Do you want to say more than “Hi” and “How are you?”
And would you like to sound like a native English speaker now (instead of waiting until you reach the advanced level)?
You are in the right place!
Below are 40 basic English phrases that people use every day. They are useful phrases that will also help your knowledge of English grow.
First, let’s look at a few ideas for how to learn these new phrases.
How to Learn Basic Phrases in English
As you read each phrase below for the first time, say it aloud four times. Yes, four times! (They are short phrases.)
Then, print this list of phrases.
If you have a conversation partner, ask your exchange partner to say the phrases while you record them on a smartphone, computer or recording device. That way you can listen to the recording and practice the pronunciation by yourself at home.
Then, choose two phrases each day to focus on. Here is what you could do every day to learn each phrase:
- Picture a situation in your mind where you could use the phrase. Imagine the other people in the scene and what they are saying. See yourself saying the phrase.
- Then, once you have looked up the phrase, use it in casual writing. Write a tweet (on Twitter), a Facebook post or an email to a friend.
- Finally, use the phrase in 2-5 real conversations.
Write on your list and check off each phrase as you learn it.
If you cannot find one of your chosen phrases—or you just want more examples—FluentU can help.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
You can search for any words or phrases in FluentU to instantly find authentic English videos that use them.
Every FluentU video comes with interactive captions. Just click or tap on any unfamiliar word or phrase in the captions to get an instant definition.
Then, tap or click again for even more examples.
FluentU comes with built-in learning tools like vocabulary lists and custom quizzes.
There are also multimedia flashcards with video clips, audio and colorful images to help you remember words.
By making native English videos more understandable, FluentU helps you learn real-life English to talk about all kinds of different topics.
Plus, FluentU’s team is always adding to its video library, so you will always have new, exciting videos to watch and study.
You can use FluentU anywhere, on any web browser or mobile device.
Finally, FluentU always remembers your progress, reminds you to study and makes it easy to learn on the go.
Give it a free try and see how it can help you learn many useful English phrases and words.
And now, for our list of basic English phrases. Practice just two of the 40 phrases below each day—and, in 20 days, you will know the whole list.
Or, if you learn one phrase each day, you will know these phrases really well in about a month and a half.
40 Basic English Phrases You’ll Use Over and Over
Basic English Phrases for Introducing Yourself and Making Friends
Here are some phrases for introducing yourself when you meet new people, and questions to learn more about them.
1. Hi! I am [Name]. (And you?)
Here is an informal greeting you can use when you meet new friends. If the person does not tell you their name, you can say your name first. Then ask, “And you?” or “And what is your name?”
Hi! I am Rebecca. And you?
2. Nice to meet you.
After you learn each other’s names, it is polite to say this phrase.
A: Hi, Rebecca, I am Chad.
B: Nice to meet you, Chad.
A: Nice to meet you, too.
3. Where are you from?
Ask this question to find out which country someone is from. You answer this question with “I am from _______.”
Can you answer this question in English? Say both the question and answer aloud right now. (Four times, remember?)
A: Nice to meet you, Sergio. So, where are you from?
B: I am from Spain.
4. What do you do?
Most adults ask each other this question when they meet. It means what do you do for a living (what is your job).
I think this question is boring, so I ask other questions. But many people will probably ask you this, so it is important to know what it means.
A: What do you do, Cathleen?
B: I work at the university as a financial specialist.
5. What do you like to do (in your free time)?
Instead of asking for someone’s job title, I prefer to ask what they enjoy doing. The responses (answers) are usually much more interesting!
A: So, Cathleen, what do you like to do in your free time?
B: I love to read and to garden. I picked two buckets of tomatoes last week!
6. What is your phone number?
If you want to keep in contact with someone you just met, ask this question to find out their phone number. You can replace “phone number” with “email address” if you want to know their email address.
You might also hear people use the more casual, “Can I get your phone number?”
It would be great to meet up again sometime. What is your phone number?
7. Do you have Facebook?
Many people keep in touch (contact) through Facebook. Use this question to find out if someone has a Facebook account. You might also ask, “Are you on Facebook?”
Let’s keep in touch! Do you have Facebook?
Basic English Phrases for Anywhere
These eight phrases can be used in many different situations.
8. Thanks so much.
This is a simple sentence you can use to thank someone.
To add detail, say:
Thanks so much + for + [noun] / [-ing verb].
Thanks so much for the birthday money.
Thanks so much for driving me home.
9. I really appreciate…
You can also use this phrase to thank someone. For example, you might say:
I really appreciate your help.
Or you can combine #1 and #2:
Thanks so much for cooking dinner. I really appreciate it.
Thanks so much. I really appreciate your cooking dinner.
10. Excuse me.
When you need to get through but there is someone blocking your way, say “Excuse me.”
You can also say this phrase to politely get someone’s attention. For example:
Excuse me, sir, you dropped your wallet.
Excuse me, do you know what time it is?
11. I am sorry.
Use this phrase to apologize, whether for something big or small. Use “for” to give more detail. For example:
I am sorry for being so late.
I am sorry for the mess. I was not expecting anyone today.
You can use “really” to show you are very sorry for something:
I am really sorry I did not invite you to the party.
In fact, I am sorry has many different uses in English and they are not always that obvious! Because of this, using native content when learning English expressions is very important to ensure you are learning them properly.
In the video below, you will explore the many different ways I am sorry can be used in English in the correct context.
For even more learning content to help you learn English, be sure to subscribe to the FluentU English channel.
12. What do you think?
When you want to hear someone’s opinion on a topic, use this question.
I am not sure if we should paint the room yellow or blue. What do you think?
13. How does that sound?
If you suggest an idea or plan, use this phrase to find out what others think.
We could have dinner at 6, and then go to a movie. How does that sound?
Let’s hire a band to play music, and Brent can photograph the event. How does that sound?
14. That sounds great.
If you like an idea, you can respond to “How does that sound?” with this phrase. “Great” can be replaced with any synonym (similar word), such as “awesome,” “perfect,” “excellent” or “fantastic.”
A: My mom is baking cookies this afternoon. We could go to my house and eat some. How does that sound?
B: That sounds fantastic!
15. (Oh,) never mind.
Let’s say someone does not understand an idea you are trying to explain. If you have explained it over and over and want to stop, just say “oh, never mind.” You can now talk about something else!
You can also use “never mind” to mean “it does not matter” or “just forget it.” In these situations, say it with a smile and positive tone, though. When you say this phrase slowly with a falling, low tone, it can mean you are bothered or upset.
A: Are you going to the grocery store today?
B: No, I am not. But why—do you need something?
A: Oh, never mind. It is okay, I will go tomorrow.
Basic Phrases for Learning English
As an English learner, you will need to tell others that English is not your first language. You will also need to ask native speakers to repeat phrases and words or to speak slower. The following phrases will be useful for this.
16. I am learning English.
This simple phrase tells people that English is not your native language. If you are a total beginner, add “just started” after I: “I just started learning English.”
My name is Sophie and I am learning English.
17. I do not understand.
Use this phrase when you do not understand what someone means.
Sorry, I do not understand. The U.S. Electoral College seems very confusing!
18. Could you repeat that please?
If you would like someone to say a word, question or phrase again, use this question. Since “to repeat” means “to say again,” you can also ask, “Could you say that again, please?”
We can say “please” either at the end of the question or right after “you,” like this:
Could you please repeat that?
Could you repeat that, please?
19. Could you please talk slower?
Native speakers can talk very fast. Fast English is hard to understand! This is an easy way to ask someone to speak more slowly.
Note: This phrase is not grammatically correct. However, it is used often in every day (casual) speech. The grammatically correct question would be, “Could you please talk more slowly?”
That is because “slowly” is an adverb, so it describes verbs (like “talk”). “Slower” is a comparative adjective, which means it should be used to describe nouns (people, places or things), not verbs. (For example: My car is slower than yours.)
A: You can give us a call any weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at five five five, two five zero eight, extension three three—
B: I am sorry, could you please talk slower?
20. Thank you. That helps a lot.
After someone starts speaking more slowly for you, thank them with this phrase.
You can use it in many other situations, too.
A: Ben, could you please make the font bigger? It is hard for me to read the words.
B: Sure! I will change it from size 10 to 16. How is this?
A: Thank you. That helps a lot.
21. What does _____ mean?
When you hear or see a new word, use this phrase to ask what it means.
A: What does “font” mean?
B: It is the style of letters, numbers and punctuation marks when you type. A common font in the USA is Times New Roman.
22. How do you spell that?
English spelling can be tricky, so make sure to learn this question. You could also ask someone, “Could you spell that for me?”
A: My name is Robbertah Handkerchief.
B: How do you spell that?
23. What do you mean?
When you understand the words one by one, but not what they mean together, use this question. You can ask it whenever you are confused about what someone is telling you.
A: The Smiths do have a really nice house, but the grass is always greener on the other side.
B: What do you mean?
A: I mean that if we had the Smith’s house, we probably would not be happier. We always think other people have better lives than us, but other people have problems, too.
Basic English Phrases for Shopping
Everyone needs to go shopping, whether it is for food, clothing or household items like furniture. These phrases will help you find what you want to buy and how much it costs.
24. Can you help me?
If you need help while you are shopping, this is a simple way to ask.
Can you help me? I cannot find what I want.
Excuse me, can you help me?
25. I am looking for…
If you cannot find what you want in a store, you can ask a salesperson to help you find it. Just add the name of what you want to buy after the phrase “I am looking for…”
Excuse me, I am looking for a winter coat.
I am looking for snow boots. Can you help me?
26. Do you have this [object] in a different color?
If you see something you like, but you do not like the color, you can ask if you can get it in a different color.
Another way to say this is “Does this come in a different color?”
You can also add the name of the object after “this.”
I do not like this shade of red. Do you have this in a different color?
Does this bowl come in a different color? This will not match my kitchen.
27. I do not know my size.
Sizes for clothing and other things differs from country to country, so you might have to look up the correct size for the country where you are shopping.
If you cannot figure out your correct size, it is perfectly fine to ask for help from the sales staff.
I do not know my size. Can you help me?
I want to buy a shirt, but I do not know my size.
28. I need this in a size ______
This is a simple way to ask for a piece of clothing or a household item in the size you need—if you already happen to know the right size.
I need this in a size 10, please.
This is too large. I need this in a size 5.
29. Where can I find [item]?
Since every supermarket is set up (arranged) a little differently, we all can have difficulty finding certain items.
You can ask someone at the store to help you find what you need with this simple phrase: “Where can I find…?” Just add the name of what you want after “find.”
The store clerk might answer you with a phrase like, “It is on aisle eight,” or, “It is in the Produce section, near the lettuce.”
Customer: Where can I find black olives?
Sales clerk: They are on aisle ten, near the pickles.
Customer: Where can I find a bag of almonds?
Sales clerk: They are in the baking section, on aisle seven.
30. How much does this/that cost?
If you are holding something you want to buy, or it is right near you, you can say “How much does this cost?” to find out (learn) the price.
You can also put the name of the object you want to after “this.”
I need to buy a toaster. How much does this cost?
How much does this shirt cost?
If you can see what you want to buy, but it is not right near you, you can point to it and say, “How much does that cost?” or “How much is that [item]?”
How much is that lamp over there?
31. I do not need a bag.
Let’s say you have bought something small. You can easily carry it. You might tell the sales clerk or cashier that you do not need a shopping bag.
You might also say this if you have a shopping bag with you and do not need to get one from the store.
No, thank you. I do not need a bag. I can just carry it.
I do not need a bag. I brought my own with me.
32. Can someone help me carry this out?
If you buy something really large and hard to carry, like a table or a huge order of groceries, you are going to need help.
Most stores that sell large and heavy items offer assistance (help) from a member of staff. The staff member can help you carry your purchase (what you have bought) out of the store. They might even help you place it in your vehicle.
This is too heavy for me. Can someone help me carry this out?
Can someone help me carry this out? I have eighteen bags of groceries here!
33. Can I have this delivered?
Sometimes, you need to buy something so large—and so heavy—that there is no way you could bring it home from the store yourself.
That is when you will want to ask, “Can I have this delivered?”
This refrigerator is perfect! Can I have this delivered?
Can I have this delivered next Tuesday?
Basic English Phrases for Work
Finally, here are seven basic phrases you might use at a job.
34. How can I help you?
If you work in customer service, you will use this phrase a lot. It is also a common phrase when answering the phone.
[On the phone]: Hello, this is Rebecca speaking. How can I help you?
35. I will be with you in a moment.
When someone wants to see you, you might not be ready to talk to them. Use this phrase if you need a minute to finish something first. If a client is waiting for help, you can also use this phrase to show that their turn is next.
You can replace “moment” with “minute”: “I will be with you in (just) a minute.”
Another common phrase for this situation is “I will be right with you.”
Good morning! I will be with you in a moment.
If you are finding these phrases useful, take a look at Creativa, where you will find more useful English phrases for work.
Creativa is a new product from the FluentU team. With useful and surprising tips, Creativa‘s high-quality videos help you learn skills to communicate well in business English.
More than just teaching English words and phrases, Creativa shows you how to use body language and the tone of your voice to better connect with English speakers at work.
Here is a sample video from Creativa’s Mastering Business Video Calls in English course, which has tips for expressing yourself effectively:
36. What time is our meeting?
You can use this question’s structure to ask the time of any event: “What time is [event]?”
If you want to ask about a meeting on a certain day, add “on [day].” For example, “What time is our meeting on Thursday?”
What time is our meeting on Wednesday?
37. Please call me (back) at…
When you want someone to call you or to call you back (to return your call), use this phrase to give your phone number.
Hi, this is Cathleen from the financial office.
I am wondering if you found those missing receipts.
Please call me back at 555-5555. Thanks!
38. (Oh really?) Actually, I thought…
When you disagree with someone, “Actually, I thought…” will make you sound kinder and more polite than saying “No” or “You are wrong.” This phrase is useful when you have a different idea than someone else.
You can use “actually, I…” with many different verbs: “heard,” “learned,” “am,” “can,” “cannot,” etc.
A: So Sam is coming in tonight at 8, right?
B: Actually, I thought he was not working at all this week.
A: Oh, ok. I will have to look at the schedule again.
39. When is the deadline?
When someone gives you a task or project to complete, you need to know how long you have to finish it.
A deadline is a date or time when something must be completely done.
You can ask “When is the deadline?” to find out when you need to be done with your task or project.
“When is it due?” is another way to ask for this information.
A: I need you to write a sales report.
B: When is the deadline?
A: I need it by next Tuesday.
C: Please send the customer an estimate.
D: When is it due?
C: They want it tomorrow morning, before 9.
40. I am (just) about to [verb]…
When you are going to start something very soon, you are “just about to” do something.
I am just about to send those faxes.
I am about to go and pick up some coffee. Do you want anything?
These 40+ phrases are just the beginning. There are many other easy English phrases you can learn as a beginner. When you are ready, check out these posts for more:
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
Rebecca Thering loved teaching English in Spain, South Korea and France. Now she’s building a supportive learning community at English With Rebe, the place to learn English through gratitude, a growth mindset and mindfulness.
Michelle Baumgartner is a language nerd who has formally studied seven languages and informally dabbled in a few others. In addition to geeking out over slender vowels, interrogative particles, and phonemes, Michelle is a FluentU staff writer and education blogger specializing in language learning topics. Find out more at StellaWriting.com.
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