You are on page 1of 12

Language Functions

Agreeing in English
In English conversations, people often say that they agree or disagree with each other. There are
many ways of agreeing or disagreeing and the one you use depends on how strongly you agree or
disagree. Here's a list of some common expressions.
Agreeing in English
"I think you're right."
"I agree with you."
Strong agreement
"I couldn't agree with you more."
"You're absolutely right."
"I agree entirely."
"I totally agree."
Partly agreeing
"I agree with you up to a point, but"
"That's quite true, but"
"I agree with you in principle, but"
Disagreeing
"I'm not sure I agree with you."
"(I'm afraid) I don't agree."
"(I'm afraid) I disagree."
"(I'm afraid) I can't agree with you."
"(I'm afraid) I don't share your opinion."

Note
When you disagree with someone in English, you can often sound more polite by using a phrase
such as "I'm afraid"
Disagreeing strongly
"I don't agree at all."
"I totally disagree."
"I couldn't agree with you less."
Making generalisations
English speakers often prefer to make generalisations, rather than saying something is a fact.
When you make generalisations, you will sound less direct and sure of yourself and therefore
more open to other people's suggestions and ideas. People will think you're friendly!
To show that something is generally true
tend to
"I tend to agree with you."
(I agree with most of what you say.)
"I tend to go to bed early in winter."
(I normally go to bed early in winter.)
have a tendency to
"The English have a tendency to drink tea, not coffee."
Note: have a tendency to is used more in written than in spoken English.
To show how common something is
Generally speaking
"Generally speaking, more men than women use the internet."
In most cases
"In most cases, wars are caused by land disputes."
In some cases

"In some cases, English beaches are unsafe for swimming."


In a large number of cases
"In a large number of cases, obesity is caused by over-eating."
Mostly, often, sometimes
(These words go before the main verb, or after the verb to be)
"We are mostly concerned with costs."
"They mostly go to the cinema at weekends."
"Eating chocolate sometimes causes migraines."
"He is sometimes difficult to work with."
"English people often complain about the weather."
these English expressions. They'll help you sound both natural and confident.
Making predictions
When we want to say what we think will happen in the future in English, we can either use will
followed by the verb without to, or going to followed by the verb.
"What do you think will happen next year?"
"Next week is going to be very busy, I think."
"There won't be a rise in house prices next year."
"He isn't going to win the election."
Because we also use will to talk about intentions and strong decisions, we often use going to to
sound less emotional.
"He won't help us" can mean that he has decided not to help us. But "He isn't going to help us"
doesn't have this negative implication. It sounds more like a prediction and a simple, nonemotional fact- perhaps he isn't able to help us.
Predictions based on what you know now
We can make predictions based on what we can see now. To do this, we use going to and the verb
(not will).
For example:

"Watch out! You're going to hit that car in front."


"It's going to be a lovely day today - not a cloud in the sky."
Suggestions in English
The following English words and expressions are all used to make suggestions and give advice to
people.
should
"You should try to practise English."
"You shouldn't translate too much."
Why don't you
"Why don't you join an English club?"
ought to
"You ought to read more."
If I were you, I'd
"If I were you, I'd watch more television."
*All these expressions are followed by a verb, without to. For example: "He should visit the
Eiffel Tower." (Not "he should to visit the Eiffel Tower.")
suggest and recommend
Either use a verb + ing
"I suggest visiting the Eiffel Tower." (We should all go.)
OR use that + a verb without to
"I suggest that you visit the Eiffel Tower." (I'm not going.)
OR use a noun
"I recommend the lasagne." (It's a very good dish to choose in this restaurant.)
advise
"I advise you to buy a good dictionary."
advice
Advice is an uncountable noun. This means that we can't say an advice. Instead, we say some
advice or a piece of advice.

"Let me give you some advice."


"She gave me a very useful piece of advice: to buy a good dictionary."
Speaking tip
Many people don't like getting advice if they haven't asked for it! To avoid giving the wrong
impression, you can try some of these expressions:
"You could always"
"Have you considered"
"Perhaps we could"
"Do you think it's a good idea to"
Talking about fear
There are many words and expressions for talking about fear.
Words
afraid: "Are you afraid of the dark?"
frightened: "Im frightened of spiders."
scared: "Hes scared of making mistakes."
feel uneasy: "I felt a bit uneasy when I walked home in the dark."
spooked: My cats are easily spooked before a thunderstorm.
terrified: She was absolutely terrified when she heard the noise.
petrified: The building began to shake and we were all petrified.
Expressions
a terrifying ordeal
send shivers down my spine
give me goosebumps (goosebumps are when you skin has little bumps on it)
make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up (dogs also do this when they are scared)
scare the hell out of me
be scared shitless / shit scared (British slang - vulgar)
be bricking it (British slang - vulgar)
frighten the life out of me
shake with fear
jump out of my skin
Examples
One of the best horror films I have seen is The Blair Witch Project. It tells the story of a
terrifying ordeal in the woods of northern USA. Some of the scenes in the film sent shivers
down my spine, especially the one when the students run out of the tent in the middle of the

night. When they go back, one of the guys rucksack has been emptied. When that same guy goes
missing the next day, it gives you goosebumps.
There are some fabulous sound effects, especially the ones of the wind blowing and howling.
When you hear the crying voices at the end of the film, it will make the hairs on the back of
your neck stand up.
Perhaps the scariest part of the film is at the end, when you see one of the surviving students
literally shake with fear in the corner of the basement. It certainly frightened the life out of the
girl when she saw him, and I jumped out of my skin at the end when the camera stopped
filming. The film scared the hell out of me for weeks afterwards, and Im ashamed to say that I
wouldnt go into an empty room in the house unless there was someone there with me.
Talking about likes and dislikes in English
There's a whole range of English expressions you can use to talk about how much you like or
dislike something.
If you love something
"I love eating ice-cream."
"I adore sun-bathing."
If you like something a lot
"She's fond of chocolate."
"I like swimming very much."
If you like something
"He quite likes going to the cinema."
"I like cooking."
If you neither like nor dislike something
"I don't mind doing the housework."
If you don't like something
"She doesn't like cooking very much."
"He's not very fond of doing the gardening."
"I dislike wasting time."

If you really dislike something


"I don't like sport at all."
"He can't stand his boss."
"She can't bear cooking in a dirty kitchen."
"I hate crowded supermarkets."
"He detests being late."
"She loathes celery."
Things to remember
Dislike is quite formal.
Fond of is normally used to talk about food or people.
The 'oa' in loathe rhymes with the 'oa' in boat.
Grammar Note
To talk about your general likes or dislikes, follow this pattern: like something or like doing
something.
Common mistake
Be careful where you put very much or a lot. These words should go after the thing that you
like.
For example, "I like reading very much." NOT "I like very much reading."
Talking about probability in English
There are many ways of saying that something will probably or possibly happen.
Probable
bound to = certain: "They are bound to succeed!"
sure to = certain: "He is sure to win the championship."
likely to = probable: "We are likely to win the contract."
definite = sure: "He's a definite frontrunner for the job!"

probable: "It's probable that we will be on holiday around then."


likely: "An election is likely next year."
will definitely happen: "There will definitely be a storm later."
will probably happen: "They will probably take on more staff."
Possible
may: "We may be able to help you."
might: "There might be a holiday next month - I'm not sure."
could: "There could be a bug in the system."
is possible: "Do you think he will resign?" "Yes, that's possible."
is unlikely: "It's unlikely that she will move."
will possibly: "She'll possibly tell us tomorrow."
probably won't: "They probably won't hear until next week."
definitely won't: "I definitely won't go to the party."
is highly unlikely: "It's highly unlikely that the company will expand."
Note: Be careful of the word order.
"Definitely" and "probably" come after "will" (in positive sentences) and before "won't" in
negative sentences.
Variations
You can add words to alter the strength of probability:
highly likely / unlikely (= very likely / unlikely)
quite likely / probable / possible (= more likely, probable or possible)
could possibly / probably
most definitely won't (= even more unlikely)
Telling a story
A useful skill in English is to be able to tell a story or an anecdote. Anecdotes are short stories
about something that happened to you or to someone you know.

How to start
Traditional stories often start with the phrase "Once upon a time". However, if you are going to
tell your story after someone else has already spoken, you can say something like:
That reminds me!
Funny you should say that. Did I ever tell you about
Hearing your story reminds me of when
Something similar happened to me.
How to tell your story
First of all, your story should be quite short. Try to keep it grammatically simple as well, so that it
is easy to follow.
Make it easy for the listener to understand by using sequencing and linking words:
Sequencing words
These words show the chronological sequence of events.
First of all, I (packed my suitcase)
Secondly, I . (made sure I had all my documents)
Previously (before that) .. I changed some money.
Then I (called a taxi for the airport)
Later (on) (when we were stuck in traffic, I realised)
But before al that (I had double checked my reservation)
Finally (I arrived at the wrong check-in desk at the wrong airport for a flight that didn't go until
the next day)
Linking words
Use these words to link your ideas for the listener. Linking words can be used to show reason,
result, contrasting information, additional information, and to summarise.
I booked a flight because.
As a result, I was late
Although I had a reservation, I hadn't checked the airport name.
I made sure I had an up-to-date passport and I also took along my driving licence.
In short, I had made a complete mess of the holiday.
Tenses
We can use a variety of tenses to tell stories and anecdotes. Jokes are often in the present tense:
A man walks into a bar and orders a beer.
We also use the present tense to give a dramatic narrative effect:
The year is 1066. In medieval England people are worried that the king, Harold, is not strong
enough to fight off a Norman invasion.

However, we generally use past forms to talk about past events. If you tell your story in
chronological order, you can use the past simple:
I double checked my reservation. I packed my suitcase, and then I called a taxi.
Use the past continuous to describe activities in progress at the time of your story, or to describe
the background.
The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. We were driving along the motorway quite
steadily until we suddenly saw in front of us the warning lights to slow down. We were heading
towards a huge tailback.
Sometimes, you might want to avoid telling your story as one chronological event after the other.
You can use the past perfect (simple and continuous) to add more interest to your story by
talking about events that happened before the events in your story:
I double checked my reservation, which I had made three days previously.
I wanted to visit some friends who had been living in France for the last five years.
Vocabulary
Try to use a wide range of words to make your story more interesting. Remember that you can
"exaggerate" when you tell a story, so instead of using words like "nice" or "bad", experiment
with more interesting words, such as "beautiful", "fabulous", "wonderful", "horrible", "awful" or
"terrible".
Finally - remember that you are telling a story - not giving a lecture. Look at the people listening,
and try to "involve" them in the story or anecdote. Keep eye contact, use the right intonation and
try to make your face expressive. You might also want to try practising a few anecdotes in the
mirror before "going live". Have fun!
specialist.
Giving advice in English
There are many ways of giving advice in English. Here are some of the more common
expressions.
"If I were you, I would"
"Have you thought about"
"You really ought to" ('ought' is pronounced 'ort')
"Why don't you"
"In your position, I would"

"You should perhaps"


"You could always"
Examples
If someone says "I'm having problems learning English", you could say:
"If I were you, I'd sign up for an English course."
"Have you thought about going to the UK for a couple of weeks?"
"You really ought to watch English television."
"Why don't you read more English books?"
"In your position, I would try and practise speaking English."
"You should perhaps look at the english-at-home.com website."
"You could always get a penpal."
Giving your opinions
There are many ways to give your opinions when speaking English. The exact English expression
you use depends on how strong your opinion is.

Giving your opinion neutrally


"I think"
"I feel that"
"In my opinion"
"As far as I'm concerned"
"As I see it"
"In my view"
"I tend to think that"
Giving a strong opinion
"I'm absolutely convinced that"

"I'm sure that"


"I strongly believe that"
"I have no doubt that"
English expressions for asking someone's opinion
"What do you think?"
"What's your view?"
"How do you see the situation?"
How to keep the conversation going
What can you say when you want to encourage people to keep talking to you?
Try making a comment or asking a question - it shows the other person you're interested in what
they are saying.
Here are some examples of what you can say:
Making comments
"No!" - to show surprise.
"I don't believe it!" - to show surprise.
"Wow!" - to show admiration or surprise.
"That's incredible / amazing / unbelievable" - to show great interest in the subject of conversation.
"How awful / terrible" - to show sympathy with someone else's bad news.
Asking questions
"Really?" - to show surprise.
"And you?" - when someone asks you how you are.
"Did you?" - can be used to encourage someone to tell their story.
For example, "I saw her last night", "Did you?" "Yes, she was with one of her friends, and she."