English Functions and Phrases

When dividing most common English phrases into topics, it is wise to know how important it is to learn what a “language function” is. Namely, functions in English are phrases used to express a specific purpose. They are different from phrases based on a topic, because they are much more general, and can be used in any situation (e.g. phrases for tourists).

Let me give you the  list of most commonly used English functions :

  1. Asking for and giving opinions
  2. Explaining and justifying
  3. Asking for clarifications
  4. Giving clarifications
  5. Expressing agreement
  6. Expressing disagreement
  7. Interrupting
  8. Describing people
  9. Introducing oneself and giving personal info
  10. Talking about likes and dislikes
  11. Talking about interests
  12. Expressing preferences
  13. Making complaints
  14. Giving warnings
  15. Asking for advice
  16. Giving advice
  17. Asking for more detailed information
  18. Making suggestions and responding to suggestions – accepting & declining
  19. Making plans and
  20. Making proposals, talking in favour or against a proposal
  21. Making predictions
  22. Expressing degrees of certainty and uncertainty
  23. Asking for descriptions
  24. Giving descriptions
  25. Making comparisons
  26. Making generalizations
  27. Expressing disappointment
  28. EFL ESL Invitation phrases
  29. Small talk phrases

Now, let me give you a list of most common English phrases divided into situations:

  1. Telling the time – Exercise 1
  2. Buying clothes – Exercise 1
  3. Saying hello and goodbye – Exercise 1, Exercise 2
  4. Greeting people on the phoneExercise 1
  5. At the restaurant – Exercise 1
  6. At the chemist’sExercise 1
  7. At the dentist’sExercise 1
  8. At the railway station – Exercise 1
  9. At the bus station – Exercise 1
  10. At the market – Exercise 1
  11. At the supermarket – Exercise 1
  12. At the post office – Exercise 1
  13. At the tourist agency – Exercise 1
  14. Taxi – Exercise 1
  15. Renting a car – Exercise 1
  16. Checking into a hotel & Problems at a hotel – Exercise 1
  17. At the doctor’s – Exercise 1
  18. At the Bureau de Change – Exercise 1
  19. At work – Exercise 1
  20. At the airport – Part 2 – Exercise 1
  21. Job Interview – Exercise 1
  22. At a cafe / ordering a drink or coffee – Exercise 1
  23. Starting and ending a conversation – Exercise 1
  24. Postcard phrases – Exercise 1
  25. Giving directionsExercise 1
  26. Talking about the weather – Exercise 1
  27. At the bankExercise 1
  28. Talking about family – Exercise 1, Exercise 2, Exercise 3, Exercise 4
  29. Describing charts – Exercise 1

… to list just a few.

Now, can you see that for each set of phrases based on a topic, one can use a number of appropriate functions in English?
For example, if you learn functions for interruption, and you can successfully use them in any situation.

It is also important to emphasize that when listing functions, it is always wise to list them in an order, according to the level of formality, so that a student can tell which functions are most appropriate in a specific context.

Now, how essential is it for a student to be able to tell the difference between functions and phrases ?

It’s not important at all: if a teacher subtly introduces all these useful phrases and functions in English, students needn’t know what they are called, but they should be taught to use them appropriately. If they do so, they’ll feel much more confident when speaking English and such knowledge can only add up to their fluency.

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