GRAMMAR For Business Guest Post -Jennifer

I am delighted to introduce another guest writer to you. This week my fellow English teacher, Jennifer Nascimento makes the important point that contrary to what many people think, grammar, in particular the correct use of the English tenses, IS important in Business English. I often explain to my clients that in a social conversation, the odd tense mistake is forgivable because people will generally understand what you mean. However, if you’re giving a presentation or in a meeting and people need to understand a timeline, say for a launch of a product, the correct use of the English tenses will be important so as not to cause confusion. Another area where tenses are important is in that all important job interview. In her post, Jennifer shares with you what tenses you should use in the following 10 common interview questions.

Over to you, Jennifer. 


As you are very aware, improving your English takes a lot of practice and patience, especially when it is needed in business settings. The great news is that you’re reading this post which means you are already taking important steps in reaching your English goals. While these goals may differ from student to student, I have never met an English learner who didn’t want to achieve a higher level of fluency or as many say, “native fluency.” However, there are many parts of the English puzzle that are needed to reach this level and proficiency.

The most obvious parts are listening comprehension (being able to understand others) and speaking skills (being able to express your ideas to others). Most students think that in order to improve speaking abilities, they must increase vocabulary and better their pronunciation skills, and often minimal {little} thought is given to grammar. In fact, if I had a dime {10 cents} for every time I heard, “I don’t need to really understand grammar, as long as people know what I am talking about,” I would be a millionaire.

This thought process is very, very far from the truth though! That is why today I want to share with you the inaccuracy in believing that grammar is not important, because it is. Grammar is very important, especially if you are seeking a career where English is needed and if you need to use English at a professional level.

The importance of understanding grammar begins at the start of your professional English career: the job interview.

Before you even begin using your language skills to communicate with colleagues, partners, and clients, you must prove your abilities through an interview. A job interview usually consists of you and a manager or executive in a room discussing you, your strengths, reasons for applying and so on. However, we’re going to look a little closer at some of the most common interview questions to see the variety of grammar tenses that are naturally used. Not only must you understand the question (which means understanding the grammar), you must know how to answer the question effectively and accurately.

So let’s review some of the most important grammar points necessary and some common interview questions as identified by


The present tense: used for descriptions, to state facts, and for habits/routines

  1. Describe yourself.

You must be able to use the present tense and a variety of verbs/adjectives to describe yourself, including your personality traits, strengths and weaknesses, what you want in the position, and relevant skills and abilities.

  1. What do you know about the company, and who is our CEO?

With this question, you must be able to state the facts you know (and researched) about the company including the CEO, what the company is known for, and perhaps what your responsibilities are in the position.

  1. What motivates you?

You can include your habits and routines in this answer, such as what you often or routinely do to stay motivated. This answer may include adverbs of frequency {often, always, sometimes} which are common indicators of the present tense.


The past tense: used for actions that started and finished in the past

  1. Why was there a gap in your employment between these two dates?

Be prepared to talk about past tense actions that affect your current professional situation. This answer could include the simple past tense (ex: I left company X and changed my profession), or the past progressive/continuous tense (ex: I was looking for employment during that period of time). Don’t forget your irregular verbs!

A variety of other questions will use the past tense such as past professional experience, education, accomplishments, etc..


The future tense: used to talk about actions that will/are going to happen in the future

  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

Do you have a thought-out plan? Are you certain of where you will be in the future? If yes, then be sure to use “be going to” as this shows thought and intention (ex: I am going to be a manager in 5 years). If you aren’t sure of the future, then you should use the simple future “will” (ex: I think I will be a manager in 5 years). *Note: it’s recommended to use “be going to” and show thought, as this represents confidence.

  1. What will you accomplish in this company?

Using “will” in this context shows a promise, a promise that you will accomplish what you set out to do. The simple future tense will effectively express actions that you plan to take in the future to be successful in your desired position. *NOTE: The future perfect is also very useful here (ex: By the end of my first year, I will have made $X in profit for the company.)


The perfect tenses: used to connect actions and times in the present, past, and future

  1. When have you gone above and beyond the requirements for a project?

The present perfect is used to talk about experiences in the past (without a specified time), just like this question is asking. An example response could be, “I have driven 100 miles to deliver a client their product.” You can also use the present perfect to connect actions that started in the past and still continue today (with stative verbs only. An example of this is, “I have always been an employee who goes above and beyond, and have consistently given my clients more attention than they expect.” (you are still an employee who goes above and beyond and continue to give clients attention into the present tense)

*NOTE: The past perfect could also be used in questions #4 to connect past actions and show which happened first and second (ex: I left job X because I had gotten into a car accident and needed surgery.) This example shows that first you had an accident, and that is what caused the second action of leaving your job. The future perfect and its use was described above in question #6


The conditional tenses: used to talk about present and/or real conditions and their results

  1. If I called your boss right now and asked him ‘what is an area that you could improve on’, what would he say?

This is the 2nd conditional, or the present/future unreal conditional, which talks about imagined situations that are not necessarily true. This interviewer probably won’t call your boss, so the IF condition is only imagined. The structure is important here, notice the simple past in the IF (condition) clause, and “would + base verb” in the result clause. In many types of interview questions, you will have to imagine the results of hypothetical (imagined) situations in order to demonstrate your work ethic and professional style. Be ready to use the 2nd conditional!

  1. If a customer is upset, how will you deal with them?

This question is an example of the 1st conditional, or the future real, which talks about real possibilities for very likely situations. Unfortunately, customers get upset, so the possibility of this happening, in relevant positions, is very likely and the interviewer wants to know how you as the potential employee will respond. Again, pay attention to the structure in both clauses, the IF clause uses the present tense and the result clause uses “will.”

*Never use “will” in the IF clause of a 1st conditional statement.


Modals: auxiliary verbs used to give additional meaning to the main verbs in a sentence

  1. Why should we hire you?

The modal “should” indicates advisability, so this question is seeking advice. In order to effectively answer this question, you ought to {should} give the reasons and suggestions (in other words, advice) for hiring you. Sell yourself!

*NOTE: Other modals include:

  • May/might, which shows possibility. ‘Might’ could be applied to question #8, as the 2nd conditional often uses this modal in the result clause to show possibility, or less certain results.
  • Must, which shows necessity or something that is required. This can be used in question #3, when talking about things you must do to stay motivated. Additionally, it can be used for question #9, indicating what must be done to handle the client.
  • Can/could, which expresses ability in the present (can) and past (could). ‘Can’ may be used in question #1 for the description of your abilities, and question #10 when stating the reasons for hiring you. ‘Could’ may be helpful in describing any past situation talking about your abilities.


These were only 10 of hundreds of possible questions that may be asked during a job interview, and with those questions, we saw the various grammar points being used. A great way to continue reviewing the grammar points used in interviews is to do a simple google search for “the most common interview questions.” You will get heaps {lots} of results from Forbes, Entrepreneur publications, Harvard business, and other very reputable sources. Browse through the questions not only thinking about and preparing your answers, but analyzing the different grammar being used. Make sure you get additional practice on the areas you aren’t comfortable with so these weaknesses don’t become a limitation in your success.

I have created a worksheet for you to get even more practice with English grammar, specifically the time tenses. This worksheet includes all 12 tenses, their uses, structure, common words used, and ways to practice. You can download that free guide by clicking here.



Jennifer Nascimento is an online English teacher, blogger, and founder of English Outside the Box ( She focuses on teaching her students real English, which is language useful for day-to-day life. Check out daily tips and videos on Instagram (


References: “How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions”



Thanks very much for this insightful post, Jennifer. If you think that your colleagues would benefit from this post, please share it with them. And if you haven’t done so yet, be sure to download my FREE Guide to better communication at work in English (see below). But wait…before you go….

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Ciao for now.


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