How to Say & Use English Abbreviations | ASAP * FOMO * BTW * FYI

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Learn how to SAY and USE English 16+ Abbreviations including ASAP, FOMO, FYI, BTW, ETA and RSVP – What do they mean?
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Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish. Today I’ve got an awesome lesson for you about abbreviations. Kind of a tricky word to say, isn’t it? Abbreviation. /əˌbriːviˈeɪʃ(ə)n/

An abbreviation is a small group of letters that represents a larger word or a larger phrase and they’re often used in written English but also in spoken English too. All of the ones I’m sharing in this lesson are really common. They’re used by native speakers in formal situations but often informally as well, in text messages, on internet forums.

Knowing these abbreviations will make communicating so much easier for you and knowing how to say them correctly will help you to be understood as well.

As usual, I’ve got a quiz for you at the end of this lesson so stick around, test what you know and put what you learn into practice.

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So first up let’s start with some extremely common everyday abbreviations that you really need to know. Okay these are essential. You’ve probably seen most of them before, maybe in professional emails or formal invitations, in other types of formal and informal writing. You may have even heard some of them spoken. If you’ve been wondering what they mean or how to say them, this lesson is exactly what you need.

1. P.S
post scriptum (written after)

So let’s start with P.S. Now it comes from the Latin words post scriptum, which means written after so we use P.S as an afterthought, to add something to a message that you’ve forgotten to include. It’s not usually spoken.

So back in the day, before computers and text messages, our grandparents used to write letters right? Traditionally you’d write your letter, then you’d sign your name at the end but then you’d realise I forgot to include that. There’s something else I wanted to add.

  • P.S. Mum said hello and she can’t wait to see you!

2. R.S.V.P
répondez s’il vous plaît

Another abbreviation that you’ll often see at the end of a message is RSVP. Now it’s been around for a long time and it will probably continue to stay around for a long time to come. It’s actually a French expression and it stands for répondez s’il vous plaît which simply means respond, please.

So we use it in English to ask for someone to respond to an invitation. In the past, you would have mostly seen it in written invitations but these days you’ll see it in emails, you’ll see it in online invitations too. It’s really common.

If you’re invited to a wedding or a party or something like that, then you’ll see it written at the bottom. Please RSVP.

When you see RSVP, you need to respond, you need to confirm if you’re attending the event and if you’re not attending the event, you still have to tell them. Okay so they’re asking for you to respond.

as soon as possible

If someone tells you to do something ASAP, it means do it as soon as possible. You’ll often hear it being used in professional context, it’s really common in that setting. You might say

I’m really sorry for the delay. I’ll get the report finished ASAP.

So yeah it’s used professionally, it’s also used informally a lot as well and when it’s spoken you may actually hear the word being pronounced phonetically. ASAP.

  • Can you call me back ASAP?

Or you’ll also hear each letter being spoken individually. ASAP.

  • Can you call me back ASAP?

Both options are fine right.

4. FYI
for your information

Have you heard this one or seen it written in an email before? It’s also really common to see in a professional context in email communication especially but actually you might hear people say it too out loud. It means for your information.

So use it when you want to add a little bit of extra important information alright something that you think that person really would want to know.

  • FYI the ticket says it starts at 9am but the speakers won’t actually be there until 10.

5. VS

This one is the abbreviation of the word versus. Versus. That second syllable is unstressed okay. So when you see this and you want to say it in spoken English, you always say the complete word, you never say VS alright?

But you will hear some native speakers reduce it down to just verse instead of versus. So versus is commonly used when two things are put up against each other so you see it a lot in sports right? When there’s two teams playing each other.

  • Melbourne VS Sydney.

6. ETA
estimated time of arrival

So ETA stands for estimated time of arrival and it’s really commonly used to ask what time someone is going to arrive.

What’s your ETA?
I’m about 10 minutes away.

Simple right? Really simple question. It’s also used on schedules, you’ll see it written sometimes, maybe at a train station where it will say the train, where it’s going to and it might say ETA next to it.

  • Next train from Paris, ETA eight minutes. (Estimated time of arrival, eight minutes)

So it’s often used in spoken and written English but when you pronounce it out loud, you pronounce the three letters ETA.

I could call you up over the phone and ask What’s your ETA?

Or your boss might call you and say exactly the same thing.
What time will you arrive here?

7. DIY
do it yourself

Have you heard or even seen this one used before? You’re going to see it a lot online in magazines, in books and blogs, that kind of thing. It stands for do it yourself and it is referring to home projects, and it is referring to home projects, things that you do yourself by hand instead of buying something that’s already been made or paying a professional to come and do it for you

So you might see DIY kitchens, DIY flower beds, DIY craft projects.

What it means is it’s simply a project that you do at home yourself. As you’ve been listening to me talk about it though, I’m sure you’ve picked up that the way that we say this word is by spelling out the letters, DIY.

So are you into DIY projects? Maybe you’ve been working on a few things during lockdown.

8. Wi-fi

Wi-fi is another really, really common one, one that my students often mispronounce by saying whiffy which actually sounds a little bit like a very informal word for kind of smelly, whiffy.

You know I often see non-native English speakers asking for wi-fi in hotel receptions or at information desks and the response or the reaction that they get is kind of confused.

Wi-fi? What is that?
It’s wi-fi.

fear of missing out

This is my favourite one. This abbreviation came from the internet but it’s become pretty mainstream now, it’s very common even in offline situations. It’s actually officially been added to the dictionary. And it stands for fear of missing out.

And when we use it, we usually say that we have FOMO or has FOMO.

So think about when you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or Youtube or whatever, you get to see all these amazing things that everyone’s doing, right? People on holidays, on amazing hikes, winning awards, graduating, all of these awesome things.

And do you ever catch yourself feeling a little sad or a little depressed that you’re missing out? That you’re not doing those things? It’s the worst thing about social media but that feeling is FOMO. It’s fear of missing out.

It’s a feeling of missing out, of not having those things as well but like I said now it’s really used more generally just to talk about that feeling of anxiety when you worry about missing out on important things or on fun social events.

I usually say yes to everything even if I’m tired or I’m feeling lazy because I really can’t stand having FOMO! I hate missing out.


So next up I’ve got some newer internet abbreviations that you probably should know even if you don’t use them a lot yourself, it’s good to be able to recognise them and know what’s going on, right?

So you’ll see them mostly in informal situations on the internet, text messages, on social media, that kind of thing.

Before we keep going here, I just want to take a moment to get something off my chest, make it really clear that using FOMO and any of the abbreviations that I’m about to mention are not really appropriate in very formal or professional contexts unless you consider your colleague to be a really good friend or something like that because in most formal contexts, using these abbreviations sends a different message subtly, a message like

I can’t really be bothered
or I don’t have enough time for you.

So I just want you to be careful with how you’re using these abbreviations. Wherever you can, just use the full word or the full expression.

Anyway we’re going to see what you already know by doing a quick little quiz or a little game.

So for each abbreviation you’ll see on screen, I’m going to give you three different options for what it might mean. I want you to guess the correct answer. So take a pen and paper out right now, write down your answers, tell me how many you get right down in the comments okay. I want to see how good you are.

Let’s start with this one here.

10. TY

So does this abbreviation stand for:

a. too young
b. thank you
c. talked yesterday

Kind of easy. It does mean thank you and sometimes depending on where you are in the world, this will also be written as TQ or TKS but I literally hate this abbreviation, please don’t use it.

If you are actually thankful, then just write the extra couple of letters to write the full word alright? It just shows people that you really actually do appreciate them.

11. BRB

Alright so does this one mean:

a. be right back
b. burnt really badly
c. but really beautiful

So this one comes from the early days of internet chatting when someone needed to step away from their computer for a little bit, just for a few minutes and they would write BRB as in be right back.

It’s still often used today in text and group chats especially but when spoken it’s never really said BRB, just say be right back.

12. BTW

So this one is super common. Does it mean:

a. by the way
b. but then what
c. bring the wine

It means by the way although maybe C is a good option too. By the way.

So mostly you see this in text messages when people are writing ideas really quickly but you might even hear people say this one out loud in informal situations, BTW.

  • BTW, I’m taking a break for 10 minutes. See you soon.

Actually, that just reminded me of BYO.

13. BYO
bring your own

I forgot to mention it earlier, it’s a really, really common one that you’ll often see at restaurants and it means bring your own. Usually, it’s referring to alcoholic drinks. So bring your own wine, bring your own beer because we don’t serve it in the restaurant.

But you know maybe when you’re going to a barbecue in a park with friends they might say BYO meat or BYO drinks or that kind of thing, bring your own.

14. TMI

Alright this one is very recent, it’s new. Does it mean:

a. time for the meeting
b. too much information
c. type more information

So it stands for too much information. So let’s think about a friend who might tell you a little bit too much information right, too much personal information, too much detail that’s kind of awkward or disgusting. Then you might say

  • TMI, I didn’t need to hear that!

15. TBH

Alright another very, very common one.

a. the best hamburger
b. this is boring
c. to be honest

It’s definitely a really useful one to know, it’s used really frequently even in some online magazines and blogs and things now but it means to be honest.

  • TBH, I don’t think it’s the best burger in town.

Again, when it’s spoken it’s spoken as full words not TBH.

16. IMO

a. in my office
b. it’s more obvious
c. in my opinion

Yeah this is in my opinion.

  • The band was great but the food wasn’t very good, IMO.

17. IRL

Another very new one but an important one to know.

a. in real life
b. I really like
c. I rarely lie

What do you think? So we use this one to separate real life from things that happen online in movies or on social media and that kind of thing. It means in real life.

  • They play video games together online but they’ve never met IRL.

Again, don’t use the letters as the abbreviation when you speak, when you speak just say the full words.

18. SMH

a. she’s my hero
b. shaking my head
c. somebody might hear

Did you get it? Shaking my head but what does that actually mean? So in real life, we shake our head right like this to show that we disapprove or we can’t believe something right so this is the texting form of this action.

So if you texted me and you said I just dropped my phone in the toilet!
I could respond with SMH.

So how did you go with this little quiz? Did you know any of them? Some of them? Maybe you knew most of them or all of them in which case, I’m super impressed. I really hope that this video helps to inspire you to use them or to feel more comfortable when you see and you read or you hear these different abbreviations used in English.

If there’s anything that this lesson has revealed for us, it’s that English is always changing and evolving. There’s new ideas, new ways of expressing yourself happening all of the time.

You’ll always be learning new ways of expressing yourself and hear people expressing themselves differently and so will I. It’s the same for me, I definitely learned a few new ways to express myself whilst researching for this lesson.

So tell me how did you go down in the comments, which ones did you get right or wrong?

Are there any other abbreviations that you can think of that I maybe didn’t include in this lesson? Or maybe there’s some other ones that are used often in your own native language that you think we should be using in English.

Definitely share those in the comments down below but right now I’ve got another lesson right here waiting for you.


Links mentioned in the video

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