Grammar Exercise H [B2]


You often need adjust your language so that listeners understand.

With patients and their relatives, this builds the provider-patient relationship, aids compliance with treatment, and increases the chance of a better care outcome.

With colleagues, you may also need to rephrase so your meaning is clear, or you may ask others to rephrase so that you understand them.

It is an advantage, therefore, to have a wide vocabulary since with rephrasing, your meaning remains the same.

Always think about the person you are speaking to:

  • a colleague or a layman?
  • very young or older?
  • educational level?

You do not use simplistic language with a colleague – it does not give the right professional tone.

Another advantage of a wide vocabulary is that, when reading, you can figure out what new language might mean, based on context, and put the information in your own words.


  • Original technical text:   “There is mounting evidence that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people can spread COVID-19 and that the recommended distance of two metres may underestimate the distance over which a cloud of respiratory excretions can travel. Hence, the authorities have now recommended the general public to wear a home-made cloth mask especially in populous areas.


  • Rephrased simpler text:   “There is increasing evidence that people with no symptoms can spread COVID-19 and that the recommended distance of two metres may not be far enough to avoid respiratory droplets. So, the authorities have now recommended the general public to wear a home-made cloth mask especially in areas with many people.”

You do not use very technical terms with a layman—they likely will not understand.


  • Doctor: Right, Mrs. Webber, we’re here to finally address your pulmonary infection.
  • Mrs. Webber: What do you mean?
  • Doctor: We’re going to treat you and get your lungs better.
  • Mrs. Webber: Oh, I see. I certainly hope so.

Be careful, however, of speaking too simply to patients or relatives. If your language is simplistic or overly simple, it might seem that you are condescending or talking down to them, which might be offensive.


Sometimes (but not always) a speaker signals that they are restating things


  • Doctor to colleagues: “The patient reported getting winded with little or no activity, in other words, dyspnoea at rest.”


  • Doctor to patient: “You have an immune hypersensitivity, that is to say, an extreme allergic reaction.”


  • Nurse to patient: “Your forced expiratory volume is down. What that means is the amount of air you can blow out is down.”


  • Therapist to patient: “Smokers have a higher lung residual. That means there’s more air trapped in their lungs after they breath out.”


  • Dietitian to patient: “It’s important to get your HDL cholesterol down, or your bad cholesterol, as they call it.

See also

Module 5 Grammar Lesson D – Layman vs. Medical language and Module 3 Appendix 3.2 – Common language patients use


Even after rephrasing and restating, it does not mean that the listener always understands. This is important

  • when speaking with patients or relatives, so they understand care, cautions and complications, and what the can and should not do.
  • when talking to colleagues, so they understand what has happened with the patient up until now and what care should continue or change in the future.

Way to confirm understandin

1. “I understand.” – the person may say this clearly when asked, “Do you understand”?

2. Non-verbal cues – this means they show they understand without actually speaking. The may nod their head or say, “Mm”, in a positive way. OR their body language might show that they are comfortable and clear about what they hear.

3. “Teach back” – Asking the person/ patient to tell what they have learnt, restating or rephrasing in their own way, confirms they really do understand, and gives the chance to correct things they have got wrong, or add any information that may have been omitted.


  • Healthcare professional to patient: “Tell me what you understand about using the two different inhalers.”

4. “Do you have any questions?”



Practice repeating ALOUD each example sentence in the above section on “Signposting”. Focus especially on the common collocations when rephrasing, RUNNING THEM TOGETHER until they flow as ONE EXPRESSION.  The collocations are underlined.


Rephrasing and Restating

Instructions: Choose the statement that means the same thing.

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