48 Things British People Say And What They Actually Mean

This table highlights the British trait of being too polite to speak one’s mind

If the vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar weren’t hard enough, this table sheds light on just how difficult it can be for a foreigner to understand what the British really mean when they’re speaking. A very important lesson not taught at school.



The author of the table is unconfirmed, although it is thought it may have originally been drawn up by a Dutch company as an attempt to help employees working in the UK.

Other simple British expressions that could be misunderstood


What the British Say

What the British mean

What others understand

16. Sorry

Not used as a heartfelt apology, rather it is used to avoid an embarrassing situation. Saying sorry is like a national tic.

I sincerely apologize

17. How do you do?

This is a formal greeting and not an invitation for commentary on a person’s quality of life. Don’t take literally and reply truthfully, with a list of ailments.

Please provide a rundown of your most recent medical.

18. Cheers

Not only used when clinking glasses in a pub, but also used instead of  “thank you”, and signing off a phone call or an email.

To your good health

19. It’s a bit dear

A way to politely say something is too expensive

It’s slightly adorable

20. I got off with this fit bird

I made out with a good looking girl

I disembarked with an athletic pigeon

21. All right, darling?

Informal version of “How do you do?”

How are you, love of my life?

The Passive Aggressive List

What the British Say

What the British mean

22. I might join you later

I’m not leaving the house today unless it’s on fire

23. Excuse me, sorry, is anyone sitting here?

You have three seconds to move your bag before I end you.

24. Not to worry

I will never forget this

25. Bit wet out there

You’re going to need a snorkel because it’s absolutely pissing it down.

26. Ending an email with “Thanks”

A warning that you’re perilously close to losing your temper

27. Right then, I suppose I really should start thinking about possibly making a move


28. It’s fine

It really could not possibly get any worse, but no doubt it will do

29. Perfect

Well that’s that ruined then

30. A bit of a pickle

A catastrophically bad situation with potentially fatal consequences

31. Not too bad, actually

I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been

32. Honestly, it doesn’t matter

Nothing has ever mattered more than this

33. You’ve caught the sun

You look like you’ve been swimming in a volcano

34. That’s certainly one way of looking at it

That’s certainly the wrong way of looking at it

35. If you say so

I’m afraid that what you’re saying is the height of idiocy

36. With all due respect

You have absolutely no idea what you’re  talking about

37. Saying “you’re welcome” as quietly as possible to people that don’t say thank you

Used as a form of punishment

38. Meanings of “I beg your pardon”

1. I didn’t hear you

2. I apologise

3. What you’re saying is making me absolutely livid

39. It could be worse

It couldn’t possibly be any worse

40. Each to their own

You’re wrong, but never mind

41. Pop round anytime

Please stay away from my house

42 I’m just popping out for lunch, does anyone want anything?

I’m getting my own lunch now, please remain silent

43. No no, honestly, my fault

It was exceedingly your fault and we both know it

44. No yeah that’s very interesting

You are boring me to death

45. Just whenever you get a minute


46 No harm done

You have caused complete and utter chaos

47. I’m sure it’ll be fine

I fully expect the situation to deteriorate rapidly

48. Sorry, I think you might  have dropped something

You have definitely dropped that specific item




  1. Richard Ashcroft08/08/2014

    Fairly helpful, I think, and worth a quick read.
    [Completely correct in all regards, read it now, read it carefully, memorize it, and don't ask me any more stupid questions about what I mean or look confused every time I use words that have more than two syllables. Bloody Americans.]

  2. Faye Elizabeth White27/02/2015

    Nicked can also mean arrested

  3. […] Read more here […]


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