10 Questions to Start a Conversation in English

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This lesson was updated in October 2017. The updated version includes a new video lesson and a free in-depth training.


 

How would you feel if you could start a conversation – in English – with anyone? Without fear. Without stress. Without worrying about making mistakes. It might feel impossible. But the good news is, it’s not.

With just a few practical steps and the right questions, you can be better prepared to start a conversation and have all the words you need to say what you want.

Whether you’re making small talk at a conference, working at an English-speaking company and trying to become friends with your colleagues, or meeting new people where you live, today’s lesson will help you start conversations more easily.

In the video below, I’ve shared 3 simple habits you can start practicing today to have more confident conversations.

And then check out my top ten questions in English that you can use to start a conversation with anyone!

My favorite questions for conversations. Find out why I love them and how you can use them.

Lesson by Annemarie

Start an English Conversation with Anyone Using These 10 Questions

So, what’s your story?

Why I love it:

It is 100% open-ended. This means your conversation partner must give you an answer. A real answer. Not a yes/no answer.

And the answer you get will be a surprise. Your conversation partner gets to decide what to say. No matter what, you’ll learn something interesting. It is another way to say, “Tell me about you.”

How you can use it:

This is an informal question, so it is best used for casual events such as dinner parties, meeting someone new at a bar or cafe, networking events, etc.

What are your plans for this weekend?

Why I love it:

Because it’s easy. Honestly, this is perfect for getting to know someone at work or chatting with your neighbor.

It’s a quick conversation starter and it’s appropriate to ask in every situation. Well, almost every situation. Maybe not best if you’re meeting the president for the for the first time.

How you can use it:

This question is informal and we usually use it with people we know.

Now, maybe you’re at a party and you just met someone 20 minutes ago. Can you still ask it?

Yes! Maybe you’ve been chatting for the past 20 minutes and you’re having a great conversation. Now you know each other, so keep it going with this question.

“Whether you’re making small talk at a conference, working at an English-speaking company and trying to become friends with your colleagues, or meeting new people where you live, today’s lesson will help you start conversations more easily.”

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done recently?

Why I love it:

This is one of my favorites. I use it when I feel stuck or nervous. I use it when I’m meeting someone new and I don’t know what to say.

I like it for two reasons:

  1. I always learn something interesting.
  2. Everyone seems to like this question. Do you like sharing information with people? So does everyone else.

Plus, there are so many variations. You could also ask, “What is the most interesting film you’ve seen recently?” Or, “What is the most interesting book you’ve read recently.” No matter what topic you’re interested in, this question is perfect.

How you can use it:

It’s great for conversation. Use it the next time you talk to someone at a conference, lecture, or networking evening.

Where are you from originally?

Why I love it:

Because I’m curious. And because it is easy to ask follow-up questions after you learn where a person is from. (Keep reading for some examples.)

In the United States, we ask everyone this question. It can be used if someone is from another country or just another city.

How you can use it:

Use this question when you’re traveling, when you meet someone new in your home city, or at an international conference.

That’s interesting! What do you think is the most interesting thing about your city?

Why I love it:

It’s your perfect follow-up question to, “Where are you from?”

You could ask about someone’s city, their culture, their local cuisine, and so much more. The options are endless.

How you can use it:

Use it anytime you ask, “Where are you from?” and their answer is a city or country that is different from you.

What do you do? ( = What is your job or profession?)

Why I love it:

I’ll admit. This isn’t my favorite question on this list but it’s just so common in the United States. I had to include.

Everyone asks it. It is almost always the first question we ask when we meet someone know.

I know some cultures do not like to talk about their jobs in social situations. But if want to start a conversation with a native English speaker, do not be afraid of this question. Generally speaking, English speakers often feel a strong identity with their job and they like to talk about it, so it’s always okay to ask.

How you can use it:

Anytime you’re meeting someone (especially a native English speaker) for the first time. Use it at a neighborhood BBQ, the gym, your children’s school, while traveling, or at a conference.

“Generally speaking, English speakers often feel a strong identity with their job and they like to talk about it, so it’s always okay to ask.”

How did you get into your profession/industry?

Why I love it:

It’s another great follow-up question. It’s perfect after, “What do you do?” And with this question you can learn about someone’s history, why they love their work, and much more.

How you can use it:

To continue the conversation you’ve already started with, “What do you do?”

Are you working on any interesting projects right now? What is your favorite part of your job?

Why I love it:

This is like, “Have you read anything interesting lately?”

Remember: many native speakers like to talk about their work. They especially like to talk about the things they enjoy a work.

And you might learn something new.

How you can use it:

This is a perfect question for getting to know your colleagues! Use it at work. But it’s also great when getting to know someone in a casual situation.

What’s the coolest (or most interesting) place you’ve ever been to?

Why I love it:

Almost everyone loves to talk about travel! Don’t you?

With this question, you can share stories and favorite memories. And maybe you’ll even get an idea for a new destination for your next vacation!

How you can use it:

Use it in almost any social situation. Need a great follow-up question? Try, “What did you like about it?” Or, “What would you recommend if I decided to go there?”

Did you hear/read about [insert big news story or current event]?

Why I love it:

Because I love to talk about current events and the news.

And if you enjoy talking about current events, then this is the perfect conversation starter.

It’s also a good way to get into a more meaningful conversation. For example, sharing opinions.

How you can use it:

This is perfect for someone you know well. Maybe a neighbor, good friends, or colleague.

After you’ve watched the video and reviewed my 10 questions to start a conversation in English, I’d love to hear from you!

In fact, I have two challenge questions for you today.

  1. Choose your favorite question from this list and share your answer in the comments. It’s a great way to get practice with these common questions!
  2. Do you have a favorite conversation starter that isn’t on this list? If so, what is it? Share in the comments section so others can use the question as well.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

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