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How To


- Responding to someone's good news


- Responding to someone's bad news


- Responding to compliments


- Give bad news

Two people at a party

It's always nice to receive a compliment, but what is the most natural way to respond? In this programme, William shocks some of his colleagues at BBC Learning English by suddenly complimenting them. How will they react?

This programme is suitable for elementary/pre-intermediate learners. After you have listened, don't forget to practise what you've learned with the activity at the bottom of this page.

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Standard responses
Thank you, that's very kind!
Thank you, that's very kind of you (to say so).
Showing surprise

You can show surprise at a compliment by explaining why it is unexpected. So, if someone compliments you on an item of clothing, you might say:

Oh, I've had this for ages.
Really? It was only cheap!

Sharing responsibility

If you receive a compliment for a piece of work which was a joint effort, it's important to make this clear.

Thanks! Ramesh worked on it too.
It wasn't all my work. Ramesh gave me a lot help.
That's very kind. I'll tell Ramesh - he helped me loads.

Returning the compliment

You can often respond to a compliment by returning the compliment - by giving a compliment back.

Oh, thanks very much! You look very nice too - I like your coat.

Humorous responses

In the UK, it is very common to respond to unexpected compliments by suggesting that the person paying you the compliment wants to ask a favour. This is a joke and probably won't cause offence to native English speakers.

What are you after?
What do you want?
Flattery will get you nowhere.

* Flattery is the giving of praise and compliments that you don't really mean. This phrase means that it doesn't matter how many compliments you receive - you won't give any favours in return!

Be careful that you spell compliment correctly. Complement has a different meaning.


Choose the best answer in the quiz below. Click 'next' to go to the next question.

download script If you don't have flash, you can download a printable version of this activity (17 KB)

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