How ‘Spoken’ English Grammar Helps You In Conversations

When you speak English, you generally have two choices: to focus on your grammar, or to focus on being fluent.

If you focus too much on accuracy, the disadvantage is that you might hesitate, or only try very simple sentences so that you avoid mistakes.

If you focus too much on fluency, the disadvantage is that your sentences might be so incorrect that other people can’t understand you.

But there is a “third way” – and that is to use “spoken” English grammar. This is the particular grammar of spoken English – the grammar “rules” we use in conversations, rather than in writing.

Here are three spoken English grammar rules which you can use. They will help you to simplify your grammar naturally when you speak English.

1. Omit the subject for simple replies

When someone asks you a question, you can reply without using the subject. Here are some examples:

Question: “Are you coming out tonight?”
Reply: “Don’t know.” (Instead of “I don’t know.”)

Question: “Will the match go ahead?”
Reply: “Depends on the weather.” (Instead of “It depends on the weather.”)

Question: “Shall we eat there tonight?”
Reply: “Could do.” (Instead of “We could do.” – see next point for this use of “do”.)

Question: “Is it going to rain this weekend?”
Reply: “Might do.” (Instead of “It might do.””)

2. Use “so” and “do” for short replies

We can use “so” or “do” to replace the entire clause. This makes our replies short – and it means that you don’t have to remember the whole sentence before. We use “so” particularly with thinking verbs, like “presume”, “suppose”, “think” and “hope”. Here are some examples:

Question: “Do you think I should apply for this job?”
Reply: “You could do.”
(The “do” replaces the whole clause “apply for this job”.)

Question: “Is this the right place?”
Reply: “I think so” / “I suppose so.”
(The “so” replaces the clause “it is”.)

3. Use “what” to reply

When someone says something surprising or shocking, you can reply with a “what” question. For example:

Statement: “I’m leaving right now.”
Reply: “You’re what?” (Instead of saying “What are you doing?”)

Statement: “So she said, “I’m going to the police.”
Reply: “She said what?”

“So then he threw the chair against the wall.”
“He did what?”

Remember to use a rising intonation in these questions, and stress the “what” at the end. This will make you sound more surprised and interested in the conversation!

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