Native English speakers choose the words to match the situation that they are in. Let’s say your best friend invites you to go to a movie or cinema, and is offering you a free ticket to the most popular film in town. You really want to see this movie, but you didn’t have the money, so now you are very fortunate and happy to receive this invitation. What would your answer be? Here are your choices:
- A. Yes
- B. Definitely
- C. I’ll check my schedule.
- D. OK
- E. Yeah
- F. Yup
- G. Very well
- H. Sure
Your answer should communicate not only a positive response, but your emotion connected to that response. You should select a response that is equal to the delight you feel. You should select a response that unequivocally affirms your interest, your desire to go, and also communicates how deeply unhappy and dissatisfied you would feel if you didn’t go to the movie. So which response communicates all your emotions completely and unambiguously? Hint: It is NOT the first response – A: Yes.
Why do so many words in English have similar meanings?
Many words have similar meanings, but the meanings are not exactly the same. There are shades of differences in the meaning among words with similar meanings, just as there are shades of differences among representations of the color ‘white’. What do you mean by ‘white’? Do you mean ivory, cream, bone, nude, stone, beige or off-white? When someone uses a word in different situations, contexts, or even with a different tone of voice, a different meaning is produced based on the intention of the speaker, and situation that exists when speaking.
This is what you should do to use vocabulary efficiently.
- Think of the situation you will use the word in (e.g. responding to an invitation).
- Think of your emotion or your intention.
- Think about the emotion or intention of your listener.
- Select the best word to communicate your intention, in that situation, to that person.
Here is how word selection works:
- Situation – Your best friend invites you to see a movie.
- You are desperate to see the movie. You have no money. Everyone will be talking about the movie during the next week. You don’t want to be the only person who has not seen the movie.
- Your best friend is very popular and has many other friends. If you don’t agree to go with your friend now, someone else will receive an invitation from your friend within 30 minutes.
- The best word response to confirm your high level of interest, confirm your commitment and to prevent your friend from offering the invitation to anyone else is……. “Definitely!” accompanied with a strong voice, and a higher pitch to your voice than is normal for you.
As you learn English, remember to learn words along with their synonyms, and learn the shades of differences in their meanings.