Six uses of “OK”

www.morguefile.comThe first of my language lists – here are six uses for the most common discourse marker in English – OK. Examples provided relate to a fictitious Christmas day dinner.

1. To show you agree with someone. “Shall we open some more wine?”  “Ok.”

2. To ask or check if someone agrees with you. “I’ll bring in the next course, ok?” “OK!”

3. To indicate that you are changing the subject or starting a new topic. “Is everyone listening? OK, I just wanted to say how nice it is to see you again. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve been home for Christmas blah blah…”

4. To say that something is satisfactory. “Is the turkey ok? Not too dry, I mean.”

5. To say that something is suitable. “The doctor said it was ok for me to have a drink this Christmas, so yes please I’ll have a single malt.”

6. To close a conversation. “OK. I should really… I should really be getting to bed. Thanks for the dinner, it was fantashtic…”

Can anyone else think of other typical examples to illustrate these uses? Post a comment!

Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 9:51 am  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Lindsay!

    How about the use of “ok” to give permission as in:

    “He’s got the okay to go ahead with his project.”

    • Yep, using okay as a noun or a verb (as in she’s okayed it) in that sense would be another one. Thanks!

  2. Hi Lindsay,

    What about using OK to show a lack of enthusiasm? For example: “The film was OK but certainly nothing special” or “It was an okay movie, nothing more.”


  3. Lindsay,

    Presumably the last speaker who said it was ‘fantashtic’ had had one too many of uncle Donald’s parsnip wines?



    • Yesh, I think sho. Hic!

  4. Hi Lindsay!

    Nice post. You’ve got most uses covered already ;-).

    Here’s two “agreeing OKAYs with a twist”

    the I’m-going-to-pretend-that-I-agree-with-you-:

    Anna: “There was a giant spaceship on our front lawn this morning”

    Pete: “Oh really?”

    Anna: “Yes, really, I promise. It was there and it was really big. Why don’t you ever believe me? Why would I make something like that up?”

    Pete: “Okay, honey, I believe you. Would you like another pill now?”

    And there’s the I’m going to agree with you to get-you-off-my-back-and-give-me-some-time:

    Alex’s mother: “ALEX…stop playing on your X-box and come in here”

    Alex: Okay. (explosion on screen, hits the controls, stays on the sofa).

    15 minutes later

    Alex’s mother: “ALEXXXXXXX… I need you to stop playing that game and tidy up this room.”

    Alex: “Okay, Mom, Okay – I’m coming” (doesn’t move).

    • Very nice! I’m sure we could probably come up with six to the power of six uses, taking all the twists into account…

  5. How about the rather insulting or demeaning use of OK, such as:
    “We just don’t want to hear your opinion, OK?”
    “I can’t trust you, OK?”
    I am trying to explain to a non-native speaker that this OK can be demeaning or express anger and irritation, even after innocent sentences, as if you are putting down the listener:
    Me: Why didn’t you wait for me?
    Them: You just weren’t here, OK?

    • Hi there Robin. Yes, interesting use… it will also have something to do with the intonation of the speaker especially here I’d expect. Thanks for the comment!

  6. […] Perhaps not so unusual as it is supposed to be the most frequent discourse marker in the English language (for a humorous take on the various uses of OK, see here) […]

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