Hi there! I’m your English coach Christina, welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll learn about American culture and business know-how to become confident in English.
You’re learning American English. Of course you’re eager to build your vocabulary and speak better conversational English. However, students often overlook the most common and essential phrases or chunks of words that can drastically improve fluency.
These chunks of words in English may be referred to as “formulaic expressions.” It sounds fancy, but it’s quite simple.
Formulaic expressions are usually fixed – that means the words in the phrase cannot change, otherwise the meaning behind the expression wouldn’t make sense.
Well guess what? Even if you exclusively studied vocabulary and grammar, you would still miss the meaning of these types of expressions.
Why? Because they can’t be translated directly in your mother tongue. They’re figurative. Such expressions are not translatable word-for-word.
Surprise! These chunks make up between 30-50% of the English language. If you haven’t already started learning these expressions, perhaps now is a good time. Chunks are essential for increasing your English fluency.
After all, these essential chunks in English are truly “insider secrets” into speaking American English. Are you ready to learn how to say them and become more fluent? Let’s go!
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“A piece of cake”
Let’s start with dessert. Learning essential chunks in American English will have you sounding fluent fast. Best of all, it’s a piece of cake.
This common phrase simply means: “it’s easy.” You might say, “my homework was a piece of cake.” Or, “The drive was a piece of cake.”
Eating a piece of cake is so simple, you don’t even have to think about it. So when you use this phrase, you’re saying the task was very simple.
Similar phrases you can use instead of “it’s a piece of cake” are: “it’s a cinch” or “a walk in the park.” These phrases have the same meaning and are interchangeable.
When you learn expressions like these, they allow you to continue conversations easily, without searching for your words! Sounds good, right? And that’s our next chunk!
“Sounds good.” Or,“Sounds good to me.” Like most native American English speakers, I say this expression a lot.
You may know already what these two words mean: “Sounds” are noises you hear and “good” means something of high quality.
Sometimes when I use this phrase with new American English speakers, they think I’m commenting on their accent or language skills. However, this isn’t the case at all.
“Sounds good” simply implies agreement. It means “that’s right,” or “let’s do that,” or “I agree.”Also, “sounds good” is more colloquial and friendlier than “I agree.” Of course, if you want to understand real American English, it’s essential to learn colloquial expressions like this!
“To cut corners”
I have a square – see? What happens when I cut the corners off the square? I get a… square with rounded corners… Is this helping? Hmmm…
The expression to “cut corners” means to take a shortcut or skip steps that may undermine the finished product.
For example, the seamstress cut corners when she sewed the purse.” This suggests that she used cheap materials or didn’t follow every step she should have to create a well-constructed purse.
You can cut corners in a recipe, or cut corners filing your taxes, or cut corners while preparing for your next Skype interview – but I wouldn’t recommend it!
“No worries” is a very common colloquial phrase in American English (a little like the expressions “kind of” and the phrasal verb “to figure out”).
“No worries” basically means “everything’s fine,” or “no harm done.”
How would you use “no worries”? If your friend is late meeting you they may say, “Sorry I’m late!” A typical response is “no worries.”
Or if you bump into someone on the subway and say “sorry” the other person may say, “no worries.”
“No worries” is a slang phrase you would use in very informal situations, with friends, acquaintances, or strangers.
However, depending on your work, it may not be appropriate with clients or your boss. My
“On my way”
The last two common expressions I’m going to talk about are more flexible than the other examples. You can change the pronouns depending on the subject.
For example, “On my way” is very common in American English. It means that you are in the process of going from one place to another.
You may say, “On my way back from work…” Or, “On her way back from work… Or, “On his way back from work…”
You can also say “On the way to work… “ Or, “We’re on our way…” There are a lot of possibilities with this one! And if you can master it, you will be on your way to better fluency!
“Take your time”
“Take your time” is also flexible and very common. It implies not hurrying something. “Take your time” is the same as saying, “don’t worry, you don’t need to rush.”
You might say to a client “I’ll send you a quote right after this call!” and they might say “Sure, take your time, there’s no rush!”
Other examples: you can take your time on a phone call. She can take her time at the gym. They can take their time shopping.
The possibilities are endless! But this episode isn’t, so why not take the time to watch it, and hear the expressions and how I use them!
Now, what about you – do you have any essential chunks of words or phrases in American English that you use frequently?
Share them down below in the comments!
If you’re a busy professional who needs to level up your fluency, but you find it difficult to go it alone, let me help you, with Master Real American English.
It’s a 3-month coaching program in which my team and I empower you to express yourself fluently and naturally, so that people focus on your professional skills & expertise, not on your level of English.
For more information, visit this page, where you can apply to join this program today.
Thank you for learning with Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!