Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

vocabulary screw up go off

Do you wonder if you’ve “screwed up” anything lately?

Have you heard somebody “go off” on somebody in English?

Taking it a bit further–is it appropriate to use such phrases with a boss or coworker in English?

We’re going to focus on what these phrases mean, but more importantly when it’s okay to use them.

Today we start with a question from a listener.

Hi, Lindsay

I listened to AEE podcast episode 907.

I didn’t know the words “screw up” and “go off”.

Are they natural and you usually use these words?

And one more question.

Should I use more formal words such as “hinder” or “disturb” when I talk to seniors (which I mean a person who is superior to me like my boss or a higher grade student )?

Or in conversation, are the informal words like “spoil” or “ruin”  more natural even if talking to seniors?

Thank you.



All Ears English Transcripts

Make sure you understand every word you hear on All Ears English.

Bring your English to the advanced level with new vocabulary and natural expressions.

Get the transcripts from today’s episode.

Learn to speak naturally with the American accent.

Click here to subscribe and save 50%



Start By Understanding The Meaning First

Start with what the actual phrase means for clarification.

To go off can mean to get angry at and yell at someone.

This is usually a very stern and even explosive reaction that can’t be mistaken.

  • An example: “She really went off on me when I was late to class.”

To screw up means to make a big mistake.

It was likely an unintentional mistake, but it needs to be fixed in some way.

  • An example: “I forgot to send in my car payment, I really screwed up.”

Taking the example in the letter one step further, you would likely use “superior” for boss.

Senior is typically designated for a senior citizen, or an older individual.

  • An example: “It’s so great to see a senior exercising and enjoying life as they get older.”

In the letter above, you can see that understanding the phrase is the most important part.


Get A Feeling For The Context

Natives use these phrases all the time because they feel natural to them.

Yes there can be a time and a place to use phrases such as “go off” and “screw up”.

Think of times when you could use these phrases and how they may convey what you are thinking.

You can see why you might use these phrases, but you have to understand when they are appropriate to place in conversation.


Consider The Environment and Culture

Whenever you use any phrases, consider the relationship you have with the person that you are speaking to.

If it’s a friend, then using slang or common native phrases can be perfectly fine.

If you are speaking to a boss or a superior and you are unsure of the relationship, then try to avoid them.

A phrase like “screw up” may come off as informal and could possibly be viewed as disrespectful.

In a professional setting, you want to also consider the environment.

If it’s a very conservative or formal office environment, then you likely want to avoid phrases such as “go off”.

The language in the office is important too so you want to pay close attention to the way other speak.

You may have a different, friendlier, and less formal relationship with your coworkers.

Typically when it comes to your boss though, it’s always best to be more formal until you’re sure.



You want to start by learning the meanings of common phrases that you hear natives use.

Understand what the phrase means first so that you can start practicing using it in everyday conversation.

When it comes to the workplace or professional settings though, always be careful in using such phrases.

Understand the relationship, the environment, and the language that others around you use.

It’s best to be more formal with a boss or superior unless you are sure that these common phrases are acceptable.


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

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

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X