I've run into this usage several times, in the comments of sites like YouTube, usually as a joke in response to having one's grammar or spelling corrected. To paraphrase:

I'll try to English better :)

Presumably implying that their English needs improvement through example, even if the original mistake had been a typo.
My question is, is there a serious context where using 'English' as a verb would be grammatically correct? Or maybe it's on its way to becoming a new word due to frequent incorrect usage?

  • Yes - see a number of dictionary definitions having English as a verb at thefreedictionary.com/English
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 11:07
  • As you can see from the answers already given (which you could have found on your own by just consulting a dictionary—for that reason I have, for now, voted to put the question on hold as not displaying any research effort), to English has a few established but different meanings. You should probably clarify if you’re talking specifically about the use of to English in the sense of ‘to speak/use English’. Since this usage of to English has not generally made it into the dictionaries, I would say that’s an on-topic question. As it stands right now, though, it’s sadly probably off-topic. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 12:36
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    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 16:41
  • The answers below not withstanding, I would beg you to please never do it.
    – Jim
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 18:11
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    It's a tongue-in-cheek thing, like "I forgot how to cat".
    – isarandi
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 1:08

4 Answers 4


The verb English in the sense of to translate into English dates to 1450, according to the OED. The sense of to anglicize, to impart an English character to, dates to 1711, that example having for object a musical form, the madrigal. The sense of to impart spin on a ball dates from 1875 and is flagged as a peculiarly American usage. These are all senses that are not flagged as obsolete or rare. So yes, its use as a verb is current.

  • With an earlier start date than in your link, ngram shows the peak usage was in about 1700, when the title page of translated books usually stated "Englished by John Smith". I suspect the small amount of modern usage (compared with in 1700) is mostly academic references to historical documents.. I have never seen or heard it in the last 50 years in British English in any other context. (Note, I don't play billiards/snooker/pool).
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 15:05
  • @alephzero, 1695 indeed shows a peak to .0001636467%, but considering that 1694 and 1696 show zero (when you set smoothing to zero), I am going to guess that the height of the peak is a function of the smallness of the denominator, the numerator most likely being just a single instance. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 16:36
  • Thanks, I must have been searching for the word the wrong way, I kept getting irrelevant results and couldn't figure out if the verb existed or not. The usages you mention (besides the billiards one of which I have no idea) do sound kind of obsolete or obscure, or maybe they're from a dialect I haven't encountered (English is my third language).
    – MASQ
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 20:07

You may use "English" as a substitute for "anglicize", but in actual spoken English which would be generally understood, "to English" is a term used in billiards/pool, meaning to put a special spin on the ball. So, you almost certainly will be misinterpreted if you use "to English" instead of "anglicize" or "use English" or "put into English", or some such appropriate expression.

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    English in billiards is a noun, not a verb. It's normal to put some English on the cue ball. I don't think I've seen/heard I Englished the cue ball and in the same way you get put some side on the cue ball but not side the cue ball.
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 11:42
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    I've heard both- put some English on the ball, and english the ball. Outside of drunks at the tables, though, I've only heard "put some English", to express putting a spin on something to make it fit or whatever. A somewhat related expression in American is "Kentucky windage" (she shoots a bit high, so aim a bit low, in reference to a weapon, for example).
    – bobro
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 11:50
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    Fair enough - if enough drunks use it as a verb - then it's a verb. Just one of the joys of not being constrained to a set of real rules.
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 11:59
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    Perhaps to 'Australian' is to use bottom-spin. Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 13:40

Instead of using "English" as a verb, one can use 'better' as a verb.

Consider :

"I'll try to better my English."

The verb form of English is 'anglicize'. But in your example - "I'll try to English better ." - the verb form 'anglicize' does not sound nice - "I'll try to 'anglicize' better .". I think it is not advisable to use 'anglicise' here.


Google, when it came into being was the name of a company, was used as a noun. But as time passed, it came to be used as a verb to mean searching a query on Google's website.

I believe, as an extention and inspiration English too is following the same course.

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