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I am preparing for an English language test. That is why I am working on strengthening my English vocabulary.

My question is regarding the speaking section of the test.

If the examiner asks me about a particular subject, for example mobile development, would it be too informal to say "it's my bread and butter"?

If yes, then could you please suggest to me a word for that? I don't want to write a sentence like "that is how I make money or that is the source of my income"

Thank you.

PS: If you find any grammatical or spelling mistakes in this question then please do let me know. I would appreciate that.

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  • I edited the question, too. Just minor improvements. The main reason for my edit was the comma after that's why that was extra.
    – Neeku
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 6:46

2 Answers 2

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Your English was generally good, but I have made some amendments in my editing which you might care to review. They mostly concern punctuation, but remember the definite article and prepositions are important too.

No, I see nothing wrong with using the 'bread and butter' metaphor. If I were the examiner I would be impressed that you were showing a grasp of everyday colloquial English.

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  • Agreed -- note that it might sound a little OLD-FASHIONED, but I agree with WS2 that it's fine, indeed good, in a "more formal setting".
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 8:22
  • @JoeBlow what would be a modern word then ? Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 4:38
  • I would just say "Actually, I work in that field." Or "funnily enough, I am a mobile engineer." Or: "Actually, that is my profession!" or "Actually, that is my job!" the most "normal", IMO is: "Actually, that's what I do for a living."
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 13:56
  • @Fattie Come on, you can rise above the ordinaire, I feel certain. How about "That's what keeps me fed"!
    – WS2
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 15:22
  • It should probably be noted that formality is a matter of degree, and that one can imagine some circumstances for which the phrase would not be formal enough (as the answer itself says, the phrase is somewhat colloquial). The problem with answering this question is that it concerns an exam, i.e. writing outside any social setting that would determine the proper level of formality (unless the exam question specifically says that one should imagine that one is writing, say, a job application).
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 15:52
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Sorry for a late answer.

"Bread and butter" may or may not work, depending on your definition of "formal." It is a somewhat dated expression. (My father used it many decades ago, and I can't recall a single, unforced usage in my last decade of using American English.)

Since it is a metaphor, "bread and butter" is comprised of smaller, everyday words, and might be considered as less formal. Also, since it is dated (but not incorrect), it could be misunderstood by a younger examiner.

A better phrase might be:

core competency

a defining capability or advantage that distinguishes an enterprise from its competitors.

a defined level of competence in a particular job or academic program. (Source: Oxford)

If the interviewer asks, "How do you feel about web development in JavaScript?"

You could reply:

That's one of my core competencies. I used every day in my past job.

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  • I will edit my answer accordingly.
    – rajah9
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 15:44

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