English Hesitating Phrases

What can you say when you forget a word, or when you don’t know how to continue a conversation in English?

Instead of stopping, you can use one of these phrases. People will know that you still have something to say, so they will wait for you to continue speaking. These phrases will help your fluency, because they give you time to remember what to say – or to find an alternative.

Hesitating Phrases

It’s on the tip of my tongue
Use this when you know the word, but you’ve temporarily forgotten. The other person will wait for you to find the word, or you can continue the conversation without trying to remember it.

“We hired a little boat on the lake. You know the type of boat. It’s a … It’s on the tip of my tongue – it’s a boat where you have to paddle with your feet. Anyway, we had a great time!”

So, what I mean to say is…
Use this when you know your sentence is a little confused. It gives you a chance to say everything again in a simpler way.

“My ex-boss wanted something, but said something different. I didn’t know every day what he wants… So what I mean to say is my ex-boss was difficult to work for.”

It’ll come to me in a minute
Use this when you forget a word, an idea or a name. The phrase helps your fluency, because you can move on to your next idea.

“I saw a great film the other day about two people who aren’t telling the truth. Great actors – the woman who was in a police series on television. Can’t remember the name now. It’ll come to me in a minute. Anyway, the guy is actually more famous for being in the theatre…”

So what was I saying?
Use this when the conversation changes subject (or someone has interrupted you) and you want to return to what you were saying. It gives you a moment to remember your ideas.

“Yes, interesting point about social media and fake news. Anyway, so what was I saying?

What was I saying again?
You can use this in the same way as “So what was I saying?”

“Funny story! What was I saying again – you know, about the actor?”

Phrases when you forget a word

What’s the word again?
Use this when you want someone to help you find the word.

“I looked in the shop window and saw my …… What’s the word again?
“Your reflection.”
“Yes, thanks!”

The thingummy (pronounced “thing-uhm-ee”)
This is a word you can use to replace the word that you’ve forgotten. (In particular, words for objects which have a technical purpose.)

“Can you pass me that thingummy over there?”
“You mean the remote control?”

The whatchamacallit (pronounced “what-cha-ma-call-it”)
This is another word for “thingummy”.

“The whatchamacallit has broken inside the oven, so we can’t use it at the moment.”
“Oh you mean like the heating element?”

Get Fluent In English

Fluency in English starts with knowing the right phrases. When you know and use these phrases, you’ll be more confident and you’ll hesitate less when you speak.

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