What

In the film Caddyshack, American actor Bill Murray plays a golf caddy. He carries golf clubs for other people và offers them advice on how to lớn play the sport.

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At one point in the film, Murray tells an outrageous story. He claims lớn have sầu traveled to the Himalayas and helped the Dalai Lama play golf. After one game, Murray says he asked the Tiberã spiritual leader for money.

Here are a few lines from the movie.


"So we finish 18 và he"s gonmãng cầu stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something? You know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, "Oh, uh, there won"t be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive sầu total consciousness.""

Today, we will not explore the world of golf. Instead, we will consider the meaning of two words: you know. You heard them used twice in our example.

We will show you how và why Americans use this expression. You might be surprised to learn how "you know" has many uses.

Acknowledgement markers

If you listen lớn Americans as they speak, you will often hear them say "you know" in strange places in a sentence. You might hear it at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.

When Americans say "you know," they might mean it in a literal sense, as in the following:

"Do you know that person?"

"Yes, I know hlặng."

However, today we are talking about how English speakers use "you know" in other ways. These include social uses, such as saying "you know" to lớn soften the meaning of a statement.

Language experts have sầu a term for such an expression: an "acknowledgement marker."*

You vì not need to lớn worry about the term now. Just rethành viên that English speakers choose some words for social uses. They mean more than the individual words suggest.

Do not fear: we will clarify these points by giving you examples from popular culture.

"You know" in social situations

"You know" gives other people the idea that you have sầu some kind of shared knowledge with them. People use it lớn show that they have a common understanding.Sometimes people use an acknowledgment marker because they want khổng lồ know if you agree with them. Other times, they use it as a way to fill spaces in a conversation or discussion. Saying "you know" gives the speaker time to think of what lớn say next.

The context tells you which of these purposes "you know" serves.

Example #1

Let"s study an example. Think baông xã to the line from Caddyshack:

“And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something? You know, for the effort, you know.’”

Here, Murray is asking for a tip – a small payment. When Murray says "you know" before and after the words "for the effort," he is suggesting that the Dalai Lama knows he has worked hard.

Murray uses "you know" to offer a suggestion. He does not want to lớn ask for money directly. He wants to improve sầu his chances of getting the tip by using indirect language.

Murray"s caddy could have simply said, "Can you give sầu me a tip for helping you?" Such a direct question would be considered disrespectful in American culture.

Example #2

Let"s look at another example. Consider this exchange from the 1994 film, Leon The Professional.

- "My parents died in a car accident four weeks ago. It was terrible."- "You know, we didn"t have the time khổng lồ get to lớn know one another when you first came here. But I want you to know that I"m not the kind of woman who"d let down a child, whatever her situation, whatever her mistake.

Here, the second speaker begins her sentence with "you know." In this situation, she wants khổng lồ gain the trust of the young girl.

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She begins her sentence with "you know" so that it gives the girl the idea that they have sầu a connection. She wants to give sầu her new information, but she also wants lớn make her words sound familiar. She also wants lớn improve sầu her chances of a positive response from the young girl.

Example #3

Here is one final example. Imagine two people are staying late at work. One person might tell another person they need lớn go.

She might say:

"Hey, Jane, you know, the last train leaves in 15 minutes!"

Here the speaker is presenting information about the train, as if it is known information. Jane probably does not know that the train is leaving soon. But her coworker wants lớn soften the statement by using language that suggests she does know that the train is leaving.

History and "you know"

The term "you know" is not a new form of slang. "You know" has a long history, according to lớn John McWhorter, a language expert.

He says that English speakers have sầu long used words và expressions such as "you know."

McWhorter points lớn lines in Geoffrey Chaucer"s Canterbury Tales as an example. Chaucer wrote the now famous work in the 14th century.

In the Knight"s Tale, the character Emily says the words "thou woost."

The word "thou" later became "you" as the English language changed over time. "Woost" is the verb that eventually became "know." McWhorter notes that "thou woost" was the 14th century version of the modern-day "you know."*

What can you do?

The next time you are listening to lớn an English speaker, try khổng lồ find examples of "you know." How often does the person use those words? Why bởi you think they are using them?

You should be careful about using "you know." Sometimes English learners become nervous & use "you know" too often. This overuse of "you know" means that they vị not practice using other expressions or vocabulary.

The point of today"s story was to show you how English speakers use certain words & expressions for social uses. There are many others – which we can explore in another Everyday Grammar program.

-"You know, I think we should end our report now."

-"Ok – I think you are right."

I"m Jill Robbins.

And I"m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

*McWhorter, John. Words on the Move: Why English Won"t – và Can"t - Sit Still (Like, Literally). Henry Holt và Co. năm nhâm thìn. Pg. 34

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Words in This Story

outrageous adj. very strange or unusual

going to lớn stiff (someone) – expression – lớn not pay someone the amount of money that you should pay them; khổng lồ fail to lớn pay a tip

consciousness – n. the condition of being conscious; the normal state of being awake and able to lớn understand what is happening around you

literal – adj. involving the ordinary or usual meaning of a word

context – n.

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the words that are used with a certain word or phrase và that help khổng lồ explain its meaning

slang – n. words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language và that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people