a tired-looking man sitting at a desk is pouring coffee from a jug into a coffee cup that is overflowing and spilling onto the table

Ample and adequate (Other ways of saying ‘enough’)

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

a tired-looking man sitting at a desk is pouring coffee from a jug into a coffee cup that is overflowing and spilling onto the table
Tim Robberts / Stone / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

One of various things that we like to do on this blog is consider the many different ways we express the same thing in English. (Of course, we are rarely expressing exactly the same thing and it’s the differences – sometimes very subtle – that make language interesting.) In today’s post, I’m looking at words and phrases we use to convey the basic meaning of ‘enough’. Continue reading “Ample and adequate (Other ways of saying ‘enough’)”

That’s fantastic! (Words meaning ‘very good’)

by Kate Woodford

Credit: Getty images
Credit: Getty

We all need words and phrases for saying that things are good or great – that we find them nice or very nice. This post aims to give you more ways to say that you like, or really like, something.

Starting with a very frequent adjective; lovely is used a lot in UK English for generally good things and experiences: That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing!/It was so lovely to see you again!

Moving on to words that express stronger approval; two very common adjectives meaning ‘very surprising’ are also used slightly informally to mean ‘extremely good’. Incredible and amazing are both used to praise things, sometimes describing a thing that is so good, you cannot quite believe it: It was an amazing performance – I’ve never seen anything like it./He was an incredible artist – almost certainly a genius. Other strong adjectives that are commonly used to mean ‘extremely good’ are wonderful(UK) marvellous/(US) marvelous and fabulous: He’s a wonderful cook./It’s a marvellous story./The food was fabulous. The word excellent is also used a lot, often describing something that is of extremely good quality: The service was excellent./I thought the acting was excellent. Similarly, superb is used to describe something of the highest quality: a superb album/It was a superb goal.
Continue reading “That’s fantastic! (Words meaning ‘very good’)”

There is no such thing as a true synonym in English. Discuss!

by Kate Woodford​
In the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary the word ‘synonym’ is defined as ‘a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language’. As you might expect, definitions for this word are broadly similar in other dictionaries and yet the italicized phrase ‘or nearly the same’ is often absent. This seems to me an omission. Many words in English have the same basic or overall meaning and yet are significantly different for one or more reasons. Let’s look at the word ‘comprehend’ for example. Essentially, it means ‘to understand something’. And yet we don’t usually say that we comprehend an area of mathematics. We are more likely to say something like this

No one in the government seems to comprehend the scale of the problem. Continue reading “There is no such thing as a true synonym in English. Discuss!”

Body shapes

by Kate Woodford

The English language is full of words that describe the shape of our bodies, some of them positive and some of them less positive. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used words for body shapes.

Probably the most commonly used adjective to describe someone who has too little fat is thin. ‘Thin’ is often used in a negative way: She’s very pretty but she’s too thin.  Skinny, a slightly informal word, means very much the same: I don’t like his looks – he’s too skinny. Even thinner than ‘skinny’ is scrawny (also a slightly informal word). Someone who is scrawny is so thin that their bones stick out: He was a scrawny little kid. Gaunt, meanwhile, is used to describe a very thin face, sometimes a face that is thin because a person is ill: Her face was gaunt and grey. The adjective emaciated describes someone who is dangerously thin, usually through illness or extreme hunger. It describes the whole of the body: Some of the patients were quite emaciated. Continue reading “Body shapes”