Business English: Researching a new location
Business English: Researching a new location

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2.2 Using specific or general questions

Notice the difference between closed questions and open questions.

Closed questions

These questions are very specific and the answers give precise information.

  • Are there sites available?

  • Yes.

  • Has it got air conditioning?

  • No.

  • Where is Preston?

  • In the north-west of England.

  • What's the population?

  • 128,000.

Open questions

These are more general. They can have various answers. The answers are much less predictable.

  • What's Preston like?

  • Tell me about the region./Can you tell me about the region?

  • What do you know about Preston?

  • Could/Can you give me some more information about the local economy?

  • ... so that's Preston. Now, what about Lille?

What is/are ... like? is a very useful expression. It invites the speaker to give a description or opinion.

What + be + subject + like?

  • What is the factory like?

  • The factory is a modern, high-technology production plant.

  • What are sales like?

  • Good, 20% higher than last year.

  • What was the hotel like?

  • Very luxurious but a bit expensive.

  • What were your meetings like?

  • Not very useful, a lot of hard work and no results.

  • What will the new manager be like?

  • They say she's very professional and efficient.

Note that the form and the tense change according to context.

In the next activity you read some information about Lille that you will be conveying to the directors of Masito Electronics.

Activity 11

You now answer questions about Lille. Read the following notes from the message from Alain Brière. You will use them to answer the questions of the directors from Japan that are on the audio clip. You may need to pause the audio clip while you select the correct information.


Where is Lille?

It's in Northern France between Paris and Brussels.

  • (a) It's on the main motorway and rail routes north and south and it's two hours from London.

  • (b) Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is 35 minutes away by train.

  • (c) It's an industrial town, which is an important regional centre.

  • (d) New high-technology industries.

  • (e) There are about 300,000 people in Lille.

  • (f) Old and new offices and factories are available for relocating companies and there's plenty of land for new buildings.

  • (g) Companies find it difficult to find supplies locally, so some have to import components.

  • (h) It's not the nicest part of France to live in. It's got everything you need in a city but they find it difficult to attract staff to the region.

  • (i) Houses are cheap and easy to find.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: l550_1_006s.mp3
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Transcript61.1KB PDF document
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Model answers to this activity are given in the audio clip. This is the order in which you should have given the information:

1. (a); 2. (c); 3. (e); 4. (b); 5. (i); 6. (f); 7. (g); 8. (h); 9. (d).

In the next activity you practise asking open and closed questions, basing them on Barcelona, one of Spain's major cities.


Activity 12

Prepare questions using the prompts, then do the activity using the audio clip.


Barcelona. (Where ...?)

Where is Barcelona?

  1. Barcelona. (What/like ...?)

  2. Coast. (Is ...?)

  3. Communications. (Tell me ...)

  4. Airport/city. (How far ...?)

  5. Local economy. (Could you tell ...?)

  6. Good place to live. (Is ...?)

  7. Foreign companies. (Are ...?)

Download this audio clip.Audio player: l550_1_007s.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Transcript61.8KB PDF document
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Model answers to this activity are given in the audio clip.

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