I need to know how to explain what a business man do as their job: Imagine I am a business man for many years and it has been my occupation. What shall I say in natural English? (I need the common verb which is used in this sense.)

Please have a look on my self-made sentences below:

  • I have been involved in commerce and trade for many years.

  • I have been doing business for many years.

  • I have been trading for many years.

For me, they all sound natural and the most common seems to be the last one.

Which one sounds more natural? Is there any better and more common way to say it?

  • 3
    Usually, we name the industry. "I have been in manufacturing for many years." But if you want the industry to remain a mystery, then you could just say, "I have been a businessman for many years." Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


"Business", "commerce" and "trade" are similar but not exactly the same. People don't usually say they are in commerce (at least in AmE) because the noun is too generic. It would be like saying "I like to eat 'food'".

Instead those who work in some kind of commercial business would say, "I am a businessman," although they would be likely to add something specific about what they do, e.g. "I represent a women's shoe manufacturer" or "My company makes medical devices".

"Trade" is a little less clear. If someone said they were "involved in trade" I would assume they have an import/export business. In a different context someone who said they were a "trader" is something like a stockbroker. However, in the UK (and possibly elsewhere), someone who "works in the trades" is a skilled tradesman, like an electrician, plumber, welder, auto mechanic, or many other similar jobs that require some kind of specialized skill set.

To answer your question: Someone who is in business would be most likely to say what they do or what kind of business they are in.

I'm in sales -- for many years I've represented the largest maker of baby cribs in the country.

For many years I've been running a company that produces animal crackers.

and so on.

  • Sorry to be picky about your excellent answer, but there is, or was, a clear distinction between 'skilled tradesman' and member of a profession (3rd para).
    – peterG
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 19:45
  • @peterG could you explain? I'll edit my answer to be correct.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 19:59
  • Skilled trades describe things like electrician, plumber etc as you say, but distinct from 'professions' which were things like doctor, lawyer, etc. One definition of 'profession' used to be that it required a degree or higher qualification (- back in the days when degrees were relatively rare!). I'd suggest replacing 'skilled professions' with skilled activities' or similar in your answer. (This is the UK)
    – peterG
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:32
  • @peterG Ok, updated. In AmE we don't usually have such a distinction between "professions" but since I'm referring to BrE usage it's important to get it right. Thanks!
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:41

You are correct in thinking a businessman is involved in commerce, doing business and trading (though trading in this sense is more BrE than AmE).

usually there is some context given for the type of business or function one performs

I am in sales for a major corporation.

These days if you say specifically in AmE

I have been trading for many years.

It usually means you have been "trading" in the financial markets.

  • Do you mean: "I have been (involved / engaged) in (commerce / business) for many years" and "I have been doing business for many years" are both natural @Peter?
    – A-friend
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:19

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