Traditional English language textbooks and
courses will do a great job of introducing you to vocabulary and grammar, but they
don't always teach you the important everyday phrases in English. When
students visit an English-speaking country, they can sometimes be
confused by some of these phrases.
Sometimes the problems are because pronunciation
is different in spoken
English, and sometimes the problems are because English
speakers use idioms that cannot be translated literally into another
When you are learning everyday phrases, it is important to learn if
they are formal, informal or slang. Here are some examples:
Some important everyday phrases in English
are you?" is a little formal.
People will often say the more informal:
"How're you doing?"
"How's it going?"
or "How's everything?"
They all mean pretty much the same thing really; the speaker wants to
know if you're OK.
You might also hear "What's happening?" or "What's up?"
These questions are asking you about your activities now – "What are
Of course that's fine, but people will usually say, "Thanks." You may
also hear "Cheers" or "Ta" (especially in British English).
"wanna," "coulda," "shoulda," "woulda," etc.
Sometimes you will come across these in spoken English.
They are shortened forms of "going to," "want to," "could have,"
"should have" and "would have."
They can cause a lot of confusion among learners so listen out for
them. Again, they are very informal.
a nice day!"
I love this phrase. It's a kind of nice, happy way of saying goodbye to
someone and is often used if you don't know someone very well.
You will also hear the more informal expressions, "See ya!" (See you),
"Take care," "Later," and "Bye bye" as often as "Goodbye."
is probably the most used word in the English language.
If you can start using this naturally in your English speech, you know
you are making progress towards sounding like a native English speaker!
Obviously these are all pretty general phrases and words, but there are
many more that are used in particular situations.
How can you start to increase your usage of natural English phrases?
The most important thing is to listen. Listen to conversations between
other people, listen to dialogue in movies, listen to radio talk shows,
A practical tip if you are living in a non-English speaking country:
Set yourself a goal for each movie/radio talk show you watch or
Set a goal of learning one or two new useful
phrases from the next English speaking movie you watch.
Then, during the movie, remind yourself to pay
attention to the characters' speech.
Spot a phrase that is commonly used in the
movie and is also new to you. Write it down.
Clarify fully what it means. Use it a few times
in sentences of your own. And try to include it in your following
Learn some new phrases on the next movie!
This can be a great way to learn new phrases
because you catch them in "real" life situations. You get to
see and write down how they are used. This can be very helpful.
If you hear a phrase and you aren't sure if it is formal, informal, or
slang, the best thing to do is either to ask someone you trust, or
check in a good
dictionary. Many good dictionaries will tell you how formal a
word or expression is.
If the word is a swear word, the dictionary should tell you. It may
have the abbreviation vulg (for "vulgar") next to the definition. You
certainly don't want to start using swear words in a formal situation,
so it's good to be careful!
There are so many useful everyday phrases in English that no single
article will be able to help you with all of them, so just listen and
practice when you can.