Improve your business grammar

Es gibt kaum einen Zusammenhang zwischen Sprachkompetenz und Intelligenz. Trotzdem verbinden viele Menschen Rechtschreib- und Grammatikfehler mit mangelnder Bildung oder Kompetenz.

Ein Grund mehr, mit den Tipps von Secretary Today - Professionelles Business English für Sekretärinnen und Assistentinnen Ihre Grammatik zu perfektionieren.

In the business world people are quick to judge you by the way you speak. If you make a lot of mistakes, you will be judged as less intelligent or less competent, even though there is no correlation between the ability to learn a language and intelligence. Some people even get mad if you send them emails with grammar or spelling mistakes. So it's worth working on your language.

Secretary Today looks at some of the tricky points of grammar and gives you tips for perfect spoken and written English. This month, learn about negative prefixes.

How to use negative prefixes in English

A negative prefix is something you use to turn a positive or neutral word into a negative one. In German, this is usually 'un' or 'nicht': möglich becomes unmöglich and so on. In English, 'un-' is also the most usual, but there are many more, notably

a-, il-, de-, dis-, in-, im-, ir-, non-

There is one case which sounds very confusing. You may have come across the words flammable and inflammable. They both mean brennbar or entzündbar. There is little or no difference in meaning and use, but you are likely to see inflammable used to describe cloth materials, like clothing or car seats. When talking about gases or chemicals, you are more likely to use flammable. The opposite of inflammable and flammable is non-flammable.

  • Caution! – Made from highly inflammable material
  • Aircraft fuel is highly flammable
  • Made from non-flammable material

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Now it's over to you. Complete these sentences by using negative prefixes of the words in brackets.

1. In most countries, recreational drugs like Cannabis are (legal) ...... .
2. Smoking in a chemical plant is (responsible) ...... behaviour.
3. It is (possible) ...... to get to Paris in three hours.
4. We made an (successful) ...... attempt to get him to change his mind.
5. Not all politicians are (honest) ......, but they do have a bad reputation.
6. We will have to return the consignment as we can’t accept (perfect) ...... goods.

prefixused with German prefix example 
a-adjectives with Greek roots un-, nicht asymmetric 
de- verbs and nouns ent- defrost
dis- verbs, nouns, adjectives  
and adverbs
ent-, nicht disconnect
in- adjectives with Latin roots  un-, nicht incomplete
im- adjectives beginning with  
m and p 
un-, nicht impolite
il- adjectives beginning with l   un-, il- illegal 
ir- adjectives and nouns  
beginning with r  
un-, ir- irrelevant
non- adjectives and nouns  nicht nonstandard
un- adjectives  un-, nicht unhappy

1 illegal, 2 irresponsible, 3 impossible, 4 unsuccessful, 5 dishonest, 6 imperfect