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GRAMMAR: HOW TO START CONVERSATIONS

Mar
06
2014
by : Bupeko. Posted in : blog

GRAMMAR: HOW TO START CONVERSATIONS

 

Questions

Many time conversations start and are continued with questions. Asking questions is a natural way to get information from people and are used all the time. Think about it- people don’t usually just start rattling off, talking about something, unless someone else asks them something.

Questions usually begin with certain words, so right from the beginning a listener knows a question is being asked. The most common questions words are:

      The Wh question words: who, what, where, when, why, how

       The Yes/No question words: is, are, can, do, does, will, would.

Only a single word (Yes or No) is required to answer a Yes/No question, although a complete thought

can be used as well.

Look at these questions.

                             Who is the star of the movie?

What is the name of the theater?

When does the movie start?

Where is the theater located?

Why do you want to see such a bad movie?

How will we get there?

Is it a comedy?

Are there many people in the ticket line?

Am I late?

Do you like comedies?

Does your brother have to go with us?

Will you buy me a ticket?

Would you like some pop corn?

Can your father play the clarinet?

 

           Can questions can either be about ability or permission.

Examples Can you ice skate?          No, I can’t.

Can I have an apple?       Yes you can.

 

Sometimes we may be surprised by someones ability or something that is said that may be a little unbelievable. There are expressions that we can use in these situations. Look at the examples.

 

 

 

Statement

Expression
I can hold my breath under water for 5 minutes.   I don’t believe it.
I can speak 12 languages   Are you kidding me?
My uncle is able to swim with his hands tied behind his back.   Are you pulling my leg?
My sister can throw a football 85 yards in the air.   You must be joking.
The sun rose in the west this morning.   Get serious.
The president has been assassinated.   Oh my God!
I just won a ten million dollar lottery.   That’s unbelievable.
Two people got married last night on TV.   That’s outrageous.
My father won the Nobel price in chemistry last year.   Really, that’s incredible.

 

 

We all know that at times we get questions that we don’t know the answer to or can not remember the answer to. There are several expressions that can be used in these situation. look at these examples.

 

 

Expression   Response
Do you remember ( … what date we were

married)?

  Oh no, I forgot.
Do you happen to know ( … who won the

last World Series)?

  Wait…it’s on the tip of my tongue.
As I recall, ( … I asked you to buy some

bread at the bakery)?

  Oops, sorry. It skipped my mind.
What’s the ( … capital of Minnesota)?

 

  Sorry, I don’t recall (remember). It has escaped me for the moment.
Are there (… any apples in the refrigerator)?   Beats me.
     

If you can master the questions, you will be well on your way to effective communication.

Grammar note

Remember the usage of the to be verbs (is am, and are) and do/does differs, depending on the subject of the sentence.

Always use am with I

Example     Am I a man or a mouse?

 

Always use is with singular subjects and the pronouns he, she it.

Example     Is your job interesting?

Is he a professor?

 

Always use are with plural subjects and the pronouns you, we, they.

Example     Are there many questions on the test?

Are you going to study?

 

Always use do with plural subjects.

Example     Do dogs always bury bones?

 

Always use does with singular subjects.

Example     Does that dog bite?

 

Also remember about the subject-agreement rule in both questions and answers when using the simple present tense. Verbs may require an -s at the end, depending on the subject of the sentence.

 

Use an –s ending with verbs that have he, she, it, or singular nouns as subjects of

the sentence.

Mary takes a walk after class every day.

 

Use no -s ending on verbs that have I, we, they, you, or plural nouns as subjects.

I always take a walk after class.

 

Dialogue 1

Students should work together in pairs and read the following dialogue, one student reading one part, the other student reading the other. Note the expressions used in the dialogue and the progression of the conversation. The dialogue can be used as a model to have in similar conversations.

 

Teacher: What is a gnu?

Student: It’s an antelope like animal in Africa.                                   

Teacher: Where are the Hawaiian Islands?

Student: They are in the Pacific Ocean.

Teacher: When is Christmas?

Student: Christmas is on December 25th.

Teacher: Who is Leonardo DeCaprio?

Student: He is a famous actor.

Teacher: Why is he famous?

Student: He is famous because he has made many movies and he is an American heart throb.

Teacher: How do you spell veterinarian?

Student: V-E-T-E-R-I-N-A-R-I-A-N

Teacher: Is it cold in Australia in December?

Student: No, it isn’t.

Teacher: Are there many alligators in a desert?

Student: No, there aren’t.

Teacher: Am I a good teacher?

Students: No comment.

Teacher: Can cows swim?

Student: Yes.

Teacher: Do whale lay eggs?

Student: No.

Teacher: Does a vampire really exist?

Student: No, but in the movies they do.

Teacher: Will it snow tomorrow.

Student: Maybe.

Teacher: Would you like to have a test tomorrow?

Student: No, never!

 

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: May I ask you a few questions. I’m conducting a survey of student skills.

Subject: Sure, ask away.

Interviewer: Great. First, can you drive a car?

Subject: Yes, I can, I’ve had my license for about three years.

Interviewer: Can you use a computer?

Subject: Of course, can’t everybody?

Interviewer: Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time?

Subject: I don’t know; I’ve never tried it.

Interviewer: Can you bake cookies from scratch?

Subject: No I can’t. I’m a terrible cook.

Interviewer: One final question, can you lend me $5.00? I need money for a taxi.

Subject: Sorry, I can’t. I’m broke

 

 

1. Pair work- discussion

     Work with a partner and ask each other the WH questions below. For additional practice change the

words in parenthesis to make a new sentence. When answering the question be sure to use complete

sentences, not just one word answers. This will give you added practice is using the language.

 

          1. What kind of (books) do you (read)?

2. When do you usually (go to bed)?

3. When do you like to (eat ice cream)?

4. What do you usually (eat for breakfast)?

5. How often do you (go to the movies)?

6. Who do you (dislike)?

7. What do you do usually (do at night)?

8. What is your favorite (meal)?

9. How long have you been (studying English)?

10. What classes (do you take in school)?

11. What color (shirt/blouse) are you wearing?

12. Who is your (best friend)?

              

      More WH questions

 

            Ask your partner more WH questions using these words or think of your own.

 

When: study, get up, sleep, watch TV, go to movies, work

            What: father’s/mother’s job, major, hobby, capital of your country

            Where: from, live, library, place to fish, place to meet people, home town             

            How often: swim, drink milk, go to concerts, travel abroad

            Why: exercise, study hard, watch TV news, take vacation

            Who: favorite actor, president of your country, famous sports figure, inventor

of airplane

 

 

2. Pair work- discussion

     Think of ‘can’ or ‘do’ questions about the activities below and ask your partner, about

them or their family and friends.

 

Play the guitar  

Cook pizza  

Swim 

 Dunk a basketball

Read music 

Play chess

Snorkel

Shoot a rifle

Bungee jump

Read palms 

Change a flat tire

Sew your own

 clothes

Whistle with crackers

   in your mouth 

Balance a pencil

   on your nose

Understand Einstein’s

   theory of relativity 

Repel down a

   mo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings and Introductions

Almost all conversations start with a greeting. There are several expressions that are commonly used as greeting, some formal and some informal. Which to use, of course depends on the situation.

Introductions

When you meet and greet someone for the first time introductions are needed. There are a number of standard expressions that can be used for introductions. Take a look at some of them.

 

Expressions       

Responses
Hello, I’m ( … Ms. Jaines).      Hello, Ms. Jaines, I’m Susan Appleton.
My name is ( … John Grey).   Nice to meet you Mr. Grey, I’m Mrs. Sukjoy.
I’m (… George Franks. What’s your

name)?

  My name is Sopida, Sopida Hakam.

 It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Franks.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is ( … Frank Jeffers).   I’m delighted to meet you Mr.Jeffers.

  My name is Pornpan Orasa.

 

Introducing others

On occasion, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to introduce one person to another. Look at these possible expressions that are used for this.

 

Expression   

Response
Sam: Peter, I would like to introduce

(… Miss Helen Cranston).

Helen: Nice to meet you too Mr.

Kellogg.

  Peter: Hello Miss Cranston, nice to

meet you.

Bob: Min Ju, this is ( … my friend Betty          Watson).        

Betty: Same here.

   Min Ju: Hi Ms. Watson, a pleasure to

meet you.

Alice: Harry, let me introduce ( …my

supervisor, Mr. Lee).

Mr. Lee: Good to meet you too. But

please, call me Sammy.

  Harry: Mr. Lee, it’s good to meet you.

         

 

              Point to remember

              Many beginning learners use the expression “Nice to meet you” even when they interact with a

person they have already been introduced to. This expression (Nice to meet you) is only used

at a first meeting, not after that. Instead, if greeting a person for the second time, use “Nice to see

you again”

 

Farewells

Just as there are several standard expressions for greetings, there are also expressions of farewell. The farewell itself is generally very short- one or two words. However, many times people add something to the expressions, depending on what they want to happen in the future or the situation.

 

Expressions     

Goodbye                             Bye

So long                               Catch you later

I have to run                        I have to be going now

So long                        Later dude

Good day

 

              Extensions to farewells

              See you again                      I hope to see you again

See you later (soon)            Call me

 

              Point to remember

              Bye Bye is an expression that very young children use when they are first beginning to learn to

talk or  on very rare occasions by women, but almost never by most adults.

 

Well Being

After the greeting are finished the conversation should be continued in some way. One of the most common ways is is ask about the other persons well being. Again, there are several expressions that can be used for this. The responses to such inquiries will, of course, depend on how one actually feels. Lets take a look at these.                                        

 

  Expressions                              Responses

                                                        IF GOOD

How are you?                                    Great.

How’s it going?                                  Couldn’t be better.

How are things?                          Fantastic.

IF SO-SO

How are things going?                      Could be worse.

How have you been?                         I can’t complain.

How do you feel?                               Not bad

IF BAD

How goes it?                                      I’ve had better days.

How are you doing?                  Not too good.

How’s life treating you?          Lousy.

 

 

Dialogue

Students should work together in pairs and read the following dialogue, one student reading one part, the other student reading the other. Note the expressions used in the dialogue and the progression of the conversation. The dialogue can be used as a model to have similar conversations.

 

Sam: Hello, you look lost. Can I be of assistance?

Mary: Oh, thanks. You’re right, I am lost. I’m looking for the Student Union building?

Sam: You’re close; it’s just across the lawn. It’s the three story brick building over there.

Mary: I see, well thanks a lot. You’ve been a big help.

Sam: Excuse me for saying so, but you’re not from around here, are you? Are you British or what?

Mary: Actually I’m Australian. I’m a new transfer student. You’re an American, I assume?

Sam: Yes, by the way I’m Sam, Sam Jones.

Mary: I’m Mary Donald. Pleased to meet you.

Sam: So how long have you been in the States, Mary?       

Mary: I’ve been here about three weeks now. So, what’s your major Sam?

Sam: I’m a pre-med student. What’s yours?

Mary: I’m not sure yet, but I’m kind of interested in sociology.

Sam: So, do you live in the dorm?

Mary: Actually no, I have a small apartment about five blocks from here. Well, I have to run. Thanks for

your help. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again sometime.

Sam: Could be, it’s a pretty small campus. Nice to meet you, Mary. See you later.

Mary: So long.

 

After reading, close your book and tell your partner a summary of the dialogue. Then switch and have your partner tell his or her summary. Start like this: This dialogue is about two people who meet…This may seem silly, since you both already know what the dialogue is about, but the purpose is to practice using your English, not to give information or test your reading skills.

1. Pair work- Role Play

     The situation: Meeting new people

Working with a partner, role play the situation, using the information below

 

   The roles: See items below

 

       1. One partner is a new student at a university meeting his/her major professor for the first time.

2. One partner has recently moved to a new neighborhood and is meeting their next door neighbor for

the first time.

3. On partner is a new employee at a company meeting a coworker for the first time.

4. Both partners are strangers at a mutual friend’s party meeting for the first time.

5. One partner is a frightened earthling who is meeting a very friendly ET, who is here on earth for

vacation. The ET knows English.

6. Both partners are meeting blind dates.

 

 

2. Pair work

     Interview someone in the class you do not know well. After the interview is over, the interviewer could

give a short introduction of the person to the whole class or to small groups of 4 to 6 people. Questions

you may want to ask during the interview include:

 

               ● name                                               ● age

● where they are from                        ● job or major major

● number of people in their family      ● hobbies

● his or her goal in life                        ● religion

● what their family members do         ● marital status

● favorite kinds of music (or movies, books, food, etc)

● why they want to learn English

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expressing Opinions

Just about everyone has an opinion about most things. We seek peoples opinions all the time. You may want to know a friend’s opinion of a movie that you are thinking of seeing. A teacher may ask you your opinion of a homework assignment. A co-worker may want to know what you think of a job related suggestion to improve sales. An acquaintance may seek your opinion on a political candidate. There are several expressions that can be used when asking someone’s opinion. Look at the examples below.

 

Expression

Response
What did you think of ( … the movie)?   I thought it was boring.
Do you concur with ( …the board’s

recommendations)?

  Yes, but with minor reservations.
What is your opinion of ( … the

president’s proposed economic

package)?

  I don’t think it will help the economy

too much.

Do you agree with ( … Pam’s proposal)?   I can’t say that I do, I think it will be

ineffective.

After an opinion is given, either you agree with it or not. Look at the expressions below to indicate agreement or disagreement.

Question/Statement

Expression      A- Agree, D- Disagree
I think classical music is boring to listen

to.

  A: You said it.

D:  I couldn’t disagree more.

The president needs to raise taxes to

solve the problem.

  A: I think you’re right.

D: I don’t think that’s the answer at

    all.

Abortion is nothing less than murder.   A: I believe so too.

D: In my opinion, ( .. abortion is nothing

more than freedom of choice).

I think the president’s economic policies

are good?

 

  A: I’ll go along with that.

D: Well, we don’t see eye to eye on

    that.

I think studying English is a waste of

time.

  A: I’m with you.

D: I beg to differ.

I like this red dress. How about you?   A: It work’s for me.

D: I don’t really think (… that red is

your color).

GONE WITH THE WIND is the best

movie ever made.

  A: I’ll buy that.

D: I disagree, (… STARS WARS was

much better).

 

 

Dialogue

Students should work together in pairs and read the following dialogue, one student reading one part, the other student reading the other. Note the expressions used in the dialogue and the progression of the conversation. The dialogue can be used as a model to have similar conversations.

 

Alice: What did you think of the movie, Peter?

Peter: I thought it was boring.

Alice: Really? I loved it. Why did you think it was boring?

Peter: It was too predictable. You knew what would happen in the end. The same old thing- boy meets

girl, boy fights with girl, boy marries girl.

Peter: Did you like the sound track of the movie?

Alice: No, I hated it. It was too loud and too hard rock for me. What did you think of it?

Peter: I thought it was great, but then, I like hard rock.

 

After reading, close your book and tell your partner a summary of the dialogue. Then switch and have your partner tell his or her summary. Start like this: This dialogue is about a man and a woman giving opinions about …This may seem silly, since you both already know what the dialogue is about, but the purpose is to practice using your English, not to give information or test your reading skills.

 

1. Pair work- discussion

     Do you agree or disagree with your partner about the following topics? Discuss these topics with your

partner and give reasons why you agree or disagree.

  • watching golf is exciting
  • governments should spend less money on social services
  • watching too much TV is bad for a child’s mind
  • children should be seen and not heard
  • tests are a poor method of assessing students acquired knowledge

 

 

2. Pair work- discussion

What are you and your partner’s opinions about these topics? Discuss them. Give detailed reasons

for your opinions.

          The acting skills of Tom Hanks                    The movie Titanic    

       Your partner’s hair style                                The WWF        

                              

       Madonna                                                            Plays by Shakespeare 

 

       Punk rock music                                              Your partner’s attire                                              

          Using cell phones while driving                    Euthanasia (mercy killings)

                  

      

         The death penalty                                             Your English teacher

                                                                                          (don’t be rude)

                                                    

          The honesty of politicians                             Exploration of space–   

             in your country              

             worth while or not

 

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