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Learn How to Start and Close a Conversation in English

Learn How to Start and Close a Conversation in English

Small talk is the polite kind of chat that strangers, colleagues and friends use in native English conversations to greet each other, get conversations started, and to get to know more about each other.

Are you shy and want to confidently start and close a conversation? Or perhaps you're trying to overcome being an introvert and would like ideas for how to get speaking practice.


How to start and close a conversation?


To start and close a conversation, you need to know the combination of phrases that you will use most often with a person.

1. Useful English greetings

In the office, you use slightly more formal English, such as these common expressions.

  • Hello
  • It's a pleasure to meet you
  • Good morning/afternoon/evening
  • Hi, John. How are you doing?
  • How's your day going?
  • We're sure having a busy/slow day today.
  • Have you heard the news about ________?
  • Have you got any plans for the weekend?
  • How was your weekend?

With friends, you can use informal English expressions like these.

  • Hi
  • Hello
  • Hey
  • Yo!
  • What's up? – this is an informal way to say: how are you?
  • How's it going?
  • What's going on?
  • What's up?
  • What's poppin'?
  • What's crackin'?

2. Common questions in English

Generally when people start a conversation in English with someone they know it’s polite to inquire about how the other person is.

  • How's it going?
  • Hi, how are you?
  • How's your day going?
  • Having a busy day?
  • How's life?
  • How's everything?
  • How do you two know each other?
  • So, what do you do for a living? (= what is your job?)
  • What are you studying?
  • How long have you been (a journalist / doing yoga / interested in music)?
  • How did you get into it?

And there are some basic questions that you can ask anyone, anywhere.

  • What's your name?
  • Where do you live?
  • Where are you from?
  • What do you do?
  • I don't think we've met.
  • Are you from .... ?
  • So, how do you know .... ?
  • Have you tried the chocolate cake? It's delicious!

3. How well you know the person

Someone you’ve just been introduced to.

  • Nice to meet you!
  • Pleased to meet you!
  • How do you two know each other?
  • So, what do you do for a living? – this means what do you do for a job?
  • How long have you been doing that?

Someone you haven't seen for a long time.
  • How are you keeping?
  • What have you been doing lately?
  • So, what have you been up to lately?
  • How's your family?
  • Long time no see!
  • Hi Paula! How have you been?
  • Long time no see!
  • Are you still working at that Company?"
  • We haven't spoken in ages!
  • Where have you been?

4. Inviting your conversation partner to talk longer

Here are some questions you can ask to see if it's possible to maintain a longer talk:

  • I'm not keeping you from something, am I?
  • Sorry for taking up so much of your time. Do you need to take off?
  • I just realized you're probably in the middle of something. Do you have time to chat?
  • Let me know if you need to get going. I don't want to take up all your time.
  • I'm not sure. What do you think?

5. How to offer, refuse

Here are some questions you can ask to get the other person's view on a situation or topic:

  • Would you like a Coke?
    • Yes, I'd love to.
    • Yes, please.
    • No, thank you.
  • I don't know. What do you think?
  • Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
  • Has that been your experience too?
  • Has that ever happened to you?
  • Why do you think that is (the case)?
  • Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

6. Phrases to deepen your understanding

Here are some sentences and phrases that may be useful to deepen your understanding:

  • I didn't quite get that.
  • Can you repeat that, please?
  • I didn't understand you.
  • Besides ...
  • It doesn't matter.
  • Don't mention it.
  • Actually, that happened to me once. It was really [annoying]."
  • I totally agree. The same thing happened to me too.
  • That's pretty common. I heard that a lot of people had the same experience.
  • Thanks for the suggestion!
  • I appreciate you telling me about that!
  • I'm sure that ...
  • I must apologize for being so late.
  • Obviously I don't need to say that ...
  • Sorry to interrupt you, ... I actually wanted to say that ...
  • Well, ... I don't think so.
  • There's nothing more to say.

7. How to ask, argue

If you're looking for interesting questions to ask outside the norm, these are a good place to start. After all, sometimes a random question helps build interest in the conversation.

  • Are you saying that ...?
  • Can you explain that?
  • Are you from this area?
  • So, what do you do for a living?
  • What brings you here today?
  • Do you come here a lot?
  • Has that been your experience too?
  • Has that ever happened to you?"
  • Why do you think that is (the case)?
  • What's your favorite number and why?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Are you a dog or cat person?
  • If you were the star of a TV show, what would be your theme song?
  • Who is your favorite actor or actress?
  • Where's the most beautiful place you've ever been?
  • 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?
  • Where do you live?

8. Closing the conversation

Part of being a good conversationalist is knowing when to stop talking.
  • Well, if you ever want to chat again, I'm usually here [every Monday afternoon].
  • Let me give you my email address. If you're ever in the area again it'd be great to meet up.
  • Feel free to call me if you want to hang out. Here, I'll give you my number.
  • Hey, I better get going. I have a long day tomorrow.
  • Feel free to get in touch with me if you're ever in town again!
  • If you want to chat again, I'm usually here on Fridays.
  • See you around!

And remember to make them feel appreciated too!
  • I really enjoyed our chat. Thanks so much.
  • It was really nice meeting you.
  • I had a great time talking with you. Hope to see you again soon.
  • I've really enjoyed our chat. Thanks!
  • It was great meeting you!



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