Lesson: THE GREAT PIANO SWINDLE (C1-C2)

7. Vocabulary: Hedging Language

Here are a few ways to make a sentence less certain or less direct:

1. Use words relating to look, appear or seem:

  • Those figures are wrong –> Those figures look wrong.
  • They’re going to close the bank –> By the looks of it, they’re going to close the bank.
  • She disagrees with her husband –> She appears to disagree with her husband.
  • John’s having an affair –> John’s apparently having an affair.
  • It’s not what it seems –> Apparently, it’s not what it seems.
  • He’s aggressive –> He seems aggressive.
  • The world is getting more violent –> The world is seemingly getting more violent.

2. Use a modal verb and words relating to call, describe, say or similar:

  • There was a miracle –> There was what might be called a minor miracle.
  • He’s aggressive –> He could be described as aggressive.
  • The world is getting more violent –> The world can be said to be getting more violent.
  • He’s the most aggressive person in the office –> He might, without any undue harshness, be dubbed the most aggressive person in the office.

3. Use a de-intensifying adverb or adjective:

  • I’m disappointed –> I’m a little disappointed.
  • I think you’re being unreasonable –> I think you’re being just a tiny bit unreasonable.
  • John’s having an affair –> John’s having some sort of affair.

4. Replace words with more generic or vague words, or use euphemisms:

  • Those figures are wrong –> Those figures appear to be a little on the generous side.
  • He’s aggressive –> We might reasonably describe him as overly assertive.
  • John’s having an affair –> It appears John may be having some kind of romantic dalliance.

Now, you try it! Can you make these sentences less direct?

a. Bob and Sheila hate each other.

b. There was a huge fight at the directors’ meeting yesterday evening.

c. Jane got the job because she lied about her qualifications.

d. Your idea is really stupid.

e. Everyone knows the CEO is incompetent.

My suggested answers are here.

For more on euphemisms, try here.

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