Speak English Like a Native! 20 Differences Between Native and Non-Native English Speakers

If you want to learn how to speak English like a native, then this post is for you! And I’m sure you do! Most of the time, students who want to learn English start with the basic level, but their eye is on the goal of being able to speak English fluently and flawlessly, as if he grew up speaking that language his whole life.

We’ll talk about 20 differences between native and non-native English speakers so that you may embody some of the characteristics and skills native English speakers have.

Most of these are not taught in traditional English classes. They are learned as you go along applying the language in your daily lives. But my quick rundown below will be a great summary to start off your journey to learning how to speak English like a native!

1. Native English Speakers Know Slang

Words such as ‘lit’, which means great. Or ‘snatched’, which means impressed. You don’t encounter these in English textbooks, but hang-out (this means spend time, by the way) with your English speaking friends and you’ll learn more!

Example:

“This movie is so lit! I am absolutely snatched.”

Here’s another example!

“I’m absolutely wiped out! I think I’m going to crash.”

This means you are wiped out or so tired and you will crash or fall asleep. As you spend more time conversing in casual and natural English, you will encounter more slang words.

2. They Also Use Idioms

An idiom is a figure of speech and should not be taken so literally. Learning how to speak native English will have you discover many idioms and other figures of speech. I have some examples below and their meanings.

Examples:

  • Early bird – wake up early or get to an event early
  • See eye to eye – agreeing on something
  • When pigs fly – talking about something that’s never going to happen
  • Once in a blue moon – something that happens not very often
  • A piece of cake – very easy
  • Feel under the weather – not feeling well

“I’m glad we see eye to eye on this matter.”

“The test was a piece of cake!”

“I can’t go out, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.”

3. Speak Native English = Speak Proverbs

A proverb is a short and simple popular saying that’s mostly meant to give advice. Some of the most common proverbs used by native English speakers are:

“The early bird gets the worm.” – Which means if you’re earlier, you have a better chance at being successful.

“When it rains, it pours.” – Sometimes when something you wait for to happen finally happens, it happens in great quantities. Like waiting for job offers for a long time and finally getting 10 of them all on the same day!

4. And Often Use Phrasal Verbs

These are pretty similar to idioms. It’s usually a combination of verbs and adverbs that when combined together will mean differently than their original meaning.

Examples:

  • “Bye! I gotta get to work!” – instead of saying I have to enter my work or office.
  • “They called off tomorrow’s meeting.” – called off means canceled
  • “Uh-oh. This project needs a do over.” – a job or task needs to be repeated
  • “Can we please talk this over?” – Talk over means to discuss something

5. Understand or Make Indirect Requests

“It’s so hot!” This can mean it’s really just hot. But it can also be trying to hint at turning the fan or air conditioning on. This needs more of your non-verbal cues and part of being able to speak English like a native is being able to understand even the small cues and actions made by whoever you are talking to.

6. Can Detect Sarcasm, too!

Native English speakers will know how to inject sarcasm in their words and sentences. “Oh yea, it’s so hot now” could actually mean there is a snowstorm outside! Similar to the indirect requests, this is something you also need to be keen in observing in terms of tone of voice and non-verbal cues.

7. Speak Native English by Exaggerating the Right Way

This is also known as hyperbole, and is a skill you must acquire if you want to become a native english speaker.

“It’s so hot outside, I am melting!” – the second phrase is the exaggerated part. Because you can’t really be melting but you use this line to emphasize how you feel and how hot it really is outside.

“I’m so happy I could burst!” – another hyperbole, because you cannot literally burst out of happiness, but you feel overwhelmed with joy that sometimes it just feels that way.

8. Guilty of Using ‘Like’ and ‘Actually’

Ever spoke to someone and, like, they were just so natural at speaking in English, like, they’ve been speaking it their whole lives?

The word ‘like’ is a filler and most native English speakers are guilty of using these. Same with the word ‘actually’. These fillers are not something I recommend that you pick up and use. But it’s good to know that native English speakers overuse these.

9. Change the Meaning of a Word through Intonation

I mentioned this already above, and native English speakers really do make use of their tone of voice to change what they mean of a word or sentence they use.

“That’s interesting!” – can really mean “Oh wow, that’s interesting”.

But say it with a different intonation and it can be sarcastic too. And it can mean “that sounds really boring”.

10. Change the Meaning of a Word through Phrase Level Stress

Another skill to learn is understanding which phrase or word is being stressed in a sentence.

“It’s not my job” can simply mean you are saying it’s not your job.

But stressing it and saying “It’s NOT my job” and you are already putting emphasis and drama on your line. Maybe even injecting some emotions in there.

Stressing it differently and saying “It’s not MY job” can mean you are telling the person “it’s YOUR job”.

11. Native English Speakers Express Ideas in Double Negatives

In math, the product of two negatives is a positive number. That’s the same in English. Two negative statements are what make up double negatives, and they mean a positive statement. Here let me give you examples:

“That’s not impossible” – means it’s possible.

“Ain’t nobody got time for that” – means nobody has time for that.

12. Are Natural at Asking Tag Questions

These are questions with leading statements at the start.

“That’s not my job, is it?” means I expect you to say it’s not because I already let it with that exact statement.

On the other hand, saying “It’s my job, isn’t it?” means I expect you to say that it is, again, because I already led with that statement.

13. Native English Speakers Make Use of Connected Speech

Again, these are words not learned in an English class. You learn more professional and academic English in the classroom. But native English speakers will use connected speech to converse. Understanding and knowing how to use connected speech is a huge key to making you sound more natural when speaking English.

Examples:

  • gotta (got to)
  • shoulda (should have)
  • gonna (going to)
  • wanna (want to)
  • watchya doing? (what are you doing?)

14. They Like Cutting Off Words

This is something native English speakers often do. Again, it’s casual and not too professional. But it’s conversational and natural-sounding English.

Examples:

  • “Good talking to you!”
  • “Great meeting you!”
  • “Awesome speech!”

15. And They Like Shortening Words

Examples:

  • Congrats!
  • Thanks!
  • Totes!

16. Informally Answer with a “Yeah!”

The informal version of yes and you can hear this a LOT in someone who speaks native English. This is great to know and understand. But remember, appropriate use is also key. If you are in a formal set up or scenario, then stick to your professional English.

“Yeah, I’ll meet you there!”

“Oh yeah, we’re going to her party tomorrow.”

17. Have ‘No Prob’ Speaking Casually

This is an example of a shortened phrase this time. No prob is short for no problem. And native English speakers are big in using this.

“No prob!” Anytime. Don’t worry about it!”

18. Native English Speakers Will Use Casual Greetings

Instead of the formal “How are you?”, “I’m fine, thank you”, there are casual, informal, and more conversational ways to greet.

  • “What’s up?”
  • “How’s it going?”
  • “How’s everything?”

And the answer can be:

  • “I’m great!”
  • “Thanks for asking.”

19. Speak Native English and Be an Active Listener

Active listening is very important if you want to speak English fluently. Communication is two-way and when you converse with someone it’s not just about you. It’s about the other person you are talking to, too.

So, you must be an active listener in order to be fluent in English. How do you do that? Respond to let the person you are talking to know that you are listening.

  • “Mmm hmmm”
  • “That’s right”
  • “I see”
  • “Yeah”

20. Use Natural-sounding Fillers

The fastest way to differentiate a native English speaker from a nonnative, is through fillers.

I already cited “Like” and “Actually” earlier. But here are some more common fillers used by fluent English talkers.

  • “By the way”
  • “Well”
  • “Okay”
  • “You see”
  • “To be honest”
  • “You know”

Again, just don’t overuse them. Peppering your lines with just the right amount of fillers will definitely make you sound like a natural!

So we’ve gone through these 20 points and I am pretty confident you will pick up a lot of these to embody and make use in your daily English conversations.

I encourage you to supplement it with this lesson so that you will really be well on your road to sounding like a native English speaker.

As always, happy learning!

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