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10 English Expressions for More Confident Conversations in a Group

March 5, 2020

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Have you ever felt stuck in an English conversation?

Maybe you wanted to jump into a discussion and share your ideas, or maybe you wanted to disagree with someone but were not sure how to do it politely.

For whatever reason, you find it difficult to participate in English.

Imagine if you were able to enter conversations easily. Even though English is not your first language, you're able to organize your thoughts, express your opinions, and keep the listener engaged.

Well, you can! And in today’s post, I’ll show you how.

The Key to Speaking English Confidently in a Group

You might be feeling insecure about speaking in English for many reasons, but from my experience, there is one technical skill that has helped my students improve their speaking skills and gain more confidence—the use of discourse markers.

What Are Discourse Markers?

Discourse markers are small words or expressions that we use at the beginning of a sentence. Also called “connecting words,” “signposting words,” or “transition words,” discourse markers are important because we use them to:

  • Introduce or clarify ideas
  • Begin or end a conversation
  • Express attitudes about what’s being said
  • Help the listener process information faster
  • Signal a change in the direction of a conversation

There are formal and informal markers, and they exist in both writing and speaking in English. These markers might seem unnecessary, but they actually have a big impact on your ability to communicate clearly. Without discourse markers, it is nearly impossible to start, end, and participate in conversations. Discourse markers can also help English students get higher scores on English exams such as the IELTS, Cambridge, and TOEIC.

Continue reading to discover 10 discourse markers we commonly use in English conversations.

1. To Tell (You) the Truth

We use this expression when we’re about to say what we really think or feel. Often, we use it to share information that will contradict or confirm what the listener expects.

Let’s look at an example:

A: “I liked the author’s new book. What did you think of it?”
B: To tell you the truth, I liked her first book better.”

2. At the End of the Day

This expression has a few different meanings. Literally, it means “in the evening,” but sometimes we use it when we’ve considered all options and we’d like to give our final opinion. It’s another way to say “ultimately”or “in the end.”

Here’s a good example:

  • At the end of the day, nutrition is just as important as exercise.

3. Speaking of

“Speaking of” or “talking of” are expressions we often use to introduce something new relating to a subject someone has just mentioned.

For example:

  • Speaking of traveling, are you going anywhere exciting this year?

4. Actually

“Actually” is very common in spoken English and it has many uses. Often, we use it to introduce surprising information:

A: “How are your studies going?”
B: Actually, I decided to drop out of university for a year.”

We can also use it as a softener when we’re correcting information or opposing an opinion:

A: “His last name looks German.”
B: Actually, it’s Dutch.”

5. To Some Extent

We use “to some extent” to say how true something is. It’s another way to say “partly” or “somewhat.”

Here’s an example:

  • To some extent, it’s an interesting job. But it can be a bit too stressful at times.

6. Look at It This Way

“Look at it this way” is commonly used to persuade someone to think about something in a different way.

For instance, we can say:

  • Look at it this way, if the same thing happened to you, what would you do?

7. In Fact

We use “in fact” to signify that we are giving more detailed information about what we’ve just said.

For example:

  • I know the Johnsons really well. In fact, I had dinner with them last week.

We also use it to introduce information that contradicts a previous statement:

  • He might seem unfriendly, but, in fact, he’s very kind.

8. In Any Case

This expression means “what was said before isn”t important.” It’s another way to say “whatever the situation is or will be.”

To understand this better, let’s look at an example:

  • The transportation system here isn’t that bad. In any case, it’s better than walking.

9. In Other Words

“In other words” is an expression we use to express an idea again in a different and simpler way.

For instance, we can say:

  • Traveling helps you meet new people and try new things. In other words, it’s the best way to learn about another culture.

10. Mind You

We use “mind you” to add a particular piece of information to something we’ve just said. Often, we use it to introduce a contrasting idea.

Here’s an example:

  • The restaurant was fantastic! Mind you, it was a little expensive.

We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below:

  • Which of these English expressions were new for you?
  • What are your tips on expressing yourself comfortably in a group?

Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you!

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