask for - Request
Informal: You can ask for a free copy of the leaflet.
Formal: You can request a free copy of the leaflet.
- Book - Reserve
Informal: I'd like to book a table for three for eight o'clock.
Formal: I'd like to reserve a table for three for eight o'clock.
- Check - Verify
Informal: I'll leave you to check whether these claims are true.
Formal: I'll leave you to verify whether these claims are true.
- Get - Receive
Informal: We got a warm welcome from our hosts.
Formal: We received a warm welcome from our hosts.
- Give - Provide
Informal: The hospital has a commitment to give the best possible medical care.
Formal: The hospital has a commitment to provide the best possible medical care.
- Help - Assist
Informal: We are looking for people who would be willing to help in the group's work.
Formal: We are looking for people who would be willing to assist in the group's work.
- Need - Request
Informal: She need permission to film at the White House
Formal: She requests permission to film at the White House
- Say sorry - Apologise
Informal: Go and say sorry to her.
Formal: Go and apologize to her.
- Say hello to - Give my regards to
Informal: Well, say hello to your wife and children.
Formal: Well, give my regards to your wife and children.
- Tell - Inform
Informal: The leaflet tells customers about healthy eating.
Formal: The leaflet informs customers about healthy eating.
- Choose - Select
Informal: He hasn't been chosen for the team.
Formal: He hasn't been selected for the team.
- Begin/Start - Commence
Informal: Once that is completed, the major construction work will begin.
Formal: Once that is completed, the major construction work will commence.
- Let - Allow
Informal: She didn't let me to live with my kids.
Formal: She didn't allow me to live with my kids.
- Promise - Assure
Informal: "I can promise you of that", he said.
Formal: "I can assure you of that", he said.
2. Phrasal Verbs and Their One-Word Substitutions
In informal English we use more common words and phrasal verbs.
- Get out - Escape
Informal: The door locked accidentally, and I couldn't get out of the room.
Formal: The door locked accidentally, and I couldn't escape the room.
- Get by - Survive
Informal: It's too soon to say if he'll get by.
Formal: It's too soon to say if he'll survive.
- Get up - Rise
Informal: Would you all get up, please, to welcome our visiting speaker
Formal: Would you all rise, please, to welcome our visiting speaker
- Get away - Elude
Informal: The two men managed to get away from the police for six weeks.
Formal: The two men managed to elude the police for six weeks.
- Get well - Recover
Informal: He's still getting well from his operation
Formal: He's still recovering from his operation
- Get going - Begin
Informal: Come on, you guys, let's get going!
Formal: Come on, you guys, let's begin!
- Check up - Investigate
Informal: He checked up on his accountant.
Formal: He investigated his accountant.
- Put up with - Tolerate
Informal: They put up with their neighbours.
Formal: They tolerated their neighbours.
- Caught on - Understood
Informal: She caught on very quickly.
Formal: She understood very quickly.
- Made up for - Compensate
Informal: She made up for it with an early night.
Formal: She compensated for it with an early night.
- Go down with - Contract
Informal: He went down with a fever.
Formal: He contracted a fever.
- Go up - Increase/ Rise
Informal: The cost of living went up.
Formal: The cost of living increased/ rose.