Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to be honest in English using frankly

Do you sometimes feel that you want to give honest feedback to someone but you don’t know how to prepare them for it?

Sometimes honest feedback can be hard for people to hear so you need to prepare them by using some strategic English phrases first.

Today we’ll show you what phrases to use and what phrases you should avoid.

Let’s start with a role play:

A: Michelle what do you think of this new t-shirt I got?

B: Oh hey Lindsay. Um what does it say?

A: It says “But first, coffee”

B: Uh yeah it’s kinda cool. Makes sense for you- but to be honest, I don’t really like that green color on you. I think you’d look much better in blue.

A: Oh good point. You have such a good fashion sense Michelle.


In this role play we used the phrase “to be honest” which is a great way to warn the person that honest feedback is coming.

We have done some related episodes on this topic.

Check out Episode 635 on one word to give feedback in English.

Also in Episode 522 we showed you how to construct a feedback sandwich to talk to people in English.


Today we have a question from a listener:

Hi Lindsay and Michelle!

Belarus, Minsk city, Andrei speaking! Thanks a lot for your work and I like you so much.

My question is what difference among the phrases “be upfront”, “frankly speaking” and “be honest”. Thanks in advance.

Sincerely yours,

Andrei Vysotski


This is a good question. All of the phrases that Andrei asked about signal that direct feedback is coming.

In American culture our communication style is less direct than some cultures and more direct than others.

Of course your own level of directness depends on your personality.

Do you struggle with being direct?

Or do you “call it like you see it”?


3 Phrases to Give Direct Feedback:

  • “To be upfront”: You are saying “to be direct” and “to be clear” but you should dress this up and put some other words around it to make it sound more natural and softer. Other words to put around this:
    • “Just to be totally upfront”
    • “I want to be upfront”
    • “Can I be upfront here?”


  • “Frankly speaking”: This is basically the same as “to be upfront” and it’s used when you are going to give your opinion and it might not be what everyone else thinks. You aren’t going to filter your opinion. Don’t overuse this. I have heard students use this just to open any sentence but it should be saved for situations where you are giving strong, direct feedback that not everyone will agree with.


  • “To be honest”: This means the same as ‘frankly speaking’ but maybe it’s a little bit less fancy. To us, ‘frankly speaking’ sounds more professional but “to be honest” is polite.


  • “Full disclosure”: This is used at the beginning of a sentence where you want to emphasize that you are putting it all out on the table. For example, we interviewed some new potential roommates a few nights ago for my house and there is something about the history of the house that people have to know when they consider moving in so we used this a lot. Here is what it looked like:
    • A: “So is there anything else that I should know about the setup here?”
    • B: “Alright, so, full disclosure, last year one of our roommates says she spotted a ghost here. We just like to be really upfront about that.”


What’s the takeaway here?

It’s important to warm people up when you are about to be totally direct in English.

Textbooks might not teach you this skill but it’s key for Connection!


Also don’t overuse these phrases.

As we said before, don’t use “to be frank” when you are stating on objective fact that isn’t overly direct.

This is not a synonym for “I am about to say something.”


Do you have any questions?

Let us know in the comments below.

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