Disagreements in Everyday Conversation, Part Two

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23 February, 2017

From VOA Learning English, this is Everyday Grammar.

Imagine you are at a business meeting in the United States. The meeting is held one day after a major sporting event, like the Super Bowl.

You might hear comments like this:

A: Did you see that terrible call the referee made?

B: Yes, but it didn't matter. Our team would have lost the game anyway.

C: So, anyway, do you think the budget details are correct or not?

Why were two of the speakers talking about a football game at a business meeting? How did they use grammar to show disagreement?

In our report today, we will answer these questions by exploring the word anyway.

We will tell about two ways people use anyway to show disagreement, or contrast, in American English.


Today, we are not talking about the term any way, a noun phrase that has two words – any and way. We are instead talking about anyway, an adverb that is one word.

Adverbs are words that change the meaning of adjectives, verbs, or sometimes whole sentences. They tell about a way of doing things, time, reason, and so on.

Anyway is a common adverb that you will hear in everyday speech. Like many other adverbs, it can appear at the beginning, middle, and end of a sentence. Its meaning can change depending on where it is found in the sentence.

Today, we will consider the use of anyway at the beginning and end of the sentence.

Two of the most common uses of anyway in conversation

Susan Conrad and Douglas Biber are two experts on English grammar. They say there are two main uses of anyway in everyday conversation.

#1 Show contrast with another speaker's point

The first use of anyway is to show contrast with another speaker's earlier comments.

This does not necessarily mean that one speaker disagrees with another. It just means that one speaker is comparing one idea or thing with another.

When anyway has this meaning, it generally appears at the end of the sentence.

Here is an example:

Passenger: I'm not sure if I have my bus ticket.

Bus Driver: That's OK. I'll let you ride anyway.

#2 Show that you want to talk about a different topic

The second common use of anyway is to show that a speaker wants to talk about a different subject.

It could mean that the speaker wants to move back to the main point of discussion. The speaker could also use anyway to show that they think another issue is more important.

When anyway has this meaning, it generally is found at the beginning of the sentence.

Here is an example. Imagine a group of students are meeting after school to prepare for a biology test.

A: What are you doing this weekend? I'm going to a movie.

B: I'm going to play video games!

C: Anyway, I think we need to go back to studying our biology notes.

Think back to the conversation at the beginning of the story

Think back to the comments you heard at the beginning of this story.

A: Did you see that terrible call the referee made?

B: Yeah, but it didn't matter. Our team would have lost the game anyway.

C: So, anyway, do you think the budget details are correct or not?

You might notice that there are two forms of disagreement or contrast in this example. There are also two uses of the word anyway in the conversation.

One speaker uses it to provide a contrasting point about the call the referee made.

Another speaker uses anyway to show that she wants to return to the main issue under consideration at a business meeting: the budget. This speaker probably does not believe that the game is an important subject. In this sense, she is showing disagreement or contrast.

Anyway and politeness

One important point to remember is this: Americans will often use other words in front of words that show contrast or disagreement.

Speakers will use these words to soften the sudden or unexpected change in conversation. This is probably why the female speaker uses the word "so" before the word anyway.

She is probably expressing annoyance at her coworkers' comments, but does not want to stop them in a very forceful or impolite way.

Americans can also use the word "well" before anyway to serve this same purpose – softening a sudden change in the conversation.

Using the word anyway at the beginning of the sentence can appear to be impolite at times. How polite or impolite the word sounds might depend on the speaker's voice. It also depends on the person you are speaking to.

Here is an example of a softer, more polite way to use anyway when you want to go back to an important subject:

"Well, anyway, I would like to go back to the topic we were previously discussing..."

And here is a forceful, impolite way to show someone that you want to go back to an important subject. You will notice that the speaker uses the word anyway.

"ANYWAY, I want to talk about an important topic."

What can you do?

These rules are not easy to learn. However, learning them will help you understand Americans when they speak. You will be able to understand disagreements about what is important to discuss, and how to change a topic in a polite way.

The next time you are watching an American film or television show, try to study how Americans change subjects or express disagreement. You might notice that they use different or similar grammatical constructions.

I'm Jill Robbins.

And I'm Phil Dierking.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

conversation – n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people

contrast – n. something that is different from another thing

phrase – n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence

adverb – n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used to show time, manner, place, or degree

annoyance – n. something that causes feelings of slight anger or irritation

referee n. a sports official who has power to make judgments or rulings in a game

grammar – n. the study of the classes or words and how they are used

impoliteadj. demonstrating or relating to bad behavior