Below are some typical small talk phrases you can use next time you bump into someone you know, where perhaps you haven’t seen each other for a while.
If you feel uncomfortable with small talk, next time try to stay longer in the interaction. Stay one minute longer than you would normally. Do it regularly and you’ll more relaxed in these situations.
Opening the Conversation
Hi, fancy seeing you here – how are you?!
Hi.. it’s great to see you again!
Hi..how are you doing?!
I haven’t seen you for/in ages – how are things?
I haven’t seen you since (Christmas). How are you going?
Phrases like ‘how are you going?’ are often shortened in spoken English to ‘How you going?’ or phonetically you’ll even hear something like ‘how-ya going?!’
‘Fancy meeting you here!’ is used especially in the UK and Australia to show you’re surprised to meet them at this place.
Catching up and gossiping
(The) last time I saw you, you were looking for a new job. How’d that go?
I think it’s been a year now. Did you end up getting that job | promotion? nb we use ‘that’ to refer to things we both already know about, in this case ‘that job’ refers to ‘that job I remember you applied for’
I remember you were planning to head off to Japan. How’d it go?
Did you hear about Susan and Jim? They’re getting a divorce!
You won’t believe this – Kelly’s pregnant!
Last time I heard you were moving to Londonia. What happened?
Asking about their work or studies
Are you still working for (company)?
Are you still with (company)?
How’s it going at (company/university)?
So how are your studies going?
So how’s work going?
Responding to good news
Congratulations! nb congratulations in English is plural. Congratulations + ON + noun phrase
eg Congratulations on | getting the job | the promotion!
Awesome | fantastic | cool! nb ‘awesome’ is being used a lot these days, and some people especially Brits don’t like to hear it too much. Say it more with an American 🙂
Responding to bad or disappointing news
I’m really sorry to hear that.
Well I hope everything will be alright.
Will you manage ok?
I just can’t believe it.
Asking after someone else
How are the kids?
How’s Mike going?
Please say ‘hi’ to him for me.
Please give my regards to (person) for me. [more formal]
Commenting on someone’s new look
Hey I really like your new hairstyle.
I really love those shoes – where’d you get them? [nb a grown man may not want to say this]
You look like you’ve been working out [to a man who might be going to the gym]
You look in great shape!
You look great!
Those glasses really suit you! [my own students can practise this one for our first lesson of the year 😉 ]
Closing the conversation
It’s been great to see you again but I’d better be off..
Sorry, I’ve got to go – I’ve got a meeting at 11am.
Listen, we should do this again sometime [and then swap numbers if you don’t have their details]
Look, let’s catch up again – what about next week? [if you’re confident you both want to catch up]
It was great talking with you, but I’ve got to go. Good luck with the new job!
I’d better let you go This is a polite way to show you are respecting their time, but you want to go too
If you don’t want to see this person again soon, I wouldn’t recommend suggesting a time to meet just to be ‘polite.’ Instead, you can simply say how good it was to see them and wish them a good day or wish them well with something you just talked about.
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For Teachers: Here are some ‘Conversation Starter Prompts’ You Can Use In Your First Lesson
This is designed to get people talking from the moment they walk in the door as well as to practise some common small talk and ‘introducing yourself’ phrases.
I’ve adapted it for this blog so that others can also use it either in an individual class or with a group. Alternatively, if you’re studying English at home, you can still go through these ‘prompts’ by yourself and practise how you would answer them.
- The main aim for me was to generate discussion and build rapport in the first lesson, while also giving students the opportunity to express themselves using some common spoken English phrases.
What to do
- The same phrases are presented in two ways: 1) as a worksheet to speak with one or two others, and 2) as cut-ups. Choose which version is best for you 🙂
- Students complete the sentences, and to generate discussion they should either ask each other for more information or add more to each sentence
- Time – each class will be different. 25 minutes is enough, though a chatty class could easily go on for longer
- You might not need to do all the phrases at once – you can always come back to them later on.
- Level – I did this for Upper Intermediate (B2) students. This could still be good revision for higher levels, and you can definitely go over the pronunciation.
If the link doesn’t work, you can also try here.
If you’re downloading this at home without a teacher, there might be a few words or phrases you don’t know. Here is a short explanation of a few of them:
One thing I dread is waking up early when it’s – 5 C outside.
‘Dread’ is like the opposite of ‘look forward to doing something.’ If you dread something, it makes you feel a little nervous or anxious or worried.
One thing I’d like to take up is salsa.
This means I’d like to start doing a new activity or hobby. For me, I took up zouk last year 😉
My pet hate is when Czech shop assistants speak to me in English.
A ‘pet hate’ (or pet peeve) is something you do not like at all, and which you find annoying. However, while a pet hate is something you dislike, it’s not that serious.
In English the idiom ‘kick the bucket’ means ‘to die.’
Recently lots of bloggers and writers have spoken about their ‘bucket list’ – the top things they would like to do before they die!
eg The top item on my bucket list is to travel to New Zealand.
What I like most about my job is that I get to meet some wonderful people.
‘Get to’ here means ‘have the opportunity to.’
BE INTO SOMETHING
I’m really into U2.
This is a common phrase for saying that you really like something or that you are interested in it or enjoy it:
– What are you into?
– I really like U2/ I’m really into U2.
toey (esp. Aust.) – nervous
tricky – difficult, challenging
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