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Discourse markers

D.M: are words and expressions we use to show the structure of discourse. Some of these make clear the connection between what we are going to say and what came before (e.g. talking about………, anyway, however). Some show our attitude to the truth of what we are saying (e.g. I suppose, I think, frankly, sort of). Others show what kind of communication is going on (e.g. after all in persuading, I’m afraid in polite refusals, or actually in ‘breaking news’).

1)Linking: talking about, with reference to

These expressions show a connection between what you want to say and what you said before
Taking about is often used to break into a conversation.
“I saw John today. He was in a……………” “Talking about John. Did you know he’s going to London”
With reference to is formal language often used in business letters

Dear Sir
With reference to your letter of 25th March.

2) Focusing: regarding, as regards, as far as……….is concerned, as for…….
These words are used to ‘focus’ attention – to announce what we are going to talk about. Regarding can come at the beginning of a piece of discourse, as regards usually announces a change of subject.
Hello, John. Look, regarding those sales figures - I really don’t think……
……..there are no problems about production. Now, as regards marketing there is some difficulty.
As far as can be used in the same way
As far as marketing is concerned, I think the best thing is to have a meeting with the Sales Manager
As for often expresses lack of interest or dislike
I’ve invited Bob and Jack. As for Terry, I don’t care if I never see him again.

3)Structuring:
There are many expressions which we can use to show the structure of what we are saying. Most are more common in formal style (e.g. in speeches, reports or lectures)
a. Divisions
firstly,……….secondly, …….thirdly, ……….fourthly
first of all……., to begin with
to start with (less formal)
in the first place,……….
for one thing,……….for another thing,……… (less formal) another thing is (informal)
moreover………, in addition………. , similarly…….
as well as that (less formal) on top of that (informal)

besides (introducing stronger argument than the one before)
b) Contrast with what came before
all the same yet and yet still on the other hand however nevertheless
He’s not doing a good job. All the same, you have to admit that he is doing his best.
He claims to be a socialist, and yet he has two houses and a Rolls Royce
It is not a very nice house. On the other hand, it is cheap.(or: Still, it is cheap).
c) Logical consequence
thus (very formal) therefore (formal) so (less formal)
They were therefore unable to avoid a reduction of the workforce
So they were forced to lay off more workers
d) Exemplifying and excepting
for example for instance such as including in particular apart from except(ing) with the exception of etc and so on and so forth
e) Generalizing
on the whole in general as a rule in most cases in many cases broadly speaking to some extent mostly
f) Clarifying
I mean that is to say in other words

4)Dismissal of previous discourse: at any rate, anyway, anyhow,
These expressions generally mean “what was said before isn’t really very important – the main point is as follows…….”
I don’t know when he will arrive, Anyway, I’ll certainly wait for him.
5)Change of subject: by the way, incidentally
John is going to visit next week. By the way, have you heard the latest news about Susan.

6)Showing our attitude to what we are saying
Frankly and honestly are often used to introduce critical remarks:
What do you think of this lesson? Frankly, I think it’s a disaster
Honestly, John. Why do you have to be so rude?
I think, I feel, I reckon, I guess (American), in my view/opinion (more formal) are all used to make opinions sound less categorical – they suggest we are just giving our personal opinion.
I think you should try again
I really feel you are making a mistake
I suppose can be used to make a respectful enquiry when an affirmative answer is expected
I suppose you are very busy at the moment
It can also express unwilling agreement
“Can you help me now”. “I suppose so”
So to speak, sort of (informal), kind of (informal), more or less are ways of making an opinion sound much less definite
It’s very bad. I mean, it’s almost a crime, so to speak
I sort of think it’s more or less a crime, really.
7)Showing one’s attitude to the other person
After all is used in persuading; it suggests ‘this is a strong argument that you haven’t taken into consideration’
I think we should let her go on holiday alone. After all, she is fifteen; she’s not a child anymore

No doubt can be used to persuade people politely to do things
No doubt you will pay me in the near future

I’m afraid can introduce a polite refusal or bad news
I’m afraid I can’t help you.
I’m afraid you have failed the exam

8) Referring to the other person’s expectations: actually, in fact, as a matter of fact, to tell the truth

These expressions are used when we show whether somebody’s expectations have been fulfilled or not. Actually, in fact and as a matter of fact can all confirm that somebody ‘guessed right’
“Was the concert nice?” “Yes, as a matter of fact, it was wonderful!”
“Did you enjoy the holiday?”- “Very much, actually”.
These expressions can also be used to add further details
Yes, the holiday was wonderful. In fact, it was the best I’ve ever had.

All 4 expressions are used when we say expectations were not fulfilled.
“How was the holiday?”-“Well, actually, we didn’t go”
“How much were the cigarettes?”- “To tell the truth. I forgot to ask”

“I hope you passed the exam” – “No, as a matter fact, I didn’t”

Actually is used in introducing corrections
“Hello, John.” “Actually, my name’s Philip”.
We often use actually in apologies, to break news gently
“How did you get on with my new car?” “Well, actually, I’m terribly sorry, I’m afraid I had a crash.

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