Session 1

In this Masterclass, Sian's going to explain more about discourse markers and help make your English sound more natural.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

BBC Masterclass

Discourse Markers 2

Make your English more fluent by learning with Sian

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Sian
Sian here for BBC Learning English. In this Masterclass we're going to look at more ways you can use discourse markers to help connect your ideas when you're having conversations.
Ok, so discourse markers will help you sound more fluent and help you understand native speaker conversations. We’re going to look at seven different discourse markers today. Listen to this conversation I had with Dan before Christmas. Can you hear seven different discourse markers?

Dan
I've just found out that nobody wants to go skydiving for our staff Christmas party!

Sian
Well, to tell you the truth it was a bit of a crazy idea – I mean, we normally just go out for dinner!

Dan
But you see I thought everyone would love the idea, so I've already bought all the tickets and they are non-refundable…

Sian
Ah! So in other words you've lost a lot of money!

Dan
Yes!

Sian
Well at the end of the day, it's only money and Christmas is coming…

Dan
Yeah but I won't have enough money to buy any presents for my family.

Sian
I know. Why don't you take them all skydiving as your gift to them?

Dan
That's a great idea… they'll be over the moon, so to speak!

OK, so look at this conversation. Here are all seven. Let’s have a look at the function of each one:

Number 1, we had ‘to tell you the truth’. We use this when you are about to give your opinion. So often when you are going to say what you really think or feel, sometimes when you are just about to insult someone.

The second one we used was ‘I mean’. We use ‘I mean’ when you’re about to explain or correct a statement, or often just to give yourself time. It’s like a filler.

Next we had ‘you see’. This means I’m about to give an explanation or I’m going to give you some new information.

Number 4 was ‘in other words’. This is used when you are going to explain something in a different way, either something you’ve already said or something the person you are having a conversation with has said.

Then we had ‘at the end of the day’. This is used very commonly and it doesn’t mean at the end of the day literally. We use this when you’re about to say the most important thing after you’ve considered everything else…kind of like a summary.

Next we had ‘I know’. This is used when you have a sudden idea at the time of speaking.

And finally we used ‘so to speak’ this is quite tricky. We use it when you’ve used an expression, but you want to emphasise that what you said is not meant literally, you’re using it metaphorically. So even though Dan’s family are going skydiving, they won’t literally be going over the moon…it just means they’re going to be happy.

So you see discourse markers can be tricky but at the end of the day all you need is practice. So go to our website bbclearningenglish.com. See you soon. Goodbye!

Summary

Discourse markers are words and phrases which we use to connect and organise our ideas, such as 'right', 'well' and 'anyway'. They can guide the listener by connecting ideas and telling the listener what information is coming up. Some have other functions:

1. to tell you the truth
This is used to give your opinion - often when you are going to say what you really think or feel, sometimes when you are just about to insult someone.
'Well, to tell you the truth it was a bit of a crazy idea'
'She asked me if I liked her hair and I said I did, but to tell you the truth it was awful!'

2. I mean
We use ‘I mean’ when you’re about to explain or correct a statement, or often just to give yourself time. It’s like a filler.
'Well, to tell you the truth it was a bit of a crazy idea – I mean, we normally just go out for dinner!'
'You can't just quit university! I mean, how on earth will you ever get a good job?'

3. you see
This means - I’m about to give an explanation or I’m going to give you some new information.
'But you see I thought everyone would love the idea'
'You want to know where babies come from? Well, you see....when a mummy and a daddy love each other...'

4. in other words
This is used to explain something in a different way, either something you’ve already said or something the person you are having a conversation with has said.
'I've already bought all the tickets and they are non-refundable…so in other words I've lost a lot of money!'
'She said that she had a headache. In other words, she didn't want to come.'

5. at the end of the day
We use this when you’re about to say the most important thing after you’ve considered everything else…kind of like a summary.
'Well at the end of the day, it's only money and Christmas is coming…'
'I know dinner was expensive and you don't have a lot of money at the moment, but you made your family happy and, at the end of the day, that is what's important.'

6. I know
This is used when you have a sudden idea at the time of speaking.
'Yeah but you won't have enough money to buy any presents for your family. I know! Why don't you take them all skydiving as your gift to them?'
'How can I manage my time better? I know, I'll buy an organiser and make a note of all my meetings and appointments.'

7. so to speak
This is used when you’ve used an expression or metaphor, but you want to emphasise that what you said is not meant literally, you’re using it metaphorically.
'That's a great idea… they'll be over the moon, so to speak!'
'...and after one good kiss, we fell head over heels in love, so to speak.'

Test your knowledge of Discourse Markers 2

5 Questions

Choose the correct option to make the sentence correct

Baga gammadde! Qormaata xumurteetta
Excellent! Great job! Carraa badaa! Qabxii argatte:
x / y

End of Session

That wraps up this week’s Masterclass. We hope that this has been useful and wish you all the best in your studies!

Next, join us for News Review, where you can gain language from the latest stories and how to use it in your everyday English.

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  • Summary

    1. to tell you the truth
    This is used to give your opinion 
    'Well, to tell you the truth it was a bit of a crazy idea'

    2.I mean
    We use ‘I mean’ when you’re about to explain or correct a statement.
    'Well, to tell you the truth it was a bit of a crazy idea – I mean, we normally just go out for dinner!'

    3.you see
    This means - I’m about to give an explanation or I’m going to give you some new information.
    'But you see I thought everyone would love the idea'

    4. in other words
    This is used to explain something in a different way.
    'I've already bought all the tickets and they are non-refundable…so in other words I've lost a lot of money!'

    5.at the end of the day
    This is the most important thing after you’ve considered everything else.
    'Well at the end of the day, it's only money and Christmas is coming…'

    6.I know
    This is used when you have a sudden idea at the time of speaking.
    I know! Why don't you take them all skydiving as your gift to them?'

    7. so to speak
    This is used when you’ve used an expression metaphorically.
    'That's a great idea… they'll be over the moon, so to speak!'