Discourse markers: Useful Expressions for English Conversation – Part 1

Discourse Markers: Useful English Expressions

Use discourse markers to improve your spoken English

Discourse markers are words and phrases that help you connect your ideas. Using discourse markers makes your spoken English sound more fluent and natural – and it may help fill in some of the “pauses” in your speaking!

There are dozens of discourse markers in the English language, but here are 10 of the most common, with definitions and examples.


Use actually to make a correction, or to state a fact or reality:

“Do you need to learn Spanish for your trip to Brazil?”

Actually, they speak Portuguese in Brazil.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”


Apparently is used to say something seems true or is true.

“How come Maria left work early?”

Apparently her son is sick. I heard her calling the pharmacy to ask if his medicine is ready.”

as for

As for is the same as regarding. It is used to focus attention on the topic you are going to talk about.

“Before you leave the office, please make 5 copies of the sales report and leave them on my desk for the meeting tomorrow morning.”

“Sure, no problem.”

As for the new advertising campaign, we need to get approval from the finance department – so that’ll have to wait until the end of the month.”

as I was saying

We use as I was saying to get back to the main topic of conversation.

“I heard you’re going away this weekend – where to?”

“Well, after English class on Thursday night, we’re going to catch a late flight to California.”

“We have English class on Thursday?!”

“Yes, remember the teacher changed it from Friday to Thursday?”

“Oh, right.”

As I was saying, we’re going to spend a few days in San Francisco…”


You can say basically when you are going to say something simple about (or a summary of) a complex situation.

“Are you still going out with Melissa?”

“No – we broke up a few months ago.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that. What happened?”

“Well, it’s a long story, but basically, our personalities were just too different.”

by the way

Say by the way to introduce new information or a related topic of conversation.

“So how do you like living in New York City?”

“I love it! There are a lot of interesting things to do. It’s a little hard to make friends, though – there are just so many people.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll settle in and form friendships with time. By the way, my sister and I are going to meet some friends at the free concert in the park tonight – want to go with us?”

let’s see

You can say let’s see when you need a moment to think about something (especially after the other person asks you a question).

“I’m making the reservation at the restaurant. How many people are joining us for dinner?”

Let’s see… there’s you and me… John, his wife, and their three kids… Barbara and her husband… and Peter with his girlfriend. That makes eleven.”

I mean

I mean is a very common expression in spoken English. You can use it to clarify your meaning, to state your ideas in different words.

“What did you think of the movie?”

“Eh, I thought it was so-so. I mean, the story line was interesting, but the acting wasn’t that great.”

on the other hand

Say on the other hand to introduce an alternate opinion, or a different side of the situation.

“Do you think I should buy a desktop or a laptop?”

“Well, a desktop would be cheaper, and I know you’re on a budget.”


On the other hand, a laptop would be more convenient because you could take it to class.”

speaking of

We use speaking of to link something previously mentioned in the conversation to a new topic.

“Did you do anything special for your birthday?”

“Oh, I just went out for dinner with some friends at a Japanese restaurant – that new one on Main Street.”

“Really? How was the food?”

“It’s the best sushi in town, in my opinion!”

Speaking of Japan, my brother’s planning on studying abroad there next semester.”

“Really? Does he speak Japanese?”

“Not yet, but he’s going to learn…”

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