Phrases to get things done in English: Imber’s Verbal Stratagems

This simple and easy-to-use Verbal Stratagems website offers a robust collection of phrases for specific purposes, such as agreeing, checking for understanding, expressing gratitude, or making a suggestion. These phrases have been collected and maintained by Dr. Brenda P. Imber and Carson Maynard of the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan. The phrases are designed to be useful for teachers, presenters, and participants in discussions.

The most straightforward way to interact with the site is to use the Browse the 41 Categories of “verbal stratagems” or phrases with a purpose.

The site has been optimized to work well on mobile browsers.

If you’re not sure what a category means, e.g. “pre-closing,” you can click on the right-arrow button to see that list, and this is likely to clarify the shared purpose or context of these words.

“All right,” “All righty,” and “Any questions before we stop?” are all “pre-closing” signals that a teacher or presenter can use to signal that it’s about time to end a class or even an office hours conversation.

Clicking on the + button to the left of any phrase makes a “play” button appear. The word is repeated twice, with careful attention to intonation. One way Dr. Imber invites students to use the site is to video or audio-record the version on the website, then to record their own voice repeating the phrase. Then you can play back both versions to compare sounds, intonation, speed, and stress.

You may also want to distinguish the meaning and usage of various phrases. The next one on this list, “Consider it done,” is not merely a signal that a conversation is about to end.

One way to quickly check on meaning and usage is to do an internet search with the word meaning followed by the phrase in quotes, so here that would be meaning “consider it done”. Typically, dictionaries and idiom websites will pop up, and just browsing the list of top results is likely to provide adequate information.

 

Finally, I really like how the Search section works on the Verbal Stratagems site.

When you first call up Search, you get an alphabetized list of every Verbal Stratagem listed on the site. Then to search, you type in words that act like a filter. In this image, I’ve typed in the word “not.” (Note that all words that include the string of letters n-o-t are included in the filtered results.)

If you click on the right arrow to the right of any phrase, you’ll jump to that phrase in the context of its category list, which is great for exploring alternatives.

Search is a useful way to try to remember a phrase you’re sure contained a certain word. Search is also a way to explore lots of common phrases with a word like “sorry” or “Let’s” that you’d like to explore more fully.

Reply with a comment to share your favorite Verbal Stratagem on the site. I think mine would be “Way to go!”  Way to go, Dr. Imber & Mr. Maynard, for creating a great resource. Thanks!