by Liz Walter
Quiet is a word that English students learn early in their studies. Today we are going to look at some more specific and subtle ways of talking about quietness and silence.
The streets were silent at that time of night.
You must sit here in silence.
When he finished speaking, there was a deathly silence in the room.
Possibly the most famous oxymoron of all – a deafening silence – is used to describe a situation where you might expect a response and it is very noticeable and significant that nobody says anything. We often use the collocation be met with a deafening silence:
Her complaints about bullying were met with a deafening silence.
The slightly formal words soundless and noiseless (and their related adverbs soundlessly and noiselessly) describe things that are silent. They are often used for things you would normally expect to make a noise:
They are developing soundless electronic scooters.
She moved quickly and noiselessly through the rooms.
If something is inaudible, people can’t hear it, usually because it is very quiet, unclear or outside the range of human hearing. We often use this word (or the adverb inaudibly) to describe the way someone speaks:
Their dialogue was practically inaudible.
He mumbled inaudibly into his soup.
We lay there, listening to the soft sound of rain falling.
The muted sound of cow bells drifted across the valley.
We could hear muffled voices in the other room.
‘Meet me later,’ she said in a low voice.
He fiddled with the machine, swearing under his breath.
If someone is as quiet as a mouse, they are very quiet. We use the phrase as quiet/silent as the grave to describe a place that is quiet in a frightening way or a person who never says anything. If you say that you could hear a pin drop, you mean that a place is extremely quiet:
The children were as quiet as mice.
The building was as silent as the grave.
When he sat at the piano, you could hear a pin drop in the hall.
I hope you find these words and phrases useful. Look out for my next post, which will cover the opposite: words and phrases connected with noise and being noisy.