How do you say そうですね in English?

Gordon Bateson

What kind of questions do you think are easy to answer? Which are hard?

Try reading these questions out loud and then say a suitable response.

  1. What’s your name?
  2. What color are your socks?
  3. What are the three most famous mountains in Japan?
  4. How many really good friends do you have?

You can probably answer the first two questions straight away, but questions three and four require a bit of thought. If you were to answer these questions in Japanese, you might say a phrase like "そうですねえ・・・" or "ええと・・・" before giving your answer. These phrases, don’t really mean anything, they just give you time to think. English has such thinking phrases too.

Here are some phrases that are commonly used while English speakers are thinking about their answer:

  • Let’s see …
  • Let me see …
  • Let me think …
  • Hmm … maybe …
  • I’m not sure really … perhaps …

If you need even more time, you can use several of these phrases together.

Just for fun, try asking yourself questions 1 to 4 again.
This time add one or more of the thinking phrases when you answer.

Another way to get time to think is repeat some of the important words from the question. This technique is also used in Japanese, so it should not be too difficult for you to start using it in English. Here’s an example:

A: What are the three most famous mountains in Japan?
B: The three most famous mountains? Hmm … maybe Mount Fuji, Mount Tateyama and Mount Hakusan
A:
Oh, I see.

These phrases and techniques are not the only way that English speakers get time to think, but they are among the most common. If you can use them when you speak English, you will not only sound more fluent, but you get more time to think.

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