Understanding signpost words

You can improve your listening skills by practising the signpost words commonly used in speech.

Note: signpost words are also called discourse words or discourse markers.

These are the parts of speech that tell the listener the order of what is being said. Signpost words can tell you when the speaker is going to make a list, change the topic, add an example or simply explain their point of view in another way.

This makes it easier to identify when the subject matter, direction or perspective of the conversation may change. When learning a new language it is important, whether you’re rehearsing conversation for an upcoming job interview in a foreign country or preparing for the IELTS test.


By understanding and listening for these signpost markers, it becomes much easier to follow what is being said, and this can be invaluable when you are in a listening exam such as the IELTS test

Below is a table showing the different signpost words that are commonly used and what they mean.

Signpost word:Tells you:
First of all,There is going to be a list of points.
LikeAn example is going to be given.
AnywayThis could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
I meanthe speaker is about to rephrase a point.
Soan effect or a result of a previous point is about to be stated.
WellThis could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
Moving onAnother point is going to be introduced.
As I saidThe speaker is going to recap an earlier point.
To make myself clearThe speaker is going to rephrase a point.
Right.This could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
To put it another way.The speaker is about to rephrase.
This isn’t always soThe speaker is about to give exceptions to or contrast to a previous comment.
NowThe speaker is about to begin a new subject.
Talking about that,The speaker is going to expand on a point.

Now take the end of lesson review

Create your free membership!

Want to get the best out of our free site? Create a free membership now so you can keep a track of what you have studied and what you have left to complete. You’ll also get notified when new resources are added!

Create your FREE membership now!