Embarrassment prevention: fun or funny?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Speaking spontaneously is the ultimate goal when learning a new language. You’ve abandoned bad habits like thinking in your mother tongue and have mastered the idiomatic words and phrases that can be rather difficult to use appropriately. In my quest to spare you from as many embarrassing mistakes as possible, let me clarify another English language trap concerning the use of fun and funny.

When I have conversations with English learners we often exchange stories. A good adventure or positive experience regularly results in someone telling me that what they did was really funny (something that makes you laugh). I, of course, take that literally thinking that something was comical until I realize what they meant to say was their experience was fun (entertaining; enjoyable).

Fun is usually used to talk about things that you do or experience:
The birthday party last night was a lot of fun. (the things I did at the party)
Playing in a band is fun. (the action of playing in a band)
We had fun last weekend. (the things I did over the weekend)

Funny is usually used to talk about things that you see or hear:
The story he told me was very funny. (I heard it.)
The movie was really funny. (I saw it.)
My best friend is funny. (I hear and see her often.)

Who is the funniest person you know? Why are they funny?

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