Stuck in English Conversations? Let’s Get You UNSTUCK!

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Stuck in English conversations? Let’s get unstuck and out of trouble so you can keep your conversations going for longer!

In this lesson, I’ll teach you 27 natural English expressions (that native speakers use all the time) to help you get out of trouble during conversations!
They’ll help you:
– When you don’t understand…
– When you forget your words…
– When you don’t know what to say…
– When they don’t understand you!

All of these expressions will help you to get out of trouble and keep moving forward in your conversations!

– – – – – REMEMBER! – – – – –
A conversation is not a test!
The other person is not there to challenge you and make you mess up and make fun of you.
They will help you to keep going IF YOU GIVE THEM THE RIGHT CLUES!
Watch the lesson to find out how!


Video Transcript
Section 1

Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish!

We gotta talk. Too many of you have been telling me that you’re worried about joining English conversations. You’re worried about getting stuck, forgetting your words, feeling embarrassed about making mistakes.

Does that sound like you? Do you want to get unstuck with me today? I’m sharing twenty-seven really useful expressions to help you get yourself out of trouble when you need to and help you to feel more confident about joining English conversations in the first place.

Before we get stuck in, I’ve got some fantastic news from our friends at Lingoda who are offering us an exclusive discount available only to mmmEnglish students. I’m assuming that you already know about the Lingoda Language Sprint, right? It’s basically the same as the Lingoda marathon, they’ve just changed the name. So, The Sprint challenges you to accelerate your English speaking skills, your confidence and your fluency by attending a certain number of classes within 90 days.

Now, if you attend all of your classes, Lingoda will give you up to a hundred percent of your money back which is very, very cool! Now, there’s two ways that you can participate. The sprint, which is fifteen classes a month for three months. If you complete all of these classes you’ll get a fifty percent refund. Or The Super Sprint which is 30 classes a month for three months. If you complete that, you’ll get a one hundred percent refund!

Now, you can do The Sprint in English, Business English, German, French or Spanish. I did the Spanish version earlier in the year and man it was tough but it was easily one of the best things that I ever did for my Spanish speaking skills! They have small group classes, native teachers and 24/7 flexibility. The next sprint starts on January the 29th and to secure place, you need to register and pay by January the 27th. Use the link in the description below and add this code to get a cool 10 euro discount at the check-out. But Lingoda are giving us an exclusive discount here at mmmEnglish. If you register early, as in before the end of the year you’ll get 30 euros off your class fees.

Like I said, this is a special offer that’s only available to mmmEnglish students and only until the end of this year. So, if you want to give your speaking skills a huge boost in 2020, then check out the link in the description box below for all the
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There’s something that my students often forget, that every confident English speaker, whether they’re native or non-native, uses the strategies that I’m sharing today to help them communicate. That’s right, native English speakers use these techniques all the time. It’s a natural part of communicating. We don’t always know what we want to say and it doesn’t always come out perfectly either.

What confident English speakers know how to do is quickly get themselves out of trouble if they need to. If they get stuck in the conversation they know how to fix it. And there are plenty of English phrases and expressions that will help you in these situations.

So when you get stuck or when you can’t find the right words or you forget what you wanted to say and you start feeling your confidence slipping away or the heat rising up in your neck, maybe you freeze. Has this ever happened to you?

The thing is and I’m sorry to be the one to say this, the thing is this experience is never going to end. So it’s something that you need to learn to live with right? And just become more comfortable with.

And when that happens, you’ll be able to get yourself out of trouble quickly and automatically. So let’s focus on the expressions that you need to get unstuck in English conversations so that you can move past the problem and keep talking.

Situation #1: You don’t understand

Okay imagine that you’ve just run into someone that you know, perhaps a colleague or a professor at your university and you’ve started chatting in English. Things are going pretty well, you know, but suddenly you don’t really understand what they’re saying.

Now this could be because they’re using words that you don’t recognise. Maybe because you don’t know a lot about this topic, perhaps it could be because their accent is a little different to what you’re used to so it’s a bit tricky.

So in these situations, you could say:

1. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.
2. Could you repeat what you said?
3. I’m sorry. I’m not following you.

So we use this expression when we don’t understand what someone means, when it’s a little unclear or you’re a little confused.

4. I don’t think I understood your question. Can you repeat that?

Situation #2: You forget

What about when you are talking with someone but suddenly you forget your own words or you forget what you’ve been talking about after you’ve already started talking, right? It’s the worst because the other person is looking at you. They’re waiting for you to continue. Their full focus is on you and you’ve lost your words. It’s just awkward silence.

This does happen to everyone. Sometimes things are just so bad, the best thing to do is just hit the reset button. Now I’m gonna talk about that in a minute but firstly, what can you say when you forget your words? Listen to what I say but also watch how I say it. It’s really important.

5. What’s that word again?
6. It’s on the tip of my tongue.

We use this idiom to describe that really familiar feeling, you know, when we’ve lost a word but it’s so, so close in our minds, it’s like right there. We just can’t get to it, you know, you’re trying to remember that word.

7. I’m sorry, I’ve had a mental blank. I can’t remember the word in English.

Now at this point, the person that you’re talking to will probably try and help you to remember or remind you of the word. You could even say:

8. I have no idea how to say this in English! Maybe you can help me if I explain what I’m trying to say.

But even if you can’t find the word, don’t let it stop you. Simply say something like:

9. That’s so annoying. Nevermind…

And then change the topic.
You could say:
10. Let’s move on.

This will help you to change the topic and keep moving forward in your conversation.

Now sometimes it’s not just a word that you’ve forgotten but you’ve completely forgotten what you were talking about at all and I really hate that feeling.

You start panicking because you don’t know where you’re going in the conversation, right? You’re lost. Maybe you’ve been completely tongue-tied so you need to restart. You need to hit that reset button. You just need to explain what’s happened and probably have a laugh as well, you know, you should always say these ones with a smile on your face because remember this happens to everyone.

11. Hang on. Let me start over! Let me try that again.
12. Oh man! I completely lost my train of thought there…
13. I’m so sorry, I’ve completely forgotten what I was talking about. Hopefully, it’ll come back to me in a few moments.

Now this is a great signal or a great conversation cue to tell the other person that they should try and take over the conversation while you’re trying to think of what you wanted to say.

Hopefully, it’ll come back to me in a moment.

Now if you suggest that you’re thinking or you need that extra time, the other person should interject. Honesty is really important in conversations. When you explain what’s happened then everyone else understands, right? If someone is listening to you speak and then you somehow get stuck, well all of the expressions that we just went through are going to help explain what happened and then give clues to the person who’s listening to you so that they can help you out.

A teeny, tiny, little reminder, a conversation is not a test.

The other person is not there to challenge you or to make you mess up or to make fun of you. They’re going to help you to keep going in your conversation if you give them the right clues. If you help them to understand what’s happening then they can help you to find the right word or to change the topic.

This is a completely normal part of English conversation and let’s be honest, it’s going to happen to you a lot on your journey towards English fluency and it’s gonna happen to you once you’re fluent too so it’s a really good thing that you’re here and you’re getting the tools that you need to have successful conversations even if you mess up.

Situation #3: You don’t know what to say

There are plenty of times when you just don’t know what to say, right? Because you’re not prepared or you’ve never thought about this topic or question before. You just have no idea what to say, right? So you need to buy some time. You need a little bit of extra time to think about your answer and there are tons of different expressions that we use in English when this happens.

14. Let me think about that for a minute.
15. That’s an interesting question, let me think…
16. That’s tricky… I’ve never been asked that before.
17. I’m not sure! Give me a second to think about it.
18. Give me a moment to think about how to explain that in English!

All of these sentences will give you some extra time just a few seconds so that you can take a deep breath. You can get your thoughts in order and you can think about what you need to say next.

If you’re in a group, you could even direct the question towards someone else.

19. I need some time to think about that.
20. Does anyone else have an answer ready?

You’re sending the question on to someone else.

Another really common situation especially when you’re at work is when someone asks you to share an opinion or an idea about something but may catch you off guard. You don’t have anything ready to share with them about this topic, right? You don’t know what to say so you freeze. You start searching for words but in that moment it feels like every English word has escaped from your brain and gone somewhere else. So in this situation, you can try to return the question to them.

21. I’ve never thought about that before. What about you?
22. That’s tricky… I’ve never been asked a question like that before. What do you think?

Or even more casually, you could say:
23. What’s your take?
24. What are your thoughts?

Now this does two things. The other person is going to start talking, right? So you’ll have some time to think about your answer while they do that but if you don’t already have an opinion about this topic or some ideas that you want to share, you can get some ideas from what they’re saying. They’ll inspire you to think about something, you know, maybe you’ll agree or disagree with what they’ve said.

Situation #4: They don’t understand you

Lastly, you might find yourself in a situation where you’re talking but you notice the face of the other person changing. They don’t seem to be understanding you. That’s okay! It might be your fault but it could also be them. So if you feel like this is happening, you could say a few different things.

25. Am I making sense?

This is a great question to ask if you want to check and allow them to ask a question to you, you know, have a break to check with you.

26. I don’t think I’m being very clear, am I? Let’s try that again.
27. Sorry I think I’m confusing you. What I’m trying to say is…

Now this expression allows you to rephrase your ideas in a different way to help the other person to understand you. It’s really, really useful. Try and remember it.


So there you have it, twenty-seven practical expressions to help you when you get stuck in English conversations. I hope that they give you the confidence to join more English conversations and they help you to keep your conversations going for longer. If you enjoyed the lesson, make sure you give it a like and share with your friends.

And also don’t forget to check out The Lingoda Sprint. It’s an awesome opportunity to regularly practise your conversation skills with native teachers and others. Use the link in the description below to check it out.

If you have any questions about this lesson or you have any special lesson requests then add them to the comments below and if you want to keep practising with me, you know where to find me. I’ll see you in there!

Links mentioned in the video

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