English Language Skills: Discourse Markers

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English Language Skills: Discourse Markers

Before we look into some expressive and apt examples of discourse markers to spice up your conversational skills, let’s first get the meaning of it. To define it in simple words, a discourse marker is a small word or phrase; to organise, comment on or in some way frame what we are saying or writing.

As commonly used, the phrase ‘Mind you,’ is an informal expression to add a further comment; a contrast, a surprise and an explanation. You can say, ‘I’m not very keen on the apartment, or the area. Mind you, it’s better than my last place.’ Its synonym is ‘still’. ‘As for’ is used to start talking about somebody or something new which is connected with what you were talking before. For example, ‘My sisters are likely to move to US next month. As for our parents, they’ll probably join them after six months.’ In addition, to introduce an idea that is a second choice or possibility is ‘Alternatively’- ‘We may have to leave for France at the beginning of next month, or alternatively, we could leave at the end of this month.’ On the other hand ‘It’s true’ is used to agree an idea made by the previous speaker; often before disagreeing. It can be replaced by the synonym ‘I agree.’ A sentence such as ‘It’s true that she was only trying to cooperate with us.’ can be made in such a situation.

Furthermore, the synonyms of ‘as a matter of fact’ are ‘actually’, ‘to be honest’, ‘to tell you the truth’. These are used to say what you really think, or to introduce information which is not what the listener expects to hear. For instance, ‘Well, as a matter of fact we were slightly disappointed yesterday.’ This can be continued by using ‘by and large’, to introduce a generalization. So, to continue the same sentence, ‘…By and large the service and food weren’t satisfying.’ Synonyms can be ‘to a large extend’ ‘on the whole’ and ‘broadly speaking’. In order to say that something is true or something will happen in spite of other things mentioned, discourse markers are ‘at any rate’ ‘anyhow’ ‘anyway’. A sentence like, ‘I may miss the bus. At any rate, I’ll be there on time, so don’t worry.’ The meaning of the sentence doesn’t change by using the other two. Other than that, ‘As I was saying’ is used to return to the conversation to something you said earlier. To exemplify, ‘And as I was saying, you can ring me if you need any help.’

Some other similar markers are such as ‘You see’ ‘listen/look’ ‘let me see’ ‘Hang on/Hold on!’ The first is used for explaining a topic whereas the second is used for introducing a suggestion/point. ‘Let me see’ is used when you hesitate for a moment. For example, ‘When is her birthday?’ ‘Let me see, I have written it somewhere……’ And ‘Hang on/Hold on!’ is especially used to prevent an interruption of your thought process.

To conclude, it’s doubtless to say that discourse markers come to your rescue to organise different stages of talk in both speech and writing. Well, it’s advisable to pay specific attention to discourse markers while listening to other speakers or reading articles to use them more efficiently.