A rejoinder（あいづち）is a quick response to show that you are interested, have an opinion, or simply are paying attention. Using rejoinders, along with follow up questions and comments, is essential for having smooth conversations. Try talking to someone without them and you will see what I mean! Below is an example of a conversation using rejoinders, and then a list of commonly used English rejoinders that you can start using.
A: (asks a question)
What kind of boss would you never like to work for?
B: (thinks and answers)
Ummm, that’s a good question. Let me see….. I guess I wouldn’t like to work for anyone who is too strict. I don’t want to feel like I’m still in school.
A: (gives a REJOINDER + a comment and a follow-up question)
I see. I guess I feel the same. What kind of boss is good then?
B: (answers, and possibly questions)
I’d like a boss who gives me some responsibility, and who is not so stressed. What about you? What kind of bosses do you like?
That’s too bad.
I’m sorry to hear that.
I can’t believe it!
You’re pulling my leg!
Get out of town!
You can’t be serious!
You’re not serious!
What ___ ? Where ___ ? Why ___ ? When ___ ? Who ___ ? How ___ ?
Like what ___ ? Like where ___ ? Like who ___ ? What kind of ___ ?
How big/ far/ late/ long…? (How + adjective)
Keep in mind that timing and frequency of rejoinder use varies from culture to culture (language to language). In Japanese, for example, rejoinders are used more often and repetitively, often overlapping the end of your speaking partner’s comment. This might seem rude to speakers of other languages. Also, Japanese speakers: note that saying “yes” (はい) in Japanese does not mean that you agree, whereas in English it does! If English speakers do not use a lot of rejoinders on the telephone, then, this does not mean that they are not listening; it means that they probably use fewer rejoinders than you might be used to.
Want more rejoinders? Check out this ultimate (but not perfect) list!