Ms. Merin Joy, Speech and Language Pathologist (ROH)

: 19/08/2021


A child’s ability to use language in different social contexts is called pragmatics. Children should know what, where, when and how to use language. Eye contact and smiling at familiar faces are also components of pragmatics which develops at an early stage of development. Children acquire certain pragmatic skills and rules of conversation by observing others' interactions.


  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Greeting
  • Waiting for his/her turn
  • Giving others a chance
  • Making a request
  • Being apologetic
  • Maintaining and terminating topics during conversation
  • Understanding the feelings and emotions of others
  • Showing empathy
  • Awareness of personal space
  • Following rules and routines
  • Offering help
  • Accepting criticism


Check your child’s pragmatic skills based on their age. If you notice that your child is having difficulties in any of the pragmatic skills appropriate for his or her age group, you can contact a professional for further help.

By 3 months

  • Doesn't smile or coo in response
  • Doesn't attend to others’ eyes and mouth during interaction

By 6 months

  • Doesn’t laugh while socializing
  • Doesn't maintain eye contact appropriately
  • Doesn’t take turns in vocalizing (vocal play, speech sounds)
  • Doesn’t copy facial expressions

By 9 months

  • Doesn’t call to get attention
  • Isn't demonstrating attachment
  • Doesn’t reach or point to request something

By 1 year

  • Doesn't try to direct others
  • Doesn't participate in verbal routines
  • Doesn’t engage in the natural desire to repeat something that someone else finds funny
  • Doesn’t try to restart play

By 2 years

  • Doesn't imitate routines or other children
  • Doesn't control behavior of self and others
  • Doesn’t initiate pretend play, comment/provide information, acknowledge/answer
  • Doesn't use 3 word utterances to express his/her intentions, such as protesting/rejecting, greeting/calling names, responding to others, labeling/noticing, requesting objects/actions, expressing feelings, etc.
  • Doesn’t practice or imitate familiar routines and household activities. (e.g., reading, going to a restaurant, cleaning vessels, etc.

By 3 years

  • Doesn’t use the word “please”
  • Doesn’t take turns in a conversation
  • Doesn’t verbally introduce and change topics

By 4 years

  • Doesn’t take 4 to 5 conversational turns
  • Doesn’t use fillers (meaningless words like um, uh, ah, like, okay, right, and you know) to acknowledge
  • Doesn’t request permission
  • Doesn’t use language for teasing/jokes/fantasies
  • Doesn’t request using “yes/no” questions; direct requests decrease and indirect requests increase
  • Doesn’t narrate past events in sequence
  • Doesn’t demonstrate reasoning, predicting, and expressing empathy
  • Doesn’t create imaginary roles and props during play and interaction

By 5 years

  • Difficulty changing the reference (using words like this/that, here/there, go/come, etc.)
  • Doesn’t know how to end conversations appropriately
  • Doesn't change topics appropriately
  • Doesn’t use a position to cue the listener (e.g., John, my friend’s brother…)
  • Difficulty using words like this/that/these/those from the listener’s perspective
  • Often tries to interrupt adult conversation without consideration
  • Isn’t self-monitoring speech for errors
  • Doesn’t negotiate taking turns, role play or ending play time.