Learners of English often want to know expressions which they can use to manage their conversations – words and phrases that, for example, connect ideas or introduce new ideas. Some of these expressions do not appear in dictionaries so we thought it might be helpful to take a look at this area here.
A conversation between two or more people usually focuses for a certain amount of time on one topic so when a speaker wants to start a new topic, they often use a phrase to introduce it. By the way is probably the most common way of doing this:
A: I’m really looking forward to your party.
B: Good – so am I. My brother will be there so I’ll introduce you.
A: Yeah, please do. Oh, by the way, are you seeing Sophie next Wednesday?
Another way to introduce a subject that is not directly related to what you have been talking about is the phrase while I think of it. ‘While I think of it’ says that you are going to mention a new topic that you have just thought about. That topic may be slightly – or not at all – related to what was being said before:
A: So we’re booked into the hotel on Saturday night.
B: Great – thanks for doing that. Oh, while I think of it, do you have Jamie’s mobile phone number?
A more formal way of introducing a new (or slightly related) topic is incidentally:
A: We really need more staff.
B: Yes, you’re right. Incidentally, when are we due to meet Ethan?
Sometimes, we want to return to a subject that we mentioned earlier in the same conversation – perhaps we have just had an idea about it. Useful phrases here are thinking about what you said earlier or going back to what you said earlier:
Just going back to what you said earlier about Phoebe, I wonder if it would help if Emma spoke to her?
Often, we want to talk about a subject that is related to the one that we have been talking about, but that takes us in a slightly different direction. To do this, we might say Speaking of/Talking of… or While we’re on the subject of . . .:
A: We had a fantastic meal there – one of the best I’ve ever had.
B: Really? I must go there sometime. Speaking of restaurants/While we’re on the subject of restaurants, have you tried out the new one on Green Street yet?
Finally, we may want to refer briefly to something that we said earlier in the conversation. As I say, As I was saying or As I was telling Esther/Paul are often used here:
A: So did you see much of Oregon while you were there?
B: Well, as I say, I was mainly there to see my family, so not really.
The next time you have a conversation in English, try to use some of these phrases.