Standard Phrases in English


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Conversation Starters & Greetings

How are you getting on? – just another way of saying ‘how are you?’

You doing OK? – asked when the person has had some tough experience recently and you want to ask politely if they’re OK.

Hi, …! What’s new? – this is a very informal way of greeting a close friend or anyone who you see on a regular basis and you want to ask has anything happened since you last met.

Hi, …! What’s up? – the same as above with a difference that you’re probably not that interested in what news the other person might have.

Hi, …! Long time no see! – used when you haven’t seen the person for a long period of time and you want to state that fact in the greeting.

Hi, …! Have you been keeping busy? – just a standard enquiry with little or no direct meaning.

Do you mind me asking…? – a typical way of asking something that might be a slightly personal question.

OK, here’s the thing … – a very handy way to start making your point if you’re not sure how to begin the sentence.

Typical Responses

Thanks, I’ve been keeping busy – just a standard response to a standard greeting with little or no direct meaning.

Thanks for asking, I’m fine, how are you? – a typical response and counter-question to a greeting phrase ‘how are you?’

Hi, how you’re doing! It’s good to see you! – a typical response to a greeting from someone you haven’t seen for a while.

Can’t complain – a response to a standard greeting like ‘How are you?’ It’s not as exciting phrase as ‘Thanks, I’m great!’ but it doesn’t mean you’re having some problems in your life.

Can you say it again, please? – a request to repeat the question if you didn’t understand what was said. This can also be used when the native speaking person speaks a bit too fast – they should get the hint and slow down a bit. But if they don’t, you can ask a more direct question:

Can you slow it down a bit, please?

And how about you? – a typical response when you’re not sure what to ask next so you’re asking the other person the same think they asked you. You can respond with this counter-greeting on nearly all standard greetings.

To the best of my knowledge … – when you’re 99% sure about the statement you’re making. Also a good start of a response you want to take a bit more time to consider what you’re going to say.

As far as I know … – the same as above.

Good for you! – a response to someone telling you about their success in something or some good news that they’re happy about.

Can’t argue with that – used when you agree with the statement of the other person.

How do you know? – a counter-question you can ask when someone surprises you with a question about something they’re not really expected to know.

That’s a good one! – a surprise response to funny or surprising news from your chat partner.

Really? Tell me more about it! – used when you want your chat partner to tell me about what he/she just said.

Frankly speaking, … – just a way to start your response. It indicates that you’re about to open up and be very honest with your chat partner. A great way of establishing an immediate trust.

Well, to be honest with you, … – the same as above.

No problem – a typical response to a small request you’re happy to do. This one is especially used when responding to superiors’ requests and it sounds more enthusiastic than if you simply say ‘sure’ or ‘OK’.

Never mind, it’s fine! – this phrase is used when the person offers to do a favour for you but it’s not really necessary.

Never mind, forget what I just said – this phrase is to be used when you said something that wasn’t important at all but your chat partner wants you to repeat it. You can also use this phrase if you feel that he/she might be slightly annoyed or offended by your question or comment so you want to end it there.

You got me there – this can be said instead of ‘I don’t’ know’ – it will sound more casual and not as defensive as the old ‘I don’t know’!

You’ve got to be kidding me! – said when someone tells you something that borders on the unbelievable and you want to express your surprise.

That’s a good question. – a phrase used when you want to take your time to think over the question. This is an ideal phrase to use when you’re stuck but instead of remaining silent you can start your response with this phrase.

Well, how to put it in the right words. – the same as above.

That would be great! – a response to an offer that you’re really happy about.

… you know what I mean? – this is quite an overused phrase but you can definitely use it at the end of a sentence if you want to emphasize what you just said.

You see, the thing is that … – this is how you begin a sentence when you’re asked to explain something.

Departure Phrases

I’d better be going – followed by a simple phrase like ‘it’s too late’, or ‘have lots to do’ – and indicator you’d like to walk off and finish the conversation.

OK, I’m sorry but I have to leave now! – used when your chat partner has clear intentions of continuing the conversation but you just need to go so you’re making it clear that you need to go.

See you later! – used when you know that you’ll be seeing each other again sometime.

See you around! – the same as above

Keep in touch! – a good-bye phrase meaning you want the other person to get in touch with you every now and then and that you’ve the same intentions.

It was nice seeing you, take care! – a good-bye phrase used when you know that you won’t see the person for a while.

It’s been good talking to you! – the same as above phrase.

Hope to see you again! – you can use this phrase when finishing a conversation with someone you’ve just met.

Say hello to …! – a short and handy way of saying to remind someone from you.

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