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Unit 37. I Can't Stand the Stuff.

Non-Prominence on Final Vague Expressions

Unit 37; Part A

Vague expressions are often used in conversation when we don't need to be exact or precise. Many of these expressions are found at the end of a speech unit (see Unit 33 and Unit 34). They are usually non-prominent, following a prominent word.

When we refer to something already mentioned, we can use the stuff (for uncountable nouns), the place(s) and the thing(s) (for countable nouns). Very ofen, some criticism is intended:
         A: I've got some apple juice. Do you want some? B: No, I can't STAND the stuff.
         Jack seems to spend all his time in his bedroom. Never LEAVES the place.
         My car's always breaking down. I HATE the thing.

We can use these words with sort of to show that we have just given examples of a larger group of things. Ofen we use (all) this/that/these/those before sort of:
         Before we could use the laboratory, we had to learn about safety and all THAT sort of stuff.
         The book's about corruption in sport - taking bribes, placing illegal bets and all THIS sort of thing.
         When we were in Rome we were taken to museums, art galleries and THOSE sorts of places.

We can use and stuff and things and and places in a similar way to refer in a general way to things and places without giving any further detail:
         I bought some CHEESE and stuff.
         We went through Berlin, BONN and places.

The phrase and that is used to mean that other things were involved, without specifing more precisely what:

         A: Where's Kate? B: She's gone upstairs to do her HAIR and that.

Unit 37; Part B

We use or something/anything (etc.) to make what we have just said more vague or indirect:
      Didn't she use to be a VET or something?
      He went off with KEN or somebody.
      Isn't there any chocolate in the FRIDGE or anywhere?
      Let me know if you want any HELP or anything.

In a similar way we can use or something/anything (etc.) like that:

      A: Linda seems very lonely.
      B: Doesn't she ever go out with FRIENDS or anything like that?

Unit 37; Part C

The phrases or and + whatever/whenever/wherever/whoever are used to make a statement more informal or less direct:
       We could meet about TEN or whenever.
       When we move into the flat, we might change the carpets and LIGHTS and whatever.

Unit 37; Part D

The phrase or so is used with expressions of number and time to make them less precise:
        A: How long will it take? B: About a WEEK or so.
        We'd been driving for an hour, but we'd only gone a MILE or so.

note.jpgNote: Words like thing, place, something, whenever, etc. are not only used in vague expressions.
For example:
This is the place I used to live.    What's this thing for?    We'll leave whenever you want.



flag.jpgComplete the sentences using vague expressions from the box.
Key.1 or anything    
2 or wherever    
3 the place    
4 the things
5 or someone
the place    the stuff    the things    or anything    or someone       or wherever
Example: Hannah asked me to get some goat's cheese, but I don't know where to buy the   stuff  .  
1    She got the job without even an interview _____________.
2    You can buy them in a supermarket  _____________.
3    I used to work at the airport, but now I never go near _____________.
4    I don't like mice or rats. I've always been terrifed of _____________.
5    He's staying with his cousin _____________.

Now listen and check your answers. Then say the sentences aloud, making sure you make the vague expressions non-prominent.
flag.jpgRead this conversation in which Belinda is talking about her holiday, and underline all the vague expressions you can find.
A: You've just got back from Italy, haven't you? The Amalf coast or somewhere.
B: That's right. We stayed in Positano. Do you know it?
A: Yes, I went there twenty years ago or something. But I don't remember much about the place. A good holiday?
B: Well, we had some problems at first. They lost our luggage at the airport - it got put on the wrong plane or something like that. So the first night we didn't have a change of clothes or toothbrushes or whatever. It turned up the following day, though.
A: So how did you spend your time there?
B: We just relaxed, walked around, sat on the beach and that sort of thing. And we looked around the shops and places.
A: Did you buy a lot of stuff?
B: No, just a few presents and things.

Now listen and circle the prominent word before each of these vague expressions.
The Amalfi  coast or somewhere.
Check your answers in the Key. Finally, read the conversation aloud making sure you make the highlighted words prominent, the underlined vague expressions non-prominent, and that you link them smoothly. 

flag.jpgHere are more comments about holidays. Listen and write the vague expressions used in the spaces.
Key.1 . . . and that.
2 . . . or so.
3 . . . the thing.
4 . . . or something.
5 . . . or whenever.
6 . . . or anything like that.

Example: There's nowhere to leave the car: in a car park, at the hotel, along the street   or anywhere  .
1    All cars are banned from the town centre because of exhaust fumes _____________.
2    We'll probably go again for a month _____________.
3    When I got back to the hire car I couldn't start _____________.
4    I had to pay 450 euros _____________.
5    We're hoping to go back next year, in the spring _____________.
6    There were no museums or art galleries _____________.

Now read the sentences aloud, making sure you make the vague expressions non-prominent.

Follow up: What final vague expressions are used in other languages that you know? Are these also usually non-prominent?

Unit 36      Unit 37     Unit 38 forward.jpg