Remember: the Answer is in the Question

Listen carefully when someone asks you a question in English and your answer will be more grammatically accurate and clearer every time. English questions are like mirrors:

  • Does he…..?                       Yes, he does.
  • Can she….?                         Yes, she can.
  • Is it….?                                  Yes, it is.

If someone asks you a question and you’re not sure how to answer, start by thinking about the words and structure used in the question.  The person has already said most of the words you need to make your answer. Instead of just memorizing English grammar, start to look for patterns like the one above. There are a lot of simple ways to “cheat” and make it easier to remember the right words and structures.

Sometimes it helps to give yourself some time to think about the question. You can do this by acknowledging the question that was asked and mentioning that you are thinking about the response. You can respond with something as simple as, “That is a great question. Let me think about that.” This will give you some time to think about the context of the question and give you time to respond.

A System for Improving Clarity:

  1. Think about the relationship. The shorter the answer, the less connection you will have with the other person. A short answer, such as “d” below can sound abrupt, even angry without appropriate intonation.
  2. Recycle the vocabulary and grammar structure, as in the examples below.
  3. After the question is answered, follow-up. The purpose of the follow-up could be to provide additional information, or just for politeness, respect, and support for the relationship.
  4. The focus on the relationship will not only add value to your day but also provide opportunities to ensure that the message was clear.

Example: Where do you eat?

  1. I eat at home.
  2. I eat at Market Mall in the food court.
  3. I eat in a cafe at the airport.
  4. At home.