Literally, the most, like, overused words, like…ever, you know?

“There are like, literally a million words that like so many people overuse and misuse, you know. I mean, like,literally  die every time I hear them!”

Have you ever heard anyone that sounds like this? Are you someone who sounds like this? The suggestion this week will be helpful for English learners, to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of abusing some common words in English, and also incredibly helpful for English speakers to break their, like, bad habit.

1. First, let’s consider the word, literally

What does it mean?  According to Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary: 1. in a literal way, using the ordinary and usual meaning of a word. 2. used to stress a statement/description that is true even though surprising. 3. in a completely accurate way.

Looking at it from this point, the most common misuse of the word would be confusing it with figuratively. Figuratively can be seen as the opposite of literally. Figurative language is creative, instead of using a word in its original way, we use it non-literally, in a way that’s untrue, usually in order to describe something else. There are different types of figurative language, but that will be in another post…

Consider the following video of Rachel Zoe, celebrity fashion stylist, and her complete misuse (and overuse) of the word literally. Hopefully you can see the issue with it. In the very first statement she says, “I literally want to cut myself in half.” If this were literal, then she REALLY wants to end her life, and is it even possible to cut yourself in half? A few seconds later she states, “I literally die for Paul McCartney.” Well, again this would be that if she met him, she would die. I don’t think anyone can actually die FOR someone, and just by meeting them? See for yourself the amount she can butcher the word in a 1:27 video clip: How many times did you count her use the word?

Courtesy Youtube channel: EngLangAUS

Not only can you misuse literally, you can overuse it, too. The Learner’s Dictionary also explains that this word can be used informally, to exaggerate information that couldn’t possibly be true. However, for some strange reason, this word has become popular, especially amongst those seen on T.V. (seen above).  If celebrities say it, it must be cool right? NOI think most individuals, especially those with their own intellectual thought processes can agree that it’s not okay, and actually quite annoying to hear. In fact, it was a friend who inspired to write the article based on his annoyance, and when I started to listen for it…. it literally blew my mind! Or wait, literally? No.. I meant to say, figuratively. 🙂

To show overuse, check out clips from T.V. show “Parks and Recreation.”

Courtesy Youtube channel: BuenozAres


2. Next, let’s look at vocalized pauses.

Vocalized pauses are the words used while speaking that are known as ‘fillers.’ These are the words like, “um” “er”  “uh” or popular for some, and our focus today:

1. “like”     2.  “I mean”      3.  “you know”

These words fill our sentences while speaking for numerous reasons. Sometimes they are natural, and part of our natural speech (to avoid sounding robotic), other times they happen because we get lost in thought, forget what we want to say, don’t know what to say, are nervous, etc… However, it can be mutually agreed that, when used too much, a person can sound unintelligent, or someone who lacks confidence.  The three words listed above are commonly used in film to represent the ditzy (dumb) girl, too-cool-for-school laid back stoners, or others similar. These representations aren’t always true, and yes it can be said that intelligent people use these words; however, stereotypes don’t exist entirely based on false information. Point of this message, avoid saying these words unless,

1. like:

  • you’re making it known what you enjoy, want, or prefer. (I like the color yellow.)
  • you’re using a preposition to compare similar things, describe something, or introduce examples. (This shirt looks a lot like this other one I am wearing.    OR    In college, I studied a lot of subjects like psychology, spanish, and sociology. )

2. I mean:

  • you’re giving a literal meaning of something, or clarifying information. (When I said, “it literally blew my mind,” I meant that it surprised me.)

3. you know:

  • when you’re forming a question, and what to know if the person listening is aware of some knowledge (Do you know this band?) 
  • I am going to say strongly avoid using it at the end of a sentence, there are so many other things you can say. (….do you understand? ….do you agree? … what do you think? …etc) 🙂 

When you find yourself wanting to use such words, pause, take a breath, and then continue your normal speech. Don’t fall into the routine of using  too much slang, or informal speech because you don’t always want to represent yourself in this manner. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of how you want to show yourself.

What other words do you hear that are overused, misused, or just get under your skin (bother/annoy you)? Tell me about them in the comments! If you like the article, please share! 

Happy Learning! ♥


Here’s another topic I found interested and related to this topic. The Wire writes, “What your crutch words say about you…” Find it here.

Don’t be that guy from Malta, Pronunciation of /ɪ/ and /i:/

If you haven’t seen this video about the Italian man who went to Malta, here it is. It’s a video showing a common ‘stereotype’ of the way Italians talk. Does everyone from Italy sound like this, of course not. Do some Italians speak with this accent? Sure. The video is made to make you laugh (and in no way offend anyone), and again, to show an extremely common pronunciation issue that English language learners have, issues differentiating the long and short vowels. The video will show a couple different pronunciation problems, but this Sunday, we will focus on the long and short “e” sounds: /ɪ/ and /i:/

Enjoy, and continue reading for how to NOT be that guy….

Thanks to HaXz4you for sharing this video on his Youtube Channel.


Okay, embarrassing right?  I am sure everyone has had an embarrassing situation when learning another language, whether it’s English or something different. I definitely know that I have had many issues trying to speak other languages, and get laughed at pretty often when trying to say some of my “not so easy for an American” students’ names.

There are ways to avoid making these mistakes though, and through practice you will be able to ask (properly) where the beach is, and not be asking about a female dog. With exercising your pronunciation muscles you will avoid talking about bathroom actions, when asking for a piece or sheet of paper.

Let’s begin with looking at some common minimal pairs of /ɪ/ and /i:/   Minimal pairs are words that have almost the exact same pronunciation, with one very small difference. This difference is sounds that are very similar, and very often mixed up when used by English learners. Look at the following examples, I’ve included those from the YouTube video:

/ɪ/        and           /i:/
bit                   beat

sit                    seat

chip                 cheap

fit                    feet/feat

grin                  green

it                      eat

piss                piece

shit                 sheet

bitch               beach

In the first column, the  /ɪ/  sound is a short vowel. To make this sound, your mouth should be slightly open, with your lips relaxed. The second column has the /i:/ sound which is a long vowel. To make this sound, you should be smiling. Your mouth should still be slightly open, but your lips should be spread (not relaxed). Refer to this video for an example of the first two words above.

Can you say them correctly? More importantly, can you hear the difference when you are saying them? Remember you should be smiling when you say the long vowel sound!

There are ways to practice this, and the exercises are very similar to when you want to build strength in other muscles of your body. Do you want to be big and strong? Well, mostly likely you will be at the gym lifting different weights to build arm muscles. It’s the same thing for these different English sounds. You need to strengthen the muscles needed to articulate (say) these sounds, and you need to get comfortable saying them easily, without much thought or stress. Time to go to the English Outside the Box Gym!

As your trainer, the first thing you need to do is get ready. The best way to practice is in front of a mirror, or you can even record yourself saying the sounds, so you can look back and check yourself later.

  1. The first exercise is to repeat the short sound  /ɪ/.  3 sets of 5 reps (or 15 times)       * Is your mouth slightly open? Are you lips relaxed? *
  2. Next, repeat the long sound /i:/ .  3 sets of 5 reps (or 15 times)                                     * Are you smiling?! *
  3. The next exercises will be to practice these sounds in a complete word. Say the words listed above in the short /ɪ/ colum. Repeat one time.    *RELAXED*
  4. Now, say the words in the long /i:/ column, and repeat.     *SMILE*
  5. If you’re feeling confident to move on, I want you to practice completing a whole sentence, really focusing on the different sounds. Here are some sentences:
  • I grin when I find green beans in the sale bin.
  • This chip is delicious and cheap, eat it.
  • I need to sit in the seat, because my feet do not fit in this shoe.

Repeating these exercises everyday will help you build the muscles and ability needed to say the sounds correctly. You must practice, if you want to become better, just like you need to lift weights if you want to be stronger. Some other things you can do to practice:

  • Write down as many minimals pairs with /ɪ/ and /i:/ as you can on a piece of paper (there are many different lists on the Internet). Ask a friend to read some of the words to you, and see if you can hear and understand the difference.
  • Similar to the exercise above, write down some words and get a friend. This time, you say one of the words on the paper, and see if your partner can hear and understand which sound you are trying to make. Chances are if your partner chooses the wrong word, you are still having some issues pronouncing them properly.
  • Tongue twisters! They will help overall fluency and speed too, while working on these sounds. Try writing your own!

How did you do? Tell me about it!  Let me know if you would like additional information, and hey…you could even upload your own video on YouTube saying the sentences listed above. I’d love to see it, so share if you do!  🙂

Happy Studying and Pronouncing ! ♥  Have a great week!

Please share this information with someone who IS that guy from Malta 😉 or anyone you think would benefit! Thanks. xoxo