It can be difficult to strike up a conversation and we all want to avoid awkward silence. Personal meetings and business meetings in English are more successful when we have a conversation strategy. Here are some fun ways and tips to use English in conversation, even if you don't know everyone in the room, don't know English grammar, don't know English vocabulary, and are still learning English:
One of the most nerve-wracking situations is when you don't know a person and you're not sure if you should speak and what you should say. When we are afraid to talk with strangers in English it's usually because we are afraid that people will think we aren't intelligent. I feel this way when I speak foreign languages too. It's completely natural. But when the conversation has already begun, I feel more comfortable joining it.
Icebreakers are phrases that are designed to help kick off conversations. So, if you're wondering what to say when you meet new people, a good icebreaker might be the answer. Let's practice some questions, phrases, and expressions that you can use to confidently start conversations with any person you meet.
Simple general conversation starters
It's usually a good idea to start a conversation with the basics:
What's your name?
Where are you from?
Or you could initiate a conversation by introducing yourself:
Hi! I'm Kris Amerikos. What's your name?
I'm Kris from the United States. Where are you from?
Or you could open up a conversation by talking about something that is happening at the time or in the place where the meeting is taking place:
The music is too loud in here. Hi! I'm Kris. What's your name?
Or you could generate a conversation by trying to find something in common:
Or you could kick off a conversation by giving a compliment:
That's a great jacket. Where did you get it? I'm Kris, by the way.
Your English is great! Hi! I'm Kris. What's your name?
Or you could begin a conversation by asking a question, such as:
What do you do for a living?
Where are you from originally?
English speaking starting words
Informal greetings for starting conversations
How's it going?
What's going on?
How are you doing?
How are things?
How to talk to people you don't know in English
Impersonal questions are the best way to initiate a conversation with someone you don't know. We can connect our question to events that are happening around us, for example:
Do you mind if I sit here?
I really like your shoes. Where did you get them?
Excuse me, do you know what time it is?
Could you tell me when this shop closes
The conversation has begun and now you want to establish a topic. This requires you to add details about the topic and speak about different parts or aspects of the topic.
Did you enjoy it?
The reason I ask is because I've been thinking about watching that film.
Is that restaurant near here?
I've been looking for a good Thai restaurant around here.
Thanks for the suggestion!
I appreciate you telling me about that!
If you want to have a long conversation, then you'll probably want to get to know the person you're speaking with better. To keep the conversation going you'll want to ask some general questions and try to find topics of common interest.
Do you come to these places a lot?
What made you come here today?
What line of work are you in?
So, are you from around here?
Switching Conversation Topics
When you've found a conversation topic that you're both comfortable speaking about you should take the conversation deeper by switching topics.
What a coincidence! I have a brother too!
I love dogs! How many dogs do you have?
No way! I used to live in Boston too!
Another way to engage someone in a deep conversation is by asking for someone's opinion about a topic. Everyone's got an opinion and most people like sharing theirs with others.
Have you had any luck with this website?
Do you think it's OK that I'm getting a call from an unlisted number?
I'm not sure. What do you think?
Taking the conversation in a different direction
When the initial buzz of an interesting interlocutor has worn off you'll probably want to mention something that is tangentially connected to the topic you've been discussing.
Speaking of great films, have you ever seen ...?
That's right! And do you know what else happened ...?
Oh! That reminds me ...
Asking for permission to continue the conversation
When you've been speaking with someone for a while it's a polite gesture to check and make sure that they want to continue. It's a good idea to get confirmation from them to be sure that they aren't just being polite.
Let me know if you need to go. I don't want to keep you from anything.
I haven't caught you at a bad time, have I?
You're probably in the middle of something right now. Do you have time to chat?
Wrapping up the conversation
One of the most important parts of having a good conversation with someone is knowing when to shut up and stop talking. The best way to transition out of a conversation is by talking about future plans.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you're ever in town again!
I've really enjoyed our chat. Thanks!
If you want to chat again, I'm usually here on Fridays.
It was great meeting you!
See you around!
Imperatives and sentences that start conversations
Imperatives are commands. They are the form of the verb that we use when we give orders or instructions. In many situations imperatives can sound direct, forceful, or rude, so we should be careful when using them.
Talk about something.
Tell me something interesting.
Tell me your story.
Tell me about yourself.
What to say in English conversations with co-workers and colleagues
Hi, Mike! How's it going?
How's your doing going?
I'm having a really slow day today. What about you?
How to start a conversation with someone you haven't seen for a while
Hey, Mike! How have you been?
What have you been up to lately?
We haven't spoken in ages!
Are you still working at Dunkin Donuts?
Long time no see!
Where have you been?
How to start a conversation in different situations
Be honest. Don't say things just to agree with other people or because you think they would like to hear it.
Imagine your own reaction if someone asked you the same question. If you don't know how you would answer it yourself, then you probably shouldn't ask it to someone else.
Avoid yes/no questions. Instead of asking, "Do you like pizza?", ask "What kind of food do you like?"
Be friendly! People like meeting friendly people (even if they themselves are not very friendly). Being friendly helps everyone relax and feel comfortable.
Which devices do you use every day without exception?
What was the best invention to come about in the last decade?
Does technology improve our lives or complicate them?
Will technology become more intelligent than humans?
Which new technology are you most excited about right now?
At a cafe
I really need a coffee. How was your day?
Do you know if the buffalo sandwich is good here?
What's your favorite thing to order here?
I'm not sure what to order to drink. What would you recommend?
Enjoy your pasta! Have a good meal!
Do you prefer traveling alone or in a group?
Do you usually use a tour agent or book things yourself?
What's the longest flight you've ever been on?
Where do you plan to travel to next?
Is there a place you recommend visiting?
What's your favorite aspect of traveling?
At a concert
There are a lot of people here! Have you ever been here before?
What's your favorite song by this group?
How often do you go to live shows?
Do you play music or just listen? Do you sing?
Phone calls and about phones
How often do you check your phone?
What do you think phones will be like 10 years from now?
How often do you buy a new phone?
How do you feel when you are away from your phone for a long time?
What do you wish your phone could do that it doesn't do now?
What's your favorite song?
Who is your favorite singer?
Do you like classical music?
How do you find new songs and new music?
Is there a song you always listen to when you are sad?
What's your favorite genre of music?
At the airport
Where are you flying today?
Can you recommend any good restaurants in this airport?
Are you flying home or somewhere else?
Are you traveling for business or pleasure?
Is there anywhere to charge a phone nearby?
Do you know what time we board the plane?
What's the most embarrassing piece of clothing you own?
How do you think clothes change the way people perceive us?
Do you think it's important to dress up when you go out in public?
What's the most expensive piece of clothing you've ever bought?
At a bar in English
I love this song. What about you?
Do you like eating at buffets?
What food do you hate?
What's your favorite dish?
What food are you trying to cut down on?
What would the last meal of your life be and who would you share it with?
Do you enjoy going grocery shopping?
Do you think the government regulates food enough?
Is it better to go to a private school or a public school to learn something?
Are standardized tests accurate?
Is offline education more effective than online education?
Is teaching a skill that can be taught or a natural ability?
What do you think about homeschooling?
How has your education changed your life?
Do you think your country has a good education system?
At a birthday party
How do you know the birthday boy?
When is your birthday?
Did you try the birthday cake? It's so rich.
About goals in English
Do you have a list of goals that you are working on now?
What do you want to accomplish in the next two years?
How have your goals changed in the last year?
What do you hope to have achieved by the time you retire?
Do you usually achieve the goals you set?
What are some goals that you've already achieved?
At a work conference
We haven't been introduced. I'm Kris.
What did you think of the second speaker?
I really enjoyed that workshop. What about you?
What's the biggest holiday you celebrate?
Do you wish there were more or fewer holidays?
If you could get rid of one holiday, which would you get rid of?
What types of food are traditionally served during big holidays?
If you could create a new holiday, what would it be in honor of?
At an art exhibit or museum
This painting is thought-provoking. What do you think it means?
What was the last book you read?
Do you prefer physical books or ebooks?
What's the longest book you've ever read?
What's your favorite book?
Which genres of books do you enjoy reading?
Do you go to the library?
Which books have influenced you the most?
With someone you've just met
Nice to meet you!
How do you know the host of the event?
What are you studying?
Where do you work?
How long have you been in that business?
I don't know much about that. Is it an interesting line of work?
What's your favorite season?
What do you like doing in the spring?
Do you prefer summer or winter sports and activities?
Do you usually take vacations during a certain period of the year?
What's the most refreshing thing for you on a hot summer day?
Is it better to live where there are four seasons or where one season takes up most of the year?
More questions to start a conversation
Are you working on anything interesting?
What are your plans this weekend?
Have you done anything unusual recently?
How did you get started in your career?
What's the strangest place you've visited?
What has been the best part of your day so far?
What's the funniest video you've seen recently?
Are you a dog person or a cat person?
What's your favorite place in the world?
What's your dream job?
What's the most beautiful place you've ever been?
If your mind were an island, what would it look like?
If you could create a new flavor of ice cream, which would you create?
If you were a king or queen, what would your throne look like?
What would you do if you were invisible?
If you could time travel, which time period would you visit?
What is your guilty pleasure?
How is success measured?
What is something that really annoys you, but doesn't bother most other people?