Slang is language which some people use, but which isn't widely accepted as "proper" or "correct".
What is slang?
Slang has the following qualities:
- It's often used by young people.
- It's often regional, meaning that people in one country (or part of a country) use slang words and phrases that people in other areas don't
- People who don't use a particular slang expression often look down on others who do.
- It's used in casual situations. However, not all casual speech is slang.
- Slang changes often, so many of the slang expressions that were popular a few years ago are not used much today.
Examples of slang
Here are several different slang expressions from different times and regions that all mean "cool":
out of sight
The word "cool" itself was also once considered a slang term, but it's become almost completely accepted as standard English at this point.
You can also read these PhraseMix lessons with examples of slang.
How to use slang
Because slang changes so much and is used differently by different groups of people, it can be really tricky for English learners to master.
The easy rule for using slang is to use the same expressions that the people around you use. If you hear your friend call something "dope", it's probably OK if you call it "dope" too. If your boss tells you that her sister is "preggers" (pregnant), it's probably OK for you to say that your cousin is "preggers" too. But if the people around you don't use much slang, you should also avoid using it.
When you hear a slang term on a television show or movie, think about the character who is using it. Is that character very similar to you? Do other people like and respect this character? Do you want to sound like them? Keep in mind that on-screen language is a little different from the language that we use in real life. So be careful about picking up slang expressions from TV shows and movies.
Avoid using slang when:
- you're speaking with someone a lot older than you
- you're talking to a large group of people who you don't know well
- you're writing