Stop Being Boring When You Speak In English

Stop Being Boring When You Speak In English cover

Avoid sounding boring when speaking English by sounding repetitive. If you simply answer questions in a direct fashion, you’ll sound like a robot. Learn new ways to avoid this question-answer speech routine.

Take a look at this conversation between two people on a first date:

  • A. This restaurant’s nice. Have you been here before?
    • B. Yes, I have been here before. Yes, it is nice.
  • A. I think I’ll order the calamari. Do you like calamari?
    • B. Yes, I like calamari. Do you like all sea food?
  • A. Sure! But I generally only eat it when I’m at the coast.
    • B. Yes, I generally only eat it when I’m at the coast as well.
  • A. Argghhhh!

So, what’s the problem here? Well, person B just sounds incredibly boring. They’re trying to move the conversation forward but the language they’re using is awkward and repetitive.

In fact, repetition is one of the prime suspects when it comes to sounding boring when speaking English. It’s frustrating to hear the same words repeated back to you after you’ve only just uttered them and it makes having a conversation, like the one above, a slow and frustrating process.

This article is going to focus on avoiding repetition in spoken English. By picking up a few simple techniques you can learn how to add variety to your responses and become a much better conversationalist.

To start off, let’s take a look at some of the striking similarities between the language used by person A and person B above:

  • This restaurant**’s nice.**
    • It is nice.
  • Have you been here before?
    • Yes, I have been here before.
  • Do you like calamari?
    • Yes, I like calamari.
  • I generally only eat it when I’m on the coast.
    • I generally only eat it when I’m on the coast as well.

In many exchanges, the language used is identical. In other parts, it’s merely been changed from second person to first person in order to provide an answer.

Now let’s look at an alternative:

  • A. This restaurant’s nice. Have you been here before?
    • B. A couple of times. Yes, it’s lovely.
  • A. I think I’ll order the calamari. Do you like calamari?
    • B. I absolutely love it. What about sea food in general?
  • A. Sure! But I generally only eat it when I’m at the coast.
    • B. So do I!

See the improvement? Instantly, person B seems articulate, interesting and a pleasure to be around. There are a number of techniques at work here. Firstly, let’s focus on synonyms in context.

Synonyms in context

A synonym is a word which means the same thing as another word. For example, scared and frightened. Synonyms in context means using an alternative word which is appropriate given the context of the situation.

It may be stronger (scared and terrified, for example) or it may be weaker (delicious and tasty) but it allows us to echo the point made by the person we are speaking to without repeating exactly what they said.

We may even change the word type, for example from an adjective to a verb or from a verb to a noun. Read these short exchanges:

  • He’s so frustrating (an adjective).
  • Yes, he really annoys me (a verb).
  • Do you trust her? (a verb).
  • To be honest, I have very little faith in her (a noun).

When using synonyms in context, we often employ modifiers (very, really, quite) or adverbs (absolutely, completely) with weaker adjectives or verbs in order to match the level of emotion expressed by our conversation partner. For example:

  • This food is delicious.
  • Yes, it’s really tasty.
  • I adore Vivaldi.
  • Yes, I absolutely love him as well.
  • That movie was terrible.
  • I know! It was really bad!

Rewording a question

Often, we want to answer a question and ping it straight back to the person we are talking to. However, it’s important not to use the exact same form if we want to avoid repetition. This is where rewording comes into play.

In each of the exchanges below, the question is returned to the person who had asked it, but in a way which avoids using the same language. Take a look:

  • Do you like sports?
    • Yes, I love them. What about you?
  • Are you attending the staff meeting later?
    • I think so, yes. Are you planning on going?
  • Did you read that memo from marketing?
    • I did. Have you looked at it yet?

Expanding on an answer

To avoid simple yes/no answers, it’s often helpful to give a little more information. This has a number of benefits. It demonstrates we are interested in what our conversation partner is saying, it moves the conversation forward by providing new information and it avoids answering questions by merely repeating the words we have just heard.

Take a look at these examples:

  • Do you play any instruments?
  • No, but I wish I did.
  • Have you ever been to Ireland?
  • Yes, I’ve actually got family in Galway.
  • Have you met my sister?
  • Yes, I think we met at your wedding last year.

Different ways to agree and/or express similarity

Agreeing and expressing similarity can be difficult but there’s a few short phrases we can learn which make us sound much more fluent. These are divided into positive and negative, depending on if we’re agreeing with a positive or negative statement.

Be aware that when replying to a phrase using to be as the main verb (e.g. I’m hungry, I’m British), we use the So am I form instead of the So do I form. This rule also applies to the negative (Neither am I as opposed to Neither do I).


  • I’m sick of this diet.
  • Me too!
  • I absolutely hate Mondays.
  • So do I!
  • I’m actually expecting a baby.
  • So am I!


  • I don’t think I’ll go on Wednesday.
  • Me neither.
  • I don’t think he’s very good at his job.
  • Neither do I.
  • I’m not sure if he mentioned it.
  • Neither am I.


Finally, now we’ve learnt some techniques to avoid sounding so boring in conversations, let’s put them to good use. Take a look at this conversation below.

Person B is using incredibly dull and repetitive language. Decide which of the repetition-avoidance techniques to use and write out alternatives for the phrases in bold text.

  • Person A: Have you ever been to South East Asia?
    • Person B: Yes, I’ve been to South East Asia.
  • Person A: Did you like it?
    • Person B: Yes, I liked it. Where did you go?
  • Person A: To Thailand. The food was amazing!
    • Person B: Yes, it was amazing.
  • Person A: Although, I can’t eat too much spicy food.
    • Person B: I can’t eat too much spicy food either.
  • Person A: In fact, I always ask them to make the dishes extra mild when I go to a Thai restaurant.
    • Person B: Yes, I always ask them to do that as well. Can you cook Thai food?
  • Person A: No, but I know a few Chinese dishes.
    • Person B: Yes, I also know a few Chinese dishes.

Leave your answers in the comments below!

Hero image by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash