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The English We Speak

Intermediate level


Episode 220502 / 02 May 2022


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.


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

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! 

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

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

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. 

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


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.

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

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.

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. 

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

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.

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.

That’s a good idea!

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

I sure will! Bye, Roy.


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