Hello there, and welcome back to Learn English Lab.
In this lesson, I’m going to teach you 11 short conversation phrases that you can use
when you talk to people.
These are all common English expressions, and they will help you sound more like a native
speaker of the language.
So, let’s jump into it.
Number one is “I’m afraid” – this phrase does not show fear (it doesn’t mean
that you’re scared) - this is a polite expression used to say something negative, and it’s
For example, say someone calls an office and asks to speak to the manager: “Hello.
Could I speak to Mr. Peterson, please?”
His secretary is the one answering the call.
She says, “I’m afraid he’s not here right now.”
Or let’s say one of your friends comes to you and says, “Hey, I’m broke.
Can you lend me $500 until next month?” – here, “I’m broke” means I don’t
have any money.
And “Can you lend me $500 until next month” means “I’ll pay you back next month.”
But you say, “I’m afraid I can’t, sorry.
I’m out of cash myself.”
(means I don’t have money either).
In a meeting at your workplace, one of your colleagues says something that you disagree
with, but you want to be polite, so you say, “I’m afraid I don’t agree with you.”
In all of these sentences, “I’m afraid” doesn’t mean that you are scared of anything;
it just adds politeness to what you’re saying.
So, get into the habit of using “I’m afraid” to make negative messages a little softer.
Number two is ASAP.
This is an acronym; that is a short form of “as soon as possible”.
But, the short form is so common that you can use it as a single word – you can say
“a-sap” – “asap”.
We use this most commonly when we request someone to do something immediately.
Your boss at work might say: “Send me the report ASAP.”
Or, you if you phone somebody but they’re not available; someone else answers the phone,
you can say, “Please tell her to call me back ASAP.”
One of your friends wants to apply for a job but hasn’t sent in the job application yet
and the deadline is fast approaching.
So, you give advice to your friend.
You say, “If you want to apply for the job, you should send in your application ASAP.”
Remember that ASAP simply means “as soon as possible”.
Number three is “not really”.
All it means is “no”, but it’s a more soft and polite “no”.
Let’s say you go to a party at your friend Tom’s house, but the party isn’t all that
good; it’s boring and the food’s terrible.
But another friend, who’s thoroughly enjoying it, comes to you and asks: “Hey, are you
having a good time?”
And you say, “Not really.”
You want to say “no” but you want to say it in a soft way.
At the same party, you meet a guy who just loves golf.
And he asks you, “Are you into golf?”
You don’t want to say “no” and be rude, so you make it a little more polite: “Not
A couple of days later, your friend, Tom, who threw the party finds out that you didn’t
like it; he calls you up and he asks, “Hey, have you been telling people that my party
And you say, “Not really”.
That’s not what I’ve been saying to people.
Now, your mom overhears the phone conversation; she comes to you and she asks, “What was
that all about?
Did you just have a fight with Tom?”
And you say, “Not really.”
It was just a small argument.
But we’re good.
The next expression is “Good stuff!”.
You say this to congratulate or encourage someone.
If a friend of yours says, “I joined a gym today because I want to get in shape.”
You reply by saying, “Good stuff.”
That means, “That’s good to hear.
You’ve done a good thing.
If the news is not just good, but great, you can say “great stuff”.
When my niece came to me and told me: “Uncle Gan, I just got accepted to law school.”
I said, “Great stuff!
I’m really happy for you.”
Another time I said this was when I ran into my neighbor the other day.
I said, “Hey, Raj.
You look happy.
What’s the occasion?”
He said, “I got a promotion at work recently.”
I replied, “Great stuff, man!”
That is fantastic news.
Now, if the news is not so good, then you say, “I’m sorry to hear that”.
“Sorry” does not mean that you are apologizing; it just shows that you feel bad for the other
person: “I didn’t get accepted to Harvard university.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.
Have you tried applying to Stanford?”
“I got laid off from work recently.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.
But, keep your chin up.
I’m sure you’ll find another job soon.”
Now, “I got laid off” means “I was fired from my job”.
“Our house burned down, and we lost everything.”
What do you say?
“I’m really sorry to hear that.”
Phrase number six is: “Give me a hand”.
This expression is just a fancy way of asking for help.
You’re not actually asking for a hand, so this is an idiom; it’s informal, it’s
conversational and it makes you sound more like a native speaker.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to move some boxes, but they’re too heavy for
So, you ask someone else to help you with them: “Can you give me a hand with these
At work, one of your colleagues says: “I’m writing an important email, but I’m having
trouble wording it correctly.
Can you give me a hand?”
You can also use this expression to offer help by saying “give you a hand”: “Can
I give you a hand with those bags?”
So, you’re offering to help someone carry some bags.
Next up is the phrase “You’re kidding me”.
The word “kidding” means “joking”.
You say this phrase when you’re angry, annoyed or irritated, as if you can’t believe how
bad the situation is.
Let’s say you let a friend borrow your cell phone for a while.
But then your friend comes back to you and says: “I dropped your phone by mistake and
the screen’s cracked.
I’m really sorry.”
And you say, “You’re kidding me!”
This is a joke; you’re playing with me.
Don’t tell me you actually dropped my expensive iPhone!
(Although I know that that phone in the picture is not an iPhone, but you get the idea.)
Or if you get to the airport late for a flight, the person at the check-in counter might say,
“I’m afraid I can’t check you in.
You’re too late and the gate’s closed.”
If you’re really angry, you might respond with “Are you kidding me?
I’m only two minutes late!”
Now, I remember back when I was in school, I worked very hard studying for a test.
It was the most confident I’d ever been about an exam.
But, then when the results came, this other kid in my class came to me and said, “Hey,
the test results are in, and you failed.”
I couldn’t believe it.
I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” – this is the strongest form of this expression
– “you’ve got to be kidding me”.
Thankfully, he was kidding that time; not only did I pass the test, I got an A+.
I was first in class.
Phrase number eight is “Fair enough”.
It means, “I can accept that” or “That sounds acceptable / reasonable.”
Imagine that you’re in a restaurant with a business contact.
You ask: “Do you want to try the chicken parmesan?”
He says: “I can’t eat that.
I’m a vegetarian”, and you say: “OK, fair enough.”
Meaning, “I understand”, “That’s reasonable.”
We can have eggplant parmesan instead.
Or, let’s say your friend interviewed for a job and got the job but decided not to take
You ask: “Why didn’t you take the job?”
He says: “Because the pay was too low.”
And you say: “Fair enough.”
I can understand.
Here’s a conversation between two students in the school cafeteria: “I forgot my wallet.
Can you pay for my lunch today?
I’ll pay for yours tomorrow.”
That works for me.
Number nine is “I couldn’t care less”.
We use this fancy expression to say that we absolutely do not care about something.
I once asked a friend of mine this question: “Who do you think really invented calculus:
Newton or Leibniz?”
He said: “Man, I hate math.
I couldn’t care less who invented it.”
You can feel his distaste for mathematics in that sentence.
Of course, you can dislike things other than mathematics.
When someone asks me: “What’s your favorite soap opera?”
I say, “I couldn’t care less about soap operas.”
If you don’t know what a soap opera is, it’s basically any long-running TV series
that is a drama.
And next time one of your annoying friends asks you: “Hey, guess which celebrity couple
you can reply: “Please don’t tell me.
I couldn’t care less.”
Number ten is “sick and tired”.
This is kind of related to the previous one, but this expression is more serious.
It means you’re fed up, you cannot tolerate something.
For example: “I’m not going to watch the news anymore.
I’m sick and tired of all the negativity.”
Now, I read in the newspaper today about a group of factory workers going on strike.
One of them was quoted as saying, “We’re going on strike because we’re sick and tired
of not getting paid on time month after month.”
Now, my brother is a very smart guy.
But he often tends to get stuck in a rut – that means, he sometimes does the same things over
and over again.
So, when I went to visit last month, I asked him, “Aren’t you sick and tired of eating
macaroni and cheese for breakfast every single day?”
Can you guess what he said?
He said, “Not really.”
And the final item in this lesson is the set of these three phrases: “I’d better get
going / I’ve gotta go / I’ve gotta run”.
These are some polite yet stylish ways of saying goodbye: “I have to pick up my kids
I’d better get going.”
“ I’ve gotta go.
Catch you later.”
(the “got to” sounds like “gotta” – “I’ve gotta go”).
“It’s getting late.
I’ve got to run.”
These all mean the same thing: there is some reason why you cannot stay and chat; you have
And, with that, I hope you enjoyed this lesson.
I’d love to stick around, but there’s some place I need to be, so I’d better get
Happy learning, and I will see you in another lesson soon.