Using Natural English

Most students and teachers spend a lot of time and effort correcting mistakes.  I’m sure you agree that this is an important part of the language-learning process.  However, it’s also important to improve your English by using the words and phrases which native speakers actually use.  So, in this language tip I’m going to show you how to make your English more ‘English’!

Family relationships
This is an area of vocabulary that you learn from beginner level.  Of course it’s fine to say ‘my mother, my father, my children, my grandmother, my grandfather’, however, it’s much more usual to use the less formal versions of these words.  A native speaker would generally say ‘my mum, my dad, my kids’.  For your grandparents there are all sorts of options.  I say ‘grandma and grandpa’ but you could also say ‘gran, granny, nan, nanny, nanna’ and ‘grandad' (British English spelling) or ‘granddad’ (American English spelling).

Your country and people
'Your country’ and ‘people in your country’.  However, in your reply it’s more common to say, for example ‘In Poland…’ and ‘Polish people…’ rather than ‘People in Poland’ or ‘People in my country.’

Home sweet home!
Even high level students often say something like ‘After that I went to my house’ instead of ‘I went home.’  ‘Home’ is where you live and where you go after work or a night out.  ‘My house’ makes me think of another house that you own, maybe in the countryside, the mountains or on the coast. So, we use 'home' to mean 'the place where we live' and 'house' to refer to a domestic building that can be bought and sold.

Eating
More often than not, we didn’t ‘eat’ breakfast/lunch/dinner/supper, we ‘had’ it.  A quick and easy way to naturalise your English.

Stating the obvious
‘I drive my car to work.’  You’ve just ‘stated the obvious.  We would say ‘I drive to work’ and whoever is listening would assume that you drive a car.  If you drive something else, then you can tell us; ‘I drive my bus/lorry/milk float to work.’

Giving opinions
I often hear that something was ‘so-so’.  We say this occasionally but far less often than the following; ‘It was ok’, ‘It was alright’, ‘It wasn’t bad’. 

Instead of saying ‘For me, it’s strange’, ‘I think it’s strange’ is better.  And for negative opinions use ‘I don’t think it’s strange’ rather than ‘I think it isn’t strange’, which doesn’t sound that natural in English.

When you’re giving information about times/prices etc ‘about’ is an incredibly useful word.  So instead of saying ‘It’s 3 hours away, more or less’, say ‘It’s about three hours away.’

Something else!
A very useful expression.  Instead of saying ‘I took one other thing’ a native speaker would say ‘I took something else.'  You can also say 'somewhere else' and 'someone else'; 'The restaurant was really crowded so we had to go somewhere else.'  'If you can't come to the wedding with me I'll have to ask someone else.'

Laura

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