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Swearing and taboo expressions

Swear words and taboo words can intensify what is said, but they can shock or give offence. Swearing and the use of taboo words and expressions is quite common in speaking. We often hear and use it both in private and in public settings and in films, on television and on the radio.

The use of taboo expressions suggests that speakers have, or wish to have, a close personal relationship with others. We also use taboo expressions and swear words when we express strong feelings, or when we wish to threaten or to be unpleasant to others.

The strength of the words and expressions here is marked in stars. A very strong expression has five stars (*****) and a less strong expression has one star (*). People have different views about which expressions are stronger than others.

Taboo expressions involving religion

Damn*! She’s borrowed my camera without telling me.

Oh bloody hell**! Just leave me alone, will you.

Christ***! Why didn’t you tell us how much the new brakes were going to cost!!

Taboo expressions involving parts of the body

Shit****! I’ve forgotten to phone Geoff.

Oh fuck it*****! I can’t find my phone.

We sometimes use wh-exclamatives with taboo words:

Why the hell* is he driving so fast!

What the fuck***** has she done to my laptop!

You will find the meanings of most taboo expressions in a good learner’s dictionary.

Taboo intensifiers

Taboo expressions are very common as intensifying adverbs or adjectives:

Where’s the bloody** key?

He’s fucking***** dangerous. He needs to get proper skis.

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