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What Is Colloquial Language (Colloquialism): Features, Types, Examples

In this article, you will learn what a colloquial language is, and what function it performs, read about the characteristics, features, and genres of a colloquialism, and also find examples of this functional writing style.

What Is Colloquial Language (Colloquialism)

What is colloquial language
What Is a Colloquial Language: Meaning

Colloquial language (colloquialism) is a functional language style usually used verbally for informal communication (exceptions may be diary entries, notes, or private letters).

Thus, the main function of colloquialism is communication, which provides casual connections between people.

Colloquial’s field of application is different domestic relations: at home, among friends and acquaintances, communicating with colleagues, in the store, and any other informal setting.

In addition, colloquialism is found in journalistic (news) style and in literature, where the main aim is reliable and realistic communication. In journalistic style colloquial language can be used, for example, to report from the scene of the accident, in literature – to create the necessary atmosphere or to describe the nature and personality of a character.

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What Are the Features of Colloquial Language

The characteristic features of the colloquial language are:

  1. The verbal form of communication. But there may be exceptions: diary entries, notes, private letters, writing works.
  2. Informality and ease.
  3. Emotionality (in the form of a live reaction to the words and actions of people).
  4. Concreteness.
  5. Simplicity and ordinariness.

In addition to the above characteristics, the colloquial language has some distinguishing features:

  1. It is most often used in the form of a dialogue.
  2. Information is not pre-selected.
  3. Facial expressions, gestures, and the environment play an important role.
  4. Words are used in a figurative sense. There are incomplete sentences, appeals, interjections, and particles, repetitions of words.
  5. Emotional words and expressions (nightmare, horror, victory, wonderful, etc.).
  6. Violation of the logical and syntactic word order in the sentence.
  7. Fragmented speech (“A pound of apples, please.”).
  8. Intonation plays a special role: raising or lowering the tone, stretching vowels, pauses, and changing the pace of speech.
  9. The vocabulary of the colloquial language consists of commonly used words (work, read, book, house) and colloquial words (gonna, wanna, trash, cheers).
  10. There is jargon (jargon is formal language unique to a specific discipline: cache, hard copy, cash), slang (OMG, vibe), and dialectisms (a word or phrase found in a particular dialect).
  11. Rarely used terminology and abstract words.
  12. If possible, phrases are shortened and simplified. Instead of several words, one can be used.
  13. The colloquial style is rich in idioms: seven times measure cut once, so far so good, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  14. To enhance emotionality, people use an exaggeration: I’ll be there in two seconds, I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
  15. Lots of pronouns (I, you, we) and verbs. Participles are rarely found.

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Genres of the Colloquial Language

In oral form, the colloquial language is presented in the form of such genres as:

  • Conversation (talk).
  • Telephone conversation.

Genres of colloquial style in writing:

  • A note.
  • Internet communication.
  • Text message (SMS).
  • Private letters.
  • Entries in a personal diary.

Of course, the main genre of the colloquial language is conversation. Depending on the number of participants, this may be a dialogue or a monologue.

Dialogue is an exchange of remarks, questions, and answers between two or more people.

The dialogue is characterized by a frequent change of roles “speaking – listening” so that the interlocutors alternately act in one or another role. Replicas can also express explanation, extension, agreement, objection, motivation, etc.

A monologue is a first-person speech addressed to the listener or oneself, not intended for a response.

In a colloquial language, dialogue and monologue are rarely found in their pure form: the monologue can be interrupted by the interlocutors’ remarks, and the dialogue, in turn, can include mini-monologues and microstories.

Examples of Colloquialism in Literature

As an example of a colloquial language, below there are fragments from the books of the modern (genius) Swedish writer Fredrik Backman. Colloquial speech in his works comes out very realistic and vital.

Example 1

Fragment from Fredrik Backman’s book “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry”:

Granny glares with dissatisfaction at the windows. And then at Elsa.

“So now you can’t even smoke at the police station. Jesus. It’s like being in 1984.”

Elsa yawns again. “Can I borrow your phone?”

“What for?”

“To check something.”



“You invest too much time on that Internet stuff.”

“You mean, ‘spend.’?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“What I mean is, you don’t use ‘invest’ in that way. You wouldn’t go round saying, ‘I invested two hours in reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,’ would you?”

Granny just rolls her eyes and hands her the phone. “Did you ever hear about the girl who blew up because she did too much thinking?”

The policeman who shuffles into the room looks very, very tired.

“I want to call my lawyer,” Granny demands at once.

“I want to call my mum!” Elsa demands at once.

“In that case, I want to call my lawyer first!” Granny insists.

The policeman sits down opposite them and fidgets with a little pile of papers.

“Your mother is on her way,” he says to Elsa with a sigh.

Granny makes the sort of dramatic gasp that only Granny knows how to do.

Example 2

Fragment from the book “Britt-Marie Was Here”:

“You should move the car. They’ll shoot the soccer ball at it, huh.”

Britt-Marie shakes her head patiently.

“It certainly cannot be moved, it exploded as I was parking it.”

Somebody laughs. She pushes her wheelchair around the car, and looks at the soccer ball-shaped dent in the passenger door.

“Ah. Flying stone.” She chuckles.

“What’s that?” asks Britt-Marie, reluctantly following behind and glaring at the soccer ball–shaped dent.

“Flying stone. When the car workshop call insurance company, huh. Then the workshop say, ‘flying stone,’ ” chuckles Somebody.

Britt-Marie fumbles after her list in her handbag.

“Ha. Might I ask where I’ll find the nearest mechanic?”

“Here,” says Somebody.

Britt-Marie peers skeptically—at Somebody, obviously, not at the wheelchair. Britt-Marie is not one of those types who judges people.

“You repair cars, do you?”

Somebody shrugs.

“They shut down the car workshop, huh. We do what we can. But never bloody mind that now! I show you the recreation center, yeah?”

She holds up the envelope with the keys. Britt-Marie takes it, looks at Somebody’s bottle of vodka, and keeps a firm grip on her handbag. Then she shakes her head.

“That’s perfectly all right, thank you. I don’t want to create any bother.”

“No bother for me,” says Somebody and nonchalantly rolls her wheelchair back and forth.

Britt-Marie smiles superbly.

“I wasn’t alluding to your bother.”


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