Please don’t say that!


As English teachers we love studying the English language, discover the new phrases and, of course, exceptions that always appear in this lexically rich language. However, as much as we enjoy using the English language we may also find some of its bits slightly irritating.

I have done a small survey on what the most irritating English phrases are in the opinions of our international team. I found it very interesting what people from different parts of the world, cultures, language backgrounds find irritating in the language that they use in their daily life. Below, you can find a list of the most irritating English phrases in the opinions of some of my fellow colleagues.

Giulia (Italian)
“At the end of the day”
“With all due respect”
“Fairly unique (is it unique or not unique?!)”

Nerys (Welsh)
“Do you know what I mean?”
“No offence but…”

Eva (Austrian)
– My favourite daily life example is “are you alright?” or “’aight?” as it sometimes sounds. When I first came to the UK I thought people were constantly worrying about my health, finding I was looking rather pale or something, as this was their way of reacting to the first impression I gave. Discovering that they would also say that to other people, who in my opinion didn’t look extraordinarily sickly, I finally decided that this must be an alternative for “how are you”, or to what I learnt at school “how do you do” (yes, they do teach you that, still…).
– I love “to appreciate” now, and I love the way everything is always “appreciated” in business contexts. I used to hate it though, finding it incredibly patronizing.

I think we should also talk about that new trend with self check out machines at supermarket. I always keep on having their phrases in my head “please put the item in the bag”, “do you have your own bag?” and “cash is dispensed below the scanner”.
Awfully annoying.

Sarah (British)
I HATE it when people try and hide a criticism, insult or dilute a comment by adding darling or dear at the end of the sentence. Example: “That’s a really stupid idea darling” or
“Why don’t you calm down dear?” These are not things people have said to me, obviously 🙂

Pedro (Brazilian)
My top one is “not too bad”. What a nasty thing to say 🙂 I never see people saying I’m great or everything is fantastic. So that’s my option.

What are in your or your students’ opinions the most irritating English phrases?

Have you got phrases on your list that make you cringe and you wish they never existed?

Go ahead! Share your list with us.



  • I find people’s use of ‘literally’ really annoying. As in, ‘She literally exploded with laughter.’ No she didn’t!!

    And following up on Sarah’s example of hiding criticism with a nice word, I also hate it when people say, ‘No offence, but …’ before they say something nasty about the person.

    Great post 🙂

    Posted by Lucy Williams on May 04th 2011
  • i have a horrid crawly feeling when people say ‘can i pick your brains?’ i get prometheus-like images…but brains instead of livers. does that happen to anyone else? :O

    Posted by lynne kahatapitiya on June 09th 2011
  • Hmm….I think I know what you mean I just heard a phrase ” keep your eyes peeled”I am not sure how often I will use it…

    Posted by Joanna on June 09th 2011
  • At last! Someone who undsretnads! Thanks for posting!

    Posted by Shorty on July 03rd 2011
  • Hi Shorty, It is great you found it interesting!

    Posted by Joanna Trzmielewska on July 08th 2011

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