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Good and Nice: Common Adjectives with Many Uses

2017-10-06

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[00:00.00]
  • The 2014 film Whiplash tells the story of a young man who wants to be a great jazz musician.
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  • He has a music director who often says cruel things to him.
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  • At one point in the film, the music director makes this statement to the young man:
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  • There are no two words in the English language more harmful than "Good Job.''
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  • Today's report will be much nicer than the lines of the film suggest.
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  • We will not be learning about mean music directors (at least, not today).
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  • Instead, we will talk about two very common adjectives: the words "nice" and "good."
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  • We will show you how Americans use these words in everyday speech.
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  • We will also show you how they are used in social situations.
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  • But first, we have to give you a few definitions.
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  • Adjectives are words that help describe or provide information about nouns.
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  • Speakers generally use adjectives before a noun or after a non-action verb.
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  • Such verbs are sometimes called linking verbs.
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  • In everyday speech, Americans often use the adjectives "good" and "nice."
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  • These words have a positive, but inexact meaning.
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  • Here are two examples:
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  • She is a good person.
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  • He is a nice man.
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  • In the examples, the adjectives "good" and "nice" come before a noun – the words "person" and "man."
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  • These are pleasant, respectful ways to describe people.
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  • Americans use the adjectives "good" and "nice" in other ways.
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  • They use them in a few common expressions.
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  • Terms like "not very nice" and "not very good" are generally used to describe people and their behavior.
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  • These indirect expressions show an undesirable or bad opinion, but they have a softer meaning than direct speech does.
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  • Consider our next example.
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  • Listen to this exchange that two students might have:
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  • 1: Have you finished your math homework?
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  • 2: No, I'm not very good at math.
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  • 1: Well, the teacher doesn't help much...
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  • 2: Yeah, he gave me an F on the last test.
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  • He told me my grade in front of the entire class… that wasn't very nice of him...
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  • In this example, you heard two uses of not very + an adjective: not very good and not very nice.
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  • Americans often use these expressions in place of direct language.
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  • Instead of saying "I'm not very good at mathematics," the student could have said, "I'm bad at math."
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  • Instead of saying, "that wasn't very nice of him…," the other student could have said, "that was a mean thing to do."
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  • The two speakers used "good" and "nice" in indirect expressions because they are considered to be more polite.
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  • Susan Conrad and Douglas Biber are experts on English grammar.
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  • They say English speakers often use "good" and "nice" for social reasons.
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  • They use these words to give praise, express approval, and show appreciation.
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  • They also use them to show a positive reaction.
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  • We are not able to give you examples of all of these uses.
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  • However, we can show you how Americans use them in a few situations.
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  • Speakers often use "good" and "nice" in expressions that praise people for their possessions or successes.
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  • A friend might comment on your new shoes by saying, for example, "Those are nice shoes. Where did you get them?"
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  • Or a teacher might congratulate a student by saying, "You did a very good job on the test."
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  • Think back to the film Whiplash. You heard the music director tell his student:
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  • 'There are no two words in the English language more harmful than "Good Job.''
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  • By saying that the words 'good job' are harmful, the music director means that words of praise are bad.
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  • He believes that true artists will never become disheartened – no matter how mean people are to them!
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  • Another use of good is to show approval of an idea.
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  • One speaker presents an idea and another speaker reacts in an approving way by saying, "Good idea," for example.
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  • In an office, a supervisor might tell an employee, "That's a good idea. I like that."
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  • Friends eating at a restaurant, for example, might say the following words:
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  • 1: Do you want dessert?
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  • 2: Sounds good to me!
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  • Here, the second speaker is showing approval at the first speaker's idea – getting something to eat after the meal.
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  • This is an easy-going, friendly way to agree with another person.
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  • The next time you are watching a film or listening to music in English, try to find examples of "good" and "nice."
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  • Ask yourself how the speakers use these words.
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  • Do they have a social use?
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  • Are they replacing direct speech that might be considered rude or uncultured?
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  • Learning how to use good and nice can be difficult.
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  • But with hard work and effort, you will make good progress.
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  • I'm John Russell.
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  • And I'm Dorothy Gundy.
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