Conversation strategies: Checking information

Episode 6

In a conversation, you may need to check something that you didn’t hear or understand. Now, think about ways you check for information you didn’t hear in your mother tongue, what do you say? Are there any phrases you say to ask someone to repeat something? Well, in English there are different ways we can do that.

Now, let me tell you a little about the examples I’ll be using in this podcast.

All these examples are true for me. They are contextualized with my recent trips. The reason why I use real examples is because I want to show how these conversation strategies could be used in real conversations. When I recorded this podcast, I was in Spain. Barcelona was my first stop, then I went to Granada and finally, Seville, so all these examples are about these amazing cities.

Today I’ll show you 4 strategies to check information.

You can:

  1. use the expression Did you say . . . ? or What did you say? to check information

A:  There’s usually about a 13-minute wait for the bus.

B: Did you say thirteen or thirty?

A: I said 13, so you can cross the road and get that ice cream you want before the bus comes.

2. repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.

A:  Well, there’s a Moroccan estaurant within walking distance.

B:  Within walking distance?

A: Yes, it’s around the corner.´

3.  use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me? to ask the speaker to repeat what he or she said

A:  Are there any markets to shop around here?

B:  Excuse me? Did you say markets to shop?

A: Yeah, I mean, local markets.

A: Which bus should I take to the Alhambra?

B: I’m sorry? Did you say to the Alhambra?

A: Yeah

B: Oh, you should take the C32.

4. Ask an “echo” question, which is to repeat something you heard and add a question word to check the information you didn’t hear:

A: There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.

B: I’m sorry. There’s a tea shop where?

A: On the Main Avenue, it’s right in front of the bank.

In this case the question word is “where”, other question words are what, who, when and how. Before you ask a question word you need to know what the question is about, for example if someone says “There’s a Turkish tea shop on the Main Avenue.” And the focus is the place, my question word is going to be “where”. There’s a tea shop where?

Another example:

A: Is there an ice cream place around here? 

B:  I’m sorry, a what?

A: An ice cream place. I heard about a famous Italian ice parlor on Gran Via Avenue.

In this case if the information I didn’t hear was ice cream parlor, the question word should be “what”, I’m sorry, a what?

Now think about how to ask an echo question with a question word after the following statements. I’ll give you some time to think about the question and then will give you the answer. Here we go:

A: The sandwich that sells the Iberian ham opens at 11:00am.  (The information you missed is the time.)

B:  Excuse me? It opens at what time?

A: After Granada, I’m headed to Seville. (The information you missed is the place where I’m headed after Granada)

B: I’m sorry, you’re headed where?

A: Breakfast and dinner is included in this hostel? The information you missed is what is included)

B: Excuse me? what is included?

A: We’re flying to Amsterdam the day after tomorrow. (The information you missed is the time)

B: You’re flying to Amsterdam when?

A: I’m meeting Giannina in Miami next year. (The information you missed is the person I’m meeting)

B: You’re meeting who?

Let’s summarize

  1. Use the questions Did you say . . . ? or What did you say?
  2. Repeat words as a question to check information. Just say the same you heard, or what you think you heard.
  3. Use the expression I’m sorry? or Excuse me?
  4. Use echo questions plus a question word.

To listen to the episode, click the button below.


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


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.


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.

B1, B2, Podcast

Episode 2: Interesting facts on Gili Air – Cosas curiosas en Gili Air

Hi English/Spanish Learners! Ayleen here, your teacher from wespeakidiomas.com

Today Chris and I come to you from Gili Air, and we’ll talk about the interesting facts we found on this Indonesian island.

This conversation features lots new vocabulary for intermediate students, and is a good example of a spontaneous, authentic English-Spanish conversation between two travelers.

Episode 2: Interesting facts in Gili Air – Cosas curiosas en Gili Air

You can learn more about the new vocabulary used in this conversation below:

  • mosque: a building in which Muslims worship / In Spanish: mezquita
  • acera: orilla de la vía pública por donde caminan los peatones /  In English: sidewalk
  • agonizar: be near death. I said Pensé que alguien estaba agonizando…
  • straw: a thin tube of paper or plastic for sucking up liquid from a bottle or a cup / In spanish: cañita, popote, pajilla.
  • malcriar: ceder a los caprichos de alguien. I said Asia nos está malcriando. / In English: Asia is spoiling us.
  • chant: to sing or say a religious song or prayer in a way that involves using only one note or tone / In Spanish: cántico