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By on May 8th, 2017

Common Forms of American Slang and Phrases All International Students Should Know

Headed to America? Thousands of international students are! You’re in for a real adventure and a lot of good times.

However, you might be worried about talking to Americans and making new friends. If that’s the case, the following slang terms and phrases should help you adapt quickly.

“I feel like…”

This phrase has become popular in America over the past five years or so. It’s showing no signs of slowing down, so it’s important you understand what it really means.

“I feel like…” means that an American is trying to soften a statement. Whatever they’re about to say runs counter to your thoughts or stated opinion, so they’re looking for a way to soften the blow.

Depending on where you’re from, this might sound disingenuous. Many cultures put a premium on “straight talk” or otherwise being blunt. Americans may have that reputation, but they’re also very careful not to offend these days, so take this phrase as a compliment: they’re trying not to hurt your feelings.

However, make no mistake about it: what they’re saying is 100% what they believe.

“I could care less…”

This one you might also hear a lot, but if you misinterpret it, you’re completely in the right. What an American really means is, “I could not care less.” They’re saying that a certain opinion, thing, or event is so trivial or irrelevant to them that there’s no way they could possibly care about it less than they do.

Unfortunately, a lot of Americans don’t get it right. Now that you know about the phrase, you don’t have to correct them. You can just understand their true meaning.

“My bad.”

This phrase isn’t necessarily about accepting full culpability. It’s the same as saying, “I made a mistake”, which may refer to a very trivial matter. You’ll often hear an American say it after a very small mistake.

“You do the math”

If an American says this, they mean, “Come to your own conclusions.” However, again, make no mistake about it: they have come to their own and want you to do the same. If you’re from Great Britain, you might be caught off guard solely because they said “math” instead of “maths.” In any case, the interpretation is the same. They have insinuated a point, but without proof, they want you to reach the same conclusion.

“Reach out”

If an American wants you to contact someone you don’t know, they’ll probably tell you, “Reach out to so-and-so.” Again, that just means they know someone they think would be a good person to talk to and want you to make contact. They are not telling you to physically touch them.


This is usually an action verb, but as with the last example, an American is not actually telling you to take a physical direction.

Here are some common examples of when you’ll hear that word used:

  • “Hit me/them up” – This means make contact with someone. Email or call them.
  • “Hit the books” – This means studying.
  • “Hit on them” – In this case, they’re talking about flirting with someone.
  • “Hit the sack” – It’s time to go to bed.

It should be mentioned, too, that a “hit” can also mean experiencing a drug. If an American says, “take a hit” or “hit that”, they may be telling you to smoke a cigarette or joint.

Even if you speak the language fluently, you’ll quickly find that English is interpreted many different ways. The above should help you better understand the phrases and slang used by Americans on a regular basis.

Nonetheless, if you’re ever confused, just ask. Americans love explaining their unique version of the language to international students.