Contributing in Seminars

Three people having a discussion

Sharing opinions


Often, contributing your ideas in seminar discussions can be difficult, especially when English is not your first language. By listening to some short extracts from a seminar discussion on the changing nature of the family in the U.K., you can notice some useful expressions for: agreeing, disagreeing, asking for clarification, interrupting politely and giving your opinions.


  • To notice some useful expressions for agreeing and politely disagreeing
  • To notice expressions which show you need more explanation (asking for clarification)
  • To notice some expressions used for returning to points made earlier in the discussion
  • To notice expressions used for giving opinions and for interrupting politely

Activity 1: Noticing useful expressions you can use for seminar discussions

The discussion is about the changing nature of the family in British society. Before you listen, you might like to think about some of the following questions. How do you think the family unit is different now in the U.K., compared to fifty years ago? Is the family changing in your country? If so, in which ways? Are more or fewer people getting divorced, remarrying, or cohabiting (living together without marrying)?

First, listen to the discussion and try to notice the expressions used to give opinions, agree, disagree, interrupt and to ask for more explanation.

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Listen to the extracts from a discussion between Debra, Ciaran and William. After each extract, choose from the drop down box what the speaker’s purpose is and see if you can notice any useful expressions they use to achieve that purpose. You can also then read the tapescript to check. In some extracts, the key language is highlighted in italics.

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Would you like to review the main points?

© William Tweddle, Queen Mary, University of London, 2010