‘Neat’ is a word I recently came across in an article on gin, and it made me think about the different ways in which we use this English word.

‘Neat’ is an adjective which we often use to describe someone, something or a place and means clean, tidy and orderly. I am a minimalist and love nothing more than having a neat and orderly home (it drives my husband Will mad!). Here are a few more examples:

Sarah is very neat and tidy – her home is immaculate!

There are very neat flowerbeds in Bute Park

We can also use the word ‘neat’ to describe something which has been done well. For example:

That cake is beautifully decorated – what a neat job!

She has written her wedding invitations in beautiful, neat handwriting

If you like alcoholic beverages, however, then you may have come across the word ‘neat’ in the context of drinking spirits. It means to drink alcohol undiluted, i.e. without adding a weaker liquid such as water or lemonade. Here are some examples:

John likes to drink neat whisky

John likes to drink whisky neat

Did you notice how similar the above two sentences are? In the first sentence, the adjective ‘neat’ comes before the noun ‘whisky’ and in the second it comes afterwards. The latter is unusual positioning for adjectives and is an example of an adjective functioning as an object complement (it’s complicated, I know!).

Both of the sentences mean the same thing, but there is a subtle difference in that the first sentence is really just a statement of fact that John likes neat whisky, whereas in the second sentence there is more of an emphasis on how John likes his whisky – the fact that he likes it neat. I personally am not a fan of whisky, neat or not, but Will loves it!

Finally, there’s another usage of ‘neat’ which we don’t use much here in Britain and is more of an American thing, but I like it anyway. ‘Neat’ can also mean good or pleasing. For example:

She has just taken up surfing – how neat is that!

We did a lot of neat things last weekend

So, my exciting news for this week is that I’m now offering 1-1 English conversation sessions via Zoom for adults learning English as a Foreign Language. This week’s conversation topics are from two BBC articles: one on gin and one on weddings! If you are looking to practise your English, or know someone who might be, please check out my English Conversation page for more information – that would be really neat (sorry I couldn’t resist)!

Published by

Helena Davies

Online EFL Tutor and Baker based in Cardiff, Wales.

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