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Formal and Informal Speech

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Basics on the topic Formal and Informal Speech

To better communicate with people around us, we need to know the difference between formal and informal language. Learn about formal vs informal language using our video, activities and formal and informal language worksheets.

Formal and Informal Language – Definition

First, let’s define formal and informal language.

  • Formal language is used when speaking or writing to adults, for school assignments or when giving a presentation to a group of people. Formal language makes us sound more polite and respectful towards adults or people who we don’t know.

  • Informal language is used when communicating with peers, writing short stories or sending emails and text messages to friends.

How do we know when to use informal and formal language? We use formal or informal language based on the situation and audience. For example, when greeting your teacher, you would say “Good morning, Mr Jones!”, and not “Hi! What’s up?” because the latter is an example of a very informal language that you can use with your friends.

Formal and Informal Language – Characteristics

When using formal language, we must make sure that we use complete sentences and follow all grammar rules. In most cases, we would use a serious tone, unless it is necessary to be conversational. We also use formal vocabulary and avoid contractions, slang, nicknames and figurative language.

26823_SEO__Formal___Informal_Language-01.svg

In contrast, informal language is casual and is used in our everyday lives. Informal sentences can be incomplete or loosely organised. We also use conversational vocabulary to make our language more natural. We can use contractions, slang, nicknames and figurative language.

26823_SEO__Formal___Informal_Language-02.svg

Use this chart to compare the characteristics of formal and informal language:

Formal Language Informal Language
Complete sentences Incomplete sentences
Proper grammar Loose sentence organisation
Serious tone Casual tone
Formal vocabulary Conversational vocabulary
No contractions, slang,
nicknames or figurative language
Contractions, slang,
nicknames and figurative language are allowed

Formal and Informal Language – Examples

Now, let’s take a look at some examples of formal and informal language. Can you identify which sentence is an example of formal language?

Hello, guys! Wow! It’s cool to see you all here!

Good evening, everyone! It is a pleasure to have all of you here.

The second sentence is an example of formal language. The sentence is complete, the grammar and vocabulary are formal and the tone is relatively serious. The first sentence is an example of informal language, because it uses conversational vocabulary like contractions and slang and has incomplete sentences. The tone is very casual.

Here is another example. Can you identify the example of informal language here?

Dear Mrs Lee, I am writing to let you know that I was not able to come to school last week because I was feeling sick. Can you please let me know if there is any homework I need to complete? Thank you.

Hi, Lee! Sorry I wasn’t at school last week. Was sick. Is there any homework for me? Thanx.

The second sentence is written informally. It uses casual language, contractions, and incomplete sentences. It would be more appropriate to use the first sentence when writing to a teacher. The first sentence is formal. It uses appropriate language, proper grammar, full sentences and is more polite.

Formal and Informal Language – Summary

When communicating with others, we use formal and informal language. We can choose which language to use based on the situation and audience.

Formal language is used when speaking or writing to adults, completing school assignments, giving a presentation to a group of people. It makes us sound more polite and respectful towards adults or people who we don’t know. Informal language is used when communicating with peers, writing short stories, or sending emails and text messages to friends.

Now you can easily answer the question “What is formal and informal language?” and use appropriate language in your writing and speaking. For more practice, check out our video and activities. You can also download our worksheets, where you can practice matching each type of informal language with the correct example.

Frequently Asked Questions about Formal and Informal Language

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Transcript Formal and Informal Speech

Koko, will you listen to my art gallery opening speech? "Hey, everybody! Isn’t it so cool with all the fancy stuff here? Shout out to Koko! She’s crushing it with art!” "Pip! You can't give a speech like that at a formal event!" Pip has a big speech to give for the art gallery opening and needs to learn about formal and informal language. We can use formal or informal language to communicate with others. The situation and audience determine the type of speech we use. Formal language is used when writing or speaking to adults, when completing work at school or giving a presentation to a group of people. Informal language is appropriate when communicating with peers, writing short stories or sending text messages and emails to friends. When communicating formally, we must make sure our sentences are complete and follow all grammar rules. Most of the time, we use a serious tone, but we can be conversational when necessary. The vocabulary used is also formal. We avoid using contractions, slang, nicknames and figurative language where possible. In contrast, informal language is very casual and used in our daily lives. The sentences may be incomplete or loosely organised. To make our language more natural, we use conversational vocabulary. This is where contractions, slang, nicknames and figurative language are okay to use! Pip's speech was inappropriate for an art gallery opening. His current language is informal, so it would be acceptable among a group of friends. Let's take a look at how we can reword his speech and make it appropriate for the art gallery opening. First, he said, "hey everybody!" "Hey everybody" is a very casual way of greeting friends. One way to make it more formal, would be to say 'good evening, everyone.' His next statement, "isn't it so cool with all the fancy stuff here," was about how pretty the gallery looked with all of the decorations. ‘Isn't', 'cool' and 'stuff' are informal words. We can adjust the vocabulary to make it more appropriate for the occasion. The art gallery looks amazing on this special night. Next, he wanted to introduce Koko by saying "shout out to Koko." This informal statement could be changed to say specifically what he wanted to do. I am honoured to introduce my friend, Koko. Finally, he wanted to compliment Koko's artwork with saying ‘She’s crushing it with the art!' The expression, "crushing it", is slang and needs to be changed. Pip should instead say Koko is an extremely talented artist, and her artwork is amazing. Whilst Pip prepares to give his formal speech, let's review. Remember, we can use formal or informal language to communicate with others. The situation and audience determine the type of speech we use. Formal language is used when writing or speaking to adults, when completing work at school or giving a presentation to a group of people. Informal speech is appropriate when communicating with peers, writing short stories or sending text messages and emails to friends. "Hey…" "Good evening, everyone. The art gallery looks amazing on this special night. I am honoured to introduce my friend, Koko. She is an extremely talented artist, and her paintings are beautiful."

Formal and Informal Speech exercise

Would you like to apply the knowledge you’ve learnt? You can review and practice it with the tasks for the video Formal and Informal Speech .
  • Define when to use informal or formal language.

    Hints

    As a general rule, informal language can usually be used in your free time, and formal language is used in more professional or organised settings.

    Formal language should be used for writing at school.

    Three examples should be highlighted in green and three examples should be highlighted in violet.

    Solution

    Situations where informal language can be used are (should have been highlighted in green):

    • Talking with peers of the same or similar age.
    • Writing short stories for fun.
    • Sending text messages or emails to friends.
    Situations where formal language should be used are (should have been highlighted in violet):
    • Giving a presentation to a group of people.
    • Writing to or speaking with adults.
    • Writing a piece of work for school.

  • Sort examples of formal and informal language.

    Hints

    Look for pairs of words with the same meaning. Then sort them into formal and informal categories.

    Hey everyone! is a greeting. Can you find another greeting? Which one is formal and which one is informal?

    Someone's name might be Mrs Sally Smith.

    • Calling them Mrs Smith would be a formal way to address them.
    • A friend may say "Hi Sal!" in an informal way.
    Solution

    Examples of formal language.

    • Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
    • This piece of artwork is interesting.
    • Good morning Mrs Smith.
    Examples of informal language.

    • Hey everyone!
    • Your fit is so cool.
    • Hi Sal!
  • Rewrite Pip's speech.

    Hints

    Pip's first line, "Hey everybody!" is a greeting. Can you find another greeting on the right side to match?

    Pip's line "Shout out to Koko!" is an informal way to introduce Koko. Can you find a more formal introduction for Koko on the right?

    When Pip says, "She's crushing it with the art!" he means that Koko's artwork is very good. Can you find a more formal version of this on the right side?

    Solution
    • Instead of 'Hey everybody!' Pip should say 'Good evening everyone.' as the first version is too casual and friendly.
    • Instead of 'Isn't it so cool with all the fancy stuff here?' Pip should say 'The art gallery looks amazing on this special night.' as the words isn't, cool and stuff are not formal enough.
    • Instead of 'Shout out to Koko!' Pip should say 'I am honoured to introduce my friend Koko.' as the first version uses slang.
    • Instead of 'She's crushing it with the art!' Pip should say 'Koko is an extremely talented artist and her artwork is amazing.' as the first version uses slang.
  • Help Pip continue his speech.

    Hints

    Look for sentences that talk about the same thing.

    How could the audience be asked to 'show Koko some love' in a formal way?

    What would be a more formal way to describe Koko than wicked?

    Solution
    • Informal : Take a sec to check out these pics. Formal : Take some time to have a look at these pictures.
    • Informal : That tree one is sick man! Formal : This painting of a tree is beautiful.
    • Informal : Show some love to my pal, Koko. Formal : Please give my friend, Koko, a round of applause.
    • Informal : She's a wicked artist. Formal : She is a fantastic artist.
  • Distinguish what is formal or informal language.

    Hints

    Formal language does not use overly casual or friendly expressions.

    Formal language does not use slang.

    Solution

    These sentences are informal language and should be highlighted in blue:

    • Hey everyone!
    • She's crushing it with the art!
    These sentences are formal language and should be highlighted in yellow:
    • The art gallery looks amazing on this special night.
    • I am honoured to introduce my friend Koko.

  • Change the text to formal language.

    Hints

    The first line is a greeting. Where do you see a formal greeting in the choices?

    Stoked and uber - dope are slang for exhilerated and wonderful. Do you see any other more formal similies for these words in the choices?

    Puppy and little sucker are nicknames for the Bobovac. Do you see any other more formal descriptions of a vacuum cleaner?

    Solution

    Read the formal version of the acceptance speech below. The words and phrases which have been changed are in bold.

    Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am so excited to be standing here today to accept this amazing award for my invention, the BoboVac. Everyone, had always said I could never achieve it, but look at this incredible machine now! When I first set out to design this vacuum cleaner, I knew that I wanted to create something that would really change the way we clean. And I am proud to say I did it!