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A handy guide to what British people mean when they speak

If your British friend or colleague tells you “You must come for dinner”, never take this to mean he/she will invite you for dinner. Rest assured that the invitation will never arrive.

What British people say and what they mean is quite different. Their politeness to speak up their minds can easily make you misunderstand what they mean when they speak. This can be more frustrating for a foreigner who takes every word a British person says at face value.

For instance, when a British person says: “With the greatest respect”, what he/she actually means is “You are an idiot”, yet most foreigners understand this to mean “He is listening to me”.

An anonymous person developed a translation table to help foreigners decipher what British people mean when they speak. The table, whose author is unknown, was posted online by Duncan Green, a strategic adviser for Oxfam. He said it was “a handy guide for our fellow Europeans, and others trying to fathom weaselly Brit-speak.”

If you’d like to understand what a British person means, then you should carefully read the following.

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