84913 - Legal English (B1)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Employment and Business Relations Consultant (cod. 9230)

    Also valid for Single cycle degree programme (LMCU) in Law (cod. 9232)
    Single cycle degree programme (LMCU) in Law (cod. 9232)

Learning outcomes

Knowledge of English Legal Language

Course contents

The course is divided into two modules of 30 hours each.

In general, the course aims at refining the receptive skills of students, with a particular emphasis on the written text.

The English legal language, main object of the didactic path of the legal module, is used, in the first part of the course, as a tool to study the common law legal system, still in the optics of legal language.

The grammar part of the course will focus in particular on the register and vocabulary used in legal context and in professional communications, aiming at raising the level of self-reflection on the language and formal communications in it.

The texts chosen will range from the purely theoretical / academic sphere, to concrete examples of language use in transactions and dissertations.

The objectives of the course are the following: a better understanding of communication strategies, an improvement of the ability to self-learn language and reflection on the underlying structures.

The program is organized as follows:

Law (Module 1) 

1. The legal lexicon

1.1 Languages and languages of law; 1.2 Legal translation between risks and opportunities; 1.3 multilingualism in Europe; 1.4 English as a lingua franca; 1.5 The Plain English Movement.

2. The English legal language

2.1 The British common law system and its historical evolution; 2.2 Stare decisis; 2.3 The language of case law; 2.4 the language of the legislator; 2.5 The Scottish experience; 2.6 The circulation of the model: the United States of America; 2.7 The American legal language; 2.8 False friends.

3. The language of civil law

3.1 The torts system; 3.2 The law of contract; 3.3 The law of property.

4. Legal language in action

4.1 Procedure and trial; 4.2 Acts and communications; 4.3 The role of the Judge; 4.4 Attorney; 4.5 The relationship between the parties; 4.6 The decision

5. The European dimension

5.1 English in supranational contexts; 5.2 The language of the European institutions; 5.3 The principle of multilingualism; 5.4 The Court of Justice; 5.5 The linguistic services of the European Union.

Grammar (Module 2)

1. brief introduction to some characteristics of the grammar of Legal English compared to the grammar of ordinary language, including: auxiliary and servile verbs not apostrophized; greater formality; extensive use of the present time; use of some pronouns in order to avoid gender discrimination.

2. Use of definite article the and use of the indefinite a, an; cases of omission of the article. Exercises.

3. Use of prepositions: a. some fundamental prepositions to express logical relationships, for example: phrase of agent, efficient cause, phrase of time, place, mode. Prepositions that hold verbs. Exercises.

4. Use of prepositions: b. prepositions required by some verbs typically used in Legal English: eg. to provide for, to consist in / of, to deal with, to call upon, to give rise to ... Exercises.

5. Use of prepositions: c. prepositions with certain nouns or adjectives: eg. within 2 months, under Article…, responsible for, claim for, right of ..…. Exercises.

6. Use of prepositions: d. use of prepositional phrases typical of legal language (in the name of, with regard to, in order to… Exercises.

7. Past tense v. present perfect: using these two tenses. Exercises.

8. The future and other verbal forms with the value of commitment, obligation and programmatic value (will, shall, must ..). Exercises.

9. Elements of syntax: position of adverbs; position of adjectives, differences from ordinary language; syntax of the apposition; alternative forms to the use of the Saxon genitive. Exercises.

10. Secondary sentences: the main subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns (eg which / that, there + prep…). Exercises.


Module 1 (prof. Angela Carpi)

G. Garzone, R. Salvi, LEGAL ENGLISH, II edition, Egea, 2007. Pagine: 1-125; 211-275. EXCEPT THE PARTS ON "Focus and Language" and "Key Structures", that are included in Module 2

Optional supplementary readings (in both Italian and English)

BARBARA POZZO-MARINA TIMOTEO (a cura di), Europa e linguaggi giuridici, Giuffrè, Milano, 2008, pp. XIII-XXX; 259-300; 303-432.

F. De Franchis, Dizionario Giuridico. 2 volumi: Inglese-Italiano; Italiano-Inglese, Giuffré editore, Milano.

Module 2 (Prof.ssa Gabriella Catalini)

G. Garzone, R. Salvi, LEGAL ENGLISH, II edition, Egea, 2007. Parts on "Focus and Language" and "Key Structures", of Chapters from 1 to 7.

Teaching methods

The course follows an interdisciplinary approach, aimed at direct student involvement. Lectures are flanked by classroom exercises to enhance self-learning, the analysis of some case law that have marked the history of the system, the reading and commentary of some central morphemes of the common law system, the vision of some videos showing the system in action.

The intensity and continuity of participation in the course will be assessed by self-certification.

Assessment methods

The evaluation takes place only through the final exam, which ensures the acquisition of the required knowledge by conducting a written test, for the grammar part, and by an oral examination, for the law part. The final grade will be the average of the two parts of the exam.

The written test consists on 30 questions with multiple choice answer, of which about 15 will be texts with expressions or words to be inserted while 15 will consist in the comprehension of a text. Each question allows the student to get 1 point. A minimum score of 18 points is required to pass the test successfully.

The oral exam consists of an interview with the teacher and the assistants of the teacher, on the program of module 1 (legal part). The oral interview, which focuses on issues related to those indicated in the “Program and contents” section, aims at assessing the level of understanding and mastery of the comparartistic perspective in the study of the English legal system. The achievement by the student of an organic vision of the topics addressed and the exposure of the same with mastery of language, will be evaluated with marks of excellence. The predominantly mnemonic and notional knowledge of the topics dealt with, which results in an exhibition not supported by a capacity for synthesis and analysis of the themes dealt with in an organic perspective and a correct but not always appropriate language, will lead to an average pass outcome; training gaps and / or inappropriate language, albeit if in a context of minimum knowledge of the examination material, will lead to a barely sufficient mark; training gaps, inappropriate language, lack of orientation within the texts, will be evaluated negatively.

In order to sit for the exam, registration through the electronic platform "Almaesami" is required, in compliance with mandatory deadlines (usually 7 days before the date set for the examination). Those who do not succeed with the enrolling by the due date, are required to report promptly (and in any event before the official closing of the registration lists) the problem to the school's secretary office. The professor, evaluated the problem, will decide about the admission to Registration via email messages and out of the terms, will not be accepted.

Only students that are regularly enrolled and that paid all the due university taxes, will be able to sit for the examinations. Under no circumstances it will be possible to sit for the examination and proceed with the registration not simultaneously.

Teaching tools

Teachers will use Power Point presentations, reading material given to the class or distributed through electronic platforms The vision of movies in original language might be as well used.

During the course, experts can be invited to hold lectures.

Office hours

See the website of Angela Carpi


Quality education Reduced inequalities

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.