Informal Conversations: Using Adjectives to Express Enthusiasm or Agreement

Native English speakers often use adjectives to express agreement, particularly enthusiastic agreement, with statements, suggestions, or propositions. In everyday speech, these “adjectives of agreement” frequently come at or near the end of making plans for a specific activity. They are especially common in text conversations where there is less opportunity for subtly and nuance. Consider the following exchanges, which recreate text message exchanges between native speakers:

Jan and I are going to see the new super hero movie on Saturday. Want to join us?
Where and what time?
6 at the AMC by the mall.
Sure. I’m in.
Meet at the theater at 5?
Sounds good to me.
Awesome! We’ll see you then!

In the context of this conversation, “awesome” is akin to saying “we think it’s great that you’re coming” or “we look forward to you joining us.” Here’s another example:

What are you doing on Saturday?
I haven’t made any plans yet.
Want to go to music festival? I have an extra ticket.
Sure. When does it start?
Want to get dinner before?
That sounds great.
Pick you up around 6?
Cool! I’ll text you when I’m on my way.

The idea being expressed by “cool” in this exchange is essentially the same as that of “awesome” in the previous example. The speaker doesn’t literally mean that he or she expects the concert to feel cold anymore than the speaker in the previous exchange expects seeing a movie with his or her friends to be an awe-inspiring experience.

While such informal uses of English adjectives are almost entirely context dependent, there are a couple of guidelines that you should keep in mind.  First, the adjective used must be generally understood to have a positive connotation. For example, excellent, amazing, great, and sweet would be acceptable substitutions for “awesome” and “cool” in the above examples. However, negative adjectives, such as awful, horrible, and terrible, would not.

Second, while this sort of informal adjective use is considered acceptable between friends, you should use it sparingly, if at all, in business and other formal exchanges. You could, for instance, use it in a quick text exchange confirming a business lunch with another professional who you already have an established working relationships with, but you shouldn’t conclude an introductory email conversation with a potential client, employer, or employee in this manner.