How to: Make ‘small talk’ in social situations



When you have a work -related social function, or even find yourself in an informal online group meeting, how do you engage conversationally with others in English? What topics are suitable? Here are some phrases for different situations:

Talking about your job/interests and other people’s jobs/interests:

• I’ve been working for/with X (state company/colleague’s name) for X years/months/length of time.
• How long have you been working for/with X?
• I enjoy/love doing/playing/going to X when I have time/in my spare time. How about you?
• I’ve been doing/playing X for (+ length of time) (but I’m still not great at it) (and I’m still improving!)
• How often do you do/play/go to X?
• I’m missing doing/playing X at the moment. What do you miss?

Talking about the local weather/your surroundings:

• The weather has been beautiful//awful//very warm//cold here today/this week/recently. How is it there/where you are?
• Have you managed to get out in this good//bad//sunny//rainy weather?
• This part of the city/town/countryside is well-known for X
• What is your city/town/countryside famous for?

Talking about current affairs:

• Did you hear about X on the news? What do you think about it?
• I read/heard about/watched X on the news recently. I think it’s terrible//good news//very interesting//quite worrying//unbelievable!

Related resources

Language Toolbox Series – Writing Informal Emails

Writing good emails in a second language can be a time-consuming process. Even when you are communicating with someone you may know quite well, hitting the correct tone is sometimes a tricky business. With this language toolbox we hope to make the whole process a little less painful and allow you to write informal emails with more confidence.

Language Toolbox Series – Managing Online Meetings

Online meetings are part of our daily professional lives. Participating in meetings in English as your second language can be a challenge. We have created a language toolbox to help you feel more confident using English in your work meetings with some common, natural English key phrases.

How to: use Presentation language – summary, conclusion, thanks and inviting questions

Giving a presentation in English – whether online or in a face-to-face meeting, can be a challenging task. Preparation and practice is the key to a confident and clear presentation. Here is some language you can use in the final part of your presentation to summarise your points, thank your audience and invite questions.