Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you really liked what the other person had to say and wanted to show them that you’re looking forward to hearing more?
Or realized that you missed something but knew it was central to the conversation?
Or maybe felt that you had something to add but you weren’t quite sure how to interject your idea without sounding rude?
We’ve all been there.
If you’re connecting with another person in conversation and actively participating in the conversation, you’re going to want to speak up at some point – even if the other person hasn’t fully completed their thought yet!
One of the biggest comments I hear from non-native English speakers is that they often have an opinion or something to share in conversation, but they’re not sure how to interrupt politely in English.
They don’t feel comfortable jumping in and interjecting their thoughts.
Instead, they wait for extremely clear opportunities to join the conversation, usually when someone has asked a question and is waiting for their response!
By the time the other person has finished speaking, the conversation topic may have already changed and the opportunity to share a useful observation may have completely passed.
That’s why I’d like to discuss some guidelines and expressions for interrupting and interjecting opinions in conversations in English.
Guidelines for Interrupting Conversations in English
The most important thing to remember when interrupting a conversation in English is that you want to interrupt in order to create connection with the person you are talking to.
Many people think that interrupting is rude, but it’s only truly impolite when you are interrupting in order to change the topic or disagree with the other person before they’ve completely finished their idea.
If you interrupt politely and with the purpose of connecting with the other person by sharing your interest and your own ideas or experiences, interrupting can actually show that you’re actively participating in the conversation and make the conversation even better.
Here are some good reasons to interrupt a conversation:
- You can interrupt to ask for clarification or greater detail.
- You can interrupt to agree with the other person.
- You can interrupt to show interest and enthusiasm.
- You can interrupt to mention that they’ve reminded you of something similar that you’ll talk about later.
Finally, if you decide to interrupt, be sure to interrupt politely.
After you finish your comment or question, you can be extra polite by excusing, or apologizing for, the interruption. I provide more examples of how to do this below.
1. Interrupting to ask for clarification
If you want the person you are talking with to give you a longer explanation or additional detail, it’s perfectly okay to interrupt them to ask for clarification.
This can help keep the conversation on topic; it also shows that you’re listening.
Here are some useful phrases for interrupting to ask for clarification:
- Sorry, but could you go over that again?
- Sorry, but would you mind repeating that?
- Excuse me for interrupting, but I’m not sure I follow. Could you repeat that?
- Sorry for interrupting, but I’m not sure what you mean. What was that again?
For more expressions you can use to ask for clarification, be sure to check out my video lesson on clarifying what you heard, asking for repetition, and confirming your understanding.
(You’ll also notice that some of these interruptions use embedded questions to be extra polite.)
2. Interrupting to agree with the other person
If you are making small talk with someone, they may be talking about a topic that’s important to them, such as a favorite movie or TV show, podcast or book, hobby or activity.
If you’ve also seen that movie, heard that podcast, or done that activity, it’s fine to interrupt to agree with them. This encourages them to keep talking about this specific topic.
Here are some examples:
- I loved that book!
- That last episode of Game of Thrones was so crazy!
- I love kayaking in the summer!
- I also thought his latest book was disappointing.
- I know, I didn’t understand what happened in the last show either!
If he or she is talking about a personal experience, emotions, or feelings that you’ve also shared, you can use one of the following expressions:
- I can totally relate.
- I’ve been there.
- I know exactly how you feel.
- That’s happened to me.
- I know what you mean, that’s so frustrating/challenging/nervewracking.
Interjecting your similar opinion in this way can show the other person that you have something in common that you can talk about in more detail.
It creates connection during the conversation.
Please note: If you disagree with what the other person is saying, it’s much more polite to wait until they finish before sharing your contrasting opinion.
(To seem more likable, you may want to wait two seconds before starting to speak.)
3. Interrupting to show interest and enthusiasm
If you are in a conversation where the person is mentioning something you’re intrigued by, interested in, or otherwise enthusiastic about, you can interject with a comment to briefly share your opinion.
This shows the person you care what they are talking about.
Use one of these expressions to show interest:
- I’ve been wanting to see that!
- I haven’t had a chance to read that yet.
- Oh, I’ve been meaning to download that app.
- I’ve been wondering how that is.
- I’ve wanted to know how that works.
- I’m curious how you handled that.
- I’m interested in hearing more…
These very brief interruptions help move the conversation forward because the speaker knows you are truly interested in what they have to say.
4. Interrupting to mention something similar that you’ll talk about later
One of the wonderful things about having a good conversation in English is that you’ll probably find you relate to what the other person has said.
If you want to share something similar, it’s okay to say that they’ve sparked something for you and that you’ll tell them more about it after they finish talking.
- That reminds me…
- Ooh! I also wanted to talk about X.
- Let’s come back to that.
- As you were saying,….
- Remind me to tell you about my experience doing…
This way you can go back to listening carefully to the other person.
Be sure not to interrupt with a long story of your own, as this can distract the person from their main point and isn’t very polite.
How Be Polite When Interrupting in Conversation
Now that you understand when it is acceptable reasons to interrupt and interject a short comment, question, or idea, let’s talk about how you can be especially polite when interrupting.
You may feel a little timid about jumping into the conversation while the other person is still talking. In some cultures, interrupting is always rude, although this is not true in English.
I want to encourage you to interrupt more because it’s part of active listening and creating connection in English.
But if you feel uncomfortable doing so, I’ve got some more expressions that you can use before interjecting your similar opinion or asking a question:
- Sorry, but I just wanted to say…
- Excuse me for interrupting, but…
- Can I add something?
- Can I say something here?
- Can I ask a question?
- Before you continue, I’d just like to add…
- I’d like to comment on that/say something/add something/remind you/etc.
All of these phrases show that you respect the other person’s ideas and want to make sure it’s okay to jump in with a brief comment, question, or thought.
If you’re feeling especially shy, you can even raise one of your fingers or your hand a little bit or lean forward with an enthusiastic smile.
This motion signals to the person that you have something to say.
If you’re concerned about being rude, you can do two things to minimize the impact of your interruption:
- Lead into your interruption with a question or introductory phrase that shows the listener that you care about what have to say; and/or
- Apologize for the interruption after you’ve asked a question or shared enthusiasm or interest in the topic of conversation.
Remember, interrupting thoughtfully and with good intentions helps lead to a more interesting, engaging conversation.
Excuse the Interruption
Once you’ve finished with your quick interruption or enthusiastic interjection, you can acknowledge your interruption by using one of these phrases.
When you excuse the interruption or apologize for jumping into the conversation, you show the other person that you still value their ideas and are listening carefully.
- Sorry to interrupt! I was just so excited.
- Please continue.
- Please go on, sorry about that.
- You were telling me about _______…
- You were saying…
- Sorry! I just wanted to mention that.
This is a gracious way of saying sorry, especially when you remind the other person what they were talking about before you interrupted.
Sometimes we lose our train of thought when speaking, so you can help remind the person where they left off.
As you can see, interrupting during a conversation and interjecting opinions is not always a bad thing; in fact, it can help improve the conversation by showing your interest in what the other person has to say.
Learning how to be a good conversationist in English requires practice, so be sure to study these expressions and find an opportunity to use them.
To practice, leave a comment below giving an example of you interrupting someone. For example, what would you say if someone starts talking about the latest episode of your favorite TV show?