Understanding signpost words

You can improve your listening skills by practising the signpost words commonly used in speech.

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Note: signpost words are also called discourse words or discourse markers.

These are the parts of speech that tell the listener the order of what is being said. Signpost words can tell you when the speaker is going to make a list, change the topic, add an example or simply explain their point of view in another way.

This makes it easier to identify when the subject matter, direction or perspective of the conversation may change. When learning a new language it is important, whether you’re rehearsing conversation for an upcoming job interview in a foreign country or preparing for the IELTS test.

By understanding and listening for these signpost markers, it becomes much easier to follow what is being said, and this can be invaluable when you are in a listening exam such as the IELTS test

Below is a table showing the different signpost words that are commonly used and what they mean.

Signpost word: Tells you:
First of all, There is going to be a list of points.
Like An example is going to be given.
Anyway This could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
I mean the speaker is about to rephrase a point.
So an effect or a result of a previous point is about to be stated.
Well This could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
Moving on Another point is going to be introduced.
As I said The speaker is going to recap an earlier point.
To make myself clear The speaker is going to rephrase a point.
Right. This could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
To put it another way. The speaker is about to rephrase.
This isn’t always so The speaker is about to give exceptions to or contrast to a previous comment.
Now The speaker is about to begin a new subject.
Talking about that, The speaker is going to expand on a point.

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Exercises / Tests