Vague means ‘not clear or precise or exact’. For example, we can say:
I have a vague idea where it is. (= I know the general area but I don’t know exactly where)
I have a vague memory of the game. (= I can remember bits of it but not very clearly)
In spoken F’nglish we often use words which are very vague.
• To refer to actions, ideas and facts:
The main thing (= fact) about John is that he likes everything to be organised.
Hitting that young child was a terrible thing (= action) to do.
• To refer to countable objects (often the speaker and listener know what the object is, or the speaker has forgotten the name of it at the moment of speaking):
What’s that thing (bicycle) doing in the house?
Put those things (cups and saucers) in the cupboard.
• To refer to a general situation:
How are things at school? (= school in general)
Recently, things (= life in general) have been going really well.
We generally use stuff [infml) to refer to uncountable nouns (or a group of countable nouns) when it is not necessary to be precise and give the exact name. Often the listener knows what the speaker is talking about.
Just leave that stuff (= different items of clothes) on the floor. I’ll clear it up.
I never use that biological stuff (= washing powder) in my machine.
(A) sort of…
This is used to describe something when you are not being very exact or precise. Sometimes it is not possible to be exact, and sometimes you cannot find the exact word you want.
The walls are a sort of yellowy colour. (= not exactly yellow, but similar to yellow)
It’s a sort of horror film. (= not exactly a horror film, but similar to one)
He gets … uh sort of … nervous when you mention the word ‘exams’.
It often means ‘a little’, but it is very common in spoken English, and sometimes it may be used more generally to mean a little or even quite a lot.
Could you speak up a bit (= a little). I can’t hear you very well.
I thought the hotel was a bit (= quite) expensive, actually.
These words have the same meaning but approximately is more formal than the others:
The train should arrive in approximately twenty minutes.
It’s about three miles to the house.
There were roughly twenty people at the party.
We are expecting 100 guests, more or less.