The Drops Blog

Top English Phrases You'll Use Again and Again

Written by:
Published:
Aug 6, 2019

Are you learning English? If so, you might be looking for phrases to help you gain confidence in conversation. Or maybe you’re on the hunt for English phrases for daily use. 

If you’d like to sound like a native English speaker and pick up some of the phrases we use everyday, then look no further. 

How to Learn Basic Phrases in English

In this article, you’ll learn common phrases in English, but how exactly do you learn these sentences and vocabulary? 

First, learn the phrases as a “chunk”. Don’t worry about grammar or figuring out how the sentences break down for now. Instead, memorize the entire phrase. Write the phrases you find most useful down in your notebook (studies have shown writing by hand helps with memory) and read them aloud. If you’re not sure how a certain word may be pronounced, you can look them up in the Drops visual dictionary to hear how they sound.

Second, improve your overall understanding by focusing on the words you find challenging. Words are the building blocks of language and are an effective way to build a strong foundation when you learn a new language.

Finally, find someone to practice the words and phrases you’re learning with. You can practice with exchange partners for free on italki or even work with a professional tutor. Imagine situations where you’ll use these phrases--maybe your first exchange will be just that!--and roleplay so that you can prepare for real-life scenarios where you may use them.

Kicking Off the Conversation

Do you know what time it is? / Do you have the time?

These two phrases both mean the same thing but offer you two different ways of asking for the time. It’s a great way to break the ice and get a conversation going with someone you don’t know.

If you’re asked this question, you can respond with:

  • Sorry! I forgot my watch.
  • It’s … o’clock.

So what brings you here?

If you’re at an event, it’s likely the people you’ll meet have their own reasons for being there. Maybe they came with a friend, are there for work, or because they’re interested in the theme of the event.

I like your …

Is the person you’d like to strike up a conversation with wearing something you like? Maybe they have something you find interesting, like a watch, bag, or the design of their notebook. Let them know that you like it and see where the conversation takes you!

Examples:

  • I like your watch. I have one just like it!
  • Where did you get your shoes? They look really comfortable.

Common English Phrases for Any Occasion

Please

Adding please to the end of any request, is a good way to express politeness and soften any requests you may make. 

Examples:

  • Can you repeat that please?
  • Could I get a coffee, please?

Thank you

You’ll hear English speakers use “thank you” a lot--even for small things. If you hold the door open for someone, hand over a document, or do someone a favor, you’ll hear “thank you” or “thanks”. Be sure to do the same!

An alternate version of this you can use is:

Thank you for…

You can use this when you’d like to thank someone else for something specifically. 

Examples:

  • Thank you for your help.
  • Thank you for your time.

Excuse me

If you need to get someone’s attention--for whatever reason--you can use this phrase. You can also use it as an apology. If you need to get past someone or bumped into them, “excuse me” is the phrase you can use. 

Examples:

  • Excuse me, could I ask you a question?
  • Excuse me, do you have a moment?

I’m sorry

If you need to apologize, you can use this phrase or the shortened “sorry”. 

Examples:

  • I’m sorry, but I don’t have time right now.
  • Oh, I’m sorry, were you next in line?

I think that…

To share your thoughts or opinions on something in English, you can use “I think that…” and then include whatever your thoughts are after. You can also drop “that” in many cases and simply use “I think…”.

Examples:

  • I think that we should open the window, it’s a bit warm.
  • I think that I’ll have it done by the end of the day.

What do you think?

When you’d like to ask the person you’re speaking to for their thoughts, you can turn it around with this question. “What do you think?” If you’d like to ask their opinion on something specific, you can ask “What do you think about…?”

Examples: 

  • What do you think about this section here?
  • What do you think about the food here?

How about you? / And you?

If you’re discussing a topic with someone and you’ve shared your thoughts but want to find out what theirs are, you can turn the conversation to them with “how about you?” or “and you?”

Examples:

  • I thought that the film was really interesting. And you?
  • I had a great meeting this afternoon. How about you?

Nevermind / Don’t worry about it / No problem

Imagine that you brought something up or made a suggestion and the other person didn’t quite understand or doesn’t quite agree. You can change the subject or even drop the subject with one of these expressions.

Here’s an example of a conversation:

Person A: Did you get a chance to look over that document today?

Person B: Which document?

Person A: Oh sorry, I thought you were Alice. Nevermind.

Person B: No problem. Don’t worry about it.

Getting Clarification

I don’t understand.

If someone says something to you and you aren’t sure what they said, you can use this phrase to let them know.

Here’s an example dialogue:

Person A: I’d like a bagel with lox.

Person B: Sorry, I don’t understand.

Person A: Ah, yes. A bagel with smoked salmon. 

I’m learning English.

A good way to let someone know that you’re an English learner is by using this phrase. They’ll likely adjust their speech to include words that are easier to understand and speak more slowly.

Examples:

  • I’m learning English, can you speak slowly, please?
  • I’m learning English so that I can study in the US.

Can you repeat that?

If you missed what someone said, you can ask them to say it again with this expression.

Examples:

  • Sorry, I missed what you said. Can you repeat that?
  • I don’t understand. Can you repeat that?

Can you say that slower?

After someone’s repeated what they said and you still don’t understand, you can follow up with this phrase. 

Examples:

  • I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand. Can you say that slower?
  • I didn’t get that. Can you say it slower?

What does … mean?

If someone uses a word you’re unfamiliar with, you can use this question to get some help from the person you’re speaking with.

Examples:

  • What does ‘truant’ mean?
  • What does ‘out of the blue’ mean?

Can you write that down?

If you’re struggling to understand something, even if the other person has repeated it or said it more slowly, there may be times you still don’t understand. On these occasions, you can ask them to write what they said.

Example:

  • I’m not sure I know that word. Can you write it down?

What do you mean?

If someone asks you a question, but you’re unsure of their intention or meaning, you can use this question to get more information.

Example dialogue:

Person A: How did it go?

Person B: What do you mean?

Person A: The meeting earlier today. Did it go well?

Making an Introduction

Hello

Get the conversation started with this greeting. You can also use “hi”, “hey” in more casual conversations, and “how’s it going” in casual situations as well.

What’s your name?

Want to get to know the person you’re chatting with? Find out what their name is!

My name is …

Share your name with this phrase. You can also use “I’m…”

Here’s an example of the previous two phrases in a dialogue:

Person A: What’s your name?

Person B: My name is Saul. And you?

Person A: I’m George.

Nice to meet you.

After you introduce yourself to someone, you can use this phrase. You can also use it at the end of the first conversation that you have with someone.

What do you do?

In the US, one of the first questions we ask when getting to know someone is “what do you do?” One’s career is often a major part of their identity, and so it often comes up in conversation.

Examples:

  • I work in sales. What do you do?
  • I’m an engineer. What do you do?

Where are you from?

Want to find out where someone is from? Ask them this question.

What do you like to do for fun?

Other ways to ask this question include:

  • What hobbies do you enjoy?
  • What do you do in your free time?

English Phrases to Use at Work

How can I help you?

If someone comes to your desk to ask you a question or get your help, use this question to find out how you can be of assistance.

Just a moment.

If you’re in the middle of something when someone comes to see you at work, you can let them know that you’re busy but will be available in a moment to chat with them.

Can we schedule a meeting?

Want to get some time with someone at work? Use this question to schedule a meeting with them.

Would you mind…?

Need help with something? You can use this this question to request assistance.

Examples:

  • Would you mind looking over this for me?
  • Would you mind calling this customer to see when they’d like to reschedule the meeting?

Ready to learn English?

The secret to learning English is by using good quality resources and practicing what you learn. 

That’s why we created Drops. You can learn thousands of words and phrases in 5-minute daily sessions. Start using Drops to learn English.
...

Drops: the new way to easily learn a language that combines engaging and fun word games with beautiful design. Learn up to 35 languages with fun, visual games. Try the fastest-growing language app in the world for free on iOS or Android.

Download Drops

Sound fun? Easy? Effective? It is.
Get Drops for free!

Download Drops from the App StoreDownload Drops from the Play Store