English language coach in Barcelona

“Are one-word answers OK?” “No.” (Haha! Just kidding…)

On 16 Feb 2016

Here’s an essential rule to remember  to sound competent when speaking English —and you do want to sound competent when speaking English, don’t you? Yes, of course, you do! So, keep reading…

Today’s tip is actually a follow-up to a couple of my FB posts back in October, the first of which ended like this:

You’re tip for today: NEVER give one-word answers. (As in, Q: “So, is the report ready?” A: “No.” Argg!) They sound childish, cheap, even rude. Tomorrow I’ll start explaining exactly how to use at least 3 words, and usually MORE, to answer all questions!

The next day I wrote this

Good Morning! So, for today I promised you I’d start the No-One-Word-Answers lesson. In English answering somebody’s question with just one word sounds AWFUL. Especially, “No,” which where we’ll start. So, what do you when it’s true? When someone asks you for something and you can’t give it to them? Well, you’ve got to SOFTEN the “no”. What’s the trick? Piece of cake. Add, “I’m afraid,” at the start, and change, “no” to “not”. Like this: Boss: “So, is the report ready?” You: “I’M AFRAID NOT.” That’s it, guys. No more NO’s. Just plenty of  “I’M AFRAID NOT” ‘s. It’s hat simple. And remember, “I’m afraid not,” does not sound subservient or hesitant or weak. It’s very professional. You sound competent and smart and on-the-ball when you say it, regardless of what information you’re communicating. So don’t be surprised when the conversation goes like this: You: “So, will I be able to take the vacation time I requested?” Boss: “I’M AFRAID NOT.” Ouch. This is just the start of the No-One-Word-Answers lesson. I’ll add another part every Tuesday for a while. For tomorrow I’ll give you a fun, useful expression, unrelated to today’s topic. See you then!

Now for the follow-up:

Just to make things crystal clear, I’m going to say it again:

One-word answers are not acceptable in any “conversation” in English.

Yes, it’s true, that when  you’re having a tense, unpleasant verbal interaction with a family member, very close friend, or significant-other sometimes a terse, “Yes” or, “No” will be used, but “a tense, unpleasant verbal interaction” isn’t a conversation, is it?

So, this is going to be really easy– a piece of cake, really… just match the questions (numbered 1- 6) to the appropriate minimum 3-word answer options (A-F):

1. So, have you worked at this company for a long time?

2. So, what department do you work in?

3. So, how many people are there in your department?

4. So, where are your company’s headquarters located?

5. So, is your company well-known in Catalonia?

6. So, does your company offer any in-house training?

7. So, what kind of in-house training do they offer employees?

A. GOOD: There are 15 of us. BETTER: Well, actually, there are 15 us. THE BEST: Well, actually there are 6 of us working in our department right now, but I think we’re going to be hiring some new people soon.

B. GOOD: Yes, they do. BETTER: Well, actually, yes, they do.They offer us English classes. THE BEST: Well, actually, yes they do, and it’s great, because they offer us English classes, which is, of course, a great opportunity for us to develop our skills.

C. GOOD: They are located in Lleida. BETTER: Well, actually, our headquarters are in Lleida, a city in western Catalonia. THE BEST:  Well, actually, our headquarters are in Lleida, a city in western Catalonia, but our Barcelona offices are also very important.

D. GOOD: I work in the accounting department. BETTER: Well, as a matter of fact, I work in the accounting department. THE BEST: Well, as a matter of fact, I work in the accounting department, which is great, because we have such a competent team.

E. GOOD: I’ve worked here for 20 years. BETTER: Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve worked here for 20 years now. THE BEST: Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve worked here for 20 years now, which means I have the most seniority in my department.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I think the concept is clear. Don’t be tight with your words. They are not pesetas. You are not going to run out of them. And neither am I! I’ll be back to tell you more soon!

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