Finance English class

All business students need to know some finance terms. There is a lot of vocabulary here and so teach your students what they need or teach it in stages – how deep you go is up to you. Enjoy!

Accountancy terms

An audit –an official inspection of an organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body.

To balance the books – to show that the amount of money a business has received is equal to the amount spent.

‘It is every government’s duty to balance the books at the end of the financial year.’

Bookkeeping – the recording of financial transactions which is part of the process of accounting in business.

‘A large part of accountancy work is bookkeeping.’

Consultancy – a noun for professional advice.

To consult – to provide professional advice.

Financial year/ Fiscal year – the period used by governments for accounting and budget purposes, (it varies between countries). 

‘The Fiscal year in the UK starts on the 6th April until the 5th April the following year.’

Talking about the flow of money

To appreciate – to grow in value.

‘The value of land normally appreciates.’

Capital – money or other assets owned by a person or organisation or available for a purpose such as starting a company or investing.

Cashflow – the amount of cash and cash-equivalents being transferred into and out of a business. 

‘I can’t pay you until I get paid by the vendor. We have a cashflow problem right now.’

To depreciate – to fall in value.

‘The value of those shares have depreciated significantly since the CEO resigned.’

Figures – another word for ‘numbers’ used in accounting and economics.

Incoming and outgoings – the income and expenses of a person or company.

‘We have to make sure that our incomings are higher than our outgoings or the company will go bankrupt.’

Income – total money received, especially on a regular basis, for a salary or through investments.

Loss – when your expenses are more than your revenue/turnover.

Return on investment (ROI) – to compare a company’s profitability or to compare the efficiency of different investments.

‘Those shares were a great ROI. They have grown 20% in value in the last year.’

Profit – amount of money made after all expenses.

Turnover/ revenue – amount of money made before expenses.

Shares – small pieces of a company which can be bought and sold (‘actions’).

Shareholder – a person who owns shares.


Bank statements – record of your bank account from your bank.

To debit a bank account – when a bank or company takes money out of someone’s account digitally.

To credit someone with money – when a bank or company puts money into someone’s bank account digitally.

Payee – the person who you are paying.

Payment – noun for ‘to pay’.

Payable to someone – adjective meaning ‘the amount to be paid to someone.’


Corporation tax – a tax that companies have to pay.

Capital gains tax – a tax on the increase in value of an asset (when you sell it).

Gross – the value of something before tax or other contributions have been deducted.

‘If the value of your Bond is £50,000 or more, the interest will be paid gross.’

Income tax – a tax on the money an individual makes through their salary and investments.

Net – the value or profit of something after costs or tax.

‘The companies net profit after all taxes and expenses was $800,000.’

To tax – the verb for tax.

Value added tax (VAT) – a tax the government adds on most products (typically around 20%).

‘In the UK the VAT on non-food items is 20%.’

Assets and debts

An Asset – an item of property owned by a person or company. It often grows in value and you can use to take out a loan or meet a financial commitment.

‘A house is usually an asset because it grows in value.’

Liabilities – a thing for which someone is responsible, especially an amount of money owed.

‘A car is usually a liability because it’s value depreciates over time and you have to pay for its maintenance.’

To leverage a debt/asset – an investment strategy of using borrowed money or a valuable asset to increase the potential return of an investment. 

‘Sarah leveraged her house to borrow money to expand her business.’

To write down a debt – to reduce the amount of debt that a person or organisation owes you because it is not possible for them to pay you back the full amount. Therefore, the debt has reduced in value.

‘The investors lent Marcus $500,000 to expand his factory. Unfortunately, the warehouse was destroyed in a fire, affecting operations, so they wrote down the debt to $250,000.’

To write off a debt – to erase a debt that a person or organisation owes you because it is impossible for them to pay you ANY of the amount. Therefore, the debt is now worthless.

The following year an earthquake destroyed the factory and so the business had to close. The investors had to write off the entire debt.’

Speaking practice: Financial role play

The tutor plays the part of three different investors. The student is a financial adviser and must advise the tutor on the best way to invest the money thinking about return on investment vs. risk, taking on debt and mortgages and tax liabilities.

Investor one: A person with an average income who has just received a 250,000 euro inheritance from their great aunt. They want a steady income from the money from a medium-risk investment. They like the idea of property, but perhaps shares are a better investment?

Investor two: A long-time investor with 1000,000 euros to spend. They want a medium-to-high-risk investment. They are worried about tax liabilities and want the most tax efficient investment. They are interested in buying an old hotel and reforming it. What would be the financial adviser’s advice?

Investor three: An investment fund. They have 10,000,000 euros to invest. They want to spread it among lower-risk investments and high-risk investments with a large ROI. They want the most tax efficient investments. What is the financial adviser’s advice?

Conversation phrases

To be worth a mint/ fortune – to be worth a lot.

‘That land is worth a mint. It’s right in the heart of the city.’

To cook the books – to alter figures dishonestly or illegally.

‘The CFO cooked the books of the company to increase the share price and make himself a lot of money.’

To save for/ to put aside money for a rainy day – to save money for difficult times ahead.

‘My parents always save for a rainy day. They are very responsible.’

Numbers in the UK and US (these are different in Italian, French and Spanish)

1 million – 1,000,000

1 billion – 1,000,000,000

1 trillion – 1,000,000,000,000

What accounting terms have we missed? Tell us in the comments section below.