Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever said something in English and felt like you came across in the wrong way?

Have you had somebody question the way you said something?

Have you ever noticed that just one word can make a difference in your conversations in English?

We’re going to look at direct and indirect language, and how this can affect your conversations. We’re going to show you how to be a better English communicator by being more precise in English.

We’re also going to look at how you work through a potential misunderstanding as well as Michelle shares a personal story that happened to her at the doctor’s office.

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Misunderstandings Happen Easily Sometimes

Sometimes just the tone of voice you use can change the context of what you are trying to say.

Sometimes just one word choice can give off a completely different meaning.

Though you may mean one thing, that slight difference can alter everything that you are trying to get across.

Let’s look at an example to help highlight this point, as this may help you to really understand how these differences exists.

Here are two sentences:

  • “I try to exercise twice a week” –once negative and once positive
  • It’s a positive that you are focused on exercise, but a potential negative when you say you “try” to exercise.

Just that one word can make a huge difference in how you come across in conversation.

Working Through Misunderstandings

This is about direct and indirect language as well as intonation.

Having a word like “try” in a sentence can make a huge difference as it comes off as more indirect.

Just avoiding that word can make the sentence far more direct and therefore your point is conveyed properly.

So what could you say instead?

When you say “try” it may come off as though you aren’t confident.

If you don’t want to worry about being indirect or being misunderstood then you could just say instead “I exercise twice a week.”

How To Work Through This Effectively

If you have been unclear and it’s obvious that the other person didn’t get your message then what can you do?

You can say:

  • “I’m sorry, I don’t think I was clear…”
  • “I think there’s a misunderstanding here.”
  • “What I meant to say was…”

All of these phrases can help you to work through any misunderstandings or ensuring that you come across in the right way.

When you really think about it, this part of language and clarity teaches us a few things.

  1. You have to think carefully about the language you use. If you use indirect language, then you may be misunderstood. If you want to come across more confidently, then you need to use your language in a direct and concise way.
  2. You have to think about who you are talking to. If it’s a professional setting or one that requires you to be direct and to the point, then you need to use the right language for this. Another example: “You may want to do this” versus “You should/must do this.”
  3. You have to think about how intonation can completely change what you are saying. It’s so crucial to pay attention to intonation–you have to use intonation to help you express yourself, but it’s just as important to listen to learn these things. Intonation can change everything!


You can easily be misunderstood because of your language choice as well as your intonation especially when you are learning English.

It’s important when this has happened to reflect on what happened and how it could have been changed.

The language that you use makes a huge difference in how you come across.

Even one word or the way that you say it can really change things, so choose wisely.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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