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by Liz Walter
The word ‘important’ is extremely common and is sometimes overused by learners of English. There are many possible alternatives – so many in fact, that this is the first of two posts on the topic. This one looks at general words, words meaning ‘extremely important’ and words that carry the sense of something being necessary.
To start with a basic verb, if something is important to us, it matters:
Music is the thing that matters most to me.
His evidence was significant because it led the police to the murder weapon.
She immediately realised the significance of her discovery.
Getting into college was a big deal for me.
Using the adjective all-important is a way of emphasizing the importance of something. For even more emphasis, we can say that something is a matter of life and death or that it is a life-and-death issue. These phrases often refer quite literally to the possibility of death:
She is taking the all-important entrance exam next week.
He described the contest as a matter of life and death.
Mountaineers may be faced with life-and-death decisions at any time.
Something that is the be-all and end-all is the most important thing. However, this phrase is most commonly used in negative sentences to say that something isn’t really very important at all:
Acting isn’t the be-all and end-all for me, so I plan to continue my medical studies.
Words such as essential, vital, and crucial describe very important things and also give the sense of them being absolutely necessary. If something or someone is indispensable, it is impossible to manage without them:
It is essential to hire an architect for this sort of work.
Tourism is a vital part of our economy.
It is crucial that we listen to the views of working people.
I found her guidebook indispensable.
With heart attacks, fast treatment is key to saving lives.
Vegetables are a critical part of a healthy diet.
It is imperative that we teach our students to use the internet with care.
If you found this post useful, look out for the next one, which will cover several more common aspects of importance, such as having an effect on something or someone else, needing to be done very quickly, or pretending that something is more important than it really is.