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Conversation strategies: “Vague” expressions

Episode 4

You can use “vague” expressions in conversations when you don’t need to give a long list of things because the other person understands what you mean:

  • … and things (like that)
  • … and stuff (like that)
  • … and everything

Examples:

What’s Glastonbury?

 It is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place in England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret /kæbəˈreɪ/, and other arts.

Now listen to how I’ll include a vague expression in the last sentence:

In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, and things like that.  (everything we understand about other arts, comedy, theater, circus /ˈsɜːrkəs/, etc)

  • What’s the carnival in Rio like?

It has lots of parades, people dancing samba and stuff (like that).  (= everything we understand about a carnival, dancing, playing music, drinking, etc)

  • What can I get in the Mexican market?

You can get all kinds of tacos, quesadillas, burritos…

You can get all kinds of tacos, and things like that.

We can say and things like that, and stuff (like that) when we want to avoid listing a lot of things because we think that the listener has an idea of what we are talking about. We can also use

“and everything”.

  • What do people do for Halloween?

People wear costumes /ˈkɑːstuːm/ and make-up, some people visit haunted attractions, tell scary stories and watch horror films.

People dress up in costumes and everything, some people visit haunted attractions and things like that.

“Vague” responses to answer questions.

You can use a vague response if you are not sure about your answer to a question:

  • I don’t know
  • I’m not sure.  
  • Maybe.   
  • It depends.

Examples:

A:  Are you going to the festival this weekend?

B:  I don’t know. It depends.

A: Are you joining us for dinner?

B: It depends. If I’m done working before you leave, I’ll join you.

*Careful here, I’ve listened to many of my students say “it’s depend”.

It’s depend (incorrect)

It dependS (correct) Remember to use the third person singular with the subject pronoun “it”, so add ad “s” to the verb “depend”.

A: Are you watching Stranger Things today?

B: I’m not sure, I’m swamped with work.

A: When are you coming back?

B: I’m not sure. I’m thinking about changing my return flight.

A: which ones are better, individual lessons or group lessons?

B: It depends. Individual lessons are more flexible, they give you the change to schedule lessons at different times of the day. On the other hand, group lessons give you the change to interact with other English learners, which is very motivating.

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