Discourse Markers

Discourse Markers

“Good company and good discourse are the very sinews* of virtue**.”

Izaak Walton, an English writer

*sinew /ˈsɪnjuː/ – 1. the strong substance that connects muscles to bones; 2. a part of a structure or system that provides support and holds it together

**virtue /ˈvɜː(r)tʃuː/ – a good quality or habit that a person has

In linguistics discourse is written or spoken language. A discourse marker is a word or phrase whose function is to organize discourse into segments. Basically, it is a linking word/linking phrase/sentence connector. Some discourse markers are informal and commonly used in colloquial English (e.g. I mean, okay, right, well, now, oh, like, etc.), while some are typical of formal contexts (e.g. moreover, nonetheless, therefore, assuming that, etc.). Discourse markers are very important for both formal and informal speech. When used appropriately, they make it well-organized, coherent and natural. So, any speaker or writer should use them. Let’s look at common formal and informal discourse markers in context…


How should we behave in society? Should we follow social norms or should we use our own individual judgement to decide what is the appropriate way to conduct ourselves?

Some people find it very important to obey the rules of etiquette, to do what others consider proper. There are people – often the older generation – who get very upset when others do not follow social conventions, when they, for example, speak loudly on mobile phones in public places or lick their fingers or queue-jump.

However, it should be noted that the things that irritate people will vary from one society to the next; the rules of queue behaviour, for instance, are very different in London, Moscow and Istanbul, and how it is acceptable to use a mobile phone differs considerably from one society to the next. Similarly, it is important to remember that social conventions change over time. It was once considered improper to eat on the street but now no one pays the slightest attention to someone walking along munching a sandwich or an apple. The key to avoiding conflict, it seems, is imaginative empathy.

In general, it is counter-productive to worry too much about what the socially acceptable way to behave might be in any given situation. It can stop you thinking about what is the moral way to behave as you may become more focused on what is “proper” rather than on what is right. You can also start suppressing your own important individuality and originality as you become unhealthily anxious about what others might be thinking.

The rules that do not – and should not – change are those regarding behaviour that has an effect on others. Dropping litter, for example, or pushing someone out of the way should always be condemned as inappropriate behaviour.

(from “Cambridge English Proficiency Handbook for Teachers”)

  • Linking phrases for adding examples: for example, for instance, in particular, a good example might be, another example is, let me give you an example
  • Linking words and phrases for showing contrast: however, by contrast/comparison, in contrast, conversely, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, otherwise, but, yet
  • Linking phrases for drawing attention to important information: it should be noted that, note that, it is important/interesting to note that, it is worth noting that, be aware that, it is important to know that
  • Linking words and phrases for showing similarity: similarly, likewise, in other words
  • Linking phrases for giving an opinion: it seems, I believe, as far as I’m concerned, in my opinion (more vocabulary for talking about opinions is here)
  • Linking phrases for generalizing: in general, overall, for the most part, generally speaking, by and large
  • Linking words and phrases for adding information: also, and, additionally, besides, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, not only…but also, what’s more

Nowadays, a lot of people think talking about clothes and fashion is superficial because it’s only about looks and not about someone’s character or personality. But it’s not!

Fashion isn’t only about looking as good as a supermodel. It’s much more than that because the clothes people wear can tell you something about their character or the society or culture they come from. Let me give you an example. In the Golden Twenties women in Germany became more independent and decided to enjoy life more, for example by going to cafes and bars. And what did they do? They cut their hair and wore extravagant dresses to express their new attitudes to life.

Another example is the 21st century woman who tends to wear trousers rather than skirts or dresses as her grandmother used to do. Why? The reason is that she wants to express her independence as a working woman who needs to wear comfortable and practical clothes and she also wants to be treated equally as men.

It is important to know that people’s clothes indicate the culture or society they come from. What’s more, clothes can also tell you interesting things about people’s lifestyles, for example in which business they work. The colour of the clothes someone is wearing might reflect his/her mood.

So, the next time you walk down a road keep your eyes open and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn about people’s identities. Just like in the saying “you are what you wear.”

(from “Certificate in Advanced English 1”)

  • Linking words and phrases for showing cause: because, for, as a result of, due to (the fact that), since, resulting from, the reason is that
  • Linking words and phrases for showing effect: so, accordingly, consequently, as a result, hence, therefore, thus


A picture is worth a thousand words. So, please watch the interview paying special attention to discourse markers:

Some of the discourse markers used:

Oh, my gosh (euphemism for “God”)! Well, you look tremendous!

Oh, darn! (euphemism of “damn”) (used to show that you are annoyed or disappointed)

Birthday recently? – It’s coming up. – Oh, happy birthday! – Thank you, on Thursday. – Good for you (used as an exclamation of praise or approval).

I just wanted it, you know, to be something like…

I loved it, I mean, I really did.

It was amazing! – My goodness! (used informally to express surprise)

Oh, jeez! (a mild expression used to show surprise or annoyance) I wish someone was here…

That’s a tremendous thing to do, for heaven’s sake. (used to make the statement more forceful)

…so that we could make it all the way through. – Yeah.

Now (indicates to the person you are with that you want their attention, or that you are about to change the subject), listen Alicia…

This is the world you often don’t see. – And thank God

Remember that too much of anything is good for nothing. So, don’t overuse particular discourse markers because they will just clutter up your speech.

“A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.” Cesar Chavez

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