Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people use the word “real” in several different ways in English?

Is this one of those words that you feel may have multiple meanings or have many different uses?

In episode 1515, we spoke about words like nail-biter, head turner, and things of that nature.

We realized that we use the word “real” before a lot of these and mentioned that we wanted to do a follow up on this–and that’s what brought us to this very episode.

In the meantime though, we want to focus o the word “real” and the role that it plays in conversation.

Though you may know one literal meaning for it, we’re going to look at how to use it in a way that helps to highlight certain words and phrases.

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What Does The Word “Real” Do?

You have likely heard and even used the word real, because it’s quite common in English.

It’s a regular part of conversations, and yet it has a variety of different purposes.

In this context, we are looking at what the word “real” can do within a specific purpose.

So what does the word “real” do here?

If I say something was a real head-turner for example–why would I say that?

Why not just something was a head turner?

  • It is natural sounding, kind of like a filler: Yet it doesn’t come across as a filler or something unnecessary, but rather something that just accents things nicely. It helps you to add a bit of something and is therefore a filler with a purpose. It actually sounds like a natural fit here, and so it’s a perfect word to use and will likely just come easily.
  • It makes things a little bit more exaggerated: It helps to add that little bit of emphasis that may be needed. It adds a bit of intensity or it helps to exaggerate the word or phrase that you are talking about. If you want to accent that phrase just a little bit more, then using “real” is the perfect solution.
  • It adds personality: It adds a bit of color or personality to whatever you are saying. It makes you a great conversationalist and ensures that people see that you are speaking at a more advanced level. You are adding color and personality through just one word, and so it really can make a difference.

You may have even used real in your conversations before, particularly with certain phrases.

It’s something that just comes naturally, and so it’s worth listening for and trying out on your own.

This is a great part of English to focus on because it’s something that even natives don’t necessarily stop to think about—but this one little addition can make a huge difference.

Breaking Down This One Word

You may wonder how one word can really make that big of a difference.

You might think that perhaps real is best used as the actual definition for it when it comes to conversation.

Of course we know the word “real” as true—as if you are talking about a real Rolex watch as opposed to a fake or knock off watch.

Yes that is the primary usage for the word real, but this is just an extension of that.

This is very similar in actuality, because it’s just saying it’s true and not fake in a different sort of way.

We use it in a similar way to really, and you can start to see this usage take shape as you will likely begin to practice it on your own.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of this so that you can start to understand how this works.

When you see these in practice, you can start to get a true appreciation for how you can use this in your conversations quite naturally.

  • “It’s a real mystery why she didn’t show up”: Using real here just helps to accentuate that it’s mysterious to everyone. Nobody knows the reason why and this highlights that sort of mystery.
  • “I’m sorry I can’t come. It’s a real bummer for sure”: You are further driving the point home that it’s too bad that you can’t make it. This helps the other person to feel good about why you have to miss, and it shows your disappointment perfectly.
  • “He was a real class clown, I remember him.”: This shows that he was quite the memorable class clown. It wasn’t just one isolated incident, but rather several that allowed you to remember him for his humor. He stood out!
  • “He’s a real winner.”: Here it is used sarcastically, and that may be a common use as well. You can pick up on this with intonation from the speaker, and therefore it can help you to see that this is used in a way to sort of poke fun. It’s not at all malicious, but makes a subtle joke and uses sarcasm to do so.

You may find that you hear “real” used to talk about the past sometimes too.

This is one of those words that has multiple uses, and so you are bound to hear it and use it in your conversations often.

Other Great Expressions That Use Real

There are so many great expressions that use the word “real” in them, and you want to check these out too.

You start to realize just what a popular word this is, and how many different ways it can be used.

Here are a few great expressions that use the word real, and you will want to practice them so that you can see for yourself how they have a place in your conversations.

  • The real deal: This is saying that something is true, and not at all fake. It is sometimes used to say something is amazing or great in some way. You could use this to talk about a person, a situation, or something really memorable that stood out. This subject may actually be surprising, and so you may find that people really comment when it comes to be. You could say “I thought they’d break up after two days, but it looks like this is the real deal!”
  • It’s been real: This is used to say something was a good time or a good experience. It can be said after spending some time together or after some experience occurred. It may be used in a sarcastic manner, or it may be genuine in nature. It’s often said at the end of something, and it works well in that way. You might hear “Ok, well I’m gonna head off. It’s been real.”
  • Keep it real: This means that you should be true to yourself and be who you really are. Be sincere, and be honest about who you are and what you want. It’s something that may be said to inspire somebody, and it may serve as a good reminder in certain situations. This is about being sincere and staying true to who you really are. You might say something like “I like people who keep it real. I want genuine people in my life.”
  • It’s getting real: This can be used with a curse word, or it can be used as is. This basically means that everything is taken up a notch. Suddenly you are at a different level and things are much more life like or realistic than they ever used to be. You may see this used a lot when people get engaged because it focuses on that next level of commitment. You might say “It just got real” or “it’s just getting real” because both can work in this context.

Roleplay To Help

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Michelle are saying goodbye after a long visit together.

Lindsay: “Oh man, Michelle. This was so much fun.”

Michelle: “Yeah, I had a great trip. It’s been real.”

Lindsay: “Definitely. It was a real funfest.”

Michelle: “For sure. I wasn’t sure if we’d be good travel buddies, but we are the real deal!”

Lindsay: “I agree. I think it’s because we both like to keep it real. We don’t need glitzy stuff on vacations.”

Michelle”: Good point. Oh my goodness- Steve and Rachel are engaged! Wow. It just got real. I think they’re a good match.”


The word “real” is a very natural word, and it is used in many different ways.

As you can see, there are some great expressions that use this word and so it is bound to come up in conversation quite a bit.

This word has multiple uses and really helps to highlight certain phrases, so it serves a very distinct purpose.

This is a great one to try out today, and see how it works for you in your conversations in a natural and effective way to highlight things and make them more interesting.

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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