I heard my coworker, a native English Speaker, next to me talking on the phone. She said "you should learn to moderate your mouth when you are talking, you just talk anyhow to me about being a liar...." I knew she is a habitual liar by working with her. Since we are at our company, she can't really talk loud. She was quite upset on the phone.

From the words she used in the sentence, 'you should learn to moderate your mouth,' did it sound like she was yelling or being impolite/aggressive/disrespectful to the person on the phone? In addition, can someone tell me how strong the word, moderate, is used here?

  • If she couldn't talk loudly, she wasn't 'yelling' (which means 'shouting', not 'being angry'). Feb 27 at 9:46

It’s virtually impossible to tell from the words alone. Her tone of voice would also be needed, and could be the key aspect that conveyed meaning and emotion. It would also be useful to know if your coworker is a native English speaker because that would help interpret some key words; in particular, “should” and “your mouth”.

When used by a native speaker, then in this context it might suggest a more negative emotion was at play. So, “should” is quite prescriptive — i.e. more than a mere suggestion; and “your mouth” has connotations of the phrase “shut your mouth” which is very negative. Compare with the following softer version:

It might be better to moderate your words

As to the “strength” of moderate; in this context it is not strong. In fact it is precisely because of the contrast between the relatively soft “moderate”, and potentially much harsher “should” and “your mouth” that I asked if she is a native speaker. My suspicion is that she isn’t, because it’s a slightly unusual combination. On the other hand, using “moderate” as a verb in that way is relatively sophisticated English, so what do I know! :-)

Tone is everything though. Without that, all of the above is speculation.

  • My coworker is a native English speaker who has an English literature degree. She was quite upset on the phone. Your response was quite considerate that you speculate different scenarios. Thanks!
    – LED Fantom
    Feb 28 at 9:17

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