What to do when you forget a word or phrase

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When we’re speaking English as a second language, it’s normal to sometimes forget the correct word or phrase to use. 

This is a problem that many of our students face, and we understand how frustrating it can be.

It’s not like when you’re writing — you can quickly look up the correct word to use in a dictionary or thesaurus.

When you’re speaking, you can’t say, “Let me just Google the correct word for this!”

Well, you could. But that could get awkward.

So in our live session on Tuesday this week, I shared five things you can do when you forget a word or phrase, as well as the phrases you can use for each tip.

Here are the five things you can do:

  1. Be honest about it.
  2. If you can, describe it instead.
  3. Use synonyms.
  4. Ask others to help.
  5. Just move on!


If you’d like to learn the phrases you can use for each tip above, make sure to watch the replay of the live session! You can watch it here.

You can also listen to this session on SpotifyApple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

Here are the phrases you can use when you forget a word or phrase.


Memorise some of these phrases and make sure you practise saying them out loud.

So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you forget a word or phrase, you can use them and you’ll sound more natural!

Do you want to speak English with confidence?

Sign up to join our free video training, Speaking with Confidence. We’ll send you seven tips to your email address!

Here’s Tip 1 for a sneak peek of what’s in store for you.

Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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