Archive for August 25, 2010

adjective: fine


Today, I’d like to write about a word that many of my students use but don’t fully understand: “fine”. Whenever I ask a Japanese person, “How are you?”, almost all of them reply, “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” Now technically this is correct, but native English speakers almost NEVER say, “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” Instead, we will say things like:

I’m great. How about you?

I’m good. You?

Pretty good. Yourself?

I’m not bad. And you?

Sometimes we say, “I’m fine”, but the above examples are more natural, in my opinion. However, if someone is concerned about our physical or emotional well being and asks us, “Are you ok?”, we often say “I’m fine.” to tell them that they don’t have to worry about us, and that we’re ok.

Now, there is another misunderstanding about “fine”. Generally speaking, when we say something is “fine”, the feeling is neutral, but not extremely positive. For example:

A: How was your day?

B: It was fine.

A: Just fine? Is there something wrong?


A: Did you enjoy the party?

B: It was fine.

A: Only fine? I thought it was really fun.

However, sometimes the word “fine” can have a much more positive feeling when we use it. These cases are more rare and sound a little old-fashioned. For example:

George is a fine man and you’re very lucky to have a husband like him!

It’s a fine ring that you bought your fiancee. I’m sure she’ll love it.

When we use “fine” in this way, we must stress the word “fine” in order to indicate that it’s very positive. Also, it’s important to note that when “fine” is used positively, it must come in front of a noun. Therefore, if we say, “The ring you bought your fiancee is fine.”, it sounds like we’re saying it’s just ok.

Finally, many of my students use “fine” to talk about the weather. For example:

The weather is fine today.

It’s a fine day today.

This is not natural in North American English, although I did hear people say things like that in Australia, so perhaps it’s more British English. In the United States and Canada, it’s more natural to use the word “nice” to describe good weather conditions. For example:

The weather is nice today.

It’s a nice day today.

So, I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings about the word “fine”.

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