I get it. You’re trying to speak like an American because it proves fluency in the language and also, it opens doors in the business world. But there are so many phrases and idioms in their speech! How will you ever speak like a native? What’s up with the “How you doing”? Shouldn’t it be, “How are you doing?” And what is, “Hang tight?” Hang tight to what? Even this “What’s up,” right?
The American English is characterized by “its disregard for precedents and rules, its inclusion of words and phrases from outside influences, and its inclusion of new words and phrases.” American English cannot be tamed, it can only be enjoyed. There is a proverb, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” This means if someone is too strong for you to defeat or master, then it’s better to be on the same side. So, let me share with you some of the best native-sounding American English phrases to learn, which will help you to become more “fluent” when speaking with your American friends and colleagues.
Native English Phrases: Easy Level
Phrases when Greeting
● “How was your weekend?”
Americans like to talk. Not so much about themselves (unless they know you very well), but about sports, politics and the weather. After a weekend break, one of the first questions your coworker will ask is, “How was your weekend?” Now, what we’re looking for is a simple answer–not an exposé. So, don’t start talking about the toilet that clogged or the cat that got stuck in the tree, and the cute firefighter who climbed the tree to get her. Keep it simple with the following:
● Pretty good
● Not so good
● Nothing special
Clearly, the response you give will depend on the experience you had over the weekend, and the person asking, of course. If you’ve been working together for a while, and if your English proficiency allows it, you may venture out with:
“Oh, I had a great weekend. It was awesome! Thanks for asking!”
Of course, Americans frown on rudeness, so you want to ensure to return the favor by asking: “What about you?”
That’s it. That translates to, “So how was YOUR weekend?”
● “What’s up?”
No doubt you have seen the beer commercial (If you haven’t you can watch the latest version here). This is a parody on this American expression, which means: “How are you?” The “hello” is implied. So, when next you see your American friend, impress him/her with, “What’s up?” This shows you are becoming “Americanized.” The expression can further be contracted to “wassup?” Note, this is usually a greeting that only requires the reciprocal “what’s up/wassup?” However, it can also be used when there’s a problem. For example: “What’s up with the phone lines?” Other contexts of using the expression include: “What is wrong?” Or, “Are you okay?”
Expressions of Sympathy and Reassurance
● “Hang tight!”
Another expression you will commonly hear is, “Hang tight!” This is often used in situations where patience is required. For example. You’re waiting for your friend to go to KFC. You agreed to meet at your house. You call your friend to find out where he is and he responds with, “Hang tight.” That means to stay in your location and wait patiently for him. It’s first cousin is the expression:
● “Hang in there”
This also has to do with patience but is a more comforting expression. When you tell someone to hang in there you’re actually saying, “Don’t give up. Things are going to get better.” We know how difficult it is to learn a new language. If you disclose this information to an American, you may hear, “Hang in there.” This means, “It will be okay,” or “It will get easier.”
Native English Phrases: Intermediate Level
Phrases when Greeting
As you become more proficient in speaking American English, you are going to want to know and use the following phrases:-
● “Long time no see!”
This expression is used with friends you have not seen in a long time. Other similar expressions include, “Omg, look who it is!” You might even want to comment on how long it has been since you last met, “I can’t believe it’s been ten years!”
Again, we do not tolerate rudeness, so it is nice to give compliments:
● “It’s so nice to see you”
● “Look at you. You look great”
If the person is your teacher, an elder, or if you are less familiar with them. You can ask the more formal question:
● “How have you been?”
You may want to get more information (since you’ve not seen each other for a while), so you may ask: “How old is John now? Ten? Eleven?”
Phrases with coworkers at lunch
● Binge any good Netflix shows this weekend?
What your coworker is asking is: “Did you watch a lot of Netflix shows over the weekend?” This is also an opening for you to discuss the movies you watched (if any) over the weekend. Doesn’t have to be Netflix either.
● Get into any trouble this weekend?
Of course, your coworker is not really expecting you to get into trouble. After all, you are a good, law-abiding person. However, it is an American English phrase to learn, which means, “What did you do for fun over the weekend?”
Native English Phrases: Advanced Level
Phrases at Work
We know there are phrases that just make no sense to a non-English speaking person. But they do to us. So, keeping in mind what I said at the beginning of the article, let’s just learn them:
● The hang of it
So you’ve just been promoted and find yourself being asked to do tasks you’re not familiar with. You start to complain to your friends/family/coworkers, to which you are told: “Don’t worry, in a few days you’ll get the hang of it.” What they’re saying is, “You will soon learn how to do it.”
● Icing on the cake
This one, as they say, takes the cake (yes, another idiomatic expression meaning “the most remarkable or foolish of its kind”). Americans love this expression and it is one of my favorite and best native-sounding American English phrases to learn. This can be used under many circumstances. For example: you’re on the job and recently signed up a client that provided you with a big commission. Then your supervisor said, “John, we are giving you an extra bonus for signing the client before your deadline.” You would say that was “icing on the cake”–an extra benefit.
● break the ice
Your boss has planned a meeting for several departments. You don’t know each other. Your boss asks you,
John, what activity are you planning to help break the ice at the meeting?” What he is asking is what do you plan to do to start a conversation with someone that you meet for the first time (at the meeting).
● Jump the gun
We sometimes jump the gun and do more than we’re asked. So, for example, at the meeting, John handed out the report that his boss asked him to photocopy. As you can guess, “jump the gun” here means to act too soon without thinking carefully about something or getting permission to do something.
Expression to show lateness
When you want to emphasize the lateness of an action: Instead of saying, “You’re late,” you would say, “You’re a day late and a dollar short.” So, for example, “My boyfriend proposed but had no ring, after I broke up with him. He is a day late and a dollar short.” This means, not only was he late, but his actions were insufficient or inadequate.
So there you have it, some of the best native-sounding American English phrases to learn. Do you have others? Share them with us in the comments box below. Would you like to be fluent with us? Check out Truflency today.