50 English Phrases for Daily Conversation – Practise Small Talk!

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Learn English phrases for daily conversation & practise how to small talk!

This English lesson is jam-packed with useful phrases and expressions to help you feel confident in daily conversation & master great small talk in English!

This lesson is PART 1 & it includes phrases to:

  • START your conversation!
  • Conversations at work
  • Conversations about the weather
  • Conversations about free time & hobbies

Watch Part 2 here!

‍♀️ Practice small talk conversation with me! Try this speaking lesson where we’ll have an everyday small talk conversation at work!


Video Transcript
Section 1
Hello! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish. This video is perfect for intermediate to advanced English learners who want to improve their conversation skills. I’m going to share the exact phrases and expressions that are used during small talk and if you’re wondering what is small talk again?

It’s polite conversation about unimportant, everyday topics but it really helps you to connect with other people and to get them to trust you and to like you.

Knowing how to do small talk is essential in social situations but it’s also incredibly important in professional situations as well, when you’re getting to know your colleagues when you are building rapport with your customers and your clients, when you’re meeting new people at networking events or at conferences. It’s so useful!

So I’m going to share the exact questions and phrases that you need to keep your small talk and your English conversations going.

Small talk is such a big part of the English language and of English culture generally. We really like to ease into conversations with a little bit of small talk first rather than dive straight into something deeper and meaningful.

I know that for some of you, native speakers and non-native speakers alike, this situation, small talk can create a little bit of anxiety.

What am I gonna say? What am I gonna talk about? How am I gonna finish the conversation and leave?

It’s nerve-wracking but don’t worry, we’re going to get lots of practice today.

I just want to take a few seconds here to give a little shout-out to the members of Hey Lady! who are watching today!

Hey ladies! It’s great to see you here!

If you haven’t heard yet, Hey Lady! is our online community helping women to succeed in English. We make it easy and safe to meet new speaking partners and give you interesting topics to talk about together. We have an amazing team of expert English coaches who’ll encourage and support you at every step.

It’s the perfect place to practise because you can make mistakes without feeling judged and make real progress even if you don’t have a lot of time to spare.

As long as your English level is intermediate or above, then your English is good enough to join the community.

And if you sign up today you can experience everything we offer free for 10 days. I’ve put the link down in the description below. Make sure you check it out and I hope to see you inside.

The first thing we need to do is start the conversation. We need to create the opportunity for small talk. And did you know that there are some better ways to ask: How are you?

And this is going to blow your mind.

Good and fine are not the only ways to respond to that question.

So when someone asks you: How are you?

You can try responding with:

  • I’ve been keeping busy.

It’s a really good, really neutral answer. It indicates that you’ve had a lot of things going on in life but you don’t need to go into all the detail about it. It’s just kind of like I’ve been busy.

But you could also say:

  • Not bad, thanks.

And of course, then we need to pass the conversation back but instead of just asking: How are you?
Try:

  • How’s it going with you?

This is very informal, very relaxed and casual. Or:

  • What have you been up to lately?

So this question is asking for a little bit more detail so it’s a bit more genuine. You can ask it if you really want to find out what have you been doing lately? What’s been going on?

And if someone asks you this question all you need to do is listen for the grammar that they used and reflect it back in your answer. So you would respond using the present perfect or the present perfect continuous.

  • I’ve been busy training the new marketing manager.

Or if you want to avoid this question altogether and just move the conversation onto something else, you can say:

  • Nothing special, how about you?

You might want to ask something a little more specific, especially if you’re talking to someone that you know. You can ask them something about their life using how is. So you can say:

  • How is work going?
  • How’s your family?
  • How’s uni? How’s university?

And this is really great because you’re showing an interest in them. You could ask them about something you know that they’ve done recently by asking with: How was…?

  • How was your trip to Portugal?
  • How was the exam?

All you have to do is switch out the noun at the end to complete the question. Really easy, right?

So another really common setting for small talk is in the office. So what are some of these advanced useful phrases for making conversation in English at work?

A really great strategy for small talk generally but especially at work is to look for common ground. When you find something in common with the person that you’re talking to, you’ll see that making conversation becomes easier because you have this shared interest. It’s something that you both want to talk about.

The tricky part is finding that common ground in the first place. So first, try talking about work with your colleagues.

  • I can’t believe how busy we are today! Can you?

And their response could be:

  • I know! We’re really under the pump.

That is an Australian phrase that describes when you’re feeling a lot of pressure and it’s quite a difficult situation like when you’re at work, being busy at work. You’re under the pump.

You could also say:

  • I know. I’ve been flat out all week!

But if the opposite is true and it’s actually been quite quiet you could say:

  • Yeah, it’s been dead, hasn’t it?

So dead in this expression means quiet, not busy there’s nothing to do.

And of course, at work you can always start somewhere simple and just say:

  • How’s your day been?
  • How’s your week been?

And to respond you’d say:

  • It’s been long.
  • It’s been busy.
  • It’s been hectic.
  • It’s flown by.

…which means it’s gone quickly. Or simply say:

  • My week’s been great so far. Thanks!

Now when you’re answering a question like this don’t forget to follow up with: How about you?

This is going to keep the conversation going and you can just tack that question onto the end of almost any sentence just to keep that back and forth happening for a little longer, keep things going. Pass the conversation back.

If you work at a bigger company you might find yourself in the staff room at lunchtime heating up your lunch in the microwave and there’s a colleague there that you don’t know, you’ve never met them before. What could you ask?

  • How long have you worked here? I don’t think I’ve seen you around.

If you find out they’re new you can follow up with:

  • What did you do before this?

Or if they’ve been at the company for a while you could say:

  • What are you working on at the moment?

Probably the most iconic small talk topic is the weather. People love talking about the weather, whether it’s bad, whether it’s good. It’s an easy and surefire way to start a conversation, to get it going. You could start just by saying:

  • It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?
  • Can you believe all the rain we’ve been having? It’s awful.

You can talk about current or future weather as well.

  • It looks like it’s gonna snow.
  • The weather’s not looking great this weekend. Do you have any plans?

This is a great way to transition your conversation from the weather to the weekend.

If you’re talking with someone in a Zoom meeting or over the phone you could say:

  • How’s the weather where you are?

Or you could even add a little comment like:

  • Is it cold? I’ve heard it’s been really chilly.

And if there’s been some unusual weather like a heatwave or a cold snap or some wild storms, that’s even better!

You could say something like:

  • How’s this weather?
  • It’s been wild. I’ve never seen anything like it before!

Asking about free time and hobbies is another really great strategy. So you could start by asking about the weekend.

  • Have you got much planned for the weekend?

So here when I say the weekend I’m asking about the weekend coming up, the closest one in the future, the next weekend.

But you can ask about the one that’s just finished by saying:

  • What did you get up to over the weekend?

To ask about someone’s interests or their hobbies you could say:

  • So what do you usually do in your spare time?

But you need to make sure that you’re listening and that you follow up to show your interest as well, you know you could say:

  • I don’t know anything about archery. Where do you do that?

Or:

  • Really? Tell me more about it.

Another idea is to ask about a recent experience and to do that of course, we need to use a good old-fashioned question in the present perfect tense.

So start with have you and then add on just about any activity that you can think of.

  • Have you read any good books lately?
  • So have you seen any good movies lately?
  • Have you tried that new restaurant down by the beach?

Awesome work! You have just learned more than thirty great phrases and expressions that are useful in small talk conversations in English.

So what’s the best way to practise and remember them?

Of course, it’s to practise using them in English conversations. If you have a speaking partner or maybe a study group like lots of members inside the Hey Lady! community do, it is the perfect way to practise small talk conversations. It’s casual, informal chit-chat.

So make sure you grab the pdf that I created for you, it includes all of the phrases and the expressions that you learned today. And start by marking off all the ones that you already know. Sweet! You’ve got those, right?

But then go back through and pick out a few that are useful and relevant for you and by that I mean ones that you can see yourself using in a particular situation in your life.

So focus on those ones, don’t try and learn all of them at once. Choose five to eight – that’s perfect.

But if you don’t have a speaking partner or maybe you don’t feel so comfortable speaking in English and having small talk conversations yet, you can still practise by writing your dialogues, writing down the conversation between you and someone else. That is also practice.

You can practise thinking about the phrases you’re going to use and then rehearse it out loud speaking to yourself in the mirror or wherever else you want to practise and then take every opportunity after that to start stepping out of your comfort zone and practising in actual conversations wherever you are in life, in an online class, in your local corner shop, maybe with your colleagues at work, in the elevator at your apartment, wherever you get to bump into someone practise these little useful phrases and I promise you with time it will become easier and you’ll start to really enjoy it.

Thank you for joining me today! If you liked this lesson, make sure you give it a like. I’ve got new English lessons coming out for you every week so make sure you subscribe and I will see you in the next one.

Let’s go check it out!

Links mentioned in the video

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