Home » Speaking English »

English conversation tips

Nothing helps your speaking more than practising with others. (If you don't live in an English-speaking country, our page on How to practise your English speaking gives you advice on ways to practise your English.)

In a controlled environment (i.e. a classroom) speaking English with others is relatively easy, as you're probably practising particular expressions or vocabulary.

But in the outside world, conversations can be a lot more unpredictable and things can go wrong in conversations. Maybe you don't understand the other person – or maybe they don't understand you. Maybe you're talking about a difficult subject with technical vocabulary, or maybe the other person uses a lot of slang or English idioms that you don't understand. Here are some tips and strategies for when there are communication problems.

You don't know the word

Sometimes we forget the right word, or we realise as we're speaking that we don't know the word we need. We can also forget the word if we are under pressure, such as in an exam. But the important thing is to keep going – don't let the conversation stop! If you don't know the word, try to say it in another way. Define it, give an example, or give a synonym.

For example, if you can't remember the word "mug" you can try these:

Definition
"It's something you can drink coffee from."
"You can use it to drink coffee from."
"It's used for coffee."

Examples, explanations and descriptions
"It's made of china. You use it for drinking coffee."
"It's bigger than a cup."

Synonym
"It's like a cup, but bigger."
"It's similar to… (a cup)."
"It's a kind of … (cup)."

The other person doesn't understand you

You'll probably guess that this has happened from the blank look on the other person's face.

Ask a question such as "Do you know what I mean?" or "Sorry, have I lost you?"

Or use a rephrasing phrase, such as "Let me say that again", or "Let me put that another way."

You run out of things to say

A conversation should be two-way. If you find that you are talking all the time, or if you don't have anything else left to say, get the other person to contribute by asking a question.

You can try a short question like in this example from our page on how to keep a conversation going:

"We tried out the new Chinese restaurant last night."
"Did you?"

Or you can ask a more direct question, such as "What do you think?" or "what's your opinion?"

You don't know how to end the conversation

Some conversations should be short. For example, asking someone for directions, giving directions, asking for information in a shop are all situations where the conversation comes to a natural end. In these situations, a simple "Thank you" (where the typical response is "You're welcome" or "Not at all") shows both people that the conversation is over.

But in other situations, you might just be chatting, with no particular purpose. End the conversation with a phrase like "I'd better get going" or "I think that's my bus / train" (if you're waiting for public transport, say) to end the conversation naturally.




Please share this page :-)
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

32 comments

Miyagi
Thanks, it's very helpful.
Teresita
Thanks, Thanks, Thanks
sirelkhatim
thanks a lot
ashraf
very useful thank you
Irma
Thanks.
krishna
Nice website .it helped me alot.
asma
1,great
moj
good
fitri
once again i said thanks, its very usefull for me. i'm still imprive my english so this article very help me :)
Mohamed
thanks
Karrar Abbas
The problem is, you live in arab country and few people speak english .You cannot all the time speak english ,especially when you go to buy something and the seller does not speak english .Because his native language is arabic. By the way , it is very good idea.Thanks
Abdullatif M.
Thank a million
Rama Varma.G
nice course
samsam
thanks its very helpfull
liban
The problem is, you live in arab country and few people speak english .You cannot all the time speak english ,especially when you go to buy something and the seller does not speak english .Because his native language is arabic. By the way , it is very good idea.Thanks
Clare
Hi LibanI agree that you can't speak English with people who don't also speak it! But perhaps you can find other people who want to practise their English - perhaps create a film club or conversation club where you can meet regularly with other people to keep your speaking skills up-to-date?
munawar
nice, thanks
ritz
nice very helpfull
joya
Thank you so much
Angel
Hello, first of all I want to thank you very much for this website, it's very very useful, I'm not a english native speaker but I have a doubt, you use the word practise and its variations but are you sure is practi(s)e or practi(c)e, is just an observation sorry if I am wrong.
Angel
Very good!!! Thank you!!!
Clare
There are different spellings with practise / practice.In British English, we use "practise" for the verb and "practice" for the noun. However, in American English, the correct spelling is "practice" for both verb and noun. (I'm British English, so I use "practise" and "practice"!)
almighty
im from Philippines, this page is very helpful and i get some topics here to teach my students. Thank you very much.
javed jafri
it,s my pleasure thank ful so much.
michaeal
it is good lesson
Abdulle
Thank you very much,it's very good tips
Abinandhini
It is very useful.
chinni
it is very useful
Rana
Ranaits informative, helpful. Indeed its a nice endeavor/struggle for the learning community. Keep it up!
monisha
very nice speaking english very easily understood the sentence.it is useful .thanks
sarwar
This was a amazing website.Its help me alot.
Fazlurahman Safi
I am so eager to learn English.

Your Name


Your Email (not published)


Your Comment






Get a FREE English Short Story!


Like to learn English? Join 19,600+ people who read our newsletter and get more help with:
✓ Speaking
✓ Vocabulary
✓ Real Life English

We won't share your email address and you can unsubscribe any time.