English Office vocabulary

Learn English office vocabulary to help you describe objects in an office.

Where you store things

Perhaps you have a tall metal cupboard in your office with three or four drawers to put files and correspondence. This is a filing cabinet. Other people have drawers in their desk or portable drawers (drawers on wheels) in their offices.

In your filing cabinets you usually have hanging files, where you can put loose correspondence. If you want to put correspondence together, you can use folders or plastic wallets. You can also put papers in a folder and put the folder on a bookshelf.

You can also store small things on your desk. For example, perhaps you put pens in a pen holder or in a container. You might even have a desk tidy with different components for pens, rubber bands, erasers and so on.

How you attach things

To stick things together, you can use one-sided sticky tape, known in British English as ‘sellotape‘ but not as ‘Scotch’, which is a type of whisky! You can use a stronger type of sellotape for cardboard boxes and this is called masking tape. Or you could use glue – a sticky liquid that comes out of a bottle to stick things together.

You can attach paper with a paperclip, which is made of metal or plastic. A paperclip is the icon you can see in your email program when you want to send an attachment.

If you want to attach paper more permanently, you can use a stapler (which contains staples) to staple the pieces together. A staple is a small, sharp metal bar which has two ends that curl through the bottom sheet of paper to hold all the pieces together.

How you cut things

You can use a pair of scissors to cut paper. If you want to make two holes in the left hand margin of paper so that you can put the paper in a file, you can use a hole-punch. Line up the hole-punch on the paper, push down and you will get two circular holes in the paper.

If you want to cut something thicker than paper, you will probably need a knife. If you want to cut many pieces of paper together, you can also use a guillotine. This is a flat piece of metal with a sharp blade along one side. You lift the blade then bring it down onto the paper. (It’s named after the implement used in the French Revolution.)

Office equipment

You probably have access to a printer (which needs ink cartridges), a photocopier (which needs toner), a fax machine and maybe even an overhead projector, also known as an OHP. An OHP is useful if you want to present information and project text or images onto a screen at the front of a room.

You might also have a whiteboard (to write on using whiteboard markers) or a flipchart. A flipchart is a stand with very large pieces of paper which you can write on, then flip over, to get the next piece of blank paper.

You might have a place in the office where you can leave messages and notices for other people. This is called a notice board and you need to use drawing pins to attach your notice to the board.

Check out our video on office vocabulary!