I had worked in the largest Hong Kong law firm (a British firm) for 20 years. I dealt with English correspondence on a daily basis. I usually ended my business letters or E-mails with a standard line "I look forward to hearing from you". So were most of my former colleagues (including lawyers). I have never given any thoughts as to why the said sentence is structured that way grammatically. Yesterday I was asked by a friend of this blog to review her draft E-mail and she ended her email in similarly fashion but not exactly word for word. When I corrected her draft she raised the following questions, which I think worth the while to deal with them more in details here:

1.  Which is correct "I look forward to...."  or  "I am looking forward to...."? As far as business writing is concerned "I look forward to...." is the correct one. The obvious difference between the two sentences is that the former is in present simple tense and the latter is in present progressive tense. Present simple tense is used when one wants to state a fact or ask a question with no reference to time like "I go to school every day". Present progressive tense is used to describe events happening now and continuing like "I am going to school now". In this context, if you say "I look forward to hearing from you" it sounds more polite, which would mean you wait for the other side's reply and he can reply at his convenience. Whereas "I am looking forward to hearing from you" sounds as if you were waiting for his reply and you would continuously watch out for it until he gives you a reply. The latter sounds a bit impolite.

2.  Why is it "look forward to hearing... " and not "look forward to hear...."The phrase "look forward to" in this context is the same as "waiting for" as in "I am waiting for your reply (a noun)". Therefore, "look forward to" should be followed by a noun or a gerund (a noun clause) and not a verb.

3.  Why is it "hearing from you" and not "hearing you"?" Hearing from" means you hear something from certain source. In this case it is from "you". It would be easier to understand if it is written this way "I look forward to hearing it from you". It seems obvious "hearing you" is wrong. To give an example, "I hear the sound"; "I hear the music". One can only hear something but not somebody, so it can only be "I look forward to hearing (the reply) from you".

As a rule of thumb always use "I look forward to hearing from you" in a business correspondence, if you expect a reply from other side.
我曾在香港最大的律师事务所(英国公司) 20年, 当时我经常要书写英文信件, 我通常在商业信函或电子邮件的最后一句写 “I look forward to hearing from you” , 我大部分以前的同事(包括律师) 也是同样做法。我从来没有就这句的结构语法思考过。昨天我为一个博友复查她的草写电子邮件,她以同样的方式结束该电邮,但不是完全逐字相同,当我纠正她草稿时,她提出了下列问题,我认为值得在这里详细处理这些问题:

1. 那个正确,“I look forward to. .."  还是  “I am looking forward to ...."?
在商业文书上 “I look forward to ...."
是正确的,两句子之间明显的差异就是前者是一般现代时,后者是一般进行时,   一般现代时适用于一般无时间规限的行为 ,像 “I go to school everyday", 一般进行时用来描述现在发生的事件像“I am going to school now”, 如此类推 ,如果你说“I look forward to....”,听起来比较客气,这意味着您等待对方的答复,他可以在方便的时候回答, 而“I am looking forward to...." 听到您好像你正在等待他的答复,你会不断地等,直到他给你一个答复, 听来有点不客气。

2. 为什么是“I look forward to hearing ..”而不是“I look forward to hear...."? “look forward to" 跟“waiting for”相同,如“I am waiting for your reply(名词)", 因此“look forward to"跟着应是名词或动名词(名词子句),而不是一个动词。
3.   为什么是“hearing from you” 而不是“hearing you”“hearing from”是指你听到某些源于他方的事,在这语句该来源是“你”,意思是中希望从你处听到答复  ,如果是这样写“I look forward to hearing it from you” 更容易理解。很显然的“hearing you”是错误的,举个例子,“I hear the music”,"I hear the sound" 一个人只能听到一些事物,但不可能听到一个人,因此正确写法是”1 look forward to hearing (a reply) from you“。

总括来说在商业信函如果您希望对方答复用 “I look forward to hearing from you"是最合适和正确 。

1/8/2010 08:41:30 pm

I think it is really good for me . i away wonder which is right ,now i understand .thank you !

4/12/2010 12:24:07 am

Hi, Brandon. How about "Looking forward to ... "?

Often when I write to the same person several times, I wish to have some variations for conclusion. Would you please recommend more expressions that are both formal and polite? Thank you.

4/12/2010 02:00:10 am

Zhang, these are my suggestion

1. Hope to hear from you soon./I would like to hear from you soon.
2. I would like to receive your reply in due course.
3. I should be grateful if you would let me have your reply soon.
4. I will appreciate it if you would let me have a reply soon.
5. Please let me have your reply as soon as possible (or in due course).

4/14/2010 01:47:43 am

Thank you, Brandon.

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    Business English 商业英语

    The topics here involve business and the English is more formal. 这里的课题与商业有关,所用英语比较严格。


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