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The English We Speak

Intermediate level

Ish

Episode 220502 / 02 May 2022

Summary

When something isn’t good, but is almost good – or you are a little late, but not very late, do you know what to say? Jiaying and Roy use an informal phrase for this very situation.

Transcript

Jiaying
Hello, I’m Jiaying. This is The English We Speak.

Roy
And hello, I’m Roy. Hey Jiaying, I’ve just bought this new animal jumper! What do you think? It’s got a sparkly unicorn on it! 

Jiaying
Well, it certainly is colourful! And you clearly love it. I’m not sure I’d wear it, but it is nice… ish.

Roy
Nice fish? What are you talking about? It’s a stunning unicorn, not a nice fish!

Jiaying
No, Roy. I said niceish. We add the suffix ‘ish’ to some adjectives to mean ‘not exactly’ or ‘less than’. Sometimes we can use ‘ish’ as a word on its own – usually as an answer. So, when I said ‘niceish’ – I meant to say that your jumper is OK, but not exactly nice. 

Roy
Wait – so you don’t like my jumper? Do you think it looks a bit unprofessional?  

Jiaying
Ish! 

Roy
Oh no! I think I need to go and change. I have a big meeting later on and ... I’m going to buy a new jumper.

Jiaying
Let’s listen to some examples of ‘ish’ while you buy a jumper.

Examples
I didn’t love the film, but it was goodish. It was OK.

When she asked me if I was OK, I just said ‘ish’. I think she knows I’m not happy.

I might be a little late to the meeting, but I should arrive by about 5ish.

Jiaying
This is The English We Speak from BBC Learning English. We’re talking about the expression or suffix ‘ish’. We can add it to some adjectives to mean ‘not precisely’ or use it as a word on its own – usually to answer questions. We can also add it to a number to mean it’s not precisely that number. For example, time or age. 

Roy
So, I bought a new jumper. This one has a beaver playing a ukulele on it! Do you think this one is better?

Jiaying
Ish. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether I like your jumper or not. What’s important is that you like it.

Roy
Well, I love it. But I think I might change into my suit for that meeting. I want to make a good impression with the new boss.

Jiaying
That’s a good idea!

Roy
Yes – I’ll get changed now. Can you tell everyone I’ll be lateish – but I should get to the meeting by 1ish.

Jiaying
I sure will! Bye, Roy.

Roy
Bye.

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