Showing interest in English conversations

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Showing interest in English conversations

Showing interest in English conversations can be difficult – you are trying to follow the conversation, understand what the speaker is saying, thinking about how you might need to answer, what vocabulary to use and so on. The problem is that while you are thinking and following the conversation, many people learning English find that they are staying very quiet. This means that the person speaking to you might think you do not understand or that you are not interested.

On this page, we will look at ways that native English speakers use words or short phrases just to show that that are listening and they are interested, so try to use some of the language below to improve your conversational skills.

Some words and phrases you can use to show ‘active listening’:

  • Right
  • Go on
  • I see
  • You’re kidding / You’re joking!
  • Seriously?
  • Sorry to hear that (when they are telling you bad news)
  • That’s rough (when they are telling you bad news)
  • Really?
  • Oh, I know
  • Yes, I suppose so
  • I know how you feel
  • I agree with you


Here’s an example where Person B shows interest in the conversation


Person A I wanted to tell you about what happened at work today…
Person B Go on
Person A Well, I was called in to see the boss – he said I was in trouble for leaving work early.
Person B You’re kidding!
Person A Yes, he said that I should stay until 5pm every day, but I always do! He said he couldn’t see my car in the car park, so he thought I left work early. But the reason my car wasn’t there was because I took the bus that day.
Person B Right..
Person A So anyway, he told me that if I leave work early again I will lose my job.
Person B Really? That’s rough!
Person A I know. So now I have to tell him when I leave every day because he doesn’t trust me.
Person B Sorry to hear that.
Person A Oh well, I suppose I don’t have a choice.