We went to town to buy wallpaper to match the carpet.
Did you try Keanes? They have a sale.
We looked there, but Jim said he thought it was too expensive and he didn’t like any of their designs.
What does he like?
He likes geometric shapes. He hates flowers. Anyway, we eventually found some that we both liked and when we went to pay for it, we realised that neither of us had brought any money. (Anyway marks a return to the main topic of buying wallpaper.)
Ordering what we say
We also use discourse markers to order or sequence what we say. Some of the common words and phrases which we use for this are:
to sum up
in the end
first (of all)
last of all
a … b
for a start
on top of that
firstly and secondly are more formal than first and second.
I think Sheila might be having some financial problems at the moment.
I don’t think so, Caroline. For a start, she has all the money that her aunt gave her. What’s more, she has a good job and she seems to have a good lifestyle.
Firstly, we are going to look at how to write an essay. Secondly we are going to look at what makes a good essay and what makes a bad one. Lastly, we’re going to do some writing activities.
We can use the letters of the alphabet (a, b and c), to list reasons or arguments for something:
There are two reasons why I think it’s a bad idea, a because it’ll cost too much money, and b because it’ll take such a long time.
As we talk, we monitor (or listen to) what we are saying and how our listener is responding to what they hear. We often rephrase or change what we say depending on how our listener is responding. We use words and phrases such as well, I mean, in other words, the thing is, you know, you know what I mean, you see, what I mean is.
Saying something in another way
Sometimes, as we talk, we add phrases to show our listener that we are going to rephrase, repeat or change what we are saying. These discourse markers help to make what we say clearer for the listener:
I just had to leave early. What I mean is I hated the show. It just wasn’t funny.
You exercise regularly, you have a good diet and you don’t have too much stress. In other words, I think you have nothing to worry about. Your health seems very good.
I think I’ve found a house I’d like to buy. Well it’s an apartment actually. It’s ideal for me.
When we talk, we think about how much knowledge we share with our listener. We often mark what we think is old, shared or expected knowledge with you know and we mark new knowledge that we see as not shared with the listener with phrases like see, you see, the thing is:
You know, hiring a car was a great idea. (The speaker and the listener know about hiring the car.)
Why don’t you come and stay with me when you’re in Lisbon?
It’d be difficult. I have to be back in Dublin by Friday. You see, my sister is getting married on Saturday so I won’t have time to visit. (B assumes that A doesn’t know about her sister’s wedding. This is new information)
As we listen to someone speaking, we usually show our response to what we hear either by gesture (head nod) or by a short response (Mm, yeah, really, that’s a shame). This shows that we are listening to and interested in what is being said. We call these short responses ‘response tokens’.
Common response tokens include:
quite (more formal)
that’s great/interesting/amazing/awful, etc.
We use response tokens for a number of functions:
To show interest and to show that we want the speaker to continue
So he opened the door.
And he went in very quietly without waking her.
He opened her bag and…
To show surprise
We’ve decided to go to Africa for a month next year.
To show sympathy
He can’t play soccer for at least six months. He’s broken his leg.