Every non-native speaker needs English conversation practice, but oftentimes the hardest part of it is getting started.
In this guide, we will cover some common greetings, questions, and phrases in English dialogue. Plus, we’ve got a few tips to help you practice on your own!
How to Start a Conversation in English
Whether you’re speaking with someone face-to-face, through Skype, or over the phone, greetings are an essential part of getting your English conversation started.
You will only need to learn a few common greetings, but the words you use will vary based on the situation. For example, in a job interview, you should use a formal greeting, but when you meet a friend for coffee, you’ll likely say something informal.
Here are a few examples of both:
- Good morning
- Good afternoon
- Good evening
- It’s nice to meet you
- It’s a pleasure to meet you
- What’s up
- Nice to meet you
- Pleased to meet you
- It’s a pleasure
Going Beyond Hello…
All of the words and phrases above are simply variations of “hello.” But what comes next? This is when an English conversation moves to polite questions or introductions, depending on the situation. Let’s look at a few polite ways to move forward:
- My name is ______. (introducing yourself)
- This is ______. (introducing someone else)
- How are you?
- How are you doing?
- How have you been?
- How’s your day going so far?
- How’s it going?
- How are things?
Note that the person speaking with you will probably ask you one or more of those questions. This means that you should also know how to answer them. Here are a few possible answers:
- I’m great or I’m fine
- I’m doing well
- I’ve been doing very well
- My day has been pretty good so far
- Not too bad
- Things are really good
You can also add “thanks for asking” at the end of any of these phrases to make them a little friendlier!
How to Make Small Talk in English
“Small talk” is just a polite exchange used to pass the time, share non-essential information, or learn more about the other person. It’s also a great form of English conversation practice.
This kind of communication can span a wide range of topics, from weather to sleep habits. Small talk often begins naturally with questions like, “How are you?” From there, it can expand to cover greater detail and more topics.
So, how can you make small talk in an English conversation? While there is no template, you can use various questions (and responses) to keep it going. Let’s take a look at a few “small talk” English dialogues in this video and the examples below.
Conversation One: Books
Person 1: Have you read any good books lately?
Person 2: Not really. How about you?
Person 1: Yes, I just finished a really good mystery novel.
Person 2: What was it about?
Person 1: It was about a spy who needs to track down another spy to prevent an international catastrophe.
Person 2: That sounds interesting!
Person 1: It was! Do you like mystery novels? …
Conversation Two: Movies
Person 1: What kinds of movies do you like?
Person 2: I love horror movies!
Person 1: Oh, I love horror movies, too! But I can’t watch them alone.
Person 2: Me neither!
Person 1: What other kinds of movies do you like? …
Conversation Three: Weather
Person 1: Could we ask for better weather today?
Person 2: I know, right? It’s gorgeous outside!
Person 1: It really is. I think I might go for a run today.
Person 2: It’s a great day for it.
Person 1: Do you know of any good places to go for a run nearby? …
Conversation Four: Work
Person 1: I have a long day of work tomorrow.
Person 2: What do you do for a living?
Person 1: I’m an accountant. It can be a little stressful, but I enjoy the work on most days.
Person 2: My uncle owns an accounting firm.
Person 1: Really? What’s the name of the firm? …
Conversation Five: Hobbies
Person 1: What do you like to do for fun?
Person 2: I enjoy a lot of things, but painting is my main passion.
Person 1: That’s really cool! What do you paint?
Person 2: I mostly paint landscapes.
Person 1: That’s amazing. Do you have any pictures of your work? …
How to Practice Conversations in English
Now that you know how to get an English conversation started and keep it going, it’s time to practice! If you know someone who speaks English, that’s great! You can talk to them and improve your speaking skills. If they’re willing to practice speaking with you on a daily basis, even better!
However, not everyone is so lucky. If you find yourself without a speaking partner, don’t stress. There are still a number of great ways to find English speaking practice lessons online:
English Language Partner/Exchange Programs
English Conversation Videos
- English Class 101
- Helena Daily English
- Daily English Conversation
- English Conversation Practice
- English Dialogues for ESL Students
Additionally, here are 10 great apps for English speaking practice!
English Conversation Practice with Magoosh
So you’re comfortable with greetings, but what should you call the other person? Is it ok to use their name? Learn what’s appropriate when addressing people directly in most English-speaking cultures.
This is exactly the type of practical tips you could get via SpeakUp. We’ve created lesson materials that bridge the gap between textbook and real life, and more importantly, countless live practice opportunities where you will get real-time feedback for word choice from a native English teacher. Join your first live session today with SpeakUp – free!