Speaking Skills: Changing the subject
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack and Rich look at words and phrases you can use to change the topic or subject of a conversation. Maybe you need to tell someone something urgently or maybe you would prefer that the person you are speaking to would talk less or about something else; there are lots of reasons to change the direction of a conversation. The language focus is on the words and phrases you need to do this politely in both formal and informal situations. Your task is to write a dialogue in the comments section with the help of other podcast listeners. As always, we also have a new football phrase for you to guess at the end of the podcast. Enjoy!
Rich: Fantastic match last weekend. Liverpool looked really good.
Jack: Yeah, it was. Can I speak to you for a minute?
Rich: We looked solid at the back with our new goalkeeper. A clean sheet for the defence … much better than last season.
Jack: Yeah, I guess. Look … er ...
Rich: The midfield looked as strong as ever but with the new players we’re going to be even stronger.
Jack: Great, but there’s something I really need to tell you about!
Rich: And up front brilliant. Firmino, Mane and Salah they were on fire!
Jack: Fire! I’ve been trying to tell you. Fire. There under your feet. The bin is on fire.
Rich: Yikes! Why didn’t you mention it?
Jack: I tried! Here, use this.
Welcome - Changing the subject
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Jack: What’s happening this week, Rich?
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to help you with your speaking skills and specifically we’re going to look at some phrases you can use to change the subject..
Jack: That’s right. Sometimes we want to change the topic or subject because we need to tell someone something important or urgently.
Rich: Like a fire?
Jack: Yes, like a fire. But, sometimes we change the subject because we think of a different topic, we remember something that we want to say or what someone says reminds us of something else.
Rich: Or maybe because someone is talking about the same topic all the time and won’t shut up.
Jack: Like when you’re talking about football and Liverpool. You are a bit of a chatterbox. It’s difficult to get a word in edgeways sometimes!
Rich: I know. I do go on sometimes, don’t I?
Topic Focus - Changing the subject
Jack: In this section, we’re going to do two practice conversations. Two roleplays. In each roleplay, we will use a few phrases to change the topic.
Rich: Some of the phrases will be quite formal and polite, and some of the phrases will be more informal.
Jack: We want you to listen to the two roleplays and decide in which conversation we use informal phrases and in which conversation we use more formal phrases.
Rich: Afterwards, we will look at how we use the phrases in more detail.
Jack: Roleplay one
Rich: Yeah, it was a really nice weekend. The weather was great for a change so we got out our bikes and went for a ride.
Jack: Funny you should say that because we went out on our bikes, too. We went down to the river. It was bit of a pain peddling back up the hill though.
Rich: Ha! That reminds me of the time I got a puncture near there. I didn’t have anything to fix the tyre and had to carry the bike about six kilometres uphill!
Jack: Oh no! Oh, before I forget, a few of us were thinking of going for a ride next weekend. Do you want to come?
Rich: Sounds good.
Jack: And there's something else I want to ask you.
Rich: What’s that?
Jack: Don’t forget to bring your puncture repair kit!
Rich: Roleplay two
Jack: Good morning everybody. Could I have your attention for just a moment or two? As you may know, we’ve got an important visitor in the office this morning. Could you fill us in on the details John?
Rich: Thanks, Sam. Yes, the Chief Executive will be arriving at around 10 am and will be staying for around three hours.
Jack: That reminds me. Do we have someone meeting her at the station?
Rich: Yes, we do. So, while she is here we want to see everybody at their desks.
Jack: Let me stop you there a moment, John. We would like her to see a busy working environment - everybody working.
Rich: And speaking of the environment. Could we keep coffee cups in the kitchen and not at our desks while she is here?
Jack: Good point, John. We want to give a good impression. By the way, do we have coffee and biscuits for our visitor?
Rich: All under control, Sam.
Jack: Just one other thing .. please don’t forget to leave your belongings in the cloakroom rather than over your chairs. OK, I think that’s everything for now. Back to work.
Rich: You’ve just listened to two roleplays and we asked you in which conversation we used phrases to change the subject that were more formal.
Jack: You probably know the answer already, but in case you are not sure; roleplay one was informal and roleplay two was more formal.
Rich: In the roleplays, we used quite a few phrases that you can use to change the topic of a conversation or to take control of a topic.
Jack: Let’s look at the phrases from roleplay one first of all. I used the phrase ‘funny you should say that’ and Rich used the phrase ‘that reminds me of the time’. Both of these phrases are used to take control of the topic and are linked to what the person had said before.
Rich: I was talking about the bike ride that I went on and then Jack used the phrase ‘funny you should say that’ to start talking about his bike ride.
Jack: Rich used the phrase ‘that reminds me of the time’ to do something similar. I was speaking about where I had been and he used this phrase to start speaking about when he went to the same place.
Rich: We also used two phrases to change the topic more directly. Jack said ‘Oh, and before I forget’ and ‘there’s something else I want to ask you’.
Jack: Both of these phrases are used to change the topic in a more direct way and are quite informal. Other similar phrases are: ‘by the way’, ‘Oh, while I remember’ or ‘Oh, I just thought of something’.
Rich: ‘By the way’ can be used in both informal and formal conversations and is quite common to use to change the topic. You could say: Oh, by the way, I listened to that song you were talking about the other day’ or ‘By the way, did you see that goal Pogba scored against City?’
Jack: Let’s look at some of the phrases from the second roleplay which was a bit more formal.
Rich: In the second roleplay, many of the phrases were a bit more abrupt or less friendly. A couple of examples Jack used were ‘let me stop you there a moment’ and ‘just one other thing’.
Jack: Both these phrases are used to stop the speaker quickly to add another point or change the subject.
Rich: We also used the phrases ‘that reminds me’ and ‘by the way’ to stop the speaker and make a fresh point. In the roleplay, they were both related to what the speaker had said before.
Jack: The other phrase that was used in the second roleplay was ‘speaking of’. This again, links to what the previous speaker had said. In the roleplay, Rich said ‘we would like her to see a busy working environment’ and I then said ‘speaking of the environment …’
Rich: this allowed Jack to make a new point about the topic.
Jack: We've got more activities and explanations to help you on the Premier Skills English page below this podcast.
Rich: Your task this week is to continue a conversation that we start in the comments section.
Jack: Every time you reply you need to change the subject by using one of the phrases we have used in this week's podcast. Let’s do an example.
Rich: I wanted to paint my living room last weekend but I didn’t get much done as I was watching the football most of the time.
Jack: Speaking of football, did you see that Chelsea have signed that goalkeeper for a world record fee.
Rich: Changing the subject for just a minute. Did you know that I broke a world record once? I was part of the world’s longest bucket chain. I bet you don’t know what that is, do you?
Jack: I don’t think I want to know. By the way, I watched that film you recommended last week.
Rich: That’s great. Oh, before I forget ...
Jack: OK, so we will start another conversation and we want you to continue the conversations in the comments section.
Rich: Every day next week we will start a new conversation in the comments section and we want you to continue the conversation.
Jack: Remember, each time you reply you should change the topic by using phrases such as ‘funny you should say that’, ‘speaking of’ ‘by the way’ or ‘let me stop you there a moment’.
Rich: Here is the first conversation starting sentence:
Jack: My mobile broke the other day and I had to take it to get fixed. I couldn’t use it for two days. I couldn’t even check the football results!
Rich: Write your replies to Jack in the comments section on the Premier Skills English webpage.
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: Yes, I have, but first, last week’s football phrase. The phrase was fantasy football. This is a free game you can play on premierleague.com where you get £100 million to spend on a team of your choice. You are the manager and you play against other managers from around the world.
Rich: Well done to Rafael Amorin and Rafael RC from Brazil, Ahmed Adam from Sudan, Sabanoleg and Liubomyr from Ukraine, AssemJuve from Palestine, Samo from Turkey, Acicala from Spain, Elghoul from Algeria, Ju_003 from Russia, Kwesimanifest from Ghana, Zaid from India and Milos from Serbia.
Jack: This week’s phrase is ***** *********. This phrase is used to describe the teams that have a chance of winning the league. Usually, there are a maximum of about five ***** ********** as it becomes clear after a month or so that the rest of the teams have little chance of winning the league.
Rich: If you know your movies, I could have been a ********* is a famous line from an old movie.
Jack: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below.
Rich: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
We looked solid at the back with our new goalkeeper ... and a clean sheet for the defence.
You are a bit of a chatterbox. It’s difficult to get a word in edgeways sometimes!
There were a few tricky words in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words.
Why do you need to change the subject?
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich spoke about changing the subject or topic of a conversation. Before we look at some of the words and phrases they used let's think about why we might need to change the subject:
- You have something urgent or important to say.
- You are finding the conversation boring and want to change the subject.
- You have just remembered or been reminded of something you would like to talk about.
How to change the subject?
Here are five ways that you could change the topic of a conversation.
- Ask a question
- Introduce a new topic.
- Give a compliment.
- Create a distraction.
- Tell the speaker that you are changing the topic.
Which do you think is the best way?
Look at the activity below and match the example sentences to one of the five ways of changing the subject of a conversation.
Words and phrases we use to change the subject
In this week's podcast, Jack and Rich used lots of different words and phrases that are useful when we want to change the topic of the conversation. Most of these phrases are used to either introduce a topic by linking it to what the speaker had been talking about or to tell the speaker you are changing the topic. Look at these examples from the podcast:
Changing the subject by linking it to what the speaker was talking about:
Funny you should say that because we went out on our bikes, too.
Ha! That reminds me of the time I got a puncture near there.
That reminds me. Do we have someone meeting her at the station?
And speaking of the environment. Could we keep coffee cups in the kitchen and not at our desks while she is here?
Changing the subject in a more abrupt way:
Oh, before I forget, a few of us were thinking of going for a ride next weekend. Do you want to come?
And there's something else I want to ask you.
Let me stop you there a moment, John.
By the way, do we have coffee and biscuits for our visitor?
All of these phrases are used when we want to change the subject of a conversation. Do you know any other words or phrases that are similar to these?
A collaborative dialogue:
Your task this week is to reply to Jack and Rich and other podcast listeners. Every time you reply, change the subject by using one of the phrases we have used in this week's podcast. We will add a new topic every day this week and it's your task to continue the conversation. The first topic is:
My mobile broke the other day and I had to take it to get fixed. I couldn’t use it for two days. I couldn't even check the football results!
Write your replies in the comments section below and don't forget to have a guess at this week's football phrase, too!