What did you just say to me? Image by African American

What did you just say to me? Image by African American

Register reaction

Usually any form of utterance elicits some form of response from the listener or intended recipient. In register a reaction is a response to someone’s statement, behavior or situation. You may tell someone something that they will consider an insult for example, in which case you are likely to get an angry response (reaction). For example how will most people respond if you were to call them idiots. More often than not you will get the response pictured above: a “what did you just call me?” face and probably some angry words in return from the offended person as well.

Depending on what they are reacting to there are any number of ways that a person can react. An invitation to a party might excite someone, the sudden and unexpected death of a close friend or relative is likely to be met with shock, your mother discovering that you did not do your assigned chores might be met with disappointment, being constantly bothered might annoy you, a thief caught in the act of stealing might panic, when a person stealthily approaches you and taps your shoulder you might be startled and so on.

A reaction can take many forms: it could be in words, it could be in the form of gestures, facial expressions (for example a smile,frown or flustered look) or it could be in the form of body language for example a wary posture. It may also be in the form of action for example when you make the motion that somehow signifies that you are about to slap another person they normally respond by putting their hands up to block the expected blow if they are given enough time to act.

As always the key thing is to be able to come up with a plausible, appropriate response that is normally expected given the set conditions in the question. Students may well give different answers when presented with the same question and scenario but the answers have to be plausible and reasonable when considering the circumstances.

Consider the following examples on reaction questions.


1. Your sister is learning to bake a cake but what she has produced is not good. You say:

i) “Why don’t you join the building industry? They need bricks like this.”

ii) “This is not so bad for a first attempt. Next time try measuring out the ingredients more carefully.”

What will be your sister’s reaction to each of these statements? Number your answers separately i) and ii).


i) She will be hurt/offended/insulted/pained and disappointed. (She will is unlikely to be discouraged as your comment simply insulted her efforts.)

ii) She will be encouraged. or She will feel her efforts were appreciated.

2. You walk into a shop five minutes before it is due to close for lunch. The owner of the shop overhears the assistant saying to your:

i) “Good afternoon. Can I help you?”

ii) ” It’s almost lunch time. Come back at 2.”

How is the owner of the shop likely to react to each of these remarks? Number your answers separately i) and ii).

i) He/She is likely to compliment you on your dedication.

ii) He/She is likely to reprimand you.

You should know that there a lot of ways in which the shop owner will react the key is to come up with an appropriate response.

As with all English topics you will have to practice until you become proficient.

Go back to English Notes Home. You can also click here to view a extensive list of common reactions.