In English, many words have more than one meaning. A great way to get to advanced level – in both your vocabulary and speaking – is to start using these words in their different ways.
For example, there are many speaking phrases with “word”. You can use these phrases to talk about conversations and communication in general; but also to talk about someone’s character and action.
Here are 17 phrases with “word” that are really common. When you use them, you’ll sound natural in English!
Talking about conversations
have a word (in your ear) = request a conversation
“Can I have a word?”
You can also say “have a quick word” (a short conversation) and even “have a quiet word” (when you want to talk about something difficult, or to offer advice).
“Can I have a quiet word with you about Sue?”
want a word = when you’re passing on a message that someone else wants to talk to you
“Dave wants a word with you.”
have words = have an argument
“We had words last night about his behaviour.”
exchange a few words = have a brief conversation
“We exchanged a few words at the funeral.”
Talking about communication
in your own words = when you give your own description or account (typically to the police / in court)
“Can you tell us, in your own words, what happened when you left the restaurant?”
in the words of… = when you refer to what someone else said / make a quotation
“In the words of my late grandfather, ‘learning languages is the best thing you can do for your career!'”
get word = to hear about
“I got word of the takeover from someone in the finance department.”
not hear a word from = not hear from a person
“I haven’t heard a word from them since they moved.”
(Also in question form: “Any word from the estate agent yet?”)
in words of one syllable = when you ask someone to explain something in a simple way
“Can you explain to me, in words of one syllable, how to fix my washing machine?”
the F-word = when you want to avoid saying a rude swear word!
“Don’t use the F-word with me!”
(Also – for humour – any word you don’t want to mention: “Don’t mention the v-word in front of the dog. He’s terrified of going there!” when “v” could refer to “vet”, for example.)
(by) word of mouth = when you hear about something from another person (used in marketing)
“Our best customers hear about us by word of mouth.”
Talking about character
keep your word = keep a promise
“If he told you he’d phone, you know he’ll phone. He always keeps his word.”
(Also “you have my word” = I promise you.)
a man / woman of his / her word = someone you can trust to keep a promise
“John is a man of his word.”
Talking about action
Just say the word! = I’ll do something as soon as you ask me
“If you need help with babysitting, just say the word!”
give the word = ask someone to do something
“As soon as you give us the word, we’ll start the process.”
Don’t say a word / breathe a word = don’t tell anyone
“We’re getting married next spring, but don’t say a word to anyone yet!”
put in a good word = recommend something / someone
“Lisa would love a job at the restaurant. Could you put in a good word for her with the manager?”
(Also “not have a good word to say about…” = criticise something)
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