The ability to paraphrase is one of the most important speaking skills, so let’s consider what paraphrasing actually is and how we can use it effectively.
On a daily basis, we all find ourselves in situations when we can’t find the correct word to say. You know what you want to say, but it just won’t come out!
Many people refer to the phenomenon as being ‘tongue-tied’. For foreign English speakers, this problem can be even worse.
You might have heard some news or read an article in a newspaper, and you want to tell the story to others.
The problem arises when you just can’t remember the news word-for-word.
Let’s look into the problem by using an example. The news on the previous evening announced:
– The Prime Minister issued a warning to all opposing his bill.
You want to discuss the implications of the Prime-Minister's warning with your work colleagues or friends, but you can’t remember the exact words.
The solution is to PARAPHRASE the statement. Paraphrasing is defined as:
-verb: express the meaning of something using different words.
-noun: a rewording of a passage.
Therefore, if we paraphrase the statement above, it can be said in many different ways
The Prime-Minister issued a warning to those against his bill, or
The Prime-Minister warned those opposing the bill.
These statements convey the same message in different words.
The statement has been somewhat simplified but does not lose its meaning!
No one to whom you speak will correct you to say that’s not EXACTLY what they said on the news!
No one will even notice that the words have been changed.
Paraphrasing means you don’t have to be tongue-tied.
You won’t have the feeling of knowing what you want to say, of having a word on the tip of your tongue, and not being able to say what you want.
Let’s take one more example to highlight the importance of paraphrasing. A very simple sentence:
-the girl cycled to the lake.
This can be said in many ways:
-the girl rode her bike to the lake, or the girl took her bike to the lake.
There are also many different words for ‘girl’ in English, depending on where you are in the world.
A girl will be called a ‘Sheila’ in Australia or a ‘lass’ in Scotland.
One of the points I wanted to make here is that stories and statements often change when news is passed by the spoken word, and this is often due to paraphrasing.
Another use of paraphrasing is to describe vocabulary when you cannot think of the actual name in English.
This is particularly useful if you are in a speaking exam and you only have a limited time to speak. Instead of wasting time thinking of what it’s called, you can describe the word instead.
Paraphrasing is a natural and normal part of any language.
Can you think of examples in your own language?
There are probably thousands! You may have never noticed them until reading this blog.
Once you have the confidence to paraphrase, you will be amazed at the difference it makes to your spoken English.
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Matthew & Becky
Native British Teachers
Online English Skills
We help English learners take their English skills to the next level.