How to Use “Ish” to Sound Like a Native English Speaker

Have you ever seen a word that ends in –ish and wondered what that means? –Ish is a tiny suffix that can make a big difference in your English fluency!

How Should I Use –Ish?

Are you making plans with friends, maybe for lunch? If someone says “let’s meet at twelveish,” what does that mean to you? The number 12 is in there, but what does the –ish stand for? It means that your friend is suggesting you meet anytime close to 12 o’clock!

This form of colloquial, uncountable time-telling is very popular in the United States. It means that it’s OK to not be punctual, that it’s a more casual meeting than, say, a job interview, which would be at a very specific time. Maybe there’s traffic. Maybe one of you needs some extra time to get where you’re going. Using –ish at the end of a time is the way to express that need for flexibility.

When Else Can –Ish Be Used?

The important thing to remember is that the -ish after these words denotes the intention of somewhat, approximately, or a little bit. We can use –ish for meeting times, and we can also use it for numbers that we want to approximate. Other examples of when to use -ish include:

  • Feelings (happyish, saddish)
  • Moods (hungryish, tiredish)
  • Descriptive Words/Adjectives (cleanish, grayish)

What About Languages and Nationalities?

You’re here learning English, right? But that doesn’t mean you’re just learning a little bit of this language! An exception to the -ish suffix rules above is when you’re using it for some languages or nationalities. In these instances, the suffix is simply appended to roots denoting names of nations, regions, or languages.

Click on the video below to hear Gabby’s take on why adding -ish to your vocabulary is a great way to sound like a native English speaker!

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