How can you have a fluent conversation in English? Do you need perfect grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary?
In fact, you can have more fluent conversations if you use a few strategies (and phrases) to help you “navigate” through a conversation.
Copy these 5 “secrets” and ideas from successful English learners and your English conversations will improve.
1. Don’t always say what you think
Native English speakers don’t always say what they want or what they think. For example, we don’t say “I’m going now” when we want to leave a conversation. So it’s important to both understand and use different ways of saying what you mean.
If you want to leave the conversation, you can say something like:
“Have you met…?”
“Can I introduce you to…?”
“Would you just excuse me for a moment?”
(if you’re at a business / networking event, or another social occasion)
“Is that the time? I’m going to have to rush!”
(when you see a friend in the street)
If you want to change the subject of the conversation, you don’t say “I want to talk about something else” but, for example:
“Well, anyway. As I was saying…” (and go back to another subject)
“By the way, ….” (and then go on to another subject)
2. Don’t worry about the grammar
Correct grammar IS important when you write English, and in formal situations. But in conversations, you’ll hear native English speakers make mistakes or incomplete sentences all the time. Here are two examples:
Instead of the fully-formed “Did you watch the match last night?” you’ll get “Watch the match last night?”
Contractions as replies
Instead of “I don’t know” you might hear “Dunno”. For example:
“What time is the meeting?”
Or when someone asks you about something you’d really like (but can’t have) you can reply with “I wish!”
“Are you going on holiday this year?”
3. It isn’t a tennis match
Conversations aren’t like a tennis match with a “serve” and a “reply”. We don’t even have equal participation in a conversation. (Some people speak more, others speak less.)
Sometimes, you have to find your own way of getting in to the conversation. If two people are talking and you want to say something, you can wait for a natural pause, and then say something like:
“Well, I think…”
“Well, as far as I’m concerned…” or
“Well, in my opinion…”
You can also interrupt during a break in the conversation and say
“You know, you’ve got a point” or
“You’re right about …. and …” (try to lengthen the “and” to keep people listening)
4. Make a connection
Successful conversations are all about connecting with the other person. Here are some natural ways you can connect:
Ask a question
The easiest questions are related to where you both are. So at a business event you can ask
“So what brings you to London / the event?”
“So, how do you know…?” (the name of the organiser)
Don’t make the questions too personal, and avoid “Do you” type questions where the answer is a short “yes” or “no”.
Show you’re listening
Keep eye contact with the other person, and smile or nod your head to show you’re interested.
Don’t get embarrassed
It’s not a problem if you forget the person’s name or don’t understand something. Just ask them again!
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you said.”
5. Use “fixed” phrases to build the conversation
These are those little phrases that we use as the basis of our conversation. They help the other person understand what we’re going to say, or how we feel about something. (Phrases like “As far as I’m concerned” or “I wish”. ) You can use them again and again as whole phrases – and all you need to do is add any other details.
Fixed phrases are very useful to learn because you don’t need to translate – saving you time in a conversation. They’re also very common in spoken English, making you sound more natural. Automatic phrases like “You’re kidding!” or “Never mind!” can express your ideas and opinions easily and quickly.
I share more than 350 of these fixed phrases in my “Real English Conversations” program. (Keep reading below!)
Hi! I’m Clare, the founder of this site. My goal is to help you become more fluent in English – so you get to an advanced level quickly!
My program Real English Conversations shows you the phrases you need to speak fluently and confidently in everyday situations. Click the button and get fluent in English!