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In normal everyday language we use hundreds, if not thousands of special formulas which are ready-made or fixed expressions and that we use in a very specific situation and that don't fit in any other situation.

The ability of communication is to a high degree bound to the mastery of such formulas. Though this class of formulas is of high importance there is no standard name for it. I have been studying this sector of vocabulary for a considerable time and invented the term Ugf ( umgangssprachliche Formeln) to have a name for this class of formulas.

But I have no English name. My best invention is

"Fixed situational expressions/Fse".

What would you suggest or are there already some terms that are used for this class of formulas?

Another related question. My private collection of what I would call Fse consists of some hundreds of such formulas, I guess. But I would like to know how many Fse we use as an average. I think there must be about two thousand, perhaps even more.

These Fse are different from normal idioms. If you don't know a special idiom you can take a similar one or say it with normal words. But it is very hard to replace an Fse by another expression. Almost impossible. Either you know the Fse or you can't use it.

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    Idiom? "A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light)." (ODO) "An idiom is a word or phrase which means something different from its literal meaning. Idioms are common phrases or terms whose meaning is not real, but can be understood by their popular use." (Wikipedia) – Kris Feb 8 '15 at 4:58
  • "A set phrase or fixed phrase is a phrase whose parts are fixed in a certain order, even if the phrase could be changed without harming the literal meaning. This is because a set phrase is a culturally accepted phrase." (Wikipedia) – Kris Feb 8 '15 at 5:10
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    Incidentally, "You are telling me" doesn't sound idiomatic, because it's not quite the same as the actual idiom "you're telling me!" (Yes, the contraction makes a difference.) – Nathan Tuggy Feb 8 '15 at 5:14
  • @Kris See the remark I added above about idioms. Fse are very different from idioms. But it takes some time to recognize that we have in what is termed idioms a special class (Fse) which we should treat as something special. It does not matter much if a non-native speaker doesn't know an idiom. But it is important for him to know the most common Fse such as "That puts the lid on it". You are right in one point, such things are generally thrown into the box "idioms" but by doing this we miss the possibility to study a sector of vocabulary that is of special importance for communication. – rogermue Feb 8 '15 at 5:18
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    How does this long question body address the title question? – SrJoven Feb 8 '15 at 13:06
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  • May then I suggest the term colloquials.

    1. of or relating to conversation : conversational.

    2. used in or characteristic of familiar and informal conversation; also : unacceptably informal.

    3. using conversational style.

Example: the new coworker's rudeness soon began—to use a colloquial expression—to rub me the wrong way.

  • or if you may colloquial expressions CEs.

also: colloquialism, colloquy.

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  • To rub someone the wrong way is a normal idiom of colloquial level, but it is not a fixed formula in one precise situation. In a special situation you can say: It's easy for you to talk. Or: It won't do you any good. With these expressions one has to describe the situation precisely otherwise the meaning of the expression does not become clear. – rogermue Feb 8 '15 at 16:12
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What Kris said.


"A set phrase or fixed phrase is a phrase whose parts are fixed in a certain order, even if the phrase could be changed without harming the literal meaning. This is because a set phrase is a culturally accepted phrase." (Wikipedia) – Kris

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  • What do you say in the special situation when your friend tells you that his father has died? Do you use an idiom or is it something else? It's no use coming with definitions from Wikipedia. They haven't yet recognized the problem. – rogermue Feb 8 '15 at 6:19
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May I suggest:

  1. figures of speech: figurative language in the form of a single word or phrase. It can be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words.

Or if you may,

  1. figuratives

  2. figurativeries,

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    Figures of speech belong to the domain of rhetorics and stylistics. It is nothing we use in normal everyday language. And figurative use of a noun is a use not in its normal sense. Both terms are not apt for formulas such as "Pardon" when you haven't understood acoustically. – rogermue Feb 8 '15 at 12:15
  • @rogermue Noted! I understand now. – sojourner Feb 8 '15 at 14:51
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    Rhetoric and style cannot be separated cleanly from other aspects of communication. Rhetoric informs every act of communication, even the most supposedly normal, objective, scientific, unbiased, assumption-free, and factual instance of communication. Yes, there is a genre of communication which is clearly an overt attempt to persuade, but even the speaker of most "informative" speech, for example, wants his/her audience to accept as true the same things the speaker assumes to be true (at least as far as the informer is concerned). Don – rhetorician Feb 8 '15 at 18:25
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I would call it an emphasizer or an intensifier because it's redundant to say, but emphasizes that you strongly agree with what you are being told.

Reflexive pronouns are often used as emphasizers in a similar way (e.g., I did it myself).

The expression "you're telling me" can also be used to establish who knows what in a conversation. You might say "you're telling me" to someone who tells you something that you think, of the two of you, you have the better understanding of. (E.g., you might say "you're telling me" to someone who observes you stub your toe and says, "stubbed toes are really painful.")

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  • Actually, the "you're telling me" after the stubbed toe could also mean, "Boy, you're telling me; that is really painful." Don – rhetorician Feb 8 '15 at 18:03
  • Sure it could ! – CactusHouse Feb 8 '15 at 18:46

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