12 little phrases that make you sound more cultured

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How does one come across as erudite?

You can read voraciously. Travel. Engage in stimulating conversations with peers.

Or, you can use a shortcut and sprinkle in clever-sounding phrases whenever you talk to someone you want to impress.

Cheeky? Maybe. Illegal? Definitely not.

Here are 12 little phrases that make you sound more cultured.

Slip them naturally into your conversation and bask in the admiration of everyone around.

1) Anything in Latin.

I don’t know what it is about the dead language, but dropping any Latin instantly makes people pay attention to you.

It may be because it sounds impressive or because they have no idea what you’re talking about.

Either way, you come out on top, and you sound not only cultured but also pretentious. 

As long as that’s what you’re going for, it’s foolproof.

If you’re a beginner in the art of posing as cultured folk, stick with basics like Carpe Diem (Seize the day), Memento Mori (Remember that you will die), and Mea Culpa (My fault).

Great memory? Up the ante and sneak in expressions less people are familiar with:

  • Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am
  • Errare humanum est – To err is human
  • Quod erat demonstrandum (Q.E.D.) – That which was to be demonstrated
  • Vox populi, vox Dei – The voice of the people is the voice of God
  • Tempus fugit – Time flies
  • Dum spiro, spero – While I breathe, I hope
  • Ars longa, vita brevis – Art is long, life is short

I studied Latin for a year in high school, and even I can’t remember half of these most of the time.

We’re off to a strong start.

2) If memory serves me correctly…

Why say, “I remember” when you can overcomplicate yourself?

Using “if memory serves me correctly” is a polite way to introduce a statement or correction while also conveying intellectual humility.

In other words, you’re about to drop a truth bomb, but you know that your memory may not be perfect.

This openness to being wrong is a trait often associated with well-educated individuals.

When was the last time you heard a dumb someone willingly admit they might make a mistake?

3) I concur.

Similarly, why say “I agree” when you can use this sophisticated alternative?

“I concur” is formal and commonly used in professional and academic contexts.

Furthermore, it demonstrates a consideration for others’ opinions.

I don’t engage with high society, but I’m 100% sure that cultured conversations involve high courtesy and respect.

The phrase also shows that you have a varied vocabulary.

Any schmuck can say, “You’re right.” Only a cultured one would come up with this one.

4) In the grand scheme of things…

Looking to imply that you have a contemplative approach to the topic under discussion?

This phrase has you covered.

People generally use it to add depth to a conversation, suggesting that there is a more encompassing perspective to consider.

By only using a few words, you appear as a cultured individual who looks beyond immediate details and considers different viewpoints.

Not to mention the fact that the phrase has a certain intellectual resonance to it.

Add it to your arsenal ASAP.

5) I beg to differ.

What a polite way to disagree!

“I beg to differ” is more refined than “I disagree,” showing a willingness to express a different opinion in a thoughtful manner.

It’s respectful and communicates that you’re willing to engage in a constructive debate on the subject at hand.

Just ensure you know enough about the topic to discuss it at length.

6) Let me elaborate further.

If you want to indicate a commitment to clarity, this phrase does the heavy lifting for you. 

“Let me elaborate further” shows you aren’t content with surface-level discussions.

You have additional insight on the matter and the communication skills to deliver those insights to your eager audience.

Knowledge is power. Let the people see you shine.

7) Anything attributed to Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor and one of the most prominent Stoic philosophers in history.

He is best known for his philosophical writings, particularly “Meditations.”

Maybe it’s because life has been a hellish rollercoaster in the last few years, but Stoicism has been enjoying quite the resurgence, with many people turning to its learnings to better navigate the challenges of modern life.

Quoting Marcus Aurelius in conversation conveys the fact that you know who he was and have at least a tangential knowledge of popular philosophy.

It’s a quick way to impress your audience. And you don’t even have to read “Meditations” from cover to cover to pull it off.

Here are examples of quotes that can be easily squeezed into normal conversation:

  • The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
  • Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
  • The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.
  • What we do now echoes in eternity.
  • The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.

These are equal parts beautiful and deep.

Plus, they’re superior to the “live, laugh, love” type of inspirational drivel you see everyone.

8) We’re at a stalemate.

Stalemate is a term from chess and war strategy. Enough said.

It refers to a situation where neither side can make a move without putting themselves at a disadvantage.

This phrase suggests that you and the other person have reached an impasse in the conversation without placing blame on any party.

If you were wondering how people fight in polite society, they don’t.

They agree to disagree – only use classier terms to express the sentiment.

9) It’s a conundrum.

You can say you’re puzzled, sure. 

Or, you can use this phrase, which acknowledges that the issue at hand is not straightforward and involves multiple facets.

It’s not that you don’t understand it per se; it’s more that it’s difficult to understand.

That subtle distinction enables you to be perceived as someone who has given the topic some thought and will continue to do so.

No one has to know that you’ll probably forget all about it in three to five business days.

10) It’s not a priority for me at this time.

As a single woman in my mid-30s, I love this phrase wholeheartedly.

I use it whenever someone asks when I plan to settle down or buy a house or get a more stable job or figure out what I want to do with my future.

Basically, whenever someone inquires about something that doesn’t concern them, usually in a smug and offputting manner.

The phrase suggests that you’ve carefully considered your priorities and have made a deliberate decision. Oh, and you know how to prioritize goals and organize your time efficiently.

It’s also a polite way of saying “none of your beeswax.”

Even cultured people like to push boundaries. Keep them in line. 

11) Any book quote, especially if from a classic.

Cultured people read.

Ergo, book quotes put your intellectual superiority on display with minimum effort.

Is it required to read the book in question? I love reading, so my answer will always be yes.

But if you quote a classic you don’t feel like getting into, chances are everyone will (pretend to) be familiar with the book in question and won’t press you further.

A few lovely book quotes to add to your repertoire:

  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
  • The only way to deal with temptation is to yield to it. (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)
  • So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)
  • It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)
  • I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am. (Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar)

12) Utter silence.

Sometimes, the best thing you can say to appear more cultured is nothing.

If you think there’s the slightest chance your comment will be interpreted as ignorant or offensive, keep your mouth shut.

As the famous saying goes, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

All the clever quotes and fancy words won’t save you if your statement exposes how oblivious you are to the subject.

Final thoughts

A word of advice: being authentic is preferable to tricking people into thinking you’re more cultured than you really are.

If the people in question are insufferable snobs, sure.

Take it to the next level by maintaining good posture, using gestures purposefully, and speaking with calm and conviction.

But if you’re trying to connect with someone, stay true to who you are.

You want them to like them for you, not for your ability to memorize impressive phrases.

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