Another very common problem of English learners isn't really connected to grammar, but to the fact that the sentences they make are shorter and not so natural.
But the hard part is, it’s difficult for a non-native speaker to tell which expression is natural and which isn’t so natural. The student’s expression is grammatically correct and acceptable, and people can understand what the student is trying to say, but a native speaker would prefer to use a different way to express the same idea.
This is what we mean by speaking more naturally. Not just grammatically correct English.
Indeed, this is a hard skill to master. But it’s one of the most common concerns of students at the Pre-Intermediate level and above. It’ll take time and a whole lot of practice. But today I can give you a few very practical pointers that can get you started and take you a long way.
1. Using “Go for + Noun”
There are some words in English that are originally Verbs, but they’re not only that. They're also Nouns.
1. Smoke (Verb and sometimes Noun)
2. Swim (Verb and sometimes Noun)
3. Walk (Verb and sometimes Noun)
4. Drive (Verb and sometimes Noun)
5. Drink (Verb and sometimes Noun)
This means that if you wanna use the words above, especially when you’re inviting someone or talking about what you wanna do, it’s better to use their Noun forms.
For example, the non-native speaker will say these:
1. Let’s smoke. (Verb)
2. I’ll swim. (Verb)
3. You wanna walk with me? (Verb)
4. Shall we drive around the city? (Verb)
5. I’m gonna drink. (Verb)
All the sentences and questions above are grammatically correct and acceptable. People can understand them. But don’t you feel that they’re just a bit too short?
Now, how about these?
1. Let’s go for a smoke. (Noun)
2. I’ll go for a swim. (Noun)
3. You wanna go for a walk with me? (Noun)
4. Shall we go for a drive around the city? (Noun)
5. I’m gonna go for a drink. (Noun)
They sound more natural, don’t they? And they’re also a bit longer than how you usually express the same ideas.
But, I have to tell you: Although “Go for + Noun” is a very natural expression, it’s used with only a limited number of Nouns; not all.
In fact, the 5 Nouns I mentioned above are the most commonly used with “Go for.”
2. Using Phrasal Verbs
Yes, Phrasal Verbs (ex. “put off” and “put away”) are difficult to learn. But what many learners don’t know is, there’s another kind of Phrasal Verb. This kind of Phrasal Verb is easy enough to learn and is very useful, because it can make your expressions sound more natural.
Learners usually complain about Phrasal Verbs coz they look very similar to each other, but their meanings change very easily. But the Phrasal Verbs that I’m gonna teach you today are different coz they don’t change their meanings from their original Verbs.
Original Verb ===> Phrasal Verb
Clean ===========> Clean up
Call=============> Call up
Try=============> Try out
Break ==========> Break down
Move ==========> Move in
Join===========> Join in
Write =========> Write down
Fix ==========> Fix up
Mix ==========> Mix up
Help =========> Help out
Plan =========> Plan out
Help =========> Help out
Plan =========> Plan out
As you might know, non-native speakers tend to use the shorter words. But although they have the same meaning, it really sounds more natural to use the longer one (with the small Preposition).
1. I’m cleaning my room. ===> I’m cleaning up my room.
2. You should call her. ===> You should call her up.
3. Wanna try it? ===> Wanna try it out? (or “Give it a try”)
4. My car broke. ===> My car broke down.
5. I’ve moved. (a new apartment) ===> I’ve moved in.
Of course it still depends on the situation. But the point is, if you start liking Phrasal Verbs and try practicing them, your English will get better.
3. Using “Go + Base Verb”
This way is much more effective coz it can be used with most Verbs.
I should warn you though: This is used to express Future actions – suddenly decided actions most of the time - plus invitations.
For example, students usually say these:
1. Let’s eat.
2. I’ll talk to her.
3. Let’s buy coffee.
4. I’ll read a magazine.
5. Let’s find a taxi.
Again, all of them are correct. But how about these?
1. Let’s go eat.
2. I’ll go talk to her.
3. Let’s go buy coffee.
4. I’ll go read a magazine.
5. Let’s go find a taxi.
Don’t they sound more natural? Sure, at first it might feel strange and wrong using them – especially if you’ve gotten used to practicing only grammatical sentences. The sentences above might also seem ungrammatical, but believe me, they’re very common in English.
4. Using “Get”
This is another effective way of making your English sound more natural. But again, I have to warn you that it doesn’t work with all words; only some.
Still, if you can remember when to use “Get” in your expressions, you will be one step closer to speaking smoothly and naturally.
Students say: Let’s start. ===> This is better: Let’s get started.
Students say: Let’s go. ===> This is better: Let’s get going.
Students say: Let’s move. ===> This is better: Let’s get moving.
Students say: Let’s work. ===> This is better: Let’s get to work.
Hope you learned something!