SOUND MORE NATIVE WITH THESE PHRASES
Clients often ask me for typically English phrases and common American expressions. To me, sayings and collocations are one great way to improve your English. As are all the little fillers that we use in English but don’t have in German. Here we go:
English phrases and collocations
Since there are numerous sayings and metaphors in English, I’d like to start out with 5 expressions directly related to communication.
Beating around the bush
German translation: Um den heißen Brei herumreden. “Beating around the bush” means taking forever to get to the point.
I don’t get it.
German translation: Ich check’s nicht. “I don’t get it” is an informal way to say “I don’t understand”.
I (just) can’t wrap my head around it.
German translation: Das geht mir einfach nicht in den Kopf. / Das kann ich nicht nachvollziehen. “I (just) can’t wrap my head around it” means that you simply can’t relate to something, even if you try.
Are you with me?
German translation: Ist das verständlich? You might ask “Are you with me?” during a presentation to check if your audience has understood what you just said.
To cut a long story short
German translation: Lange Rede, kurzer Sinn. “To cut a long story short” is something you can say after you’ve been elaborating a concept in too much detail or in a complicated manner. It is followed by a short explanation that summarizes your message.
Fillers are little fill words native speakers commonly use to balance out their sentences. Here are a few useful ones:
German translation: Ja… As a fill word, we use “well” at the beginning of a sentence:
- Well, that was easy.
- Well, fine then. Let’s…
- Well, how about doing…?
German translation: Machen wir (or something similar). “Let’s” is a wonderful phrase to suggest an action. It is polite, motivating and inclusive. “Let’s” directly addresses your audience and subconsciously draws attention.
- Let’s get started.
- Let’s continue our discussion tomorrow morning.
- Let’s not spend too much time on this. (negative form with not)
German translation: eigentlich / effektiv / wirklich. “Actually” is used at the beginning, in the middle or sometimes even at the end of a sentence. It has various meanings and often makes your statement a bit more polite by softening it.
- Actually, why don’t we talk about this later?
- We haven’t actually changed our budget yet as we are waiting to see how things play out.
- I can’t believe she actually said that.
- He can’t make it to the meeting, actually.
, don’t you?
German translation: oder. Questions tags like “don’t you”, “hasn’t she”, “aren’t they” are used at the end of a sentence to ask for confirmation. You simply use the predicate (for the question) and subject from the respective sentence. In German this is done by adding “oder” to the question: “Du trinkst doch Kaffee, oder?”
- You drink coffee, don’t you?
- She has finished her thesis, hasn’t she?
- These are your car keys, aren’t they?
German translation: Also (or similar). “So” is used at the beginning of a sentence to gain attention or to buy time. It is very common in American and British English. It can be applied in pretty much any spoken context. It is usually not used in writing, unless someone is very informal.
- So, where is Sally?
- So, they asked me to present our sales numbers today.
- So, what are you up to this weekend?
- So, last time we said we would…
How to start:
- Choose your favorite 3-4 phrases from the list above.
- Listen carefully next time you talk to a native speaker or watch a movie in English. You will hear many of these expressions. This will help you get a feeling for when to use them.
- In a next step, begin to actively experiment with some of these phrases. Have fun!
ALEXANDRA GINA EDWARDS
I’m an American Business Communication trainer, English coach, translator and copywriter based near Innsbruck, Austria. I love working with business executives and their teams on their communication challenges. My goal is to help you and your business thrive by becoming powerful and convincing in English.