Casual Register

You're likely to be very familiar with the casual register, and you probably use it every day! If you think about conversations you have on a daily basis with friends and close family members, you probably recall times when you used and/or heard the casual register or casual language. Casual language is a carefree way of speaking that is easy to understand and relate to, so that may offer a hint as to what casual register is about.

Casual Register Casual Register

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Table of contents

    Casual Register, five black women laughing together, StudySmarterFig. 1 - You've most likely used the casual register whenever you hang out with your friends.

    Even if you know the casual register like the back of your hand from using it all the time, this article should give you a more in-depth understanding of it. We'll be looking at when we use it, how to identify it, and how it differs from other registers.

    Casual register definition

    Let's start things off with a nice definition. In fact, we could break this down into two definitions:

    Casual can mean relaxed, informal, unconcerned, or friendly.

    For a bit of context, here are some things we often refer to as being casual:

    • outfits or clothing (e.g., 'casual Friday')

    • events (e.g., a casual lunch or 'casual get-together' rather than a fancy party)

    • relationships (e.g., when two people have just started seeing each other, they might refer to their relationship as casual)

    • conversations (e.g., small talk or talking about things that aren't serious or important)

    Now to move on to the other part of our definition:

    Register, in the context of English language, refers to a type of language used for a particular purpose or in specific situations. The term register is most commonly used to refer to the formality of a social interaction.

    In this article, we're concerned with the casual register, but some other kinds of register include:

    • Formal register (used in formal and professional situations)

    • Frozen register (language that has not changed for a long time and is unlikely to do so in the future)

    • Consultative register (used in situations where someone is seeking or giving advice or suggestions)

    • Neutral register (language used in academic and technical settings, manuals, presentations, and teaching resources)

    • Intimate register (casual and personal language often used in private situations)

    Casual register meaning

    If we combine the two definitions above, we get the whole meaning of 'casual register'.

    In essence, the casual register is the type of language we use in relaxed and friendly social situations that do not require formal communication. The casual register is light and conversational, rather than feeling practised or purposeful, so it is used in situations where we feel at ease, are interacting with people we are comfortable with, and when we have no worries.

    The casual register is probably the one you're most familiar with. You probably use it at home and when you hang out with friends.

    The casual register can be used in written and verbal communication.

    Casual Register, student friends, StudySmarterFig. 2 - The casual register is most commonly used in informal situations.

    Casual register use

    The casual register generally comes naturally as it is the most common register we use when talking to friends and family. However, here are some situations where it is appropriate:

    • chatting to friends at a party or other social setting

    • talking about your day to your family at the dinner table

    • discussing hobbies or interests with a close colleague

    • getting excited about a football match or tournament with teammates

    When is it not appropriate to use the casual register? As with all the different registers, there are situations where using the casual register is inappropriate and should be avoided. Some examples include:

    • presenting a project or presentation that you'll be assessed on

    • during a court proceeding or other legal procedure

    • when a doctor is discussing a diagnosis or treatment with a patient

    • during a job interview

    There are many other times when the casual register will be appropriate and many others when it will be inappropriate, but these are just a few ideas.

    Let's delve a little deeper. What should we look for to see if the casual register is a good fit for a particular situation or not?

    Audience

    • Do you know the audience well? Are they friends or close family? If so, then the casual register will probably be the natural option.

    • Do the people you're speaking to make you feel comfortable and relaxed, or do you feel concerned or worried about something? If you're feeling happy and relaxed, then the casual register is likely to emerge.

    • Is the audience close to you in age? It may not always be appropriate to speak to an older person in the casual register, even if you know them well.

    • Do you have shared knowledge and experiences, inside jokes, and a similar sense of humour to the people you're speaking to? If so, casual is probably the way to go!

    Place

    • There are certain places where the casual register is most likely inappropriate.

    • Courtrooms and other settings where legal proceedings might be underway are never going to be places where the casual register is appropriate.

    • Hospitals are places where the casual register is rarely used unless you are visiting a friend or family member.

    • It's probably best to avoid the casual register in educational situations such as lectures, seminars, and other academic presentations.

    • Business meetings are generally quite serious and professional, so the casual register is best avoided.

    Purpose

    • The casual register is great for some purposes but not ideal for others.

    • If the only purpose of interaction with friends or close family members is to hang out, catch up, and spend time together, then the casual register will feel very natural.

    • Sharing stories, telling jokes, and socialising at a party or other casual events are good times when the casual register is perfectly appropriate.

    • If the purpose of an interaction is to convey important information, seek guidance or clarification on an important matter, or to teach someone, then the casual register might not be appropriate.

    • Business, legal, and academic actions do not typically suit the casual register.

    Casual register examples

    So, we've looked at some examples of situations when the casual register should and should not be used. Now let's look at some examples of what the casual register might look like:

    A casual conversation between friends:

    Dave: 'Hey dude, alright?'

    James: 'What's up, brother? Still bricking it about the test?'

    Dave: 'Nah, I'm over it, me. I can't be bothered. What will be will be.'

    In this example, two friends discuss a test they did, and Dave feels unconfident about it. In the exchange, we see examples of slang ('dude', 'bricking it') and other colloquial structures ('alright?', 'Nah', 'I'm over it, me').

    We can also tell that the two speakers are friends, as they address each other with affectionate terms such as 'dude' and 'brother'. All of these factors suggest that this is an exchange using the casual register.

    A family talking over dinner:

    Dad: 'So, how was everyone's day today? Any news?'

    Sally: 'A boy in my class ate a worm at break time; it was really gross.'

    Mum: 'Ewww, bet he didn't fancy his lunch after that!'

    Sally: 'All of the other boys thought it was funny, and he also laughed, but I didn't think it was funny. It was just yucky.'

    In this exchange, the father has prompted a conversation with his family by asking how everyone else's day was. The daughter offers some news, and the mother reacts in a good-natured and enthusiastic manner.

    We see examples of casual grammatical structures ('Any news?' and 'bet he didn't fancy his lunch...' instead of 'Is there any news?'/ 'Do you have any news?' and 'I bet he didn't fancy his lunch...') and colloquial language ('Ewww', 'fancy', 'yucky').

    The family members seem comfortable and relaxed together, adding to the casual register.

    Can you think of other examples where the casual register might be used? Try and write two or three more examples, either based on conversations you've had in real life or make them up!

    Casual Register, two men having a casual lunch, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The casual register is great for informal gatherings rather but not important business meetings.

    Casual register vs intimate register

    What is the difference between the casual register and the intimate register? Based on the definitions and explanations in this article, they might seem quite similar. Let's dissect the two registers to see how they differ:

    Casual register

    • typically used in informal exchanges between friends, family members, teammates, and colleagues.

    • usually involves people who are close in age or who have shared experiences

    • used when people feel comfortable, relaxed, and happy in the company of others

    • used in informal situations

    • includes slang, swearing, vulgarities etc. (sometimes, but not all of the time)

    Intimate register

    • essentially always used in conversations between people who have very close relationships (close friends, family members, romantic partners etc.)

    • often used when sharing stories and secrets, during private or discreet situations

    • includes inside jokes, affectionate teasing, and flirting

    • informal language but is generally more purposeful than the casual register

    As you can see, the two registers are fairly similar in many ways. One of the key differences is that the casual register can be used between friends, family members, colleagues, teammates, and other peers.

    In contrast, the intimate register is reserved more for those we are closest to. The intimate register is also used primarily in private interactions, whereas the casual register can be used in lots of different circumstances.

    Casual Register - Key Takeaways

    • The casual register is often used between friends, family members, and teammates (other people we might be close to) and is used in informal and relaxed situations.
    • The casual register is appropriate when it is used in situations we feel comfortable and unconcerned in, and when we're around people we like and get on well with.
    • The casual register is not always appropriate - this will depend on situational factors such as audience, place, and purpose.
    • The casual register should not be used in business meetings, academic presentations, or legal proceedings.
    • The casual and intimate registers are quite similar but differ in that the intimate register is used in private situations and is reserved for those we are closest to.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Casual Register

    When can casual register be used?

    The casual register can be used in situations where one feels comfortable and relaxed. It is used in friendly and informal situations and is most commonly used when we talk to friends, family, and people we feel comfortable around or are close with.

    What are the 6 registers of language?

    The six registers of language are:


    • Casual
    • Formal
    • Neutral
    • Consultative
    • Intimate
    • Frozen

    What is the difference between casual and intimate register?

    The casual register and the intimate register are both mainly used when we speak to people we know well and are comfortable around. However, the casual register is used in informal and relaxed situations whereas the intimate register is most commonly used in private situations where the participants are close-knit and might be discussing private matters or secrets.

    What is casual conversation style?

    A casual conversation style is one where the participants in the conversation are friendly, relaxed, and informal. This may include joking, shared stories or anecdotes, and colloquial language or slang. 

    What are examples of intimate register?

    The intimate register can be used when:


    • discussing something private
    • sharing secrets
    • sharing inside jokes or other shared information
    • flirting

    What is casual language?

    Casual language is a carefree way of speaking that is easy to understand and relate to.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What register does this description most fit? 'casual and personal language often used in private situations'

    What kind of register does this description refer to? 'language used in academic and technical settings, manuals, presentations, and teaching resources'

    True or false, it is most likely inappropriate to use the casual register during a job interview. 

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