The importance of being vague in English

Nov 29, 2019 | Trucs et astuces

L’importance d’être vague en anglais

Le langage vague est très important lorsqu’on parle anglais, car il rend les locuteurs plus naturels et plus fluides et moins précis ou assertif.

Compare the two dialogues below:

  Vague Not vague
A: Hey Anne! Fancy going for a drink or something this weekend? Hey Anne! Fancy going for a drink or a meal or to a club or to a concert this weekend?
B: Yeah, why not? I’ve been working really hard lately so I wouldn’t mind a night out. Yeah, why not? I’ve been working really hard lately so I wouldn’t mind a night out.
A: Well, there’s a festival we could go to…. Well, there’s a festival we could go to….
B: What is it exactly? What is it exactly?
A: Well it’s sort of a music festival really. We could check that out? Well it’s a festival with different bands playing. We could check that out?
B: Maybe – what type of music is it? Maybe – what type of music is it?
A: I think it’s jazz music and things like that I think it’s jazz music and blues and soul music
B: As long as it’s not heavy metal music. I’m not really into that kind of thing As long as it’s not heavy metal music. I can’t stand loud and aggressive music
A: Yeah me too (laughter). They also have food stands with hot dogs and stuff Yeah me too (laughter). They also have food stands with hot dogs and burgers and tacos and ice cream
B: Sounds good! How much are the tickets? Sounds good! How much are the tickets?
A: They’re around 12 euros They’re 11. 68 euros
B: That’s cheap! That’s cheap!
A: That’s sorted then! So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 6.30? That’s sorted then! So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 6.20 in the afternoon?
B: Sounds good! See you then Sounds good! See you then

 

Le premier dialogue semble très naturel parce que les intervenants ne sont pas trop précis. Ils évitent de donner des détails inutiles ou de faire des listes. Au lieu de cela, ils utilisent des expressions : “like or something, sort of and things like that”. Dans le second dialogue, les intervenants donnent trop de détails et sont très précis. Bien qu’il soit grammaticalement correct, il ne semble tout simplement pas très naturel.


Examinons différents types de langage vague et la façon de les utiliser :

  • Vous pouvez utiliser des phrases comme : “… and things like that”, “…. and that kind of thing”, “… and stuff”, “… or something”, lorsque vous voulez éviter de faire des listes ou de donner trop d’informations inutiles
    Exemple:
    I love this restaurant! It has really good pasta and pizza and things like that.
  • Vous pouvez aussi utiliser des phrases comme : “sort of”, “kind of”, “a bit of”, ou “a (little) bit” quand vous voulez éviter d’être trop précis.
    Exemple:
    It’s a sort of blue colour.
  • Lorsque vous ne savez pas ou ne pouvez pas vous rappeler le mot exact pour quelque chose, vous pouvez utiliser des mots comme “thing” ou “whatshisname”
    Exemple:
    I need a thing for the printer. (meaning I need a cartridge of ink for the printer)
  • Vous pouvez aussi utiliser des phrases approximatives et des mots comme : “about”, “around”, “almost”, “roughly” pour éviter d’avoir l’air trop précis ayant pour conséquence de donner l’impression d’être moins naturel
    Exemple
    I told them to be here around 7 pm so we can have a drink before dinner. (instead of saying I told them to be here between 6.45 and 7.15)

 

The importance of being vague in English

Vague language is very important when speaking English as it makes the speakers sound more natural and fluent and less precise or assertive.

Compare the two dialogues below:

  Vague Not vague
A: Hey Anne! Fancy going for a drink or something this weekend? Hey Anne! Fancy going for a drink or a meal or to a club or to a concert this weekend?
B: Yeah, why not? I’ve been working really hard lately so I wouldn’t mind a night out. Yeah, why not? I’ve been working really hard lately so I wouldn’t mind a night out.
A: Well, there’s a festival we could go to…. Well, there’s a festival we could go to….
B: What is it exactly? What is it exactly?
A: Well it’s sort of a music festival really. We could check that out? Well it’s a festival with different bands playing. We could check that out?
B: Maybe – what type of music is it? Maybe – what type of music is it?
A: I think it’s jazz music and things like that I think it’s jazz music and blues and soul music
B: As long as it’s not heavy metal music. I’m not really into that kind of thing As long as it’s not heavy metal music. I can’t stand loud and aggressive music
A: Yeah me too (laughter). They also have food stands with hot dogs and stuff Yeah me too (laughter). They also have food stands with hot dogs and burgers and tacos and ice cream
B: Sounds good! How much are the tickets? Sounds good! How much are the tickets?
A: They’re around 12 euros They’re 11. 68 euros
B: That’s cheap! That’s cheap!
A: That’s sorted then! So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 6.30? That’s sorted then! So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 6.20 in the afternoon?
B: Sounds good! See you then Sounds good! See you then

 

The first dialogue sounds very natural because the speakers are not being too precise.  They avoid giving unnecessary details or making lists. Instead, they use expressions like “or something, “sort of” and “things like that.
In the second dialogue, the speakers give too many details and are very precise. Although it is grammatically correct, it just doesn’t sound very natural.


Let’s look at different types of vague language and how to use them:
  • You can use phrases like: “… and things like that”, “…. and that kind of thing”, “… and stuff”, “… or something”, when you want to avoid making lists or giving too much unnecessary information
    Example:
    I love this restaurant! It has really good pasta and pizza and things like that.
  • You can also use phrases such as “sort of”, “kind of”, “a bit of”, and “a (little) bit” when you want to avoid being too precise
    Example:
    It’s a sort of blue colour.
  • When you don’t know or can’t remember the exact word for something, you can use words like “thing” or “whatshisname”
    Example:
    I need a thing for the printer. (meaning I need a cartridge of ink for the printer)
  • You can also use approximation phrases and words like “about”, “around”, “almost”, “roughly” to avoid sounding too precise and as a result unnatural
    Example
    I told them to be here around 7 pm so we can have a drink before dinner. (instead of saying I told them to be here between 6.45 and 7.15)

 

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