#45 “Using the Verb Inform” – Transcript

After we made some changes to a recent document we had to let the client know ASAP. One of my coworkers promised me she would inform the changes to the client. Inform the changes to the client? I was a little confused. Did you understand what my coworker said? Do you know why I was confused? 

I’m Paul Preston. From VentureEnglish this is three-minute English, a podcast in English, about English for English learners.

Let’s listen to my coworker’s comment again. She mentioned that she would inform the changes to the client. The problem is the way she is using the verb “inform.” You see “inform” is a transitive verb. That means it is a verb that always needs an object. But it is a special type of transitive verb because the object must be the receiver of the information. In other words the object must be a person, or a group of people. Sure it could be a company, or a government or a sports team. But the object of “inform” is the receiver of the information.

When my coworker said inform the changes, she was telling me that she was giving some information to “the changes.” Well that just doesn’t make sense, so we need to move things around a little. Who did she inform? Of course she informed the client. So she needs to say ”I’ll inform the client. 

Did you notice I didn’t say “to the client.” The verb inform doesn’t require “to.” So remember not to use it. I’ll inform the client, not I’ll inform to the client.

So now that we know who is getting the information, we can say what the information is. But we need a preposition before this detail. That preposition could be “of” or “about.” So she could say“I’ll inform the client of the changes. Or she could say “I’ll inform the client about the changes.” Both are OK, but maybe using “of” is a little more preferred. 

Try to remember this detail when using the verb “inform.” It is one of the most common mistakes in business English, but it’s an easy one to fix. Just remember to include “who then what. I’ll inform the client about the changes. Your English is going to sound better! 

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