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Thread: I say? Listen?

  1. #1
    englishhobby's Avatar
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    Default I say? Listen?

    In Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary I found that the phrase "I say" used to attract someone's attention is considered to be old-fashioned. So what phrases are used instead of "I say" today to attract someone's attention (in informal and formal speech)? Is "Listen" all right as an informal way of addressing a person you know well?
    E.g. Listen (I say - old-fashioned?), Jane, why don't we meet up at the weekend?
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

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    billmcd is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: I say? Listen?

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    In Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary I found that the phrase "I say" used to attract someone's attention is considered to be old-fashioned. So what phrases are used instead of "I say" today to attract someone's attention (in informal and formal speech)? Is "Listen" all right as an informal way of addressing a person you know well?
    E.g. Listen (I say - old-fashioned?), Jane, why don't we meet up at the weekend?
    "Listen" would be considered rude, unless, for example, you were having difficulty getting the attention of a student. A more appropriate expression would be to "attract attention" could be "Excuse me, ........"
    or "May I say........". I'm sure there are others that don't occur to me at the moment.

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    Default Re: I say? Listen?

    "Hey" can work, but the tone of voice has to be right. It can sound agressive or it can sound just fine.

    Hey, I have an idea - let's...
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    Default Re: I say? Listen?

    So, "I say" is really not used nowadays?
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

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    Default Re: I say? Listen?

    Quote Originally Posted by englishhobby View Post
    So, "I say" is really not used nowadays?
    It is not.

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    Default Re: I say? Listen?

    I disagree with Billmcd on a small technicality. I agree that an initial "listen" would sound rude if spoken forthrightly. But there are people who habitually use an initial "listen" not to attract someone's attention, but as a kind of connective particle. In this usage it is always spoken quickly and softly, and I believe it connotes a friendly attitude on the part of the speaker. Englishhobby's example is right on point, and to take a similar one:

    She gives some indication that she might be willing to get to know him better, and he says "Listen would you like to go out for dinner with me tonight?"

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