Did you know that you can sound TOO formal in English conversations? And this can impact your ability to make new friends and build relationships with your colleagues. It’s important to know how to sound relaxed and casual in English conversation. There are some very common English words that you should try to AVOID!
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Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! I’ve got an interesting lesson for you today especially if you’re an intermediate English learner and you’re transitioning to being an advanced English learner or English user. That leap is one that requires more than just detailed knowledge about the words and the grammar structures that we use in English. It also requires an awareness of tone and register so that you can choose the most appropriate words for the context.
So here’s the thing, if you’ve been trained in academic or in business English, well, the chances are that you’ve become quite used to expressing yourself with formal language. Well this lesson is one that you really need to watch because I’m going to share four words that are not appropriate for relaxed and informal conversations. But they’re words that my English students use all the time in everyday conversation. So stay tuned!
Every time that you speak with someone, you’re using language to create and to build relationships, social relationships with your neighbours, professor, with your clients or customers, anyone. Communicating information is an important part of speaking, obviously, but you can do so much more than that and you really should because it’s this extra stuff that helps you to become a friendly and memorable person in English conversations.
If the language that you use is not appropriate to the context, then your meaning and even your character can be a little misunderstood. If you’re too formal, well you can accidentally make people feel uncomfortable. Perhaps they might even think you’re being a little rude. And equally, if you use informal language in a situation where you really need to use formal language, well, you might not be taken seriously and perhaps you might even be overlooked.
So recognising the context in which you’re speaking and choosing the appropriate language for that context is an important skill for advanced English users.
So what is context? You probably hear your English teachers using this word all the time. Context refers to whatever is going on around you at that moment:
– where are you?
– what’s happening?
– who are you talking to?
All of these things help to create the context and the context helps us to know what type of words and what type of grammar structures are relevant and appropriate for that situation. Now you might assume that your workplace is a professional context, right? So formal language is always required but it’s not as simple as that. If you work in an office, then yes, using formal language with customers and clients is essential. If you’re talking to your boss or someone high up in the company, well, again, you want to be using more formal language to sound more impressive and more intelligent.
However using formal language all the time doesn’t make you very approachable or relatable and it can make you seem a little stiff or a little dull and over time, you’ll want to build relationships with your colleagues, the people you work with, right? So you’ll want to relax your tone a little, make a joke, don’t take yourself so seriously. Even if you get along well with your boss or some clients, then using informal language can also help you to build relationships with them. It helps them to feel more comfortable with you and want to speak with you more. This is definitely how many professional working environments operate in English-speaking countries like Australia and the US and the UK. It’s really important to have these informal conversations with your colleagues to help them feel relaxed and really comfortable around you, to enjoy their time with you.
So I’ve made my case. Now let’s focus on the four common words that are not appropriate for casual, relaxed conversations. I’ll talk about when they’re appropriate but I’ll also give you some alternatives to use to help you sound more relaxed and less formal in other situations.
When you want to add more information, well you’ve been taught to use words like ‘furthermore‘ and ‘moreover‘ right?
Now these words are great to use when you’re writing an essay or if you’re giving a presentation or you’re trying to support your argument in a debate. They’re brilliant words but you will rarely hear native English speakers using them in everyday conversation because they’re just too formal for conversational English.
I was at my favourite Indian restaurant a few days ago and they have a few new things on the menu and I wanted to find out a little more about the dishes. So when I asked the waiter, and she’s absolutely gorgeous, she was telling me “We have some new vegetable dishes moreover the lamb curry is really delicious.”
This is a really formal way to add more information. It sounds really odd. Given the context, it’s much better to use informal language.
We have some new vegetable dishes and the lamb curry is really delicious as well!
Although you might think that using more intelligent words is always better, it’s just not as simple as that. There are times when simpler and less formal words are much more appropriate.
So let’s talk about some alternatives that you can use instead of ‘moreover’ and ‘furthermore’. Now these words add extra information or more important information, right? So instead you could use words like:
– in addition to
– as well
– what’s more
– on top of that
I think it will make a lot more sense with some examples.
We had a great conversation. Furthermore, we’ve decided to meet later in the week.
We had a great conversation. We decided we’d meet later in the week too.
Texting while driving is really dangerous; moreover, it’s illegal in Australia.
Texting while driving is really dangerous; what’s more, it’s illegal in Australia.
We have enough time to get something to eat before the show. Moreover, I’m hungry!
We have enough time to get something to eat before the show. Besides, I’m hungry!
My friend was late for the movie. Furthermore, he forgot his wallet and I had to pay!
My friend was late for the movie and on top of that, he forgot his wallet and I had to pay!
Learning how to use these less formal alternatives is a little tricky because not all of them work well in every situation. You do need to get a little bit of feedback from the native English speaker to learn when it’s appropriate to use them correctly. You could take classes with an online language school like Lingoda, all their teachers are native teachers so they can definitely help you with some of these little nuances in language. Any native teacher or native speaker will be able to tell you when it’s appropriate to use ‘moreover’ and ‘furthermore’ and also when it’s not.
But we can practise together here too. Take a look at this sentence right here. So what I want you to do is pause the lesson for a moment and try to rewrite that sentence in a more casual way as if you were just chatting with a friend. Write your sentence down in the comments below. I’ll try to check it and make sure that you’re using it correctly.
We use this word to introduce a consequence or result and again, this is a brilliant word when you’re structuring an essay or you’re making an argument. It’s also brilliant in presentations or in formal speeches but it usually sounds a little weird if you use it in everyday conversation, it’s just too formal. Let’s look at an example.
We’re visiting a cathedral therefore, you’ll need to make sure your shoulders are covered.
We’re visiting a cathedral so you’ll need to make sure your shoulders are covered.
Quite a few people haven’t replied yet and their names therefore will be removed from the guest list.
Quite a few people haven’t replied yet so their names have been removed from the guest list.
It’s that simple. When you’re trying to be a little less formal, simply use ‘so’ instead of ‘therefore’.
Now I want you to try. Pause the video for a minute and write your sentence below in the comments.
We use this word to contrast. Now ‘however’ is used a little more often in spoken English but again it’s quite formal, so it can make you sound a little stiff in a relaxed and casual conversation. Can you guess what the less formal alternative might be? I think you’ll be able to guess this one especially if you have an example.
There’s an awesome Italian restaurant around the corner. However, there are many other restaurants nearby.
So if you’re talking to a friend or a colleague, especially one that you know well, ‘however’ can feel a little jarring in this sentence. It’s unnecessarily formal. So can you guess what the informal word might be? It’s ‘but’.
There’s an awesome Italian restaurant around the corner but there are many other restaurants nearby.
The cost of fuel has been rising. It’s unlikely however, that it will go much higher.
The cost of fuel has been rising but it’s unlikely that it’ll go much higher.
So there you have it. I’m often talking about expanding and broadening your English vocabulary and of course, this is absolutely necessary to move from an intermediate to advanced English user. But I hope that this lesson made it clear that more formal and more complex advanced words are not always better.
If you’ve got any questions about this lesson or you want to practise some sentences with me down below, go ahead, add them to the comments down there.