English Tips And Phrases: For Small Talk

Learning English: Small Talk

A lot of our students have commented that ‘making small talk’ is one of the most difficult aspects of speaking English. They are happy giving a presentation that they have practised beforehand, or taking part in a meeting where they are familiar with the vocabulary for their job, but chatting to people can be nerve-racking and a big challenge. A little preparation and confidence is all you need. As a skilled small talker you will come across as a more open and friendly person, compared to someone who doesn’t say much during social situations. Just don’t overdo it because then people will find you annoying and too chatty.

Here are a few helpful tips

  • Choose your topic carefully and avoid controversial subjects such as religion, politics or money.
  • You can start with a general topic that everyone talks about (could be the standard one about the weather!) and ask questions until you find a common interest.
  • Learn some good ‘ice breaker’ questions to get the conversation started.
  • Observe your surroundings – the people around you, the outfit, food, weather, the place itself – and find a common topic.
  • Listen carefully to your partner and do not be afraid to ask if you do not understand them. Use ‘I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch that’, ‘Could you just say that again for me’, ‘I didn’t quite understand that’ or ‘I’m not sure what you mean’
  • Show your partner that you are listening by saying ‘Oh that’s interesting’ or ‘Really?’
  • Try some ‘conversation keepers’ such as So…; Incidentally…; By the way…; Before I forget…; Speaking of…; etc.
  • Give compliments sincerely
  • Smile and be friendly!


Here are some suitable topics for small talk

1) Sports – almost everyone likes some kind of sport.

2) Hobbies

4) Business and work

5) Weather and climate being experienced

7) Your respective spouses and children

8) Media – such as television shows, movies, or music that both of you may like

9) Holidays that you think the other person may enjoy

10) Your respective home towns

12) Current trends in art or fashion

13) Current affairs

Here are some useful ways of starting your questions

Conversation Openers

How have you been?

How was that meeting this morning?

I went to an interesting movie last night!

Did you have a nice weekend?

How’s your family?

I heard that you were in London recently.

What do you do?


How was your summer?

How was your weekend?

How do you like your company?

What do you think about this city?

Why did you want to be a computer engineer?


What is your job like?

Could you tell me about your country?

How would you describe that film?

If you are learning English for pleasure or for work, you will find these tips useful. Try to practise your English with a friend or on Skype with us. You will soon gain confidence.

Good luck with all your English learning!

Learning English, English Learning, conversation, English, Skype, practise your English