Thursday, January 27, 2011

FORMAL and INFORMAL "Word-drobe"

Sometimes the words we use are like the clothes we put on. Like our wardrobe.

If we need to be formal, we choose more formal and academic words. When we need to be friendlier, we relax our tone a bit. Of course, when we're hanging out with friends or close colleagues, we pretty much say things in a casual way.

Unfortunately, when using English as a second language things are not always so simple. This is especially true for speakers of Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian) who tend to use the familiar "latin-based" words in any given situation. Well, as it happens, those sound formal in English. Whereas, the "anglo saxon" words usually sound more common and relaxed.

To provide some insight, here are ten formal words and their informal (or more relaxed) counterparts used in context so it makes more sense.

  • This plan is convenient = This plan works for me.
  • Please contact Susie this afternoon = Please get in touch with Susie this afternoon.
  • Could you provide us with some assistance please? = Could you help us out?
  • I need to postpone the meeting until next week. = I've got to put off the meeting 'til next week.
  • Inform them that the conditions of the agreement are not acceptable. = Tell them the deal is off.
  • Later, I will arrange a meeting between you and the team. = Later, I'll set up a meeting between you and the team.
  • They require two references. = They need two references.
  • Thomas has not replied yet. = Thomas hasn't answered back.
  • We need to inquire you on what happened. = We need to ask you about what happened.
  • I truly regret the incident at the club. = I'm so sorry about what happened at the club.
Read the list over a few times. See which one you would probably use and in which situation. Ask yourself if you tend to be more formal or informal when using English as a second language.

And speaking of formal and informal wardrobe, we invite you to practice listening comprehension with "The Pen is Mightier than the Pencil" epidode of THE ODD COUPLE, a classic American sitcom about Felix and Oscar, two divorced men. Felix is a neat freak while Oscar is sloppy and casual. They share the same apartment, and their different lifestyles inevitably lead to some conflicts and laughs. Enjoy!

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