Four phrases you need for casual conversations

Causal conversations can be difficult for language learners. One reason is they often use short phrases that you may not find in a dictionary or textbook. Below are four common phrases.

  1. How come?

If someone says ‘How come?’, they are asking the reason for something. It’s a more casual (and less direct) way of saying ‘why’. It can be used in two ways; as a single phrase ‘How come?’ or added to the beginning of a sentence, for example, ‘How come you didn’t come camping with us?’

Conversation example:

A: ‘How come you left the restaurant early yesterday?’

B: ‘Because I wasn’t feeling well’

A: ‘Oh I see. Hope you’re feeling better now’

Continued below

2. Come again?

If somebody says ‘Come again?’, they want you to repeat what you said. Usually it’s because they couldn’t hear you or you were speaking too quickly. In other words, it’s a more casual way of saying ‘Can you repeat that?’. Sometimes it might also be because what you said was very surprising and the listener wants to check they understand.

Conversation example:

A: ‘You want milk in your coffee?’

B: ‘Come again?

A: (in a louder voice) ‘You want milk in your coffee?’

B: ‘Oh, yes please.’

3. Count me in!

If somebody says ‘Count me in!’, they are agreeing to take part in something that another person is planning. It is often used to respond to casual invitations that involve a group of people, like going to party, picnic, or sports game.  

Conversation example:

A: ‘Some of us are going camping next weekend. Want to come?’

B: ‘Sure, count me in!

4. Fat chance!

If someone says ‘Fat chance!’, they think that the chance of something happening is very small (yes, surprisingly ‘fat’ doesn’t mean ‘big’ here). It is often used in casual speech when you don’t think something will happen. It can be used in two ways; as a single phrase ‘Fat chance!’ or added to the beginning of a sentence, for example, ‘Fat chance of him helping you!’

Conversation example:

A: ‘Do you think Richard will come to the party?’

B: ‘Fat chance! He almost never leaves his house these days.’

Extra tip:  While it’s great to use these phrases in casual conversations (or texting) with people you know well, be careful not to use them in more formal conversations, for example, in job interviews, language tests or with customers at work.

Related links:

Build your conversations skills at the live-online Conversation Café

Four tips for continuing conversations