By Paola Pascual on May 11, 2022 5:22:13 PM
We know what it's like to write emails in English when you're not a native-English speaker. It takes time. There are many aspects to take into account. It's not only about knowing different email phrases, greetings, and sign-offs. It's also about tone, spelling, and grammar. In this article, we will touch on an important grammar aspect: verb tenses. Our goal is not to cover them all, but to go over the main verb tenses you will need for your professional emails.
Verb Tenses For Business Emails
There are many verb tenses in English. In this post, we will only go over those that you may use in emails. The best way to remember them is to use them in a sentence. All the examples are actual phrases I have used in the past year in some of my emails. Try to make them your own and start using them.
Present Simple (I work)
Use Present Simple to talk about general truths or actions that happen frequently. Also use it with the verbs have, agree, believe, guess, like, love, know, mean, think, and understand (also known as stative verbs).
- We open at 9 am.
- I finish at 4 pm.
- We offer effective English training.
- I don't have time to do it all over again.
- She thinks it's a great idea.
- I hope everything is going well.
- If you have any questions, ...
Present Continuous/Progressive (I am working)
Use Present Continuous (also known as Present Progressive) to talk about actions happening right now. Also use it to talk about plans already arranged.
- I am writing to you to inform you about our upcoming event.
- I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.
- He is flying to New York in April.
- We are visiting them on Thursday.
- I know we are discussing this next week, but...
- I am speaking to the client right now.
- How is the project going?
Past Simple (I worked)
Use Past Simple to say that a specific event happened in the past. This event started and finished at a specific time in the past (and that period is finished). It is often used with expressions like last month, yesterday, in 2015, or two weeks ago.
- Here's the document you asked for.
- The invoice you sent last month is incorrect.
- I wasn't able to attend the meeting yesterday.
- We went to the office two weeks ago.
- I didn't see you at the conference.
- I sent him an email 5 minutes ago.
- I spoke with our client this morning.
- Did you email her on Thursday?
- It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday.
*Past Simple may also make your sentences more polite. Other ways to show politeness are using would and could.
- I wanted to let you know that...
- Could we please reschedule our meeting?
- Would you be able to come to the office on Thursday?
- I would love to come, but...
Past Continuous/Progressive (I was working)
Use Past Continuous (also known as Past Progressive) to describe an ongoing event in the past. We often use past continues when the action overlaps another past action (with expressions such as when or while). We often use Past Continuous to describe the background of the story and to emphasize that an action lasted for a while.
- I was speaking to the CEO when you called.
- It was raining when we got there.
- They were painting the walls while we were in Singapore.
- You were working very focused all day, so I didn't want to bother you.
- I was sending them the proposal when the Internet went down.
Present Perfect (I have worked)
Use Present Perfect to describe an action that is being repeated –the first time it happened in the past, but up until now, it keeps happening (e.g. I've been to New York 5 times). Likewise, use Present Perfect to describe an action that started in the past and it is true up to this day –this action is not finished (e.g. I have lived in Valencia since 2020; I haven't finished the draft yet). You will often see it with the words already, never, yet, and X times.
- They have called us three times already.
- I've never been to Canada.
- I haven't finished yet, but I hope to have it ready by tomorrow.
- I have attached a document with all my comments.
- They haven't replied yet.
- He has started a new role, so he is extremely busy these days.
Future Simple (I will work)
Use the Future Simple (will) to describe an event in the future when there is no fixed plan or decision the moment we speak, as well as to talk about conditionals (if). We also use it to talk about promises, requests, offers, and refusals. It also works well with the words and expressions as soon as, and I think, I'm sure and when.
- We will contact the customer when we receive the payment.
- I think we will need more time to finish the project.
- If they work hard, they will close the deal.
- Please let me know if this is too complicated and I will send you a summarized version.
- I will let you know as soon as we hear back from them.
- If this is our priority, I will make sure we have it ready on time.
- I'm sure it will be a success.
We use imperative verbs when we want to ask people to do something. They indicate order or command. In professional emails, they are usually paired with please and thank you.
- Please let me know what you think.
- Let me know if you would like to jump on a quick call.
- Please send me the slides as soon as they're good to go.
- Please send me a calendar invite.
Remember! There are many other verb tenses in English. These are just the most common ones in business emails. If you would like us to write other blog posts on this topics, tell us in the comment section!
Before you go, check your knowledge with the following email fragments. Complete the gaps with the correct tense of the verbs in brackets.
I __ (1- hope) this email __ (2- find) you well.
I __ (3- write) to let you know that the invoice we __ (4- receive) from Exemply Inc. is incorrect. I __ (5 - attach) the file we received.
___ (6 - you / email) the account manager yesterday? I __ (7 - talk) to their customer support right now, but I __ (8 - not know) if they __ (9 - be) able to solve this problem.
Please __ (10 - let) me know when you hear back from them.
- They __ us ten times already. (email)
- They __ yet. Perhaps they are busy. (not reply)
- I __ him an email 5 minutes ago. (send)
- I just bought the tickets - I __ to Tel Aviv in December. (travel)
- We need to clean up the office soon - they __ us next week. (visit)
- I usually __ work before 5 pm. (finish)
- I actually __ it’s a great idea. (think)
- I __ from the office in the last two years. (not work)
- __ the webinar last week? (they / record)
- I see that you __ an event this afternoon. Good luck! (host)
🙌 Check the answers here.
Keep Improving Your Business Emails
Continue improving your communication skills for professional situations - get in touch with Talaera. If you wish to take your professional English communication skills to the next level, check out our free resources.
- 'Stay safe' - How to Send Actually Genuine Emails During the Pandemic
- 8 Great Idioms To Enhance Your Professional Emails
- 5 Easy Tips To Improve Your Writing Skills - Start With Your Business Emails
- How To Write Clear Emails With These 4 Practical Concise Writing Tips
- +100 Business Acronyms That You Will Need At Work
For any additional information or questions, you can also reach out at email@example.com. Interested in getting the best offers and receiving free content on Business English communication? Subscribe to our newsletter and we will keep you in the loop with offers, free events, and development materials!