20 useful English phrases to sound like a native

20 useful English phrases to sound like a native

by Laura Jones

Updated April 6, 2023

Are you starting to feel more confident with your English? Once you’re past the beginner stage, you feel like it is time to level up and try to sound as natural as possible. To help you succeed in the challenge, we compiled a list of useful phrases in English that will help you evolve from using a very functional language to a more fluent conversation. These expressions allow you to understand native speakers when they decide to resort to a vocabulary hidden from or less common for English learners. 

Read on and get your memory into gear so you can learn and practice these useful phrases.

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“Hello, how are you?”: we are positive you are quite familiar with this expression. However, how often have you actually heard a native English speaker use it? Two more natural ways to ask someone how they are are: 

  • How’s everything?”  – Worry not! This person won’t cover each detail of their life if you decide to go for it. Most likely you are going to get a short and sweet answer along the lines of: “Everything’s fine/great, thanks”.
  • What have you been up to?”  – meaning “What have you been doing since I saw you?”.  Among the possible answers, you might get a “Same old, same old” (as in, nothing new); or, possibly, some people will take it as a chance to start a conversation. 

Depending on the time (and energy) you have available, you can quickly check on a person using the first phrase or, if the moment allows for it, use the second one to really take an interest in the other.

General phrases

Find here some useful sentences to use in everyday life.

  • Do you fancy…?” –  It’s a really common alternative to “Do you want…?”

This is a great phrase to learn as you can use it in almost any situation. 

Do you fancy going to the Indian restaurant tonight? Or, Do you fancy a coffee? 

  • “Hang on!” – This is what you say when you want someone to wait. Some variants also read “Hang on a minute!” 
  • Can you give me a hand?” – This is a very informal way of asking for help.

You might want to give more detail and say: Can you give me a hand with this bag? for example. However don’t worry, no native speaker will try to romantically hold your hand if you say this. 

  • “Can I ask a favor?” and then ask someone to help you. For example: Can I ask a favor? I’ve got an English exam tomorrow and I need someone to practice my speaking with.

Alternative ways to say “I don’t know”

Of course, you can just say: I don’t know. But there are other, natural ways to express the same thing. 

  • If someone asks: What time is the next bus?  Say: “Sorry, I’ve no idea. 
  • Or when someone asks if you can help them look at their broken-down Peugeot, you can say: “I don’t know anything about cars, sorry.

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Accepting and refusing

We are offered things every day and sometimes we want to accept whereas in others we prefer a healthy “no”. Here are some ways to do that (without using the words yes and no!):

First, let’s accept some offers: 

  • Do you want to come to the cinema tonight? I’d love to.
  • Do you fancy cycling along the river today? Yeah, sounds good!
  • Would you like another biscuit? Sure, thanks.

To say no politely, try these two phrases:

  • Would you like to come out with us? Thanks for the offer but I’m busy tonight.
  • Do you want to come to the party tonight? I’ll have to pass. I’ve got an exam tomorrow.

Asking for and giving advice

The more you get confident with the use of your English, the more you will want to interact with other participants and to give your own opinion, advices and share your point of view in different contexts.

Here are some common ways to do that. 

  • I’m moving house on Saturday but I can’t do it alone! What do you think I should do?
  • I’d suggest asking Mark to give you a hand. He’s got a truck.
  • My boss has changed my working hours and I’m going to be late for lessons every day. What would you do in this situation?
  • If I were you, I’d write to the school and explain.
  • I’m thinking about learning English. What do you reckon?
  • You should start as soon as possible!
  • So what do you reckon?

Time to practice!

Aside from learning the correct way of expressing yourself, the goal of learning a language is to sound as natural as possible. While knowing some basic phrases is useful and paves your way into the first experiences of real and live communications, mastering idiomatic ones will make you rise to the next level. Now that you know different ways of conveying the same meaning, go out and practice as much as you can.

Learn languages at your pace

Laura Jones

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

Laura Jones

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