33. General words and phrases and some hints on conversing in English

The following words and phrases can be used in a wide range of situations to make your conversation sound more natural, less abrupt:

Well, so and just

The expressions given below are used when you want to add something that you have just remembered. They are used to introduce suggestions, offers, requests and complaints, etc, when you want to sound casual, matter of fact.

By the way,…


While we are on the subject of…

Talking about/ of…,

About that…,

That reminds me,…

The following phrases can be used to soften a statement or opinion, to avoid sounding dogmatic.

As far as I know/ I (can) remember/ I can see,…



In a way,…

It all depends (…)

When you want to make the statement general, without introducing implying that it covers all cases, all aspects of the question, you can use:

Generally/ in general/ as a (general) rule

Note that as usual has a different meaning. It refers to a particular case.

On the whole.

Note that generally and in general are not appropriate in such cases

The thing is… (but NOT The matter is) can be used to introduce an explanation colloquially.

You see can fulfil the same function.

Such phrases as the following can also make your conversation sound more natural and idiomatic but they have very little meaning and should not be overused. Especially avoid repeating the same phrase too often.

You know

I mean to say

…so to say…

As a matter of fact

Frankly speaking

To tell the truth

To cut a long story short

English people are reluctant to assert their opinions too forcefully, or express their feelings strongly, at least to strangers and mere acquaintances. It also leads them to play down the seriousness of their misfortunes and failures. These tendencies are reflected in the following conversational habits:

  1. Wide use of such words as well, personally, as a matter of fact and questions tags
  2. Use of understatement

This is particularly desirable when speaking of one’s own possessions or achievements (to avoid seeming boastful)

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