Oh wow! (Responding in conversation.)

by Kate Woodford​​​​
When you are chatting in English, do you always know how to respond? Do you sometimes wish you knew a few more words and phrases to show that you are interested in what the other person is saying? Read on!

To let the speaker know that you have understood them, you can just say Ah. People often say right or okay after this. The phrase I see is also used here:

A: The date is wrong on the letter.

B: Ah, right, I see.

A: So we have to be here by eight o’clock, not nine o’clock.

B: Ah, okay, fine.

Sometimes, you simply want someone to know you are still listening and interested. The word right is useful here and some native speakers also say okay:

A: She’s still in London and she’s seeing the same boyfriend.

B: Right.

A: But she’s changed jobs.

B: Okay.

If the speaker has said something surprising, a way of replying here is really?

A: I had such a bad meal in that restaurant.

B: Really?

Interestingly, many native speakers of English say ‘really’ even when they feel no surprise, but simply want to show interest in what has just been said.

Sometimes, someone tells you that they are having problems or they are ill and you want to show kindness. The phrase Poor you! is useful here:

A: I’ve had a headache all day.

B: Oh, poor you! I hate having a headache!

If something bad has happened, you might say What a shame!:

A: I’m afraid Tom didn’t get the job. He’s quite disappointed.

B: Oh, what a shame!

Useful phrases to show that you care in more serious situations are I’m sorry, I’m so sorry or I’m sorry to hear that:

A: Maria’s father isn’t well, I’m afraid. He’s in hospital again.

B: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

Sometimes, it’s the opposite situation and someone tells you about something good that they are doing. Often, the best response is Nice! or Lovely! or How nice! or How lovely! You can also say Lucky you!

A: We’re off to Spain tomorrow for two weeks.

B: Lovely! Lucky you!

Often in conversations, you want to respond to an opinion that someone has expressed. To show the speaker that you agree with their opinion you can say That’s right or You’re right:

A: The problem with train travel is it’s so expensive.

B: That’s right. That’s why we usually drive.

To agree more strongly with an opinion, you can give the one-word reply absolutely:

A: His last record was so much better.

B: Absolutely!

You can also agree strongly by saying I completely/totally agree:

A: Anyway, I think the whole system is really unfair.

B: I totally agree.

Finally, to return to the title of this blog, to show that you admire someone for what they have just said or are surprised by it, the word wow! Is very useful:

A: I ran twenty miles on Sunday.

B: Wow, that’s impressive!

35 thoughts on “Oh wow! (Responding in conversation.)

  1. Albert infante

    Good on you … This expression is very common in Australia.. It means that you are doing a good job. Or you are lucky..

  2. A girl on the image is the most beautifull girl I have ever seen! But I am wondering which word she used as a reply at the moment? Probably “Ah”, may be “Oh”. I think not “Wow”…. Either way I am sure she gave the proper respond for news:)

  3. “Sorry for your troubles” and “I feel for you” are two useful expressions when a friend tells you of difficult times.

    For instance “My big deal fell through.” “Sorry for your troubles.”

    Or “My girlfriend dumped me.” “I feel for you.” (This is a bit informal and most common among young people.)

  4. solomon

    wowwwwwww that’s great good job because this is Actually happens in every day life,,,,,,,,,, keep it up it’s really helpful especially for those who’re non-native speakers.

    Even me, I am not native

    1. An appropriate reply here would be “Spoil sport!” Someone is trying to disrupt a good-natured and productive exchange with negative feedback.

      In most English-speaking lands “Good sportsmansip” (= “Respect for rivals in a sporting contest”) is a highly respected social value. Those who fail to meet this standard are “poor sports,” “bad losers” or “spoil sports.”

  5. Pingback: Phrases and pragmatics | ELT Infodump

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