How to Sound Cooler When Speaking English

As discussed previously, we discovered that there is more to learning a language than just being able to say what you need say and to get what you want. The reason we learn any language is to be able to CONNECT to people on their level and make them feel comfortable to express themselves to you. When I first came to Brazil this was very difficult for me: It was hard to connect to people. I would approach a group of people I thought  seemed like the people I would hang out with and say things like:

  • “Como está o senhor?” (VERY formal Portuguese)
  • “Que está encima?” (Direct translation of what’s up)

Sure everybody listened to what I had to say but I felt that my Portuguese was so boring and probably a little too focused on the structural/grammatical side of things that I was probably stereotyped as the nerdy Gringo but once I picked up a few regional expression and slang I suddenly felt more comfortable speaking, less like a robot. Speaking Portuguese became a lot more fun.

Let’s begin this colloquial adventure and see how cool your English can become with just a few simple pointers. Remember most of the expressions I’m going to mention are from American English, but nowadays with modern technology and the influence the U.S. has on the rest of the world through media, these expressions are also used in other parts of the world.

What’s Up

The first cool greeting is ‘What’s up’ or commonly pronounced ‘Wasssup.’ The extended “cooler” version of what’s up came about with the classic movie “Scary movie” a parody based on the original movie Scream. I recently saw this in a very annoying youtube series you may have heard of called The annoying orange. To add an extra bit of coolness to your “What’s up” I would add some kind of word of endearment like: Bro, Brother, Man, Sis, Girlfriend (amongst female friends *guys don’t say this to your girlfriend).

Now we know how to use what’s up you’re probably curious how to respond to it. So when we say what’s up as a greeting It’s more of a formality than an actual question, we don’t expect a detailed response. The most common response would be “not much” even if you have a lot of things happening in your life. Some alternatives would be “It’s all good” “same old”.

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If you haven’t seen the movie The Big Lebowski I suggest you watch it now and you will see Jeff Bridges playing his best role as The Dude. Dude is a very American word and has been around for a long time but it’s history is not important, nowadays dude is a common slang known around the world but is most prominent in skate and surf culture.

Dude can be used just like man e.g. “hey what’s up dude?” or “That dude crashed into my car”. Dude also used for emphasize. “Dude! Where’s my car? I think someone stole it?” or “Dude I haven’t eaten all day, I’m so hungry.”

Alternatives to Cool

I often hear Brazilians using this term when speaking English and I know it has started to be used in Portuguese, but there are many other words you can use to express that something or someone is cool.

Awesome/ Wicked/ Sick/ Off  the Hook/ That is the shit-

You know what I’m saying

Also pronounced ‘Nomsayin’

This expression originated in the American rap culture but now has extended to many other social groups around the U.S. and even outside of the U.S. The initial use of this would be to check if the person is following the conversation but be careful because it is easy to over use this expression.

“I hate it when it rains, you know what I’m saying” or “I might get there a little late coz of the traffic, you know what I’m saying”

In these two examples I didn’t use a question mark because in these cases you wouldn’t respond to the question.“You know what I’m saying”, becomes more of a filler than an actual question so you don’t have to worry about answering.

My bad/It’s all good

“My bad” is a way of saying sorry but in a very casual manner. When I hear this I get the sense that the person has realized that they have done something wrong but doesn’t feel it’s a very big deal. If you were to do something more serious this wouldn’t be appropriate.

“It’s all good” would be a typical response to “my bad”. Similar to saying everything’s ok and gives the impression that the person was silly to think that it would be a problem.

Chad: Hey has anyone seen my beer
Josh: My bad man, I drank it.
Chad: It’s all good bro, there’s more in the fridge.

Take It Easy

This one can be used in two ways. One way we use this would be to tell some to either not get too excited or to not overdo something. If somebody starts to get too involved or carried away in a conversation or activity we can use this expression. The other day I was in my friend’s car and he started speeding, I turned to him and said “hey man take it easy, what’s the rush?”

The second way is simply just to say goodbye to a friend or colleague. When we say this we are just showing that we hope the person doesn’t have any stressful encounters or doesn’t put themselves into any troublesome situation.

Keep It Real

This last one is my favorite and the most important. To tell someone to Keep it real you’re telling them to be who you are and don’t try to be something you’re not. To keep it real is to not cave into to pressure of society and not make serious decisions in life based on other people’s opinions. Like I said at the start of this post using these “cool” expressions is just a way of connecting with people, this doesn’t mean you have to speak in a certain way to be accepted by them. But as we’re about to discover with my favorite comedian Dave Chapelle, sometimes Keeping it real can go wrong (This video is Not Pg13+)

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So now that you know how to sound cool in English it’s time to start using these phrases. If you’re unsure of which one to use, start by using “What’s up?” when you greet people. Don’t be afraid of using them incorrectly, what’s important is that you go out there and start using them, and be sure to keep it real!

  • Eric says:

    I suggest that you don’t say, “That’s the shit.” Not only would it be inappropriate in many circumstances, but it sounds stilted to me. That’s the problem with these expressions: they get out of date really fast – take it form me – I teach middle schoolers; if I repeat something I heard earlier in the year, trying to sound cool, I usually get made fun of.

    Here are some American expressions to (please) avoid:

  • Fredy A. Olivares says:

    Mauro – take a look at this. You may already know it – but I thought to share it with you.

  • Miriam Oliver says:

    Great! Thank you very much!

  • deez says:


  • Ivy Wain says:

    This is so helpful!

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      We’re happy to know that it was beneficial for you, Ivy.

  • Ray says:

    Also say “Amen.” when in laughing matter. Makes huge difference Istg.