Spoken Grammar: Part 2

Spoken Grammar: Part 2

As you probably know, the spoken language that exists in real conversations and in everyday speech differs from the written one. In our first article on Spoken Grammar, we have discussed what Spoken grammar is and what backchannels and spoken ‘indirect’ speech are and how to teach them. In this article, we will discuss ellipsis and co-constructions, which will make your students’ speech more natural.


Ellipsis is an omission of words which are understood from the context. It helps the conversation flow faster and in a more active way, e.g.

(it is) a great tool!

(You have got) a nice hairstyle!

In order to teach ellipsis to your students, you can show them videos, make them listen to it and cross out the words they didn’t hear from the script (that you extended intentionally). 


For example, here is a part of the transcript for the podcast above (but you can choose any podcast with a real conversation). The task is to listen to the podcast (1:54 – 2:08) and cross out words which the student does not hear:

Luke: So, where are you from?

Girls: Erm, We are from Hull.

Luke: Hull? Ok, so how long have you been in London?

Blonde girl: We came yesterday

Luke: Ok, what do you think? What’s London like?

Redhead girl: It is really good!

Blonde girl: It’s a bit busy.

Brunette girl: Yeah, it is a bit busy.

Ask the student why some words are not said. Then, you can give students extended dialogue and ask students to omit unnecessary words that will not impede understanding or  vice versa. 

You can also play an ellipsis game in case you work with a group of students (or even in 1-2-1 class). You make a full sentence, e.g.: Are you going to go abroad this year?  The next students (or group) should make it shorter, e.g. You going to go abroad this year? The next one makes it shorter: Gonna abroad this year? The person (or group) who made the shortest version gets a score.


In everyday speech, people rarely express their ideas in grammatically correct, full sentences. Moreover,  when interlocutors are having a lively conversation, they can overtake the topic, maintain the other speaker’s idea or provide further comments. Such subordinate clauses usually appear after a short pause, evaluating what the other person has said, e.g.:

A: So he stopped digging and just went home.
B: Just as any person would have done.

A: So it is a smart TV with built-in Wifi.

B: Wifi built in TV – great! And it should have YouTube.

A: And TV programs.

B: Which are usually boring.

A: I have done my test!

B: Hmm…

A: Which is great!

Co-constructions can include conditional clauses or relative clauses, repeat the keywords or phrases and paraphrase or use synonymous language. In order to teach students this construction, you can give them related examples and make them notice where, when and why they take place:

B: So, I could not pass the exam. You know, the math exam.

A: You’ve failed.  (A repetition in different words of the phrase ‘could not pass’)

A: Have you had a private teacher to get ready?

B: Private teacher? (Simple repetition of keywords)

A: Who was recommended by Any (A clause that depends on what the interlocutor has said. The full sentence is ‘The teacher who was recommended by Anny’)

B: Oh. I forgot about him. Crap!

A: Well, shoot! (An exclamation similar to ‘crap’.)

Use synonymous dialogues that repeat information mentioned before with adjectives or phrases, and dependent clauses to practice making co-constructions,

A: That house is tiny.

B: That’s true. It’s _______________.(really small)

C: You’d better watch the film today.
I know. (I can’t…) ___________________________.  (miss it)         

E: The weather is great today, isn’t it?

F: _______________ ! (it’s amazing)

G: We should climb Everest this year!
H: Unless we… (fail training course / get ill)

I: I lost my wallet at the cinema.

J: Which is why I…(warned you to take it out of your pocket).

All in all, you should gradually introduce spoken language and spoken grammar to your students, especially in case if their goal is to communicate with people all over the world.

Have you ever taught your students spoken grammar?

Наталия Мушкарева

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