Short expressions that will help you reduce those pauses.
This is another short lesson from our ‘Five Minute Functions’ series of videos. Avoid hesitating and become more fluent when responding to questions using fillers. Written for IELTS students, but equally useful for anyone wanting to become more fluent in English.
Transcript for Using Fillers to Improve Fluency
During Part 1 and certainly Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking exam you’ll be asked questions that take a little thinking about. And it’s perfectly acceptable as we say in English to ‘um and ahh’ while you think. Sounds like these are common in spoken English so don’t worry if you find yourself ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ while you speak. However, here are a few useful phrases called ‘fillers’. You can use these to give yourself a split second to think when responding to questions.
Here’s a nice easy one. ‘Well … let me see’ or ‘Let me think’.‘ This means what it says; give me a moment to consider the question. Here’s an example:
What’s your favourite day of the week?
Well … let me see … I like Saturdays as the family are all together and we can go out somewhere … but I like Friday as well … Fridays always have a nice feel-good factor.
‘That’s a good question’. This is another phrase that means what it says. You wouldn’t use this if the examiner asked you where you live or how long you’ve been studying English. Use this if you’re asked an unusual question. For example:
So, who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Hmmm that’s a good question … I don’t know really … perhaps someone like a business investor, who I could talk about my business with.
‘To be honest‘. We use this phrase when saying what we really think and especially when the answer isn’t what we think is ideal or what the listener may want to hear. For example:
How often do you do exercise?
Well … to be honest I’m not a great one for exercise … I walk our dog three times a day but that’s about it really.
‘It’s difficult to say‘. Again, this is a phrase that means what it says. If you can’t give an exact answer to the question or the answer isn’t straightforward this is a useful phrase to use. For example:
Do you think adverts for fast food should be banned?
It’s difficult to say … fast food isn’t good for us or our children but it’s difficult to define fast food.
‘That’s a tricky one‘. This phrase has a similar meaning to ‘it’s difficult to say’. Use it when you’re asked a question that hasn’t got a straightforward answer. For example:
Where would you like to live if you had the choice?
That’s a tricky one … I’ve always liked the idea of living in Greece or Spain … but that would mean leaving friends and relatives behind .
‘To cut a long story short‘. Another phrase with a literal meaning. If you’re asked a question that could have a long complicated answer, give the short version and start with this phrase. For example:
Where did your parents meet?
Well … to cut a long story short … I think they both worked in the same company … my dad used to be a trade union rep … that’s how they met I think.
‘It’s funny you should ask‘. Use this phrase when there’s is a sense of coicidence about the question. It’s just like saying coincidentally . For example:
What’s your favourite TV show?
It’s funny you should ask … I’ve very recently started watching a drama called ‘Ripper Street’ … an historical crime drama … it’s really very good.
So there are several different ways of using fillers. One word of warning. You should use these selectively. Don’t respond to every one of the examiner’s question with a filler or it will sound very staged and unnatural. Only use them when appropriate.