Did you know that the English language has more words than any other language? I know what you’re thinking, How the F*#k am I supposed to learn all of them?
Well, don’t worry; you don’t have to learn all of them to become a fluent English speaker.
One of the reasons why English has so many words is because it has evolved a lot over the years, and has also incorporated many words from other languages.
A Brief History of the English Language
Old English was a Germanic language, related to Dutch and German, and it shared a lot of their vocabulary and grammar. English has also been influenced by Norman-French, after the Norman Conquest of England, and by Latin, as a language related to religious belief and church. English is also a language that can easily accommodate new words, and many new words are added to dictionaries every year. For more on the history of English, check out this short, funny video.
One other great thing about English is its versatility. It is a language that is spoken all around the world in many different ways, and by many different kinds of people. English is a language that lets you play around with the words, and it also allows us to be very flexible with the language and even create our own vocabulary.
Today I am going to show you some examples of how English can be very versatile, and give you some tips on ways you can play around with the language to give you some diverse insight into how it is used by natives.
Playing Around With English Words
Adding ISH to Adjectives
One very common suffix in English is the –ish suffix. This suffix is commonly used with adjectives to suggest proximity. You will commonly see people use this suffix with colors and even time.
If I am referring to the color of someone’s hair, but, the color is difficult to describe, I can say that the person’s hair is “brown-ish.” In this case I’m saying that the person’s hair isn’t exactly brown, but it holds a brown color. This can be used with any color.
- Red – Reddish (kind of red)
- Brown – Brownish
- Blonde – Blondish (not really bonde but a subtle mixture)
Another common way to use –ish that you’ll hear in spoken English is when we use talk about time. Although this is not an adjective, this is a very common to talk about time, without being so specific. If I say, I am going to arrive around five o’clock-ish, I am saying that I’m not going to arrive at that time exactly, but I will arrive within fifteen to twenty minutes of that time.
- I got home at about 4-ish
- We should leave at 9 o’clock-ish
- I’m going to have lunch at noon-ish (noon = midday)
Sometimes people will even respond to a question by simply using an “ish” as a way of saying more or less.
- Justin: Hey Chad, are you hungry?
- Chad: Ish. (this means I am kind of hungry )
This is a great suffix to add to your vocabulary for when you are describing things, but you don’t want to focus on being so specific, and it will really enrich your English.
As I mentioned in the introduction, over the centuries English has incorporated many foreign words into the language. As I’m sure happens in your native language too, many native English speakers are surprised to discover that so many words that we use in our everyday lives are actually derived from different languages. For example:
Pyjama – Clothes worn for sleeping (Indian)
Jungle – Large area of tropical trees (Indian)
Algebra– Mathematics (Arabian)
Sofa– Comfortable lying seat (Arabian)
Tea – Hot mixture of herbs and water (Chinese)
Silk – Soft fabric used to make clothes (Chinese)
I’m sure you have heard these words before, and even use many of them in your language. This is a great example to show how many of the world languages share words and interconnect in many ways.
- Discover how many French words which are commonly used in English- Franglish: 33 English Words Adopted from French
Grammatically Incorrect quick responses
As we have talk about in many RLE articles, quite often the way native speakers really speak is not technically grammatically correct. A lot of the times, you’ll see this happening with short responses.
Speaking like this can make you sound a lot more natural and less like a robot. Some very strict, grammar focused English teachers will tell you that you must always respond with a complete answer, for example:
- How are you today Chad?
- I am fine, thank you. (a correct full response)
But, I would usually respond more like this.
- How are you today Chad?
- Fine, thanks. (a more natural and colloquial way to speak)
Alternatives to “fine thanks” could be; not bad, pretty good, alright. Here are some more situational examples of how we use these kinds of short responses in English.
Are you Australian? – Good Guess!
I won the lottery! – No kidding.
Have you finished your dinner? – Not quite.
It looks like it’s going to rain today. – Told you so.
My team won the championship – About time!
Using the –ER suffix
This suffix is used commonly to talk about professions and personal activities: teach – teacher, write – writer, play – player, and so on. What most learners don’t understand though is that in English, we have created a whole range of common figurative expressions which also carry the ER suffix, for example.
- She is such a party pooper. (someone who ruins fun situations)
- My boss is a slave driver. (someone who forces you to work a lot)
- I am a frequent moviegoer. (someone who goes to the movies a lot)
These are just a few examples of a long list of commonly used words with the –ER suffix. A really interesting thing about this is that you can play around with this aspect of the language and create your own words using the –ER suffix.
These are just some examples of how versatile English is, and, how language is not necessarily a black and white subject. Like we as human beings continually change and evolve, so does language. That’s why we believe that having a strict and closed minded approach to studying is going to restrict your learning and not allow yourself to be so creative with your English.
Things that would have been considered very strange and incorrect in the past are now a common form of communication. Who knows how we will all be speaking in twenty years time?
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