How to Use Words Like ‘So’, ‘Okay’, and ‘Well’ – Discourse Markers (AJ #15)

Discourse Markers

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Welcome to episode 13 of Ask Jack.

(Do you have a question about learning English? Click here to ask me a question.)

In today’s episode, I answer a question on discourse markers.

Below the video, there is a transcript from this episode, and a summary of the answers.

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Hello. This is Jack from and this is Ask Jack, the free series where I answer your questions about learning English and the English language. We have a great question today from Milan from the Czech Republic. Here it is. Milan from the Czech Republic asks, ” How can we use discourse markers like ‘so’, ‘well’ and ‘okay’?”

Words like ‘so’, ‘well’ and ‘okay’ are examples of discourse markers. So, what I’m going to do is introduce what this means, give you some examples and then talk about how you can use them.

Firstly, Discourse Markers are used very commonly in everyday English, both in written and spoken English, and the ones that you use when writing might be different to the ones that you use when speaking. But, what they do is they help us control communication. They help us change topics. They help us think about things and they also help us join things together.

Three common ones in spoken English are ‘so’, ‘okay’ and ‘well’. I use ‘so’ all the time in my videos. We also have things like ‘by the way’, ‘however’, ‘oh’ and also, 2 very common ones: ‘you know’ and ‘like’. Now, except for ‘however’, these are all used in spoken English. However is used in both spoken and written English. So, let’s have a look at some examples now.

The first example is “So, let’s look at some examples now.” And, this is something I say in all my videos and I’m using so to change the topic to introduce something new, to change direction. But, we can also use ‘so’ when we are giving a summary, “So, remember that we need to do this.” Another example, “Well, I think it was in about 1905.” We’re using well here to help us think and to give us time to get the correct sentence out there. We can also use well when we have a conflicting view or we’re putting a different argument across, “Well, I’m not so sure about that.” So, this is a way to introduce an opposing argument or something that contradicts what someone said and sounding more polite.
So, I’ve given you a few examples here, so and well. But, there are so many ways and so many different types of discourse markers. That has given you an introduction to discourse markers. Now, there are many others and I encourage you to research other ways that you can use these discourse markers. But, when it comes to using them in natural conversation, my advice is to do it when it feels right to you. This is the same advice I gave when talking about using relaxed pronunciation, using ‘gonna’ instead of ‘going to’. So, use Discourse Markers in the same way, when it feels right to you. Don’t try to force it to sound like an advanced speaker. Instead, just wait until it feels normal.

Now, my task for this video is this. What I want you to do is to watch lots of videos this week, listen to podcasts, anything that has audio with English and listen to these discourse markers. So, notice how people use them. Notice how often we use them during natural conversation. And then, leave some examples below this video. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.

Q1: How can we use discourse markers like ‘so’, ‘well’ and ‘okay’?

Discourse markers help us organize our speech and writing. They are very common in both spoken and written English.

Here are some examples:

  • “So, let’s look at some examples now.”
  • “So, remember that we need to…”
  • “Well, I think it was in about 1905.”
  • “Well, I’m not sure about that.”

Just like I talked about in this video on relaxed prounciation, use discourse markers when they feel right. Don’t force them.

What to Do Now:

1. Notice how discourse markers are used while you watch or listen to things in English. Leave examples below.
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3. Click here to ask me a question about learning English.

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  • 1) So, what’s going on with you ?
    2) Okay , I’ll see you tomorrow .
    3) Well , I look forward to your reply soon .