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ESL Story: The language of praise

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The Language of Praise

It often falls to us to express our admiration or praise for what someone has done or made and there are times when variations on that overworked little word ‘nice’ are just not adequate enough. The most common way is to announce heartily: “Well done!” or to indulge in one of these equally enthusiastic adjectives such as: magnificent, splendid or tremendous according to the warmth of your praise.

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When it’s more a question of achievement where there is a great difference between what you have seen before and what you see now as when someone has put in a lot of hard work on the garden, you can say: “You’ve done a remarkable job” or “I simply wouldn’t have recognised it”. Equally apt, of course, would be “Congratulations” or “I must congratulate you” or “I must hand it to you.” For achievements that surprise you so that you can hardly believe what you see is the expression: I take my hat off to you. At Oxford when a student has done exceptionally well in his final examinations, the board of examiners will rise when he enters the room for his oral exam and doff their mortar boards in deference to him. The hand can also be used to express admiration. The compere says, on welcoming a new performer on to the stage: “Come on, give him a big hand!” or “A round of applause please for our next guest.” We can show our approval by patting someone on the back after he’s come first in a race. And in general conversation we can tell someone: “You deserve a pat on the back for all your hard work.” A reference to schools occurs in the saying: “Go to the top of the class,” which is another way of expressing admiration whereby you imagine yourself undertaking a similar task and failing to reach the same standard. So should you be shown an intricate piece of embroidery, you could comment in one of the following ways:

  • “I don’t know how you do it, it’d be beyond me.”
  • “It must have taken you hours, I’m sure I’d never have the patience myself.”
  • “You don’t mean to say you did that all by yourself.”
  • “I could certainly never have managed that unaided.”

    Then there are the remarks that indicate that someone’s work is so good that it deserves better recognition or that they should get better remuneration for it than they do. This could apply in the field of the arts. On seeing the work of an amateur artist we could say: “You ought to take it up professionally, you know.” Or if the job which the person is doing does not give him sufficient scope to display his talents, we can say: “You’re wasted here, if you ask me.” Mind you, if you really want to make a noise about it we can also, as we say, sing or shout the praises of someone. And this can usually be achieved by asking others to give what are called three cheers, most conveniently uttered as three times “Hip, hip, hooray!” For those occasions when you are really moved, ask the others around you to join in with a chanting of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” and if you’re feeling energetic, carry the hero of the hour shoulder high for a bit around the room. It saves making a long speech. And you must admit that any of these ways I’ve explained is ten times better than simply saying – “Oh, how nice.

    Dear Friend,
    If you have any questions or comments regarding this essay, please post your answers on the forum here: Praise.

    Many thanks.

    If you have any English grammar or vocabulary questions,
    please post them on this English Grammar Forum.


    Next:ESL Story: The language of sleep

    Author: Alan Townend


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