Posted tagged ‘Colloquial English’

Insights into Spoken English

23 May 2008

From A Textbook for ESL Students and Translators

The following brief Sample is from two longer downloadable SAMPLE documents (See, or …/samplechapter4insights.htm)

From Chapter 1: Ritual Spoken Units
[The beginning of the Chapter Introduction:]
The exercises in this chapter illustrate some of the most characteristic features of spoken language: ritual, or stereotyped, units (of varying lengths, but most often short) with specific dialogue purposes or functions. For the native speaker of English, these are units of speech which initiate dialogue or action, or offer a subjective response to the spoken or extra-linguistic context. Students of English as a Second Language (ESL) will already be aware of many of these ritual sentences (e.g. courtesy formulae for greeting, requesting and thanking, etc.) but others may be less familiar with them.


From Exercise 1.4: Affirmative Responses and Reinforcements

These highly varied and, in colloquial usage, colourful ritual responses indicate agreement, confirmation or acceptance in the dialogue situation. Some affirmative units carry or may be given special emphasis. (For affirmative response patterns, see Exercise 2.2.)

Basic types of responses:
Yes. More informal: Yeah, Yep, Yup, Uh-huh. Aye (esp. in Scotland and Northern England)
Of course

(Other typically positive reactions: Wonderful! Great! Terrific!, etc.)

[50 examples from English language novels and plays are given.]

From Exercise 1.6: Responses which Indicate Indifference, Lack of Importance, Resignation, Uncertainty or Lack of Knowledge

Basic: It doesn’t matter. / I don’t care. / Who cares? / What does it matter? / How do I know?

… [13 examples]

More aggressive:
14. ‘I haven’t eaten all day.’
‘Too bad.’
15. ‘I don’t believe you,’ Cathy said.
‘Tough,’ said Mort. (PC, 67) [The literary sources are given in abbreviated form, explained by the end Bibliography.]
16. People always think something’s all true. I don’t give a damn except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. (JDS, 1958: l3)
17. ‘Anyway, this is one thing that can’t be blamed on Russia.’
‘It means the end of NATO.’
‘Good riddance.’ (EW, 1957: 97)
18. ‘Fifteen pounds a week? … Oh well, all right, But I shall have to pay three pounds out of my own pocket.’
‘A fat lot I care.’ (WSM, Theatre, 34)
19. ‘He believes that? He believes the Mafia would want to kill the President?’
‘What the hell, that’s their business, isn’t it?’ (RC, 1974: 120)
20. ‘They waste your time, these ridiculous celebrity hunters, and they sap your vitality.’
‘Let them!’ I’ve got lots of time and lots of vitality.’ (NC, 374)
…… [ + 11 more examples]


Chapter 2: Expressive Sentence Patterns

[Excerpt from the Introduction]
Given the range of functions covered and the peculiar syntactical or semantic characteristics, the patterns have been grouped partly according to their form and partly according to their content, in the following Exercises:
– patterns for requests, queries, suggestions and commands (Exercise 1)
– affirmative and negative response patterns (Exercises 2-3)
– exclamatory sentence patterns (Exercises 4-5)
– irony (Exercise 6)

Chapter 3: Spoken Signals and Sentence Additives

From Exercise 3.1: Dialogue Stimulants and Other Directions to the Listener

[This is one of the most detailed exercises in the e-book]


c) other informal or colloquial tags like eh?, OK?; huh?; right?; all right?; understand?; do you hear?; and the rarer what? [esp BrE]
23. ‘We’ll talk when I get back, then. Eh?’ (CF, 451)
24. Getting tired of waiting, eh?
25. ‘Just don’t tell me you’re in love, OK?’ (TP, 211)
26. ‘Yes. I’m afraid I must go.’
‘What happened? … The shock’s worn off, huh?’ (DB, 1992: 139)
27. ‘So you think it’s beneath my dignity, huh?’ the Boss asked. (RPW, 39)
28. ‘Well, I’ll tell her I can’t see her, and send her away: do you hear?’ (GBS, 91)
29. ‘And something happened to your brakes, too. Right?’ (RRO, 141)
30. You know what it is, but under no circumstances are you to repeat the contents of this message to anyone … understand? (EKG, 135)
31. ‘Good morning,’ I said. So you’ve got back, what?’
‘I have got back.’ (PGW, 57) [esp BrE]
32. ‘Nice of her to take the trouble, what?’ (KA, 1992: 290)
[plus 7 more examples]

[Later in the same Exercise:]
g) Miscellaneous
[5 examples, followed by:]
as it is / as it was = in fact; already; in the present circumstances (with possible overtones of brusqueness or finality)
56. ‘My dear fellow, we’ve quite enough on our hands as it is. We can’t go to war with the whole world.’ (EW, 1952: 12)
57. ‘Don’t you think we ought to get on with things? It’s late enough as it is, and Mr Myburd may have a luncheon engagement.’ (PW, 1973: 259)
it just so happens
58. ‘Well, Whittaker, what can I say? It just so happens that I see myself as your average John Q. Citizen.’ (GV, 1997: 306)
The provocative or aggressive: if you must know
59. ‘Where were you last night?’
‘I worked late, if you must know, and then went to bed.’ (DDM, 153)
[plus 9 more examples]

Chapter 4: Variation in the Verb System

From Exercise 4.6: to get (got, gotten)


b) Even more frequent is the colloquial use of invariable got or have got to as variants for to have and to have to.

6. ‘We got some good news and some bad.’ (LLP, 49
7. ‘What’s she got to do with anything?’ (RRO, 269)
8. ‘How long have you got?’
‘Not long, actually.’ (LLP, 135)
9. ‘Is that all you’ve got to say – yes? (JC, 142)
10. ‘I haven’t got any more money. (JC, 202)
11. ‘You got yourself another girlfriend?’
‘No.’ (JC, 40)
12. I got to go now.
13. ‘I gotta go.’ (DJW, 2)
14. ‘Don’t you remember?’
‘I guess I do. Josh. There’s something you got to know.’ (MR, 434)
15. ‘That’s not a bad idea.’
‘You’ve got to be joking.’ (JH, 165)
16. ‘You got to believe that.’
‘All right.’ (RPW, 400)


For longer samples of this e-book, see or …/samplechapter4insights.htm