In almost every language, there is a concept of formal and informal terms that are used in two completely different contexts. Formal terms are typically used in professional environments or any other place where you’re trying to be civil and respectful. On the other hand, informal terms are used in day-to-day conversations with close friends, family, or colleagues you know well enough. To speak English like a native, you must have a strong knowledge of both formal and informal terms in order to be able to communicate with people in different settings and situations. Slang and contractions are examples of informal terms that native English speakers frequently use in everyday conversation. But what exactly are they, and when is it appropriate to use them? Let’s find out.
Slang refers to informal words, phrases, and idioms that are often more common in spoken conversation than in writing. They are often used by certain groups of people under specific contexts. It might get difficult for non-native English speakers to understand what a slang word is, which is why we’re breaking its definition down to a few key criteria.
All slang words are:
For instance, when you “ghost” someone, it means that you’ve cut off all contact and communication with them. Or maybe you’re “hangry,” which means you’re so hungry that it has made you angry. These and countless other slang terms common in the English language often mean something that is not literally the case. If you’re “all fired up,” for example, it doesn’t mean you’re burning up but rather that you’re very excited about an upcoming event or experience.
Slang terms are often used as a proxy for everyday objects or circumstances. ‘Weed’, ‘bud,’ and ‘leaf’ are just a few of the slang terms that refer to cannabis. A ‘boomstick’ is slang for a handgun or pistol. ‘Hooch’ and ‘poison,’ likewise, are slang for alcohol, while ‘hammered’ or ‘soaked’ means being drunk. Keep in mind, though, that some slang terms are abusive or explicit and can be looked down upon even in informal settings.
A special category of slang that has gained popularity over the years is internet slang. These are terms commonly used in informal online conversations. The terms LOL (Laugh Out Loud) and GTG (Got To Go) are some of the most popular examples of internet slang. The original idea behind these terms is that they’re much shorter than the actual phrases and so they take much less time to type on a phone or a computer.
Contractions are shortened versions of common English words and phrases where a few alphabets, syllables, or even words have been omitted. Common examples of contraction are words like ‘don’t’ or ‘can’t,’ which are contractions for ‘do not’ and ‘can not,’ respectively. Unlike slang, some contractions are frequently accepted in written English, except in certain official or legal documents. Some contractions even have more than one meaning. In such cases, the use of the word completely depends on the context. For example, the word ‘there’s’ can mean both ‘there is’ and ‘there has.’ Similarly, ‘they’ll’ can mean both ‘they will’ and ‘they shall’ depending on how it is used. Here is a list of some common English words and how they are used in contractions.
One of the best ways to learn how to use slang and contradictions in everyday conversation is to spend time on the internet. Many slang words commonly used by people today are a result of the ‘messaging’ language which was developed in response to the internet’s demand to package large amounts of information in as small a space as possible. This is also why most slang words today are abbreviations that were popularized by the internet.
Contractions, on the other hand, are an older, more traditional aspect of the English language. Contractions can be understood better with the help of comic books, short stories, and TV shows that feature conversational English. They aim to make the English language easier to write and speak, especially for foreign speakers who understand how these words/phrases are pronounced but not how they are spelled.
It’s natural for beginners in English to find it difficult to use slang and contractions naturally in conversation with native speakers. That is because the use of both these types of words depends heavily on the context or situation, which might be difficult for non-native English speakers to grasp.
Slang words and contractions might also be specific to a particular group of people, which means you can’t always use a certain slang term with everyone. For instance, a boy or a man may be referred to as a ‘dude’ in American slang, while the British would use the slang ‘bloke’ to mean the same thing. Similarly, while someone in England who receives bad news and feels disappointed is ‘gutted,’ his friend across the Atlantic may hear the same news and be ‘bummed.’
Listening closely to native speakers use slang and contractions in their everyday speech can help you understand their usage better. You can also try reading periodicals or watching TV shows where you’re more likely to hear people use informal language. With enough listening and practice, you can pick up how to use slang and contractions fluently in everyday conversation.
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