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Unit 52. Mhm, Right, I See.

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Keeping Conversation Going

Unit 52; Part A

When we are taking part in a conversation, we ofen show the current speaker that we are following what they are saying, and that we want them to go on. A number of sounds, words and phrases are commonly used to do this, usually with a rising tone. These include mm, uhuh, mhm, okay, right, yeah, I see:
            A: So how do I make a recording with this?
            B: Well, you plug the microphone in this socket in the back [A: MHM ] and you
                make sure that it's switched on and that the battery's working [A: RIGHT ].
                Then you press the play button and the pause button at the same time [A: oKAY ]
                and then check that the recording level is okay [A: uHUH ]- You can change it
                using this dial here [A: I SEE ]. And then when you're ready you just ...

Unit 52; Part B

When these are used with a falling tone, they often indicate that we think the speaker has finished or that we want to take a turn in the conversation ourselves (see also Unit 53):
         B: ... but make sure you don't move this switch.
         A: RIGHT . What does it do?
         B: It changes the voltage setting.
         A: I SEE . And what would happen exactly?

Unit 52; Part C

Some words and phrases are added to positive sentences in order to check that something has been understood or accepted as true, usually with a rising tone. These include alright, you know, okay, you see, right:
             I'll be over later, alRIGHT ?
             He was really odd, you KNOW ?


They are often followed by the words and phrases in A, usually with a falling tone, indicating 'I have understood' or 'I agree':

             A: I phoned Jerry straight away. He's a doctor, you SEE ?
             B: RIGHT .
             A: So I thought he'd be able to help.
             A: You're not to touch it, oKAY ?
             B: oKAY .

Unit 52; Part D

To show interest and to encourage the speaker to continue, we can also use short questions such as Did you? Were they? Haven't we?, typically with a fall-rising tone:
            A: Saw Helen in town today.
            B: DID you ?
            A: She said she's bought the flat [B: MHM] though she won't be able to move in until next year.
            B: WON'T she ?
            A: No, some problem with the other people moving out. [B: RIGHT] Apparently they're going to ...


We can also use Really? with a fall-rising tone for a similar purpose
(see also Unit 51):
            A: Did you hear there's been another earthquake in Iran?
            B: REAlly ?
            A: Yeah, and another bad one, too.

 



Exercises

flag.jpgListen and take B's part in this conversation. You will only hear the A parts. Use a falling tone in each case to show that you agree or have understood.
52.1.jpgA: The coach leaves at six, alright?
B: Okay.
A: From outside the museum, you know?
B: Right.
A: You wanted two tickets, right?
B: Yeah.
A: That's $50, okay?
B: Mhm.
A: It costs more at the weekend, you know?
B: Mm.
A: 'Cause we have to pay the driver more, you see?
B: Uhuh.

Listen to the conversation again. This time the A parts have been left out. Say them aloud, using a rising tone on each final phrase to check that B understands.

Example:   You say      The coach leaves at six, alright ?
                  You hear     Okay. 
flag.jpgListen to this conversation. Two people are talking about a proposed new road through the countryside. Are the words and phrases in bold said with a falling tone (put in the box), rising tone (), or fall-rising tone ()?
Key.A: So it'll go past those trees
B: MHM ↑.
A: across that footpath
B: YEAH ↑.
A: and down across the top of that feld.
B: RIGHT ↓, and who owns that?
A: All the felds around here are part of a big farm.   B: uHUH ↑.
A: Belongs to the farmer who lives in that white house.    B: RIGHT ↑.
A: Of course, he won't be happy about the plans.
B: WON'T he ↓↑?
A: No, I doubt that he'll want to sell any of his land.
B: oKAY ↑. So what'll happen then?
A: I suppose the council could force him to sell.
B: REALly ↓↑?
A: But that wouldn't be popular with the local community.
B: I SEE ↓.

A: So it'll go past those trees ...
B: Mhm .
A: ... across that footpath ...
B: Yeah ___.
A: ... and down across the top of that feld.
B: Rght  ___, and who owns that?
A: All the fields around here are part of a big farm.
B: Uhuh ___.
A: Belongs to the farmer who lives in that white house.
B: Right ___.
A: Of course, he won't be happy about the plans.
B: Won't he ___?
A: No, I doubt that he'll want to sell any of his land.
B: Okay ___. So what'll happen then?
A: I suppose the council could force him to sell.
B: Really ___?
A: But that wouldn't be popular with the local community.
B: I see ___.

Listen to the conversation again. This time the B parts have been left out. Say them aloud, using the same tones on the words in bold.

Follow up: English uses sounds such as mm, uhuh, and mhm to keep conversation going. Do you use the same or different sounds in your first language? Do you use the same pattern of rising, falling and fall-rising tones on these sounds that you have learned about in this unit?

 
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