You're talking to your college academic advisor about which classes you should take next semester. He asks you if you know a certain professor. You think you might know who he's talking about, but you're not sure. You ask:
An oldish gentleman, built kind of solidly?
The suffix "-ish" means "a little bit" or "kind of". You put it on the end of an adjective, a noun, or a number. For example, if you're telling someone's age but you're not really sure if you have the number right, you say:
He's fiftyish, I'd say.
"-ish" is mostly used with adjectives that describe a quality that can have different amounts, like:
It doesn't sound as natural with adjectives that are "all or nothing", like "dead" or "finished". You can't be "a little" dead; you're either alive or you're completely dead. So it would be strange for someone to use the word "deadish" in a serious way.
You can also use "-ish" on the end of some nouns. There are only a few examples of this:
sluggish (This means "slow".)
However, the meaning of this is different from adjective + "-ish". The "-ish" ending on a noun makes it into an adjective. So "style" is a noun and "stylish" is an adjective. "Child" is a noun and "childish" is an adjective that means "acting like a child".
The word "gentleman" just means "man" or "guy", but it's a more formal word. You can use it when you're talking about a person who you don't know very well, in a situation where you're trying to seem polite and respectful. Here are some examples of situations in which you'd refer to a man as a "gentleman":
- You're describing a customer at the store you work at to your boss.
- You're explaining to the police how a fight got started.
- You're giving a speech to a large group of people at a business conference, and you want to talk about a man who's sitting near you.
The way that someone is "built" refers to their body type. If a person has a lot of muscles, you say:
He's athletically built.
If someone's overweight, you can say:
She's rather heavy-built.
And for thin people:
My brother used to be built kind of slenderly until he got married.
Another way to say it is that someone "has a ___ build":
He has a kind of solid build, right?
A person who is "solidly" built is pretty big and strong-looking, but not extremely fat or extremely muscle-bound.
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