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How to respond and keep the conversation going

English Speaking Topic

Learn to respond in conversation with different expressions, ways to make questions and to keep the English conversation going on.


AMiserable weather, isn’t it? I was in Mallorca last week and the weather was fantastic – so hot and sunny! Not like here!
AYes, I was there last weekend.
BOh, what were you doing there?
AMy best friend’s just moved there and went to visit. It was a good opportunity to practice my Spanish.
BHow long have you been speaking Spanish?
AI haven’t spoken it since I did it at school!
BSo you were saying you were in Mallorca. What’s it like?
AIt’s amazing. I’d really recommend it.
BIt’s quite touristy, though, isn’t it?
AWell, yes, on the coast, but in the countryside, in the mountains, it’s really quiet – perfect for just walking, reading, … just relaxing.
BI love reading on holidays. There never seems to be enough time to read at home, don’t you think?
AYes, I know what you mean. I’ve been reading the same book for about two months!


How to respond and keep the conversation going

  • Use any information the speaker gives you. If the speaker mentions something, continue and expand on the topic further.
  • Echo the speaker’s word. This shows that you have been listening, and gives you a way to expand on something the speaker has said.
  • Ask open-ended questions – so that you don’t just get a “yes” or “no” answer. That helps to keep the conversation going.
  • Ask for the speaker’s opinion on something you have just said.
  • Tell the speaker about a similar experience you have had.


Language note

When you ask someone a wh-question, you want them to specify a particular person, thing, place, reason, method, time or amount. You do not expect them to answer yes or no. Wh-questions are open-ended questions.

In conversation, a wh-question sometimes consists of a wh-word on its own. For example, if you say to someone “I’m learning to type”, they might say “Why?” Meaning, “Why are you learning to type?”

He saw a snake. – Where?

                I have to go to Germany. – When?

                I knew you were landing today. – How?

A wh-question can also consist of a noun phrase containing a wh-word. For example, if you say to someone “I gave your book to that girl”, they might say “Which girl?”, meaning “Which girl did you give the book to?”.

                He knew my cousin. – Which cousin?

                Who was your friend? – What friend?


Tag Questions

Tag questions are used in two ways

  • To check information already know / assumed,
  • To ask for information.

The intonation show which meaning the speaker wants to convey.

Positive statements are usually followed by negative tag questions:

You did enjoy it, didn’t you?

You know Jack, don’t you?

Negative statements are usually followed by positive tag questions:

You haven’t ever been here beforer, have you?

We’ve never been formally introduced, have we?


Culture note

A good listener helps the speaker make points clearly and therefore helps to keep the conversation going. This type of active listening can be different in different cultures. In English-speaking countries, it is important to make eye contact with the person who is speaking so that they can see that you understand and are listening. In addition to the strategies you have learnt in this unit, a simple not, “uh-huh” (meaning “yes”), or “really?” can show interest or understanding.

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