Your spoken English will be more interesting the more English vocabulary you have to use when describing things in a conversation. When you start with a new language, you focus on being understood. You will use the smallest amount of simple English in a conversation, enough to get your message across.
The problem with this “simple English” is it can be very boring to listen to. If you want to be a part of an interesting English conversation, you will need to practice your English speaking and learn more English words, increasing your English vocabulary is an important step to moving on from beginner English.
Ok so we know the issue, we don’t want to sound boring. We know the solution; we need to practice using new English words and increase your English vocabulary. What’s the process?
Well, if you Google the internet, you will find thousands of vocabulary lists. Lists can be useful, but to be honest you don’t need them, if you're working on written English then using a dictionary and looking up synonyms for words would work just fine.
Your problem is you need to improve your spoken vocabulary and practice using everyday English words. Words that the people who are listening will understand and find interesting. So what are those words?
A list of 100 words from the internet describing the adjective “thin” is useless, 90% of these words are just not used in everyday English.
What you really need is around 10 adjectives, describing words (an amount you are likely to remember), a good understanding of the vocabularies meaning and their use in typical English sentences. You need these spoken by a native English speaker at a pace you can listen and can learn from.
Great news, that is exactly what Adept English does, we provide practical audio English language lessons that help you improve your spoken English.
Underweight Svelte Recap Google
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Mid September now and it’s getting colder in the UK. I know that in southern Europe, it’s still hot. My sisters are both now in Greece, where we were in August – and it’s still a very nice temperature for swimming in the sea there. But in the UK, the leaves are turning red, and it’s cold in the morning. We’re trying to resist putting on the central heating – that’s the system that warms up our house. Maybe we’ll last until October, maybe we won’t. But anyway, hope the weather is OK where you are. There you are, I’m being very British and talking about the weather!
If you’re finding that your understanding of spoken English is far, far ahead of your ability to speak English, then here’s a piece of advice. This is quite normal – it’s usual when you’re learning a language to have a much bigger vocabulary of words which you can understand and a much smaller vocabulary of words which you can use to speak. That’s normal. But if you want to give yourself a boost, if you want a big help for your spoken English vocabulary, the words that you use when you speak, then have a look at our 500 Most Common Words Course. This is a short course, but it’s made up of only the most common 500 words in English. So doing this course will strengthen your understanding of these words, the words which are the most useful for English speaking. So even if you can use far fewer words than you can understand, you’ve at least got the essential words in your head, if you do this course and you’ll be all ready to go when you come to speak English. It’s not a long course, but it’s well worth doing.
OK, so today’s podcast. Absolutely ages ago, I did a podcast on adjectives, describing words for being ‘overweight’ or ‘fat’. There are so many words in English for just one thing, and weight is one of these. The point is that there are differences in meaning. All these different words don’t mean quite the same thing. So you might remember in that podcast a while ago, I covered the meanings of the most common words for ‘overweight’ or ‘fat’? So there are medical terms like ‘obese’ or ‘morbidly obese’ - you might be told this by your doctor.
Then there’s ‘fat’, F-A-T, which you wouldn’t say to someone’s face – it would be an insult, but it’s the plain and simple word for being overweight. Then there’s words like ‘flabby’ which means you have slack skin, not toned, out of shape and the American favourite for overweight, ‘heavy’. Then there are words like ‘chubby’ or ‘plump’ which you still have to be careful you don’t offend people with, but they mean ‘fat’ in a slightly more positive sense. So if you’re not familiar with these words, then have a listen to that previous podcast to learn the more subtle meanings of these adjectives.
So today, how about we do some words for the opposite? Rather than ‘fat’, let’s talk about words for ‘thin’. In some ways, words for someone who is either ‘underweight’, or who is ‘thin’ – on the whole, are not as likely to hurt someone or offend them. Most people prefer to be thought of as ‘thin’ rather than ‘fat’. So if you told someone they ‘look thin’, it’s not guaranteed they’ll be pleased, but it’s perhaps less of a risk of a bad reaction than if you said ‘you’re fat’. I’m sure it’s the same in your language, just with different words! Anyway, if ‘fat’ is the perhaps rather negative, but the simplest adjective for overweight, then ‘thin’, T-H-I-N, is the plain and simple adjective for underweight. If you were worried about a cat or a dog (and wanting to help it, so you were being kind), you might comment ‘Uh – it looks a bit thin!’ You might give the cat or dog extra food.
I’ve just looked at a website for ‘words for thin’ and if I included everything listed there, it would be 68 different words and expressions for thin. But you don’t need to know all these - such lists are not very helpful! There were listed there some words and expressions I didn’t know – so you certainly don’t need to worry about them. It’s just not necessary to know all of the words on lists like this. As ever, let’s just focus on the more common words and on their different meanings. So ‘thin’ is the simplest – and if perhaps slightly more negative than positive, ‘thin’ is used for all kinds of things, just like ‘fat’. You could say that your ‘jacket is made of thin material’ - it’s not very warm. Or soup could be ‘thin’ - it might need thickening up. Or the branch of a tree could be ‘thin’, and the opposite here wouldn’t be ‘fat’, it would be ‘thick’. So ‘thin’ is a general word, for all kinds of things.
A photograph of a man holding a baby you cannot tell the gender of the baby. Used to help explain English grammar she, he and they.
So what about some positive words for thin? If someone has lost weight and you would like to complement them? ‘Slim’, that’s S-L-I-M is the word that’s probably the most positive, which most people would take as a complement. A complement is a ‘nice thing to say’ to someone - something that makes you say ‘Oh, thankyou very much!’. So all of those companies that want to make money out of people who diet, who’re trying to lose weight, well they use the word ‘slim’. Like ‘Slimfast’ or ‘Slimming World’. ‘Slim’ is seen as a good thing. Also quite positive in meaning is ‘slender’, but this word implies there’s a bit of length. You might say ‘What slender legs!’ - this means that the legs are not only slim, but they’re quite long too. Slender is S-L-E-N-D-E-R. It implies a bit of elegance. So ‘slim’ and ‘slender’ are positive words.
Another quite positive word – they seem to begin with ‘s’ for some reason, svelte – that’s S-V-E-L-T-E – it comes from the Italian, I think. And again like slim, it’s the positive end of thin. If someone says you look ‘svelte’, that’s a complement, you’re looking good. ‘Svelte’ also means ‘pleasing to look at’. ‘Skinny’ is another word which has come to mean something more positive in recent years. If you look ‘skinny’, it means there’s very little fat on you and this looks good. So ‘skinny’ has crept into being an adjective to describe other things too. So ‘skinny jeans’ are jeans which are very slim fitting. Or you can even order a ‘skinny latte’, when you ask for your coffee in Starbucks or Costa Coffee. ‘Skinny’ here means that you want milk, but with less fat than normal milk. Another ‘s’ word which you might hear which means ‘thin’, but in a positive way – that’s ‘slight’, S-L-I-G-H-T.
This is an adjective which is often used of young girls, who’re just not very big and no fat on them. Many years ago when I went to university at 18 years old, I could probably have been described as ‘slight’ - weighing only about 7 stone, that’s 45 kilos. That’s a long time ago! That’s ‘slight’. ‘Lean’ is another way of saying ‘thin in a good way’. ‘Lean’ is spelt L-E-A-N. ‘Lean’ is also the word that you would use of meat, like pork or beef or chicken, which you were going to eat. And lean means ‘not much fat’ - so a ‘lean piece of meat’ is a good thing. Better than a ‘fatty’ piece of meat. So you can use ‘lean’ of people, so it’s ‘thin, in a healthy way’. Mo Farah, the runner – he comes to mind as someone who looks ‘lean’. It means exercised, healthy with no more weight than necessary.
Now obviously being too thin is not good. So what are the common words for this? Well, medically the term for too much weight is ‘overweight’ and so the word for too little weight would be ‘underweight’. This is the word that your doctor would use. ‘Underweight’ – literally, your weight is ‘under what it should be’. So ‘underweight’ is less likely to give offence, but perhaps suggests something is not quite right with your health. You need to put on some weight.
There are words meaning thin, which don’t necessarily mean that there’s a health issue, but which aren’t a complement either, aren’t something people which would be pleased to hear. If you said ‘bony’, that’s not very complementary. ‘Bony’, B-O-N-Y means that your bones can be seen. Your bones are what make up your skeleton. So looking ‘bony’ isn’t what most people want. Your skeleton is what’s left, if there’s just the bones! There’s another word, which is similar in feel to ‘bony’ and that’s ‘scrawny’ - S-C-R-A-W-N-Y, ‘scrawny’. This word tends to mean that you’re so thin that you are just ‘skin and bone’. You could use ‘scrawny’ again about a chicken that you were going to eat. ‘Scrawny’ would mean here that there wasn’t much lean meat on there, a lot of skin and bone, but not much else on that chicken! So if you say a person is ‘scrawny’, then they’re thin, but not really in a way that looks good!
And finally we come to the words which definitely mean there’s a problem, it’s more serious. It’s the kind of thin, where there is a serious health problem. The most extreme is ‘emaciated’, that’s E-M-A-C-I-A-T-E-D. ‘Emaciated’ is the word used when someone is so thin that there is clearly a serious health problem. The person is ill, dangerously thin, if they’re described as ‘emaciated’. Not a nice word and not a nice situation. ‘Emaciated’. ‘Skeletal’ is another word with a similar meaning. ‘Skeletal’, S-K-E-L-E-T-A-L comes from the word ‘skeleton’, which is what we all are inside – if we saw just our bones, we’d be skeletons. So if you say someone looks ‘skeletal’, it means they’re so thin, they look like a skeleton. Another word, perhaps a little less extreme than emaciated or skeletal is ‘gaunt’. That’s G-A-U-N-T. ‘Gaunt’ is usually used of people’s faces – so when someone’s face is thin and it doesn’t look great, they might be said to look ‘gaunt’. It means that they don’t look well.
So OK, there are some different words for thin – and the range from positive to negative. That’s quite a lot of vocabulary, so you’ll need to listen to this podcast several times to remember them. Let’s just recap – that means let’s just list them to summarise, to help you remember.
So the words for today were:
You’ll go a long way, if you know that vocabulary! Anyway, enough for now, have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.