Discourse Markers: Sound Fluent & Natural in English Conversations
In this advanced conversation lesson, you will practise using DISCOURSE MARKERS (very handy English words that can help you to sound more fluent and natural in English conversations!)
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In this lesson, you’ll learn the important words that help you to guide and control an English conversation – words that can help you to:
▪️transition between parts of your conversation
▪️show that you are listening and you understand
▪️help to make someone feel included in the conversation
▪️create a pause and check information
▪️slow the conversation down
———- TIMESTAMPS ———-
00:00 Discourse Markers for English Fluency
00:50 Fluency @ Hey Lady! Speaking Community
01:52 What are Discourse Markers?
03:42 Transition a conversation
04:58 Show you are listening
05:57 Include them in your conversation
07:00 Create a pause & check information
07:34 Slow the conversation down
08:26 Practice Advanced Conversation Skills
09:13 Listen to Discourse Markers in the complete conversation
CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.
These are all words that you already know for sure but you may not know how they’re used to direct the flow of a conversation. They help you to sound so much more natural and fluent when you speak.
Native English speakers use these words in so many ways in a conversation and they come up really frequently. Two to three times a minute in natural speech. So learning more about them and how they’re used is an essential fluency tool.
Are you ready to find out more?
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So what are discourse markers? Good question! They’re really handy. We use them to direct the flow of a conversation or to navigate a conversation smoothly and easily.
They kind of work like little signposts helping the other person to anticipate what you’re gonna say or to guide them about what’s gonna happen next in the discussion.
And discourse markers are probably words that you already know like:
But when they’re used in this way, their meaning is different from the one that you’ll find in a dictionary which makes them a little tricky.
In fact, some of these words can be used to direct a conversation in multiple ways like right.
- Right, I better get going.
Here I use right to introduce a new part of the conversation, the end.
- You know Geoff, right?
Here I used it to confirm shared knowledge, knowledge that I have and the person I’m talking to has.
- So I was waiting for him outside the cinema which is what we agreed.
But then I checked Instagram and I saw a picture that Millie posted and he was with her in Northbridge!
And here it’s used as an interjection to show the speaker that you’re listening and that they should continue speaking.
And in all of these examples, the word right doesn’t really mean anything but it does play a really important role in directing the conversation, the flow of the conversation. It’s a signpost. And if you want to speak English naturally and fluently, try to use these signposts a little more when you speak.
Let’s take a closer look at these discourse markers together. Words like these are all used to transition between different parts of a conversation.
They all indicate the start, the beginning of a new part of a conversation and they also help you to switch between topics.
- Hey, it’s Emma! How’s it going?
Hey Emma, not bad.
How are you?
I’m good, busy but good.
So I need your advice.
So helps to make the transition between small talk and asking for advice. It makes that transition really smooth and easy.
- So, I’ve got a question for you…
- So, I was wondering…
Because discourse markers indicate a shift or a transition, we can also use them to signal the end of our conversation as well which is really handy.
- Well, I’d better let you go. I’m sure you’ve got a million things to do.
You could use anyway here as well. It plays exactly the same role.
- Anyway, I’d better get going.
Using well or anyway ensures a really soft transition away from the conversation and announcing it’s gonna end. So it’s not an abrupt end, it’s a smooth transition which is what we want.
An important part of great natural conversation in English is showing that you are actively listening throughout the conversation and that you’re interested in what the other person is saying.
So you can do it by nodding and smiling and showing them that you’re listening but you can also interject with little words or little sounds like:
Doing this shows that you are listening and it encourages the other person to continue speaking which is really nice. That’s a really nice thing to do in a conversation.
- I’ve been planning this camping trip with our family.
We’ve been planning it for months.
We’re supposed to meet in Sydney.
But there’s been all this crazy flooding on the coast.
It’s also nice to involve the other person in the conversation especially if you’re explaining something or maybe you’re telling a really long story.
These are really useful tools to help you include the other person in what’s going on. Little tags like:
- you know?
They’re a really great way to involve the other person without actually finishing your sentence or stopping your story. In fact, you hear me using right? as a tag all the way through my lessons all the time. It’s a habit that I have. Right?
- You remember our trip to Joanna, right? It was torrential rain for three days straight. But I don’t really want to cancel because we put so much time into it already, you know? What do you think I should do?
We also use them to check that something is true but in particular when we assume that the other person already knows what we’re talking about. So when you assume that they agree with what you’re saying.
Wait is a really helpful one to use especially when you want to pause the conversation for a minute but not like because you need more time to think. Instead, it’s used to clarify or to confirm some of the information that was just said to you.
- I’m good.
You remember I had a job interview, right? Well, they offered me the job.
Wait, are you talking about the job in Melbourne?
This use of wait actually comes from the expression “wait a minute” or “wait a moment”.
It’s a shortened version of that phrase. If you want to slow down the conversation a little then you can use I mean.
- What do you think I should do?
I mean, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a great holiday.
Maybe you should just cut your losses.
Starting a sentence with I mean can create a little bit of extra time for you to think. In particular, when you’re not sure how to respond or you need some extra time. You can pause or create a little bit of extra time with I mean. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just there to create space for you. But it’s also a way of signalling when you’re about to give an honest opinion. One that might not be exactly what the other person wants to hear.
- Hey, why don’t we go camping?
I mean, we could go camping but I’d rather go to the beach.
You just learned five different ways to use discourse markers to control and manage your English conversations. How awesome is that?
Remember that these are advanced speaking skills so if you don’t feel ready to use them yourself when you speak then start by listening out for them in movies and TV shows where you get to listen to native English speakers using these discourse markers all the time.
Now that you know about them I’m sure you’ll hear them in native English conversations all the time. In fact, why don’t you listen to the complete conversation I had with Shah over the phone and you’ll get to hear how that whole conversation flows and transitions from the start through the middle to the end.
Emma: Hey, it’s Emma. How’s it going?
Shah: Hey Emma. Not bad, how are you?
Emma: I’m good, busy but good. So I need your advice. I’ve been planning this camping trip with our family.
Emma: We’ve been planning it for months.
Emma: We’re supposed to meet in Sydney.
Ema: But there’s been all this crazy flooding on the coast.
Emma: You remember our trip to Joanna, right?
Shah: It was torrential rain for three days straight. But I don’t really want to cancel because we’ve put so much work into it already, you know?
Emma: What do you think I should do?
Shah: I mean, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a great holiday. Maybe you should just cut your losses.
Emma: Maybe you’re right. Anyway, tell me about you.
Shah: I’m good. You remember I had that job interview, right? Yeah, well they offered me the job.
Emma: Wait, are you talking about the job in Melbourne?
Shah: Yeah, the one in Melbourne. I start next month which is like really soon.
Emma: Oh my god! Congratulations! So you’re moving! That’s so exciting!
Shah: Isn’t it?
Emma: Well, I’d better let you go. I’m sure you’ve got a million things to do. Thanks again!
Shah: Okay, bye.
Now that you’ve learned how to use these extremely common English words in some new and exciting ways, I want you to do two things.
The first is: listen to native English speakers in casual conversation, TV series, a movie or a conversational podcast would be perfect for this. Now that you know how to recognise these discourse markers, I’m sure you’ll start hearing them more.
The second is: try using one or two of them yourself. Maybe use wait to check information in a conversation or use anyway to announce that you’re ending the conversation and smoothly transition out of it. Try them out, get more comfortable using them.
Make sure you subscribe and you turn on notifications so that you don’t miss any of my new lessons. Thank you for being here. Thank you for watching. I hope that you enjoyed it. See you in the next lesson!
Links mentioned in the video
How to understand Australians | Slang Words & Expressions
English Conversation Training (Workout #2)
English Conversation Practice | Listen to English & Understand!