Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever heard a native English speaker use the word “per se”?

Do you know what it means and how to use it?

Today we’ll find out exactly how natives use it in natural everyday conversation.

Hi great hosts, thanks for another awesome episode. Would you be able to introduce “per se” someday? Thank you a lot. Xiaojun Xu

So What Does It Mean?

It means intrinsically, in itself, by definition.

For example, “I’m not a vegetarian per se, but I tend to stay away from meat as much as I can.”

So this means, I’m not 100 percent a vegetarian, but I’m pretty close.

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More Examples:

  • “He’s not a big spender per se, but he doesn’t necessarily watch his budget too closely.”
  • “I don’t dislike him per se, but he’s not my favorite person.”
  • “The students didn’t all fail the exam, per se. There were a few who did really well.”

When Can This Be Helpful?

Here are two specific instances which may be useful in your everyday conversations:

  • in expressing habits : “I’m not a swimmer, per se, but I do try to go to the pool several times a week.
  • to express your opinion: “It’s not the best book ever written, per se, but I do think it’s one of *the greats.

Could you say these examples WITHOUT using “per se”?

Yes, they would have the same meaning, however per se adds color to the language and let’s the listener know you are being precise.

What Else Could You Say?

  • By definition: “I’m not a baker by definition, but I am working on writing a cookbook on how I make cupcakes because people really like them.”
  • Necessarily: “I don’t need to go on a big trip this year necessarily (or I don’t need to necessarily go), but it would be nice to get away.
  • Exactly: “I don’t think he’s exactly funny, but he makes me laugh from time to time.”


Per se is a nice addition to a sentence to express your thoughts precisely. It is unique sounding and will impress people. Some words don’t necessarily HAVE to be added to a sentence, but they are there to help with the flow and enhance what you are saying.

What questions or comments do you have?

Please ask them in the comments section below.

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