Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
English acronyms

Have you heard people talk about going to the ATM?

Do you hear people say that they offer something “IMO?”

There are so many different acronyms and initialisms in English and it can be hard to distinguish what each of them means.

We’re going to look at some of the more common acronyms in American English or initialisms, what they mean, and how to use them. These would also be high-level vocabulary words that you could use on IELTS Speaking Part 1 to get a vocabulary score of 7 or 8.

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Today we have a great question!

Hi ladies,

I love listening to your show, and it helps me a lot! I have a question that I’m hoping you can help me with.

I was talking with a friend of mine and he wrote the words “imo” and “atm.” I don’t understand what these mean, and so it’s confusing to me.

Can you guys explain to me what these mean? I didn’t find these in any dictionary, so I’m hoping you can help me.

Congrats on your show, you guys rock!

Rodrigo Xavier

Some Helpful Background

That’s a great listener question, and you have likely had the same experience.

Sometimes hearing these terms or others like it, may be confusing to you–and what you have to remember is that you are not alone!

We have done some episodes that you may want to check out for some helpful background.

So this is a very popular topic, as you can see!

However since this is such a popular topic and there is a specific question, it’s important to focus on this aspect.

This topic is always great to review and to continue learning about.

You will hear and notice that many natives use these acronyms, and they can be a bit confusing at times.

Once you learn some of the most popular ones, you can start to use them in conversations.

At the very least understanding them when they are used in conversation can be quite helpful.

Common Acronyms and Initialisms

This may be a confusing aspect of conversations in English.

There are so many acronyms, but you have to start by understanding a few of the most common ones.

Some are used frequently and therefore you hear them all the time in conversation.

Some are used even more frequently than the longer version, whereas some are more informal in nature.

Initialisms is an acronym /acronyms though there is some confusion.

An acronym makes an entirely new word generally speaking, and initialisms say each letter.

Here are some newer ones that are common, and therefore you may hear them quite a bit in conversation.

  • ATM: Automated Teller Machine. It’s like a bank teller- you can go to for transactions. You can do deposits and withdrawals of money from your account. You rarely hear somebody say the full words, so this is a very common one.
  • IMO: In my opinion. This is a newer one but is used quite a bit, especially with the younger generation. If somebody is offering their opinion, particularly over text or social media, they would abbreviate to this.
  • AC: Air Conditioning. This is used almost as frequently if not more than saying the words. It’s universal and very popular, and so you will hear it used a lot.
  • POTUS: President of the United States. This can be used especially in print or on social media where you may be more limited. You may hear the actual title used just as often since it’s more formal.
  • VP: You may even hear “Veep” like the TV show. It means Vice President, and it’s often used in conversation as the shortened version.
  • Pin: Personal Identification Number. Many people have never used the longer version. You tend to use a PIN so often, that you hear it shortened and that’s all you may even recognize.
  • OJ: Orange juice. You can use both and you will hear them used interchangeably in conversation.

These are all great to use and you will hear them often.

Try using one in conversation, and see how natural it feels.

Roleplay To Help

Since these acronyms can be a little tricky, a roleplay may come in very handy here.

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Michelle are making a plan for the day.

Lindsay: “So what should we do today?”

Michelle: “IMO, we need to get things done. I need to go to the ATM.”

Lindsay: “Didn’t you forget your PIN number?”

Michelle: “Yes–so I’ll have to actually go in now that I think of it. Want some OJ?”

Lindsay: “Sure. Oh jeez, we have to get someone over to repair our AC before it gets hot.”

Michelle: “That’s true. Ok **I’m on it.**”

Lindsay: “Oh dear, did you see what POTUS tweeted?”

Michelle: “What else is new? Did the VP comment?”

Lindsay: “No.”


The question from the listener was good, and you have probably had some confusion of your own about this topic.

There are ENDLESS examples of acronyms, initialisms, and aspects of English like this which can be confusing.

This was a fun mixup, but we can do themes in the future as well.

Try using these today- listen for what others say so that you have a good starting point.

Do you hear people using the letters or the actual words more frequently?

Try using these often, and see which ones are your favorites.

In no time you will be a natural at using these, and they will lead to helpful and important connections.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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