Discourse Markers as Responses

As we listen to someone speaking, we usually show our response to what we hear either by gesture (head nod) or by a short response (Mm, yeah, really, that’s a shame). This shows that we are listening to and interested in what is being said. We call these short responses ‘response tokens’.

Common response tokens include:

absolutely

fine

okay

wow

(all) right

good

quite (more formal)

yeah

certainly

great

really

yes

definitely

I see

sure

exactly

no

wonderful

that’s great/interesting/amazing/awful, etc.

We use response tokens for a number of functions:

To show interest and to show that we want the speaker to continue

A:

So he opened the door.

B:

Yeah.

A:

And he went in very quietly without waking her.

B:

Right.

A:

He opened her bag and…

To show surprise

A:

We’ve decided to go to Africa for a month next year.

B:

Oh really!

To show sympathy

A:

He can’t play soccer for at least six months. He’s broken his leg.

B:

That’s terrible.

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