Topic Marking

Learning English? Check out my study guides.

An easy way to sound more natural in English is to skip topic marking and use context to make your meaning clear.

Topic marking is explicitly stating the topic of a sentence when it is neither the subject nor the object. For example:

Regarding dessert, I love chocolate cake.

In this sentence regarding dessert is a topic marker. Japanese and Korean have special particles for this function. There is no natural way to say this in spoken English. Regarding is bookish and best used in written English. About is also terse and unnatural in this position. Here are some ways we mark topics in English:

I love chocolate cake.

Context makes the topic of most sentences obvious. You only need to mark it if the sentence is out of context.

In cases where context isn’t enough to mark the topic, use a prepositional phrase in the final position of the sentence rather than the beginning”

I love chocolate cake for dessert.

In more complex sentences, a temporal clause can serve as a topic marker. This can go in either the initial or final position, with before and after being more common in the initial position and because of more common at the end of the sentence.

After looking at the weather, I decided to stay home this weekend.

Sometimes it simply more natural to break the idea into two sentences:

I looked at the forecast</u> and decided to stay home this weekend.

One of the most obviously unnatural phrases that’s common in Ukrainian English is as for me:

Как по мне, лучше отдыхать в горах чем на море.

In almost no cases would as for me be the most idiomatic way to say this in English:

It’s better to relax in the mountains than by the seaside.
I’d rather go to the mountains than the sea.
The mountains are a better place to rest than the sea is.

In each version, the context makes it clear that a personal opinion is being given.

You can make your English much more natural by cutting out phrases that context already makes clear. If you would say насчёт, по поводу or something similar in Russian, you can probably simply skip it altogether in English.