Negotiate in English without it becoming a fiasco…

In international negotiation settings, even experienced negotiators often feel that they are not limited by working in their native language.

What’s appropriate? What may I ask? How can you criticize? How do I respond to suggestions that I disagree with?

Below you will find a variety of helpful phrases and phrases to help you negotiate in English (as a foreign language):

If you would like to make a comment or insert a remark in an ongoing conversation, it is polite to acknowledge what someone has just said before stating your own ideas.

Some phrases:

  • That’s interesting. I think that…
  • Interesting point. I would add…
  • Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of that before…

Questions can also be a useful way of bringing new ideas into a conversation:

  • What do you think about…?
  • Have you considered…?
  • What about…?

Sometimes a more direct approach is appropriate:

  • Can I add something here?
  • (Do you) mind if I interject something here?

Asking for support or details:

  • Why do you think that?
  • Could you elaborate?
  • Could you give (me) an example?
  • Can you illustrate that?
  • What evidence do you have?
  • Could you explain it in more detail?
  • Could you provide some details?

Supporting your opinions:

  • Let me illustrate,
  • For example,
  • For instance,
  • To give you an example,
  • Let me give you an example,
  • To elaborate,
  • First, (second), etc.

(These phrases can be followed by details, examples, elaboration, or a summary of your main points.)


  • On the other hand,
  • However,
  • Yes, but . . .
  • You may be right, but…
  • I may be wrong, but…
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but…

Opening a discussion:

  • To begin with,
  • We need to discuss…
  • determine
  • find out
  • Let’s start by (V ing)
  • We’ll start by (V ing)
  • The problem / issue /question here is…
  • The important thing (here) is…
  • The main thing we need to discuss is…
  • Let’s look at…
  • It looks like…
  • It appears that…

Asking for input:

  • What do you think?
  • How about you?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • Any ideas on that?


  • That sounds like a good idea.
  • Sounds good.
  • The problem with that is…
  • That raises the issue of…
  • That brings up…

Asking for Clarification:

  • What do you mean (by that)?
  • What are you trying to say?
  • What was that again?
  • Could you clarify that?

Clarifying another’s ideas:

  • You mean…
  • What you mean is…
  • What you’re saying is…
  • (I think) what she means is…
  • What he’s trying to say is…
  • If I understand you, (you’re saying that)…
  • If I’m hearing you correctly,
  • So, you think (that)…
  • So, your idea is…

Asking for input:

  • What should we do about it?
  • What needs to be done?
  • What do you think we should do?
  • What are we going to do about it?
  • Do you have any suggestions?
  • Any ideas?

making recommendations

  • I recommend that…
  • I suggest that…
  • I would like to propose that…
  • Why don’t we…

Interrupting politely:

  • Excuse me,
  • Pardon me,
  • Sorry to interrupt,
  • May I interrupt (for a minute)?
  • Can I add something here?
  • I don’t mean to intrude, but . . .
  • Could I inject something here?
  • Do you mind if I jump in here?


  • It’s been nice talking to you.
  • It’s been great talking with you.
  • I really enjoyed meeting you.
  • It was nice meeting you, Mr. Brown.
  • I’m sorry, but I have to go now.
  • I’m afraid I have to leave now.
  • Thanks for the information/ the tour/ your time.
  • Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

Follow up:

  • I’ll give you a call.
  • I’ll send you to e-mail.
  • I’ll put a packet in the mail for you.
  • We’ll send out that information right away.
  • I’ll have my secretary schedule an appointment.
  • Could you send me a brochure/some more information?
  • Could I contact you by e-mail/at your office?
  • How do I get in touch with you?
  • How can I reach/contact you?


  • I look forward to seeing you again.
  • We’ll see you on Friday.
  • See you next week.
  • Let me give you my business card.
  • Here’s my e-mail/office number.
  • Let’s keep in touch by e-mail.
  • We’ll be in touch.
  • Call me if you have any questions.
  • E-mail me.

Letter / Mail:

  • Dear Sir/Madam,…
  • If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
  • I look forward to hearing from you soon.
  • Best regards,…

Clarifying your own ideas:

  • In other words,
  • What I mean is…
  • What I’m trying to say is…
  • What I wanted to say was…
  • To clarify,…

Focusing on the main problem/issue:

  • What is the main problem?
  • What is the real issue (here)?
  • (I think) the major problem is…
  • Our primary concern is…
  • The crux of the matter is…
  • (As I see it), the most important thing is…
  • The main problem we need to solve is…
  • We really need to take care of…
  • It all comes down to this:

Getting back to the topic:

  • Anyway,
  • Now, where was I?
  • Where were we?
  • What were you saying?
  • You were saying . . .
  • To get back to . . .

Many people are used to using phrases in their mother tongue for which there is either no or at least no literal translation in the foreign language.

We generally recommend that you avoid these phrases or, if you are confronted with phrases that you cannot really understand, ask for a “translation”.
Some classic German phrases and their “real” English counterparts:

  • Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof
    That’s all Greek to me
  • Es hat keinen Sinn, über verschüttete Milch zu weinen
    It’s no use crying over spilled milk
  • Aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen
    Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill
  • Wie gewonnen, so zerronnen
    Finder’s keeper, looser’s weeper
  • Der Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl
    Thank you, Mr. Obvious!
  • Andere Länder, andere Sitten
    When in Rome, do as Romans do
  • Wie man in den Wald ruft, so schallt es heraus
    What goes around comes around
  • Malen Sie den Teufel nicht an die Wand
    Don’t meet trouble halfway
  • Lieber den Spatz in der Hand als die Taube auf dem Dach
    A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush
  • Rom wurde auch nicht an einem Tag erbaut (Eile mit Weile)
    Rome wasn’t built in a day
  • Not kennt kein Gebot
    Needs must where the devil drives
  • Das ist so sicher wie das Amen in der Kirche
    Nothing’s for sure in life, except for death and taxes
  • Auf dem Holzweg sein
    Barking at the wrong tree
  • Schmeichelei bringt dir nichts ein
    Don’t try to butter me up
  • Immer mit der Ruhe
    Hold your horses
  • Ausflippen vor Wut
    To fly off the handle
  • Jemandem aus der Patsche helfen
    To get someone off the hook
  • Alles hat ein Ende
    All good things must come to an end
  • Das war’s dann, Leute
    That about wraps it up, Folks
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