Informal Language – Concept, characteristics and examples

We explain what informal language is, its characteristics and various examples. Also, what is formal language.

informal language
Informal language can be accompanied by gestures to convey the message.

What is informal language?

When we speak of informal language, or in more precise terms the informal way of speech or informal linguistics, we refer to the colloquial or the casual way in which a language is used, always in a specific communicative context.

That is to say, it is the way we speak in situations of familiarity, trust or closeness with our interlocutors, unlike formal language, which we use in formal, important and official situations. This is because informal language could be very different from one context of life to another, therefore harder to understand and perceive correctly. And so, we adapt our language to the situations that we face in our lives.

For example, we do not speak in the same way when we are in the bar with our friends, or when we are presenting academic work in front of a specialized jury. Each situation has different levels of demand and responsibility. That is the main difference between an informal and a forma. It is the same language, but used in two very different ways.

Informal language is typical to situations of trust and familiarity, or of everyday circumstances in which the rules of courtesy and protocol are relaxed. It is a casual way of communicating, in which we pay little attention to the language itself, since we have other tools of the moment to make ourselves understood.

In general, the informal way of speaking involves the complicity of our interlocutors, or the time and space to explain something that has not been understood. It is considered synonymous with colloquial language.

Informal language characteristics

The informal, colloquial or family language is characterized by the following:

  • Pays little attention to accuracy and correctness with which the language is used, allowing a certain margin of inaccuracies and ambiguities, since it is not a planned way of speaking, but the result of pure improvisation.
  • Allows the use of fillers, rudeness, puns and expressions that are accompanied by gestures or mimicry to understand each other, since they generally have the complicity of the interlocutor.
  • Favor simple structures, with a limited vocabulary, and always favors immediate understanding over correctness and style. It is thus practical and pragmatic.
  • Frequently uses slang, jargon or vulgarisms between the interlocutors, in such a way that whoever listens from the outside will understand little of what has been said.

Examples of informal language

informal language examplesDepending on the context, informal language can occur both between friends and strangers.

Here are a couple of examples of informal language:

Conversation between two friends:

One says to the other: “Hey, buddy, how’s your old lady going? The day before or yesterday you told me that I was half sick, right? ”. His interlocutor replies: “Yes, crazy, we have been to the doctor about a thousand times, but he does not give foot with ball.”

How do we know that this conversation is informal?

  • They refer to each other in a lighthearted way (“compa”, “crazy”).
  • They use a familiar lexicon (“old” for “mother”; “she does not give a foot with a ball” for “she cannot find a diagnosis”).
  • They use colloquial twists (“medio malita” for “sick”; “like a thousand times” for “many times”).

Conversation between two men when their cars have just crashed in the middle of the street.

The first to get out of the vehicle yells at the other: “Are you blind? Didn’t you see that he had the low beam on? Where did you get the license from? ”

How do we know that the tone in which he speaks is informal?

  • You refer to your interlocutor in a disrespectful way, with offensive insinuations.
  • Although he talks to a stranger, he dispenses with courtesy (he does not say “you”, for example.
  • Asks rhetorical questions whose purpose is to express his annoyance to the other (“Are you blind?”).

Formal language

Unlike the informal register, what we call formal language is a way of using the language that attends to conventions and correctness, and is usually employed in respectful situations, protocol or intellectual demand, in which informal language would have no place.

For example, if we are about to receive the ambassador of another country, it is common for us to use formal language, referring to him with formal titles and with a language worthy of a polite conversation.