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?” ┬á”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: Language lists, Uncategorized | on December 20th, 2008 | 9 Comments »

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  1. On December 21, 2008 at 1:36 am leozeh Said:

    Hi Lindsay!

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

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

  2. On December 21, 2008 at 7:43 am lclandfield Said:

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

  3. On December 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm Jeffrey Hill Said:

    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.”


  4. On December 21, 2008 at 9:22 pm Gavin Dudeney Said:


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


  5. On December 22, 2008 at 9:30 am kalinagoenglish Said:

    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).

  6. On December 22, 2008 at 9:41 am lclandfield Said:

    Yesh, I think sho. Hic!

  7. On December 22, 2008 at 9:43 am lclandfield Said:

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

  8. On April 17, 2009 at 12:31 am Robin Said:

    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?

  9. On April 17, 2009 at 6:14 am lclandfield Said:

    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!