Word Wonders: Canadian English’s confusing eh Part 1

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. as for (something/someone) / æz fɔr / (idiom) – regarding or speaking about someone or something

    I’m in charge of the food for the party. As for Joe, he’s in charge of arranging the entertainment.

  2. tag question / tæg ˈkwɛs tʃən / (n) – a short question added at the end of a sentence, usually to check if the statement is correct

    Stacy always sounds unsure because she uses so many tag questions when she speaks.

  3. signature / ˈsɪg nə tʃər / (n) – a quality or feature that a person, place, group, etc. is known for

    The singer’s wild purple hair has become his signature.

  4. inclusive / ɪnˈklu sɪv / (adj) – open to or including everyone

    Some people have said that they don’t feel comfortable joining our club, so I think we need to make it more inclusive.

  5. understated / ˌʌn dərˈsteɪ tɪd / (adj) – done or presented in a way that is not meant to be obvious

    The beauty of the mansion is understated.


Read the text below.

Two Canadians meet.

Bob: “How’s it going, eh?”

Doug: “I got married last week and then won a million dollars in the lottery, so not too bad, eh! How’s it going with you?”

“How’s it going, eh?” is the Canadian version of “How are you?” or the more formal “How do you do?” As for “eh” — pronounced like the letter A — well, that’s what makes it Canadian, eh.

“Eh” is what linguists call a tag — a word or a phrase added to a statement that can change its meaning or function. For example, add a negative tag to a positive statement to turn it into a tag question: “This pizza is delicious, isn’t it?” The same trick can be used with negative statements and positive tags: “You don’t like pineapple on pizza, do you?”

Other English-speaking cultures don’t seem to use “eh” much, but it’s a signature of Canadian English, like talking about winter weather or the local hockey team.

“Eh” invites people into a discussion or to offer an opinion. It is both polite and inclusive.

Adding “eh” makes the speaker seem less sure of what they are saying and makes the statement less forceful, as if the speaker wants you to agree with them. It’s less strong, more neutral, more understated. (Kevin Wood)

To be continued…

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Are you going to try to use “eh” when you speak English from now on? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Does your native language have anything like “eh”? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you think it’s important to study different dialects of a language (ex. British English, American English), or is it better to focus on only one? Why? Discuss.
  • Does your native language have a lot of different dialects? Discuss.