Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people talk about shapes in English?

Do you feel as if shapes find a way into conversation more than you might realize?

Today we’re talking about shapes, and the way in which we talk about them in conversation.

You will find that we talk about shapes a lot in English, and you will learn how to be a part of the conversation in a big way.

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Talking About Shapes

We use shapes a lot in our language, and therefore you will find that they come up often in conversation.

The idea therefore came up to do an episode about shapes, since it’s such a common part of the language.

You will be surprised at how often shapes become a part of the conversation, or how they just come up without you even thinking about them.

There are aspects of our vocabulary that include shapes, and oftentimes it’s not even what you might expect.

You want this to all sound very natural, and so you want to think about what you are focusing on in this aspect of conversation.

There are some very specific terms that center around shapes that you want to be aware of.

There are so many of them, that we will have to do a follow up episode.

For today though, you want to know what some of these terms are so that you can use them in conversation.

Think about what these terms mean, when they may come up in conversation, and how you can use them in a meaningful way.

Terms About Shapes

These words and phrases aren’t just used directly to talk about a shape.

They have different meanings and ways of being used, and you want to be in tune to those.

These are the shape references that you may hear used often, and so you can see how to make them a part of your conversations.

  • Boxed in: This means trapped in a variety of different ways. You can use this to mean that you feel trapped either physically or mentally . It gives off a certain negative meaning when you use it in conversation. You could say “I start getting anxious when I feel boxed in.” Can you think of a time where you felt boxed in and therefore felt a certain sense of panic or uncertainty?
  • Panhandle: This refers to states within the United States that have a narrow area to them. If you look at them on a map, you can see that they almost look like they have a panhandle to them in their appearance. This would include states such as Texas, Idaho, and Florida. You might say something like “I really want to go to some panhandle states.” Have you ever visited any of the panhandle states in the US?
  • Come full circle: This means simply to complete, or to go back to what was previously. You might think of this in a certain situation or even in a TV show or movie, where it ends up coming back to the beginning. A good example of this is the show Seinfeld, where things always ended up where they started so they came full circle. You could say “We’ve come full circle on our research. Now we should get ready to present.” When was the last time that you felt you came full circle on something?
  • Oval Office: This is the term used to describe where the President works within the White House. It is their own dedicated space, and when you bring it up people know that you are talking about the office of the President of the United States. You might say “We hope there will be a new President in the oval office next year!” How would you feel if you ever got to visit the actual Oval Office?
  • A square peg in a round hole: This means that something doesn’t fit, or that it can’t be done. This usually means that you are trying to do something that is nearly impossible. This can be frustrating and yet you can’t force something to work that doesn’t fit or function in the way that you want it to. You usually use it as a phrase such as “It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” You could say “I’m so frustrated. I can’t finish this project without more time. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” What do you do when you feel like you are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole? Do you give up?

These are all words and phrases that use shape references in them.

As you can see, this vocabulary is not always about a shape directly, and so it’s a fun thing to learn and use in conversation.


Shapes are so helpful, not only for describing something visually, but for describing concepts.

There are so many of these, and so they are something you want to take the time to learn.

We will do a follow up, but in the meantime use these as a way of starting the conversation.

These shape words and phrases can help you to get the conversation started and to see how such references are used.

Listen for them in your English conversations, and you will quickly see that shapes are always going to be a part of the culture.

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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