Shakespeare's influence on the English language

William Shakespeare contributed so much to English culture and language through his plays and sonnets but his true impact is arguably felt in the English phrases we continue to use to this day.

Shakespeare influence English language

Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer in the English language and wrote plays such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Othello. These plays are still performed 400 years after his death and have been translated into dozens of languages.


While some of his plays can be difficult to follow (even for native speakers), expressions used in these plays are still used today.


If you have ever worried about the green-eyed monster, been eaten out of house and home or been led on a wild goose chase then you have just quoted a line from a Shakespeare play. Here are some of our favourites:


Wild Goose Chase

If you have ever been sent to look for something that either was impossible to find or was in an obvious place then you have been sent on a wild goose chase.

"We were sent on a wild goose chase around the court; we then discovered that the usher was in his office."


You Tube Lesson: Shakespeare and his influence on the English language


Good riddance

This is a rude expression so be careful when and where you use it. It means that you are happy that somebody is leaving.

"The paralegal was absolutely terrible. Good riddance to him."


The world is one's oyster

This line from The Merry Wives of Windsor suggests that if the world is your oyster then you can do anything that you put your mind to.

"Now that he's got a training contract with a magic circle law firm, the world is his oyster."


Legal English Online Lessons


Full circle

If something comes full circle then it returns to where it came from via several twists and turns.

"If you think about it, her career has come full circle as she started out as a paralegal and now that she is back doing a similar role."


In a pickle

This expression is found in the play The Tempest and the Bard adapted it from an existing expression. If you are in a pickle you find yourself in a difficult situation that may be difficult to remove yourself from.

"She found herself in a bit of a pickle when she realised that she had two cases being heard in different courts at the same time."


Would you like to learn a few more Shakespeare expressions? Watch the video below.