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How can discourse markers help with your speaking and listening skills? Find out more in this Masterclass with Sian

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BBC Masterclass

Discourse markers

Discourse markers are words and phrases we use to connect and organise our ideas. They act like signposts, telling the listener what information is coming up next.

Sian will share eight discourse markers with you – and she'll let you listen to her telephone conversation to do this!

ਵੀਡੀਓ ਦੇਖੋ ਅਤੇ ਕੰਮ ਪੂਰਾ ਕਰੋ

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Sian
Hi Sian here for BBC Learning English. There are signposts everywhere - today in this Masterclass we're going to look at ways you can use signposting when you're speaking.

So, there are signposts everywhere and they tell us where to go, but did you know that when we're speaking we use signpost words and phrases to help direct the listener? These are called discourse markers. They help connect what we're saying and tell the listener what information is coming up.

They'll help you sound more fluent and help you understand native speaker conversations.

Listen to my telephone call this morning. I use eight different discourse markers – can you hear all eight...?

...You know I was hosting an amazing dinner party last night? Actually, it was a complete disaster - I burnt the meat… people arrived when I was still cooking. Mind you, I did say 'turn up when you want'… and I did start cooking pretty late!

Anyway, as I was saying, I burnt the meat, the dishes were all ready at different times... the dessert was… oh come to think of it, I completely forgot to serve dessert!

So basically, everyone went home hungry. Anyway, how was your evening? By the way, before I forget, it's my birthday next week and I'm having a dinner party do you want to come?

So the first discourse marker I used was you know, we use this to say: 'I'm going to tell you some information that you already know.' ''You know I was hosting an amazing dinner party last night?''

The second one I used was actually - we use this when we're about to give some surprising information or correct some information. "Actually, it was a complete disaster".

Then I used mind you - we use this when we're about to give an afterthought that contrasts the information that came before, so, "people arrived when I was still cooking. Mind you, I did say 'turn up when you want'..."

The next discourse marker I used was anyway, as I was saying. As I was saying is very useful because it means: 'I'm going to return to what I was talking about before'. So, "as I was saying, I burnt the meat" This is a previous topic.

Then I used the discourse marker come to think of it, we use this when you've just remembered or thought of something as you're speaking "oh come to think of it, I completely forgot to serve dessert!" I'm remembering this as I'm speaking.

Then I used basically - basically is used to summarise what you're going to say. "So basically, everyone went home hungry".

The next one I used was anyway - anyway is really useful and very common. We use it to say 'I'm going to change topic now' or 'I'm going to go back to the original topic' or 'I'm going to finish what I was talking about'. "Anyway, how was your evening?"

And the final one I used was by the way - we use this to say 'I'm going to change direction and talk about something that's not connected to the main topic. "By the way, before I forget, it's my birthday next week."

So basically that's your introduction to discourse markers. We use them all the time, when we're speaking... and come to think of it, when we're writing too. By the way, we have a website bbclearningenglish.com where you can practise these and find out more information. Anyway 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.

Here are eight discourse markers which are common in spoken language:

1. you know

Use: I'm going to tell you some information you already know.

  • You know, I was organising an amazing dinner party last night?

2. actually

Use: I'm going to give you some surprising information or I'm going to correct some information.

  • Actually, it was a complete disaster!
  • ''You never do your homework.'' ''Actually, I have done it this time."

 3. mind you

Use: I've had an afterthought and it contrasts what I've just said.

  • Mind you, I did say 'turn up when you want'…
  • The restaurant was so busy we couldn't get a table ... mind you, it was Saturday night!

4.  as I was saying…

Use: I'm going to return to the topic I was talking about before.

  • As I was saying, I burnt the meat...

5. come to think of it

 Use: I'm going to add something I've just remembered/thought of at the moment of speaking.

  • Come to think of it, I completely forgot to serve dessert.

6. basically

Use: I'm going to summarise my points now.

  • So basically, everyone went home hungry.

 7. Anyway

Use: I'm going to change topic, go back to the original topic or finish what I'm saying.

  • Anyway, how was your evening?
  • Anyway, I have to go now, speak again soon.

 8. By the way

Use: I'm going change direction to talk about something that's not connected to the main conversation topic.

  • By the way, before I forget, it's my birthday next week... 

To do

Actually, we have a quiz here to help you practise these discourse markers.

By the way, here's a quiz on discourse markers

5 Questions

Fill in the gaps in the sentences with the most appropriate discourse marker...

ਵਧਾਈ ਹੋਵੇ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਕੁਇਜ਼ ਪੂਰਾ ਕਰ ਲਿਆ
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! ਤੁਹਾਡੇ ਵੱਲੋਂ ਹਾਸਲ ਕੀਤੇ ਗਏ ਅੰਕ:
x / y

End of Session

Anyway, it's time for us to finish. Listen out for discourse markers in native speaker conversations and try using them when you're speaking to help you sound more fluent.

Next, join us for News Review, where we'll be discussing a major story in the news, and the language you need to understand it.

ਵਿਆਕਰਨ ਸੈਸ਼ਨ

  • Discourse markers

    Words or phrases used to organise and connect ideas and help direct the listener.

    1. you know: I'm going to tell you some information you already know.

    • You know, I was organising an amazing dinner party last night?

    2. actually: I'm going to give you some surprising information or I'm going to correct some information.

    • Actually, it was a complete disaster!

     3. mind you: I've had an afterthought and it contrasts what I've just said.

    • The restaurant was so busy ... mind you, it was Saturday night!

    4.  as I was saying: I'm going to return to the topic I was talking about before.

    • As I was saying, I burnt the meat...

    5. come to think of it: I'm going to add something I've just remembered/thought of at the moment of speaking.

    • Come to think of it, I completely forgot to serve dessert.

    6. basically: I'm going to summarise my points now.

    • So basically, everyone went home hungry.

     7. Anyway: I'm going to change topic, go back to the original topic or finish what I'm saying.

    • Anyway, I have to go now, speak again soon.

     8. By the way: I'm going change direction to talk about something that's not connected to the main conversation topic.

    • By the way, it's my birthday next week...