‘Switching’©: From the formal to the informal.

When communicating through English, there will always be options presenting the speaker with a language choice. In this blog, we will show you ‘Switching’, a technique which will open up the range of language choices available to you.

In English, the language choice of the speaker will be either in a formal style or an informal style or perhaps somewhere in between and the formal style is often a direct translation from the learner’s language:

I told Peter everything he needed to know

The informal style will not be a direct translation but could rather be a PHRASAL VERB:

I filled Peter in.

In Englishour, we believe that learners today who come to an English speaking country to learn English want to become familiar with the informal side of English. To them, it’s new and exciting and is often something they have never come across before.

As well as opening up exciting new learning opportunities, there are clear advantages to making these language choices. Firstly,  the informal side of English is often much shorter; more concise. English speakers love this! When non-native speakers use idiomatic language, English speakers really appreciate this and the door to a deeper communication is opened a little more. The journey from formal (translation) to the informal is something I call ‘switching’.

Switching is moving between the formal and informal. It is moving away from direct translation towards metaphor and image-based language.

Here are some examples:

A journalist, Peter Factotum, is talking about a corrupt director of a company who he suspects is destroying the environment illegally. In telling us about the director and his experiences he has used several phrasal verbs giving us information:

He has to answer to the shareholders

He tried to play down his role in the forest’s destruction

I tried to sound him out to see if he would reveal anything

He let it slip (it slipped out) that his company was responsible

He left out the fact that he had been in prison

I can’t wait to fill in my editor

Now lets understand!

  • To answer to someone – To whom do you answer to? Do you have anyone to answer to?

If you have a boss, then the answer is yes!

If you have parents, then the answer is yes!

You answer to the person who is responsible for you. The person to whom you answer to is the person to whom you have to justify your actions. People, who are self-employed have nobody to answer to (except perhaps themselves). Single people have nobody to answer to. Do politicians have anybody to answer to? Of course! The electorate. So who do you have to answer to?

  • To play an action/a fact down – This means that you try to make it seem less important than it really is. People often play things down because they are modest. For example, if I won a gold medal in the Olympics and I say ‘Oh it’s nothing’, then I am trying to play down the medal. In the case above however, the director is trying to play down something negative, saying it has no importance when actually, it does!

Politicians often try to play down their mistakes and play up their successes!

  • To sound someone out – This is where you get a ‘preview’ to see how someone feels about an issue. You may feel that is too early to ask them directly, so you ‘sound them out’ first to get an idea how the reaction might be. For example, if you want to ask your boss for a raise you don’t ask directly ‘can I have a raise?’ Instead, you sound them out by talking about money in general and getting a feel for what they might think. Then you may or may not ask for the raise.

Therefore the idea of ‘sounding someone out’ is the idea of talking loosely about something to gauge their reaction.

  • To let it slip – The phrasal verb is to slip out, but let it slip sounds better so we will use that form. This one is easy. It means that you told a secret accidentally. You opened your big mouth and said something to someone that you shouldn’t have! Perhaps you let it slip that he was hiding in the next room or that Mary’s surprise birthday is on Saturday. Basically, you let the cat out of the bag! Have you ever let something slip? Was it something important? What did you do?
  • To leave out (a fact) – If you leave out a fact, you don’t say it. It’s that simple. I told the police my name and address but I left out the fact that I’m not staying there. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you leave out. Think about your CV. Did you write EVERYTHING or did you leave out a few things? Be honest!
  • To fill someone in on something – This means to give someone the necessary information about a situation. It basically means ‘tell them everything’. For example, if you go on holidays, when you arrive back in work/school, your colleague will fill you in on what has been happening and all the gossip. When Steven fills in his editor, he will tell her everything about the story he has. Look again at the original sentence at the top:

I told Peter about the project.

 So with switching, we try to replace the formal with the idiomatic:

I filled Peter in about the project.

‘Switching’ is being able to manipulate language

Now, let’s add some more verbs that you can ‘switch’:

When Peter Factotum fills his editor in about the story she will either think that it is a good story or a bad story. If she thinks it is bad, then Peter will have to persuade her that he should write it.

He will have to talk her into letting him write it.

 When you were a teenager you had to talk your parents into letting you do things. Like what?

You can also talk someone out of doing something.

He wanted to sell the house but we talked him out of it. – We dissuaded him!

 

If there was a situation where several journalists wanted to write the story:

Peter would pitch for the story

 The idea of ‘a pitch’ is important in English. People pitch ideas to others in order to sell a product or get support.

We pitched the idea of an environmentally-friendly car to the managers and they loved it!

 

When there is competition to ‘win’ an account, for example, you pitch for it.

Every advertising agency in the city pitched for the McDonalds account.

In this case however, it is unlikely that Peter would have to pitch for the story as:

He came up with it.

He thought of it. It is his story.

Switching

Formal            ➙       Informal

Informal         ➙       Formal

The context will decide which option you use.

It’s up to you – You choose!

Literal translation (formal) Native equivalent (informal)
He is responsible to nobody

 

He answers to nobody
He made the situation seem less important

 

He played down the situation
I tried to get an idea of what she was thinking

 

I sounded her out
He accidentally said it

 

He let it slip
I omitted it

 

I left it out
He told me everything

 

He filled me in
I persuaded her to do it

 

I talked her into doing it
I dissuaded him from doing it

 

I talked him out of doing it
We gave a presentation to get the job

 

We pitched for the job
He thought of a great idea

 

He came up with a great idea
You decide

 

It’s up to you

 

Tasks:

Look at the following sentences. You will see the long formal version. Translate to the shorter informal version by switching:

Eg: He told me accidentally____________He let it slip.

  1. I asked him questions to see what he was thinking_➙
  2. He persuaded me to sell my car to him__➙
  3. We presented hoping to attract the new client__➙
  4. I told them that the situation was not as bad as they believed__➙
  5. Her only boss is the owner, nobody else_➙

 

Now try to do the opposite. Look at the informal and make it formal:

Eg: I left out the fact that I was unavailable___➙_____I failed to say that I was unavailable.

  1. He came up with a brilliant plan__➙
  2. They played down the disaster in the interview_➙
  3. She talked me out of selling_➙
  4. I let it slip that he wasn’t qualified_➙
  5. They pitched for the Medford account_➙

Further tasks:

  • Start using switching in your everyday life. Every time you want to say something, try to think of two ways to say the same thing and make a language CHOICE.
  • In your professional life, try to use all of the above verbs in the next week.
  • In your personal life, try to use 5 of the above verbs in the next week.
  • Write a list of ten situations you know you will be in, in the next 7 days. Identify if they are formal or informal situations. Which side of the English language would you prefer to be using in each? When going to each, make decisions about the language choices that you will make before the event and then follow them!
  • Show your colleagues the two versions and ask them which they use. Try to talk about language to as many people as possible.
  • Keep switching. Learn to manipulate language so that you sound like you WANT to sound!

By John Ryan  ©2018

John Ryan

59 Comments

  • I know this web site presents quality dependent content and extra stuff, is
    there any other web site which provides these kinds of things in quality?

  • Admiring the time and effort you put into your website and detailed information you present.
    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed material.
    Excellent read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including
    your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  • Wonderful article! That is the type of info that are supposed to be shared across the net.
    Disgrace on the seek engines for now not positioning this post upper!
    Come on over and seek advice from my web site . Thank you =)

  • Excellent weblog here! Also your web site lots up fast!
    What web host are you the usage of? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink on your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  • You’re so awesome! I don’t suppose I’ve truly
    read anything like that before. So great to discover somebody with
    some unique thoughts on this issue. Really.. many thanks for
    starting this up. This web site is something
    that is required on the web, someone with some originality!

  • Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new
    iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through
    your blog and look forward to all your posts!

    Carry on the superb work!

  • This design is incredible! You definitely know how to keep a
    reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was
    almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you
    presented it. Too cool!

  • May I simply say what a relief to uncover someone that really understands what they’re discussing online.
    You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important.

    More and more people should read this and understand this side of
    the story. It’s surprising you are not more popular because you definitely
    possess the gift.

  • We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.

    Your website offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive
    activity and our whole group might be thankful to you.

  • Hi there to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from
    this site, and your views are pleasant in favor of new users.

  • Hi everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web page, and piece of writing
    is really fruitful in support of me, keep up
    posting these articles or reviews.

  • You’ve made some really good points there. I
    checked on the web for additional information about the issue and found most people will go along with
    your views on this website.

  • I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone
    to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    appreciate it

  • Your method of explaining the whole thing in this piece of writing is
    really nice, every one be capable of without difficulty understand it, Thanks
    a lot.

  • Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It actually was once a enjoyment account it.
    Glance complex to more delivered agreeable from you!
    However, how could we keep in touch?

  • Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through
    your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!

  • It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I am happy that you simply shared this useful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • I just could not go away your web site prior to suggesting that I actually loved the
    usual information an individual supply on your visitors?
    Is going to be back regularly to inspect new posts

  • I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz answer back as I’m looking to design my own blog and would
    like to find out where u got this from. cheers

  • Greate article. Keep posting such kind of info on your page.
    Im really impressed by your site.
    Hey there, You’ve performed an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and individually suggest to my friends.
    I’m sure they will be benefited from this site.

  • Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found
    a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.”
    She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a
    hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never
    wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off
    topic but I had to tell someone!

  • Hey There. I found your blog using msn. That is an extremely neatly written article.

    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read extra of your
    useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

  • For latest news you have to visit web and on internet I found this website as a best web
    page for most recent updates.

  • Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your
    efforts and I am waiting for your further write ups thank you once again.

  • Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is fundamental and everything. But
    just imagine if you added some great photos or videos to
    give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but
    with images and clips, this site could certainly be one of the very best in its field.
    Terrific blog!

  • Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this site.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s challenging
    to get that “perfect balance” between usability and
    visual appearance. I must say that you’ve done a awesome job
    with this. Additionally, the blog loads super fast for me on Internet
    explorer. Excellent Blog!

  • I got this web page from my pal who shared with me concerning this website and
    now this time I am visiting this web page and reading very informative articles
    at this place.

  • I needed to thank you for this good read!! I certainly loved every little bit of
    it. I’ve got you bookmarked to look at new things you post…

  • I’ve been browsing online greater than 3 hours nowadays, yet I never found any interesting article
    like yours. It is beautiful worth enough for me.
    In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content
    as you did, the web shall be a lot more helpful than ever before.

  • My spouse and I stumbled over here coming from a different website and thought I should check
    things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to going over your web page repeatedly.

  • My brother suggested I might like this website. He was totally right.
    This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how
    much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  • Generally I do not learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this
    write-up very compelled me to check out and do it! Your writing style has
    been amazed me. Thanks, quite great post.

  • Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after going through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back
    frequently!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *