IELTS, TOEFL & TOEIC Vocabulary: how to use 'per se'

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,079 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
edited May 2017 in Vocabulary
We received the following message from an IELTS candidate:
Dear Scott's Team:

Thank you so much for your reply, it is really so kind of you. 

Your reply per se boosted my confidence... 
What's wrong here?  It's the student's use of the expression per se. When we use per se in English, we often use it with the following construction:

subject + don't/not + ... + per se  


Per se is an adverb which means by or of itself.  Confused?

Okay, there are a few words with a similar meaning (synonyms) to per se.  One of them is 'intrinsically' or 'intrinsic'
meaning belonging to the essential nature or part of a thing.

Let's take a look at some sample sentences which use 'per se':

1. That watch is not valuable per se.

The watch may not be instrinsically valuable - it may not be worth a lot of money as it is - but it may be valuable to the owner, perhaps because of memories associated with it, or because it has been passed down through the family, etc.

2. It is not these facts per se that are important.

The facts on their own may not be important - but taken together with other information, they then become important.

3. She feels that there is nothing wrong with gambling per se, but she thinks that it should be done in moderation.

She thinks that there is nothing fundamentally wrong in principle with gambling - or, nothing intrinsically wrong with gambling - or, nothing wrong with gambling in itself - and the implication is that it's all the other things associated with gambling (e.g., getting addicted to it; spending lots of money) that are wrong.


Practice.  
Write the 2nd half of the following sentences using per se.
When you have tried some yourself, compare your answers with ours (below). 

1. I don't like basketball per se...
2. I'm not against politics per se...
3. I don't enjoy bushwalking per se...
4. I'm not rich per se...
5. Studying English per se is not enough ...
6. Guns per se are not dangerous...

Click here for a few sample sentences:

1. I don't like basketball per se, but seeing a game in an arena is an exciting experience.
2. I'm not against politics per se, but politicians all seem to be corrupt.
3. I don't enjoy bushwalking per se; however, my family does like to be together in nature.
4. I'm not rich per se, although I do have enough money to live on.
5. Studying English per se is not enough, you also need to use it.
6.Guns per se are not dangerous, it is the way people use them.

Comments

  • ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,079 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2016
    Sample answers to the practice questions:

    1. I don't like basketball per se, but I enjoy the atmosphere of the games.
    2. I'm not against politics per se, but I hate all the lead-up to elections.
    3. I don't enjoy bushwalking per se, but I love being outdoors.
    4. I'm not rich per se, but I have enough money to live comfortably.
    5. Studying English per se is not enough - you have to actually use it.
    6. Guns per se are not dangerous, it's the people who misuse them.

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