Conversation is very often spontaneous, natural and informal. But even at its most casual it is governed by rules and principles of language and behaviour. This book lays bare the structure of conversation, describing what happens when people talk to each other and explaining why they say what they say in a wide variety of circumstances. Ronald Wardhaugh explores many aspects of conversation, asking how conversations start, how we decide who will speak next, how we change the subject, and how we know when a conversation has finished. How Conversation Works is the most accessible guide to discourse analysis and pragmatics yet written and will be read with profit and enjoyment by students and general readers alike.