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Kirjoittanut: Rytkönen Claire / 13.3.2024 13:54

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Edellisessä blogissamme käsittelimme uusia englannin kielen trendisanoja, kuten frenemy ja fork.
Kun uudet termit vakiintuvat, vanhat sanat saavat uusia merkityksiä ja kielioppikin muuttuu.
Lue lisää ja pysyt ajan tasalla!


Our previous blog looked at the creation of new words in English. While this is happening, existing words are also changing their meanings. This blog will outline some of the general patterns and help you to keep up!

Prepositions are simplifying and complicating at the same time

Prepositions have always been difficult for foreign language learners. Learning the right ones and their right positions can take time. Now, just when you may have learnt these, they can change.

English speakers are using prepositions in different ways, such as saying “to be bored of” instead of “to be bored with” or “to be disgusted at” rather than “to be disgusted with”. This is often linked to a process of regularisation – “ to be bored of” matches “ to be tired of”. In the long term this process may make prepositions easier to learn, but in the short term it can cause confusion.

There is also a trend, more common in the USA, to add in prepositions for example, "to tell to someone” instead of “to tell someone” or “Where is John at?” rather than “Where is John?”. This is a trend in the opposite direction, complicating the role of prepositions.

Word meanings are changing

English words are changing their meanings. This is known as semantic drift. This has always happened in English. For example, “silly” used to mean “young/innocent” but now means “ridiculous”. You can see how one meaning has developed into the other. However, this example took hundreds of years, whereas some modern examples are happening at a much quicker pace.

Another example of this is called linguistic inflation. Strong words are used to create an effect but become so overused that they lose their value. For example, the word “awesome” used to be used only for most stunning and overwhelming sights, such as an atomic bomb or a miracle. Now it means roughly “great” e.g., “this pizza is awesome”. This linguistic inflation creates a cycle where English regularly devalues the meaning of certain words leading to search for even stronger words.


That cake is awesome! Meaning “great”, the new devalued meaning of awesome.

A mistaken meaning can become the actual meaning

Mistakes in English can become “correct”. It can often be caused when a mistake becomes so common it becomes the actual meaning. For example, “disinterested” should mean “neutral” e.g. “the peacemaker was a disinterested party”. However, many English speakers now think that “disinterested” is the opposite of interested (the actual opposite is uninterested). You may hear “she is disinterested in cinema” when the correct use should be “uninterested”. When a mistake is this common then within 10 – 20 years it can become the new norm and enter the dictionary with a new meaning.

Where do these trends come from?

Flexible structure

The first reason is that English has a flexible structure. Words can easily transform from nouns to adjectives to verbs and back again. This has been happening for centuries. Shakespeare regularly turned nouns into verbs and adjectives 400 years ago, creating hundreds of new words.

No overall controlling language bodies

English does not have a single body handing down rules on grammar and vocabulary such as Kotus in Finland or the Académie Française in France. English does have authoritative dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary (British English) or the Merriam Webster Dictionary (US English). These dictionaries do not set rules but they observe and record language changes in English.

A billion speakers

English has possibly over 1 billion speakers now, both native and non-native. This leads to a huge input of new trends, vocabulary and even mistakes that become standardised. A lovely example of this is the Hong Kong English phrase “long time no see”. This was originally a loan translation of the Mandarin Chinese for “haven’t seen you for a long time” but has become a standard part of English.


As English is the main language of the internet and new technological advances it is constantly receiving new vocabulary and terms from this area. With the development of AI this may even further reform and change the language.

English is changing all the time and creates quite a few new surprises. It makes the language lively and interesting but is understandably rather chaotic!

If you are interested in the developments in English we highly recommend the works of the linguistic experts John McWhorter and Steven Pinker.

Possible further reading of interest

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue ­- John McWhorter

Words on the Move: Why English Won't – and Can't – Sit Still (Like, Literally) - John McWhorter

Words and Rules - Steven Pinker

The Sense of Style - - Steven Pinker

Or is you wish to learn more English attend one of our language courses at Galimatias such as …



Aiheet: kielitaito, englannin kieli, English, English language, English-speaking world, englanniksi, trends in English language

Rytkönen Claire

Kirjoittajana Rytkönen Claire

English language professional, Head of English at Galimatias


Galimatias on vuonna 1996 perustettu valmennusyritys, joka tarjoaa palveluja yrityksille, organisaatioille ja julkishallinnolle.

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