How’s your colloquial English? Maybe your grammar is great, but what about your spoken English? Does it sound natural and conversational?
Here’s the 5th video in our series on colloquial English. We’ll show you how to common conversational phrases like:
Go for it!
not have a clue
not have the foggiest (idea)
Don’t hold your breath.
Just say the word.
No can do.
The thing is …
That’s more like it.
It’s not the end of the world.
These things happen.
Tell you what.
It’ll be my treat.
What does it mean if you don’t hold your breath?
Or you just say the word?
Or you tell someone what?
Or if something’s your treat?
We’re looking at these phrases and lots more like them in this video.
They’re going to take your spoken English up a level.
There’s the English you learn from books in school, and then there’s colloquial English.
All those informal spoken expressions that English speakers use all the time.
And that’s what this lesson’s all about.
We’ll show you lots of common phrases and how to use them in action.
So let’s roll the first video.
It’s my application. I’m applying for my dream job.
Do you think it’s a good idea?
Sure. Go for it. What job is it?
I’m applying to be an astronaut with the space agency.
You bet. And they’re asking about my special skills and I have a great one…. Dah-dah Dah-dah-dah Di-dah-dit Di-di-dit Dit, Dah-di-dah-dit Dah-dah-dah Dah-di-dit Dit. Do you know what that means?
I haven’t a clue.
It’s morse code.
Oh right. So do you think you’ll get the job?
I haven’t the foggiest idea. What do you think?
Ah. Well, don’t hold your breath. Hey but you’re very good at morse code.
Dah Di-di-di-dit Di-dah Dah-dit Dah-di-dah Di-di-dit
Go for it!
OK, did you notice this phrase?
When you go for something, you put in effort to get or achieve it.
We normally say this phrase to encourage people.
Do you think I should apply for this job?
Sure. Go for it. It’s a great idea.
And you also heard this phrase. You bet!
You want to be an astronaut, with NASA?
It just means yes or certainly, but it’s a very enthusiastic yes.
We can also use it when someone guesses something correctly.
So you know morse code.
not have a clue/not have the foggiest
And then you heard some informal ways to say ‘I don’t know’.
For when you don’t know at all.
I don’t have the foggiest idea.
In British English we can skip the word idea and just say this.
I haven’t the foggiest.
And you heard a similar phrase:
Will I get the job or not? I don’t have a clue?’
This phrase is interesting because you can also use it in a disapproving way, when you think someone’s stupid or bad at something.
Don’t ask Vicki about morse code. She doesn’t have a clue.
How dare you!
OK, what’s next?
This is good one.
Don’t hold your breath
When we hold our breath, we breath in and don’t breathe out.
But the idea is we can’t do it for long.
Do you think I’ll get the job?
Well, don’t hold your breath.
So we say this when we think something’s NOT going to happen soon. Or maybe it won’t happen at all.
Hey Jay. Do you think we’ll all get our COVID vaccinations soon and life will return to normal?
Maybe but don’t hold your breath.
It’s a joke answer for when we think something won’t happen, or it’ll take a long time.
OK, let’s see another conversation.
This one’s an old joke, but a good one.
Who are you?
I am the genie of the lamp and I can grant you one wish.
Yes, just say the word. What would you like?”
Well there are a lot of countries in the world where there are wars.
Yes, I see that.
And I want them to live in peace.
Hmm. Hmm. Sorry. No can do.
Well the thing is these countries have been at war for hundreds of years. It just not possible. Try another wish.
Mmm. OK then. I want you to find me a nice man.
Oh that’s more like it.
He’s got to be kind and intelligent and love children. And he’s got to love cooking and housework more than watching football.
Hmmm. Errr. Show me those wars again.
Just say the word
OK, the first phrase you should learn was ‘Just say the word’.
You can say this when you’re being helpful.
You can have anything you want. Just say the word and it’s yours.
The idea is you only need to ask and I’ll do what you want.
It invites someone to give you an order.
If you need me to help you, just say the word.
No can do
OK, next phrase.
You want world peace? Sorry. No can do.
This simply means I can’t.
We say it when someone’s asked us to do something that’s impossible.
Notice the word order. It’s strange.
I don’t know why we say it that way because it sounds funny.
Maybe that’s why.
Can you help me file these papers?
Sorry, no can do. I’m going out to lunch with a customer. Bye!
The thing is …
OK, the next phrase is very common: ‘The thing is…’
So I can’t have world peace?
No. The thing is these countries have been at war for hundreds of years.
It’s useful for introducing reasons. We say it before we explain something.
I’m sorry I didn’t call you last night. The thing is I fell asleep
I don’t really need another pair of shoes, but the thing is these ones are so cute.
That’s more like it
OK, here’s another handy phrase.
Try another wish.
OK then I want you to find me a nice man.
That’s more like it.
It’s an encouraging thing to say. It means that something is better and more acceptable.
Oh, that’s too much.
Well with our discount it’s only 300.
Oh. That’s more like it.
So the lower price was better and more acceptable.
No. No. No. That’s more like it.
OK, I’ll work on this one.
Yeah, it’s better than the rest.
OK, let’s look at another conversation now.
You’ll hear some good phrases for building relationships, and being supportive.
Well, let’s see.
I’m so upset.
I was expecting to hear from Frank Hobson. I thought he was going to place a big order with me.
And he didn’t?
Oh, well cheer up. It’s not the end of the world.
I worked so hard to make that sale. I thought he was going to buy 3,000.
That’s a lot! But these things happen.
And I thought I was going to be salesperson of the month.
Ah! I’ll tell you what. How about I take you out and buy you meal tonight?
It’ll be my treat. And you can choose the restaurant.
Wow! That would be really nice of you.
Thanks very much. I really appreciate it. I’ll see you later then.
Yeah, see you later.
Hi Frank. So you’re ready to submit your order? Fantastic, just make sure you put Vicki in the box where it says salesperson, not Jay, OK? That’s great. Thanks Frank.
I’m going to be top salesperson again!
You’re so mean to me!
But I said some nice things to you. Let’s look at some.
Cheer up! It’s not the end of the world.
Oh cheer up!
Cheer up is a phrasal verb and it means to become happier and not sad. So if someone’s feeling low, we might try to ‘cheer them up’.
And people say ‘cheer up’ to encourage someone who’s sad.
But they also say it if someone’s being miserable and they’re fed up with them.
That happens a lot too. I’ve often thought it was a strange thing to say. You can’t really order someone to be happy if they’re not.
True. OK, here’s something you can say when something bad happens.
It’s not the end of the world.
The idea is things aren’t as bad as you think.
The end of the world is the worst thing possible so it’s a reminder that it’s better than that.
And maybe there‘s still hope. Perhaps things can change.
These things happen
And here’s another sympathetic phrase.
These things happen.
Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault when bad things happen. It’s just chance or bad luck. So the idea is you shouldn’t feel bad or guilty about it.
OK thanks. Oh, I’ve just spilled some coffee.
Not to worry. These things happen.
Be careful though because we don’t say this when there was a really bad event.
Oh my. What’s happened?
My grandmother’s died.
Ah well. These things happen.
That was NOT appropriate.
We’ve made another video about what to say when people are grieving. I’ll put the link here.
Tell you what
OK, back to the conversation. Here’s a really common phrase. But when do we say it?
I’ll tell you what. How about I take you out for a nice meal tonight?
We say it before we offer to do something.
And we can drop the ‘I’ and ‘will’ and just say ‘Tell you what’.
Tell you what, if you buy 3,000, I’ll give you a discount.
We also say it before we make a suggestion,
So where do you want to go tonight?
Oh I’ll tell you what. Let’s try that new Indian restaurant.
It’ll be my treat
And there’s one more phrase you should know.
It’ll be my treat:
Treats are things that are very nice and pleasant.
They’re things we give to other people because we know they’ll enjoy them.
Jay’s bought some tickets for us to see Hamilton. It’s my birthday treat!
We can use this word ‘to tell someone that we’re going to pay.
What would you like to drink? A beer? No no, put your money away. This is my treat.
So it’s a very practical phrase, I think.
If you have suggestions for other colloquial phrases you’d like us to look at, tell us in the comments.
Just say the word and we’ll try to help! And I want to tell them about the bell.
Go for it.
The thing is if you subscribe to our channel, YouTube won’t always tell you when we’ve uploaded new video. But if you turn on your notifications and hit the bell, they will.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please shared it with a friend.
Thanks a lot everyone. Bye-bye.
2 thoughts on “Colloquial English: 14 useful phrases you should know (set five)”
Hi Vicki and Jay,
We love watching your videos in my in-company classes. Today, Andreas came and asked me if there was a Vicky and Jay video on “How to say something carefully? I assume / obviously……..”. This is relation to international company audits and when being direct (as Germans like to be) is not a good idea.
I couldn’t find anything suitable right off the bat and was wondering if this would be of interest to some of your other viewers.
My course participants love your videos, especially the humor. I tell them we’re not working on grammar anymore. We’ve moved up a notch and are working on our style.
What do you think?
Hi Nelly. Thanks for passing this along. It sounds like Andreas and is thinking of something on ways me might try to employ more diplomatic language? I’m wondering what might interest him. Maybe things like
the way we use ‘would’ and ‘could’, when we’re making requests?
Or softeners like I’m afraid or unfortunately when we’re giving bad news?
Using negatives like ‘This isn’t very good’ when we really mean ‘this is bad’
Ways to sound tentative?
What do you think? Or was there anything else?