Which expressions do you need for small talk in English? Look at the examples, read the explanations and try the exercises below.
Examples and explanations (please click on the arrow to expand)
A good way to start
You’ve just met someone at a party. Which of the sentences below do you think would be a natural way to start a conversation?
A. The food at this party is out of this world, isn’t it?
B. I think King Lear is Shakespeare’s best play, don’t you?
C. So, you live quite near here, do you?
D. Have you known Jane a long time?
E. What do you think of the government’s immigration
When you meet people at social occasions, you often start by talking about “easy” topics (like A, C and D in the box above — but not B or E). This is called making small talk.
1. Tag questions
A useful way to start a conversation with small talk is to make a comment and then get agreement. You can do this with a tag question (= a sentence with a question tag at the end):
It’s cold here, isn’t it?
The beginning of the sentence can often be left out:
Nice weather, isn’t it? (= It’s nice weather...)
Lovely flowers, aren’t they? (= They’re lovely flowers...)
These are actually comments (not real questions), so the voice goes down at the end:
It’s lovely weather, isn’t it?↘
Tag questions are also a good way to ask a question, especially if you’re not sure of the answer:
You’re a friend of Peter, aren’t you?
This sounds less direct (and more polite) than asking:
“Are you a friend of Peter?”
If this is a real question, the voice goes up at the end:
You’re a friend of Peter, aren’t you?↗
2. I’m just guessing
When you meet people for the first time, you often want to check guesses. To do this, you can use the words so and must: Ah, so you must be Beth’s younger sister.
You can also use must to respond to what other people say:
A: I travel to Africa a lot in my work.
B: Oh, that must be very interesting. (= I can imagine...)
3. Finding things in common
When you meet people for the first time, you usually try to find things in common: things you have both done, things you
agree about, etc. To agree with the other person, you can say Me, too and Me, neither (or Nor me):
A: I don’t like cold tea. B: No. Me neither.
Or you can say So ... I or Neither ... I:
A: I go walking a lot. B: Yes, so do I.
A: I don’t like cold tea. B: No, neither do I.
Here are some other expressions that show you have things in common:
It’s the same with me.
A: When I get home from work, I’m too tired to cook.
B: Yes, it’s the same with me. I usually just have a pizza.
A: I always have tea in bed on Sundays.
B: Same here. (= I do the same.)
I know what you mean.
A: Choosing clothes is so difficult.
B: I know what you mean. I can never decide what to buy.
I couldn’t agree more.
A: I think Brexit was a terrible mistake.
B: I couldn’t agree more. What a disaster!
Now, test your knowledge with the exercises below.
Neugierig auf mehr?
Dann nutzen Sie die Möglichkeit und stellen Sie sich Ihr optimales Abo ganz nach Ihren Wünschen zusammen.