8 Phrases International Students Should Know Before Moving to the UK

For those international students who have just moved to uni but are a little confused about the English Language… don’t worry! We’re here to help you out.

It can be super daunting when everyone around you is chatting in a different language you don’t know, and it can even make you feel left out at times.

There are plenty of phrases you can learn before moving your student accommodation to give you a head start on the English language.

We’ve done our research on the key phrases you should know, to give you a helping hand.

But first, let’s go into a little more detail on the English Language itself…

A Brief History Of The English Language

phrases in english international students should know

The English language started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD.

Most inhabitants of Britain at that time were Celtic speakers, they were pushed West to the North by invaders (which is now Scotland, Wales and Ireland!)

The Angles came from “Englaland” and their language was actually called “Englisc” sound familiar? This was where the two words “England” and “English” came from.

To put this all on a timeline, the Anglo-Saxons spoke Old English, which then shifted to the Normans who spoke Middle English, then came the English renaissance which led to Early Modern English.

After the Industrial Revolution and Colonialism there was a push to Late Modern English, and of course, after a boost in technology, is English today!

Currently, the Oxford Dictionary has around 171, 476 words in use, and 47,156 words being obsolete, pretty impressive, right?

What’s The Difference Between Accent And Dialect?

Are you unsure what the actual difference between an accent and a dialect is? Then keep reading!

The easiest way to think about it is that an accent is just simply how someone pronounces words, a style of pronunciation basically.

Someone’s dialect doesn’t just include pronunciations, it also includes general vocabulary and grammar.

For example, some people in the UK might refer to a cup of tea as a “cuppa”, others may just refer to it as a cup of tea, they both mean the same thing, but just said in different ways!

Dialects and accents can greatly vary depending on where the person is from but don’t worry, you’ll soon pick up on these little quirks the longer you’ve been studying here.

How Many Accents Are There In The UK?

how many accents are there in the uk

Did you know? There are around 37 different accents in the UK, that’s plenty to be confused about!

Don’t worry though, once you’ve lived in the UK for a few months you’ll start to get used to it, especially when studying at university, you’ll get used to it.

Geordie accents refer to those from Newcastle, Scousers are people from Liverpool, and Cockneys are from London, and that’s just to name a few!

If you can’t quite get used to some accents, don’t worry, there are even people who were born and raised in the UK that can’t quite understand some accents.

Younger people actually have an entirely different language on their own, so here are 15 popular words and phrases that international students need to know!


1. Cheers
(Thank you!)

phrases in english international students should know

When studying in the UK, you’re definitely going to hear the word cheers a lot. It basically just means thank you.

So if someone holds the door open for you, or picks up something you’ve dropped, you could say “cheers!”

The word “cheers” can also be used during a toast (a ritual in which a drink is taken as an expression of good will) like during a wedding, or general celebration.

2. Alright?
(Hello, you okay?)

phrases in english

So, this basically means “hello, are you okay?” in just one word, nice and simple!

Don’t take this the wrong way or get confused if someone says “Alright?” to you, it’s a friendly hello, but just short and sweet.

3. Soz

phrases in english for sorry

This is basically a short, informal way of saying sorry. Although it’s important to note that just because someone says “soz” doesn’t mean they’re actually sorry!

If anything, it’s a little too informal and silly for a genuine apology, and is usually used amongst friends in a jokey or sarcastic manor.

4. Knackered

phrases in english international students should know

When someone is ‘knackered’ they are basically really tired! For example, if you come home from a long day at university, you might be ‘knackered’ and need an early night.

It’s a slang word generally meaning exhausted, although, we wouldn’t say this word is polite as such, but it’s definitely not a rude word.

Let’s just say, you couldn’t really use the word knackered in that English essay you’re writing!

5. Init
(Isn’t It?)

international students should know these phrases

This is a slang word meaning “isn’t it” and is usually used in a conversation with close friends.

The word “init” is often used at the end of sentences when you’re agreeing with someone, usually for dramatic effect!

For example, take a look at the conversation below:

You: “Wow, it’s so cold outside today.”
Friend: “Init!”

Tip: this word shouldn’t really be used in a professional manor, it’s very informal and generally used around the younger generation.

6. Bevvy

phrases in english foreign students should know

Bevvy is basically short for the word ‘beverage’ which is defined as a drink other than water.

Nowadays, if you hear the word bevvy, it basically refers to an alcoholic beverage, you may go out with your new friends for a “bevvy”

The term ‘bevvied’ is also a popular one too, if you got ‘bevvied’ with your friends, you’ve drank too much alcohol and got drunk, oops!

7. Ta

thank you phrases in english international students should know

This is another very informal word for thank you, and is super popular, especially in certain areas of the UK.

It’s a short and simple way of saying thank you which could be used when someone holds the door open for you, or when a shop assistant serves you at your local supermarket.

Ta is a great word to use in your vocabulary, it’s considered polite and a generally friendly term.

8.  Not Being Funny
(Usually heard at the beginning of a rant)

popular phrases international students should know

Beware! The popular phrase “not being funny” is usually used when someone is about to rant and moan about someone, or something.

The term is used at the start of a statement that may seem surprising or impolite, hence the “not funny” aspect!

If someone says “not being funny” it usually means they’re about to be quite direct in their statement.

9. To Be Fair
(To be honest)

english phrases for foreign students

The phrase ‘to be fair’ is usually used when you’re giving an opinion or criticism of something, and you don’t want it to seem too strong.

For example, you could say “I don’t like her music, although to be fair I’m not a fan of rock as a genre”.

It’s important to remember that people might not always say to be fair if they’re wanting to give their opinion/critique though, people just often put it on the end of a sentence in a casual way.

Example: “I’m quite tired too, to be fair.”

It’s really all about practice and judging the tone of the sentence, you’ll be able to figure it out eventually!

10. Sound

english words intrenational students should know

When you say something is “sound” you basically mean it’s okay, it’s a generally friendly slang term, but can also be used in a sarcastic manor at times.

One of your university friends could say to you “I’m having pizza, do you want some?” and you could reply “yeah, sound!”

We hope these tips help you out with your big move to the UK! You’re going to love it here. It might also be beneficial to look at some language courses that could really give you an extra push in learning the English language. Planning to go to uni in the UK? You might need to take an IELTS test first!

There are plenty of summer schools in the UK, and we provide fabulous short-term accommodation to give you a good base along the way. You get all the same wonderful amenities as our long-term residents to ensure that your stay is as comfortable as possible.

We look forward to meeting you!

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