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[ESL/ EFL] Giving Compliments
Seventh in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev
Jennifer Lebedev (jenesl)     Print Article 
  Published 2008-07-30 05:28 (KST)   

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Situation No. 1: Complimenting athletes

Sports fans and athletes themselves should always be able to recognize a good performance. At the end of a game, it's acceptable to say to either the winner or the loser: "You played a good game." Or more concisely: "Good game." You can also comment on one specific moment or skill. For example, you can pay your golfing buddy this compliment: "That was a nice shot." Or tell a fellow tennis player: "You have a powerful serve."

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Situation No. 2: Complimenting peers

At work and at school, we often witness the accomplishments of our peers. It's perfectly natural at times to feel a degree of envy, but if you're heart is pure, you're able to admire a person for successfully meeting a challenge. So if a colleague closed a business deal or if a classmate got a high score on an exam, you can say: "Nice job." Keep the compliment simple, and you're sincerity won't be questioned.

Situation No. 3: Complimenting others on their talents or looks

Who isn't impressed by true talent? When you're lucky enough to see or hear a good performance, you want to tell the person just how impressed you are.

You can comment specifically on the person's skill:

"You have an amazing voice."
"You have a real knack for public speaking."

You can also offer a general compliment:

"You're very talented."
"You have a true gift."

Some people are lucky enough to have talent AND good looks. But even those of us who don't look like a Hollywood movie star appreciate hearing a kind word or two about our appearance. It's really quite common to compliment others on their looks. In fact, sometimes the absence of a compliment can cause hurt. For instance, people are often self-conscious when they change their hairstyle, and if others deliberately avoid commenting on it, the person with the new hairstyle can feel even more uncomfortable. Saying, "You got a new haircut. It looks good," can make the person feel more confident about his or her new look.

When it comes to physical appearance, it's probably more typical for women to compliment other women than for men to compliment other men. Men can pay compliments to women on their looks, but it may be interpreted as an expression of romantic interest.

Whatever the case, the following compliments are very common:

"You look very nice today."
"Nice tie (dress, jacket, shoes, etc.)"
"That color looks very good on you."
"That color suits you very well."

Just remember to be sincere. If you suspect that someone is paying you a compliment in order to gain something, you can explain with humor: "Flattery will get you nowhere."

Situation No. 4: Complimenting a dinner host

As a dinner guest, it's not only acceptable but even expected that you compliment your host on the food served. You can say something during the meal such as: "This is delicious!" After the meal you can express your appreciation once again: "Thank you. I really enjoyed the company and the food."

If you particularly like a dish as a dinner guest, it's acceptable to request the recipe: "This is really good. I would love to have the recipe." Many hosts will take this a high compliment.

Situation No. 5: Complimenting others on a new purchase

When someone makes a major purchase and shares it with you in some way, compliments are very appropriate. Truthfully, people often need to hear others express admiration in order to feel good about the purchase. The more money paid, the more risk there is of feeling buyer's remorse.

To make a person feel confident about having made a wise purchase, give compliments like these:

"Now this is a really good car. I'm sure it handles well."
"That's a fine-looking sports car you have. How does it handle?"
"Congratulations on your new home! It's wonderful."
"You bought an apartment? That's a great location."
"Let me see your new laptop. Cool. I like the design. How's the performance?"

Situation No.6: Complimenting young children

I don't know anyone who can't smile back at a happy baby or small child. All children are beautiful, but some really have a high degree of charm. On a plane, in the grocery store or at a doctor's office it's quite common for strangers to pay compliments to children.

If you find a child particularly cute, you may speak directly to the child or offer your words to the parents:

"What a sweet baby!"
"Hello there! Aren't you cute?"
"You have a beautiful daughter."
"That's a very handsome boy you have."

Remember that the best way to give any compliment is to do it sincerely. When you receive a compliment, accept it. Just say: "Thank you." If you're very surprised, you can say: "Really? You think so? Thank you." But don't call more attention to the situation by strongly denying the other person's words. This can actually be seen by some as false modesty.

You might also try returning a compliment, but if you have to think too hard about what to say, then it's best to stop at "thank you." Offering a compliment just because another person paid you a compliment can come off as sounding forced and not genuine.

- [ESL/ EFL podcast] Giving Compliments 
- [ESL/ EFL podcast] Giving Compliments 

©2008 OhmyNews
Jennifer Lebedev is a teacher of English as a second and foreign language with 12 years experience. She has additional experience in teacher training and administration of an IEP and is a published author. Find more of her online English instruction on YouTube under the name "JenniferESL".
Other articles by reporter Jennifer Lebedev

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Seventeenth in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev...
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