8 Examples on how Real Spoken English is different from Textbook English

July 10, 2017
10 July 2017,

Here’s the thing. Most English language learners learn ‘textbook English’. However, most native English speakers speak ‘Real Spoken English’. What’s the difference? The difference can be perfectly described in this conversation: Textbook English Sara: “Hello Frank. What are you doing today?” Real Spoken English Sara: “Hey Frank! What’s up?”


See the difference?


The problem is most schools, classes, and English language textbooks will teach you the formal way to have a conversation in English. In reality, most native English speakers don’t speak this way. Everyday English conversation is much less formal and strict than English textbooks will have you believe. In fact, not even, “hello” is that common! Most native speakers say, “hey”, “hi”, or a more casual, “what’s up?”. Rather than intimidate you, view this as an opportunity to have more freedom over your English language experience. Below are a few key examples of how Real Spoken English is different than textbook English.




The phrase “go-to” is used by native speakers when they want to know your favorite dishes to eat at a specific restaurant or your favorite places to visit in a certain location. In fact, it can be used in almost any situation when you want to specify you have a preference.


Textbook English: “What are your favorite places to visit around New York City?”

Real Spoken English: “What are your go-to spots around New York City?”


Textbook English: “When I visit that French cafe, I like to order a black coffee and banana muffin.”

Real Spoken English: “My go-to order at that French cafe is a black coffee and a banana muffin.”


What’s up


While this one might be more obvious if you’ve ever been around native speakers, it’s important to mention. The term, “what’s up” is very common. It most often means, “How are you?” but can also be a casual way to ask a friend how they are feeling.


Textbook English: “Why are you feeling sad today? Did something happen at school?”

Real Spoken English: “What’s up? Did something happen at school?”


Hit the


Native speakers will use say, “Hit the (location)” to mean they will go somewhere. By using, “hit the (location)” it is implied that they will be at the location for a short period of time.


Textbook English: “After work today I am going to the store, the gym, and the post office.” Real Spoken English: “After work today I’m gonna hit the store, the gym, and the post office.” (Notice how ‘going’ is also turned into ‘gonna’ when spoken in Real Spoken English.)




The term close isn’t only used to express proximity of geographical location. The word ‘close’ is also used when speaking about emotional attachment to a person or a thing.


Textbook English: “My sister and I have a strong emotional connection.”

Real Spoken English: “My sister and I are close.”

Spoken English Trial Lesson

What in the World


To express something is strange, crazy, or odd but you don’t have many words to say about the situation, a native speaker will use the expression, “what in the world”. This expression can be used alone or in a sentence as an expression of confusion (example 1) or as an expression of mostly surprise and mild confusion (example 2).


Example 1

Textbook English: “Why did you get a tattoo of your dog’s face on your arm?”

Real Spoken English: “What in the world? *points to arm with tattoo*”


Example 2

Textbook English: “This is all very curious and frightening, how did all the snakes escape?”

Real Spoken English: “What in the world! How did all the snakes escape?”


I’m (name)


Practically no native speaker actually says, “my name is…” when meeting someone. You will see this phrase in every beginner English textbook despite it’s rare occurrence in actual English settings.


Textbook English: “Hello. My name is Clara.”

Real Spoken English: “Hey. I’m Clara.”


looking to


In Real Spoken English, native speakers use the phrase “looking to” to mean take action to do something. This probably sounds a bit confusing so here are some examples


Textbook English: “I want to sell my house, so I will put it on the market.”

Real Spoken English: “I’m looking to put my house on the market.”

Real Spoken English: “I’m looking into taking classes at my local university.”


On edge


If a native speaker says they are “on edge”, this doesn’t mean they are literally on the edge of something. “On edge” is used to describe a mental state of mind. The phrase conveys the person is feeling anxious and annoyed by someone or something. When you say “on edge”, it’s implied this is a feeling. Therefore, you don’t need to specify you are feeling on edge. You can simply say you are on edge.


Textbook English: “Being at this party with my enemies makes me feel uncomfortable and uneasy.”

Real Spoken English: “Being at this party is making me on edge.”

Looking for more examples on how real Spoken English is different from textbook English? Read this post