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22 ways to Yes


The word yes is great and all … but there’s plenty of other ways you can offer someone a verbal go-ahead. So if you feel like dipping your toes into the wild waters of alternative affirmations, then take a gander at the list below. If you’re feeling brave, deploy an aye aye in a business meeting or let loose a fo’ shizzle when someone asks if you’d like to go grab an ice cream. Let’s have a look at other ways to say yes! (And then, once you’re done, there are 29 ways to say no.)

1. yes

You can probably do better than this most standard of affirmations. The word yes, by the way, is exactly as old as you’d expect, dating all the way back to the Old English gēsegīse, probably from an unrecorded phrase meaning ‘may it be so’.

2. yea

If you want to inject an archaic flavour into your response, then give yea a try. It’s also used as the response for an affirmative vote in the US Congress so you can feel legislative as well as archaic!

3. OK

Referred to by some as America’s greatest contribution to the English language, OK has a long and complicated history. Continue reading “22 ways to Yes”

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29 ways to say no



Sometimes you need somebody to get the point, and a simple no won’t do it. We’ve taken a look through the Historical Thesaurus of the OED and other sources to find out how best to say no to something. Now you can say no daily for almost a whole month without repeating yourself (also read 22 ways to yes).

1. no

Let’s start with the easy one. No dates to Old English, unsurprisingly; a corresponding o (meaning ‘ever; always’) is now obsolete.

2. uh-uh

The imitative uh-uh is first found in its written form in the 1920s.

3. nix

Originally Victorian slang, nix can be compared with the earlier German nix, which is a colloquial shortened form of nichts (‘nothing’). Continue reading “29 ways to say no”

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English words that change their meaning depending on stress placement

word stress puntolingue teachers club

English orthography is often ambiguous. For example, the word “read” can be pronounced either /riːd/ (“reed”) or as /rɛd/ (“red”) depending on whether it refers to the present or the past tense. There is a large class of such words characterized by ambiguity in stress placements. When a word can be stressed on two different syllables, stress placement determines the part of speech of the word (e.g. whether it is a verb or a noun). As a rule of thumb, if the stress is on the second syllable, the word is usually a verb.

Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of such words, with pronunciation given in the international phonetic alphabet (in which stress is indicated by a small vertical line, similar to an apostrophe). Note that the abbreviations “US” and “UK” indicate whether the preceding pronunciation refers to American or British English:

absent; /ˈæbsənt/ (ADJECTIVE) means “not present”; /æbˈsɛnt/ (VERB) is mostly used in the phrase “to absent yourself” meaning “not to go to a place where one is expected to be”.

accent; /ˈæksənt/ (NOUN) is the way people in a particular area speak; /əkˈsɛnt/ (VERB) (MOSTLY UK) means “to emphasize” (it is often pronounced the same as the noun in American English).

addict; /ˈædɪkt/ (NOUN) is a person addicted to something (such as heroin); /əˈdɪkt/ means “to cause someone to become addicted”.

address; /ˈædrɛs/ (NOUN) (US ONLY) is the name of the place where you live; /əˈdrɛs/ (VERB) means “to direct a speech to someone” (in the UK, both meanings are usually pronounced /əˈdrɛs/). Continue reading “English words that change their meaning depending on stress placement”

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How to Use Quotation Marks


Quotations can bring your writing to life―the reader imagines someone saying the words―but quotations are also vexing to format. Not only do you have to follow different rules depending on what other punctuation marks you mix with your quotation marks, but people in different countries also follow different rules, so you may see quotation marks handled differently in high-quality publications from different countries.

Quotation Marks with Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes
First, let’s review the easy (but rare) stuff: semicolons, colons, and dashes always go outside quotation marks:

Bob snorted and said, “I don’t believe in zombies”―right before thirty of them emerged from the tunnel.

Her favourite song was “Gangnam Style”; she spent weeks trying to learn the dance.

She sang her favourite line from “I Don’t Wanna Stop”: “You’re either in or in the way.” Continue reading “How to Use Quotation Marks”

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How speaking French can really mess up your English


So you’ve mastered French, but now it’s time to learn English all over again.

1. You’ve started pronouncing French words “properly”

“I’ll meet you at the restaurant near the cinema,” you tell friends, pronouncing both the italicized words with a flawless French accent. You can’t help it. They’re French words, you’re used to pronouncing them as they should be pronounced. Except to your English friends, it sounds like your being a language snob and therefore likely to be abused for it.

2. And that goes for place names too

You pronounce the French capital as “Paree”, you say Bretagne instead of Brittany, and Bourgogne instead of Burgundy. Because that’s what they’re called, right? Except no one understands where you are talking about now.

3. Quoi?

Rapid responses to a situation in English sometimes prompt French words, especially like quoi? instead of “what?”. Similarly, visits back home can bring out unexpected French phrases like attends or merci instead of “wait!” or “thank you”. It’s in your subconscious now.

4. Which are my real friends (and which are my false ones)?

Those blasted false friends have made you stumble again. At first, when learning French, you were walking on eggshells so you wouldn’t call a preservative a preservatif (because that means condom). But now, you have to think twice when speaking English to remember whether “sensible” actually means sensible, or whether it means sensitive. You get stressed about saying the words excited (excité), jolly (Jolie) and chat (Chatte). The confusion is real.

5. Your word order is all messed up

“I play sometimes basketball,” you might find yourself saying, as one American reader explains or you might say “these are the shoes of Brian”. It’s a real mess.

6. Literal translations

You walk into a bar and say “I’ll take a glass if you please, sir” (which translated into French would be perfectly normal). Just because you think in French, doesn’t mean you should translate it into English.

7. Using French words in English sentences

“Shall we meet for an apéro?”
“Ah putain, I can’t come. Probably a good thing anyway because I need to watch my couvade.”

Some words are just better in French, especially swear words and some words like “couvade” which is the ‘sympathetic pregnancy’ belly that new dads get. These words just don’t exist in English. But they should do.

8. Weird intonation when you speak

“Why are you speaking funny?” is a common question we head “back home”.
Whether it’s from learning French or perhaps from speaking English in a different way to suit your French audience, you end up sounding very strange to your friends back home.

9. I can’t think of the English word for it

Your conversations are interrupted frequently because you can’t remember the English word for something, as l you can think of is the French word for it. Except that won’t really get you anywhere back home.

10. You sound like a horse

Gone are the days of “umm” and “ah”, now you’re peppering your speech with “bah”, “hein”, and that unusual “pfft” noise that sounds like a horse blowing air through its lips.

11. Adding a “no” to the end of every sentence, no?

The French love tacking a “non” at the end of sentences when seeking for an agreement, but it sounds kind of funny in English. We’ve been here before, no? You’ve met her, no?
This is probably something that you do yourself, no?

12. Getting your capital letters all wrong

The French and the English have a different relationship to capital letters. We say today is a Wednesday in October in English, whereas it would be mercredi en octobre en francais. They also capitalize just the first letter of the first important word in a proper noun, so while NASA is National Aeronautics and Space Administration in English, it’s just the Administration nationale de l’aéronautique et de l’espace in French.

13. You find yourself using the word “super” a bit too much

Want to stress how big, good, fun something was? Well, once your French starts improving you’ll find yourself stressing those things with the word “super” rather than “really”. Rather than try and get yourself out of the habit, it might be wise to just go with it and try to claim it’s a new “super” cool way of speaking.

14. A split personality?

Do you feel like a different person when speaking French to when you speak English? If so you’re not alone. Because there’s now two of you. And developing an extra personality – different jokes, a different way of speaking, different ways of getting angry can be complicated when you need you need to go back to your original personality, which may have gone into sleep mode by now.

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