How to Use “Now” When Speaking English

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Hey there Real Life English! We have for you today another post about discourse markers, following our articles about the words:like, actually and mean.

If you remember, discourse markers are used to coat what you are saying and add extra flavor to your speech, kind of like sprinkles on top of an ice cream cone. As we’ve seen in the past, simple little words often have many different meanings and are useful in a wide range of situations.

Aside from its meaning of “currently,” the word now has many other uses in spoken language. It can be used to clarify, express confusion, talk about the next step, show appreciation and get peoples attention. Its uses are quite varied as you can see, so let’s get down to business and learn how to use now in speech.

What you already know

One of the first words you learned when you started studying English was the word now. Back in those days you were taught that now means “currently.” This still holds true, but now you are going to learn some more uses for it.

Now to clarify

When expressing and you feel there is some confusion about what you are saying, you use now at the beginning of your sentence to signify that you are going to clarify. Putting now at the beginning of your sentence allows you time to think about what you are going to say next.

“Be careful when you go out at night. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a good time!”
“The United States is one of the richest countries in the world. Now, of course that doesn’t mean that everyone in the country is rich.”

Now to express confusion

Someone just said something to you and you aren’t quite sure you understand what they meant. This is the ideal situation for you to start your response with “now.” In this way, now is used to signal to the other person that you are confused.

“It’s great to see you! We should get together more often.”
“Great. Now, tell me again, where do you know me from?”

“Hey man what’s up?”
“I just volunteered for the army. Hoorah!”
“Now, why exactly would you want to get yourself killed?”

Now to introduce the next step

Your friend just presented a brilliant idea to you, and you want to carry out the next step, so you tell him what has to come next. To do this, you preface your next sentence with now.

“If we had a million dollars we could buy a ferrari.”
“Great. Now, all we have to do is earn a million dollars.”

“When we go to Buenos Aires we’re going to have a blast!”
“Now all we need to do is buy our tickets.”

Now to show or elicit appreciation or admiration

Let’s say for example that a really nice car passes by, or during conversation someone mentions a public figure that you appreciate. In these cases you want to express your appreciation of these things, so you give them praise. But you don’t just give praise, you preface your sentence with now in order to reinforce your praise.

“Check out that Corvette.”
“Now, that’s a car!”

“I just read Steve Jobs biography.”
“Ah, Steve Jobs. Now, that is the kind of man this planet needs more of.”

Now for getting people’s attention

Now pay attention because I’m going to introduce the last way that now is used in speech. When you want to add extra emphasis to let people know that they should be paying attention, now is added at the beginning of the sentence to accomplish this.

“Now listen everybody. I have an announcement to make.”

“Now you listen to me! If I catch you with my daughter you won’t ever see the light of day again!”

Now, I want to point out here that when using now, stress and intonation are very important in order to make sure you are understood correctly. In order to learn the proper intonation you need to hear it being used by native speakers in real life situations. In the future Real Life English plans on making videos to teach how to properly pronounce and use words like now. If you would like to be alerted when these videos are made, sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of this post.

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  • Wonderful site! Many compliments

  • RTmoh’d says:

    really like it . now , i must read any article you would upload

  • Ahmet Göl says:

    Very fruitful indeed! Thank you…

  • Camilla Wagemans says:

    can you tell me the difference between now and from now on please