Slang is very informal language which is often used by young people. It's hard to keep up to date with slang, but this article will help you learn a few words that your teacher may not know!

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Language changes all the time. New words and phrases appear and evolve. The words and pronunciations used by young people in the UK can be very different to those used by adults. Living in a multicultural society has an effect on language, especially on young people, whose friends are often from a mix of backgrounds. TV and music also have a big impact on the language of the young. Often UK singers sing in American accents without realising.

Young British people use lots of language that you usually can’t find in most dictionaries. These extremely informal words and expressions are known as ‘slang’. It is not possible to make a complete list of modern British slang. By the time the list was finished, it would be out of date! New words come and go like fashions. However, here are a few examples:

  • Safe, sorted, sound, cool or wicked all mean 'That’s good' or 'I understand'.
  • Instead of using different tag questions like …isn’t it?, can’t you? or don’t they?, people use innit (e.g., It’s hot here, isn’t it? = It’s hot here, innit!, He can dance really well, can’t he? = He can dance really well, innit! or They always say that, don’t they? = They always say that, innit.).
  • Instead of saying very, really or completely use well (e.g., I’m well tired or You got it well wrong!).
  • Whatever means I don’t care (e.g., A: But the teacher says we can’t leave until we’ve finished. B: Whatever. I’m going).
  • He’s fine or He’s fit both mean He’s good-looking. Fine and fit can describe a boy or a girl.
  • A hoodie is a young person who wears a jacket with a hood (a hood keeps your head dry in rainy Britain!). It is a negative word and suggests that the young person might be a troublemaker or even a criminal.

Not everybody uses slang and not everybody likes it. A school in Sheffield, in the north of England, recently instructed its pupils to stop using slang words such as hiya (hello), cheers and ta (both mean thank you). The head teacher says that if young people learn to speak ‘correctly’ this will help them get a place at university and a good job.

When British people use language like this, it’s no surprise that some students say they can’t understand native speakers. But perhaps learners don’t need to worry about communicating with native speakers so much. Research shows that most of the English spoken in the world today is spoken between non-native speakers of the language. In fact, when we think about “International English”, there is no such thing as a native or non-native speaker.

So, how important is it to understand these slang words and expressions? If you watch films or TV in English, read magazines in English, chat online in English or are interested in English song lyrics then understanding slang can be very useful. You probably won’t see much slang in your English exam though.

Total votes: 1212
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Discussion

Are you interested in being able to understand British slang?

Comments

Raven's picture
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Raven 1 August, 2014 - 23:09

Slang exists not only in the daily lives of young people but even in the literature (Burgess's work for example) and in various spheres of life of people of different categories. From my point of view, slang will always exist in all languages. And of course it's an interesting part of language learning.

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Oliii98's picture
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Oliii98 21 December, 2013 - 15:14

I don't know english slang, but this article is very interesting. I don't know english very well, that why i think before learning english slang i have to be good at "normal" one :D

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150 users have voted.
justcricketforme's picture
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justcricketforme 12 December, 2013 - 08:26

I can understand British slang easily because of my British friend and my teacher who is British. I'm also learning the slang from her. It's useful because if you have a British teacher or if you are going to study in Britain.

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144 users have voted.
hayaalhams's picture
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hayaalhams 19 June, 2013 - 10:25

iam intrested to know this words beacause when i know it i can understand other people when they talk

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179 users have voted.
MALINE's picture
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MALINE 2 June, 2013 - 23:26

I think using slang is funny and it helps you to belong to a group innit? see u

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jihern's picture
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jihern 2 June, 2013 - 05:11

I think it is benefical to learn slangs because then we ca express our feelings, mainly negative ones, in an informal situation by using those.

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151 users have voted.
Tricia's picture
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Tricia 2 June, 2013 - 05:00

I've never known almost slang,so those were really interesting to me(:
And also I'd like to try to use them!

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150 users have voted.
Haruka126's picture
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Haruka126 2 June, 2013 - 00:25

I think to understand slangs is difficult for me because, they are different from English that we learn. But I want to learn them!!

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202 users have voted.
Hitomi.Y's picture
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Hitomi.Y 1 June, 2013 - 17:27

I think slangs are not just inappropriate words. I think they can be used to shorten and used for little kids who can't talk that much , such as "ta" is used lots for babies for saying thank you.

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169 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 1 June, 2013 - 18:42

 Hi lovecats. It's great to see you're picking up the slang! Well done!
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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143 users have voted.
chie250's picture
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chie250 1 June, 2013 - 14:11

Interesting! I'd love to use these slangs on my e-mail or chat with foreign friends. ;)

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173 users have voted.
kumamon373's picture
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kumamon373 1 June, 2013 - 12:46

Yes!! I'm interested in British slang.
I think that it is necessary to communicate with young people.
When study abroad students came to my school , everyone used slang.

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171 users have voted.
Gold Bunny's picture
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Gold Bunny 31 May, 2013 - 13:50

Yeah I'm really interested in British slang!
I have learned lots of Australian slang when I went there and it was very useful :)
So this time I wanna learn British one!!
( I'm Japanese )

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166 users have voted.
SARAH K's picture
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SARAH K 23 May, 2013 - 12:41

Yes because it will help me in the future to talk easily with my english friends

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166 users have voted.
emitis's picture
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emitis 21 May, 2013 - 10:26

Yes, I liking understand British slang and it seems to be difficult. I like use them in English language. Slang words appear and disappear every day in Iran, like others countries, and TV has a biggest impact on it.
How can we learn more slangs?

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164 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 21 May, 2013 - 12:17

Hi emitis! I agree that learning slang words is interesting and fun. It's great when you learn a new word or phrase and find just the right moment to use it. Watching films in English is a great way of learning slang expressions. Also, reading - have read any of the articles in our Magazine section? - they're written by young British people who naturally use a lot of current words and expressions. And they're all written in an informal, chatty style - perfect for improving your conversational English! 

Does anyone know any good slang expressions in English? Please share you best ones!

Joanna
(LearnEnglish Teens team)

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SARAH K's picture
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SARAH K 6 July, 2013 - 09:53

Hi, Jo - Coordinator
I do not know any good slang expressions in English, but I have "learned" the ones that you have represented in you article. I feel myself more comfortable when I have conversations in english, or when I listen teen TV programs.

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162 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 6 July, 2013 - 14:20

Hi Sarah K,
Great to hear you've already learned the expressions in the article and found them useful. Have you looked at our Fast Phrasals section? Phrasal verbs are also really common in informal English and will really help you understand films, songs, and chat to your English-speaking mates.
It sounds like you're prgressing really fast with your English. Keep up the good work!
Jo

(LearnEnglish Teens team)

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175 users have voted.
SARAH K's picture
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SARAH K 8 July, 2013 - 19:12

hi JO,
NO, I have not looked yet your Fast Phrasals section, But now I will. Thanks for your advice.

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174 users have voted.
afiramadhan's picture
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afiramadhan 5 May, 2013 - 07:59

yes, of course i'm so interesting to learn British slang, because I think it's so interesting and useful when I meet and talk to british people.

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216 users have voted.
Natalija's picture
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Natalija 31 March, 2013 - 20:05

Yes, of course. If you want to learn a language, you have to know all the words, even the slang, esp when you're teen, slang is wide used by your friends. I'd like to read more examples for slang on this site;).

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197 users have voted.

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