Chunks of Language: ‘Mean’ as a key word

The word ‘mean’ has lots of meanings and uses in English. If you try to learn all of them at once, you’ll need lots of patience and time as well. According to one dictionary, the word ‘mean’ has more than 15 meanings as a verb, more than 5 meanings as an adjective, and at least 2 meanings as a noun.

Since ‘mean’ has more meanings as a verb than as an adjective and a noun, it’s clear that you have to focus on the uses of it as a verb. However, I don’t recommend you memorize the meanings and uses in a mechanical way. I mean, it’s not a good idea to have a list of meanings ans stuff like that. Actually, the best thing to do is learn how ‘mean’ is used in the real world.

The tip is: learn some common chunks with the word ‘mean’. Doing so, you’ll learn how the word is put into practice. You’ll also learn how those common chunks are pronounced and structured. An example of a chunk with ‘mean’ is ‘mean nothing to somebody’ [‘não representar nada pra alguém’ or ‘não significar nada pra alguém’]. Look at some examples taken from a spoken corpus of American English language:

  • Sarah, it’s not true! I’ve told you! Olivia means nothing to me!
  • If everything I do and say means nothing to you, why do you want me here?
  • The word ‘responsibility’ means nothing to her.
  • Her words mean nothing to me right now.

Another common chunk with ‘mean’ is ‘mean a lot to somebody’ [‘significar muito pra alguém’]:

  • That really meant a lot to me.
  • Your respectful coverage meant a lot to my family and me.
  • Stephanie meant a lot to me, but I didn’t want to leave my family.
  • This year’s game meant a lot to us.

Also learn the chunk ‘know what I mean?’ which is usually used to check if someone understands what you say:

  • There is always an alternative to keep your mouth shut, you know what I mean?
  • This is a valuable lesson you’ll have, you know what I mean?
  • I want to buy her something really special, know what I mean?
  • Sometimes people say things they shouldn’t, you know what I mean?

There are much more chunks [phrases] with ‘mean’. Unfortunately, I can’t write all of them here. To get to know the uses of ‘mean’ you’d better have a good dictionary and keep your eyes wide open to notice the word ‘mean’ in action. You’ll certainly learn more than you can imagine. Have fun learning English lexically, you deserve it!

Um Comentário

  1. Nice post, Denilso.I'd like to ask you something: would you happen to know and expression for "forçado", as in "Achei aquele filme muito forçado".Thanks in advance.

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