(Not) Having things in common
Making small talk is always a dreaded topic for many language learners. Going up to (semi-)strangers and making conversation can be daunting in your native language, let alone in a foreign one. In a previous post, we’ve already given you some pointers on this topic. However, this time I thought we’d dig a little deeper and look at one particular small talk ‘’technique’’: finding out what you have in common with the other person.
You may not realize it, but in almost any casual conversation we compare ourselves to our conversation partner: we talk about our likes and dislikes, places we’ve visited, things we can or can’t do, etc. A very basic example of how to do this in English would be:
A: I went to Luigi’s for dinner last night. I love their pizza!
B: Me too!
As you can see (and probably know) we can often simply use ‘too’ to express agreement in English. However, to avoid overusing ‘too’, let’s look at other options.
NB: in all the following examples, A and B are two ‘people’ having a conversation!
A: I am German B: So am I.
A: I can speak French B: So can I.
A: I should go home soon B: So should I.
A: I would like to go there B: So would I.
As you see, instead of too we can also use the structure So……I / he / she / we etc. in this case, we ‘echo’ (repeat) the verb that the first speaker used.
In the examples above, the verbs are modal verbs (i.e. will, should, can etc). If person A used a different verb (i.e. a non-modal verb), we use the auxiliary verb DO to make the answer.
A: I like pizza B: So do I.
A: I work here B: So do I.
A: I play soccer B: So do I.
And what if person A made a negative statement, i.e. a sentence with not in it? In this case, we replace SO with NEITHER.
A: I don’t like pizza B: Neither do I.
A: I can’t speak French B: Neither can I.
Are you still with me? If your head hasn’t exploded yet from all this information, keep reading…but if your mind has been blown, maybe take a break and read the rest later! 😉
So far we’ve shown how to express agreement with your conversation partner. But what if you don’t agree with him or her? What if you hate the pizza at Luigi’s? Let’s look at how to deal with this.
A: I am German B: I’m not.
A: I can speak French B: I can’t.
A: I won’t go home soon B: I will.
A: I wouldn’t like to go there B: I would.
As you can (hopefully) see, we use the negative form of the verb which person A used to show disagreement (examples 1 and 2). If the speaker made a negative sentence, we use the positive form (examples 3 and 4).
And again, the same rule applies:
If the verb is NOT a modal verb (= would / could / should /will / might / may / can), we use the auxiliary verb DO to make the answer.
A: I like pizza B: I don’t.
A: I work here B: I don’t.
A: I don’t play soccer B: I do.
If you’d like to test your understanding of this grammar topic, try this little QUIZ by completing the sentences with an agreement or disagreement (answers at the bottom of this post!).
1) I love Italian food.
_________________________ . I eat pasta at least twice a week!
2) I wish I could play the guitar, but I can’t.
_________________________. But I can play the piano!
3) I like London a lot.
_________________________. It’s too crowded and noisy for me.
4) I have been to Paris several times.
_________________________. But I would love to go sometime!
We hope that this post has made it a little bit easier for you to find common ground with your conversation partner next time you’re in a ‘small talk situation’! As always, we’ll sign off by reminding you that the team at English To Go is here for you for all your grammar (and other English-related) questions!
1: So do I (agreement)
2: Neither can I. (agreement)
3: I don’t (disagreement)
4: I haven’t (= I have not). (disagreement)