What do you say when…..? – Awkward Business English phrases

What do you say when… you’re doing business (a business call, video-conference, email, F2F meeting etc) and someone says something that you have never experienced in your Business English class roleplays before?

There are some potential minefields here, where if you say the wrong thing, it could severely damage your hard-earned business relationship with a valuable client.

It’s good to know a few good phrases in advance to have as response to some awkward business English situations.

You probably won’t find these in a Business English textbook, so learn these useful phrases now, before you find yourself in a moment where you don’t know what to say!

So, what do you say when… you’re in the middle of a business transaction and you hear someone say the following phrases?


Listen by clicking on the blue sentences below.

Then decide which of the Possible Responses (also further below) is appropriate.

If you need to check (or cheat), the correct solution is given at the very bottom of this page.

What do you say when… ?

1. I’ve been ill, so I haven’t managed to read your email yet.

2. I’m ill, so I’m a bit behind with everything at the moment.

3. It’s my birthday tomorrow so I won’t be at work.

4. My Dad died last week and I’ve been busy organising the funeral and everything.

5. Some idiot crashed into my car and I’ve been sorting things out with the insurance company.

6. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to look at that yet because my son was in a motorbike accident this morning.

7. My wife is pregnant.

8. I’ve been promoted

Possible responses

You can hear the pronunciation of the following phrases on the audio

I’m really sorry to hear that. Is he ok?
Ah, congratulations. Well, I wish you all the very best in your new position and I look forward to a successful relationship with your successor.
Oh, OK. Are you better now?
I’m really sorry to hear that. Don’t worry about anything and get back to me whenever you’re ready.
Congratulations. When is it due? Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?
What have you got? A cold?
Are you ok?
Congratulations. I hope you have a great day

Correct Answers

1. c 2. f 3. h 4. d 5. g 6. a 7. e 8. b

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