English Language Blog

Redundant words in English – time to cut them out. Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in English Language

Redundant words are words that are extra, not needed, and/or repetitive. Sometimes people use redundant words to emphasize a point or to try and make what they are saying seem stronger or clearer, but usually redundant words do exactly the opposite. Redundant words often make a person look like they don’t know what they are saying, because they are simply saying the same thing twice.

Take a look at this infographic from Grammar.net about redundant words and intensifiers.

From: http://www.grammar.net/

Image from http://www.grammar.net/hi-res.

In this infographic a few common redundancies are highlighted:
anonymous stranger
true fact
ATM machine (ATM = automated teller machine)
PIN number (PIN = personal identification number)

But there are many other redundant word combinations in English that people use regularly. Take a look at the list below of common redundant word combinations in English. Try to avoid using these redundancies.

absolutely essential – both of these words mean the same thing, they mean ‘necessary’
advance preview – both of these words mean ‘ahead of something else’
advance warning – the word ‘warning’ implies receiving information beforehand so you don’t have to say ‘advanced’ too
best ever – the word ‘best’ is  superlative and implies something is better than all others
brief summary – summaries are, by nature, ‘small’ or ‘brief’
cease and desist – these words are synonyms and mean the same thing so both are not needed
closed fist – a fist is when a person’s hand and fingers are bent in toward the palm and held there tightly so a fist is by nature closed
disappear from sight – to disappear means to no longer be visible or to be out of sight
exact same – these words are synonyms
fall down – to fall implies downward movement; you can’t fall up 🙂
foreign imports – to import means to bring something from an outside place, which, by nature, means that the thing imported is ‘foreign’
frozen ice – ice is always frozen – that is what makes it ice!
HIV virus – the V in HIV stands for ‘virus’
join together – to join means to bring things together; you can’t join apart, you always have to join together, so there is no need to say ‘together’
kneel down – kneeling is to bend the legs in order to sit on the knees, you can’t kneel up
may possibly – these words both mean the same thing and imply ‘a lack of definite action or decision’
past history – there is no such thing as future history, all history is past, so there is no need to say ‘past’
re-elect for another term – the ‘re’ in re-election is similar to the word ‘again’, it implies that a person is serving a second term
sum total – these words both mean ‘the whole amount’ of something
wall mural – murals are by nature art that is painted on walls, so you don’t have to include that information when talking about a mural, it is understood

Here are some practice sentences for you with some redundancies from above and some news ones. See if you can find the redundant words and eliminate them. Remember removing the redundant word is a good thing, it won’t change the meaning of the sentence, and it will actually make the sentence better!

Check your answers below.

1. We need to join together the pieces in order to sew them.
2. Please sit down.
3. It is absolutely essential that you turn the report in by 5pm.
4. I met a man today who has the exact same name as I have.
5. I may possibly be able to attend the party, but I don’t know yet.
6. We need to look ahead to the future for the solutions to our problems.

Answers – these are the redundant words:
1. together; 2.down; 3. absolutely; 4. exact or same; 5. may or possible; 6. ahead.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. harold:

    The critique of number 4 is incorrect.

    “I met a man today who has the exact same name as I have.”

    This imperfectly written, but redundancy is not the problem.

    “Today, I met a man with exactly the same as me”.

    “…who has the exact same name as I have” is wordy and awkward.

    However, clarifying “exactly” is not redundant. He has exactly the same name. It must be the same first, middle, and surname. Indeed, if there are multiple middle names, or suffixes like “Junior” or “the third”, he must share those, too. And he must spell each of them the same way the speaker does. He has “exactly” the same name.

    Many people have the same first and last name as I do, and it is sometimes commented to me by people who look up professional qualifications or do similar things, that many others have the “same name” as me. But usually not “exactly the same name”.

    • Gabriele:

      @harold Harold,
      Thank you for adding your opinion on this.