10 Questions to Start a Conversation in English

Jan 6, 2021 | English Confidence and Fluency, English Conversation

This lesson was originally published in November 2016 and was updated with new content in January 2021.


It’s 2021 and after a year of COVID 19, we’re eager for meaningful connections. Admittedly, it’s challenging to develop relationships and have conversations when we do everything online.

But not impossible. And our online lifestyle isn’t forever.

So how can you have fantastic, meaningful conversation in English with coworkers, neighbors, and friends?

The key to a successful conversation is to have interesting questions ready to ask.

If you’ve wanted to start a conversation with a neighbor or coworker but you weren’t sure what questions to ask, today you’ll get 10 of my favorite conversation starters to use in a conversation with anyone in English.

Plus, I’ll share 2 bonus questions, including one that my students usually think is very strange (but it’s a great way to get the conversation going!).

Watch the video below to find out what my Top 10 Conversation Starters are, why they work, and how you can use them.

10 Questions to Start a Conversation with Anyone in English

Tell me about yourself.

Why I love it:

It sounds a lot like a common job interview question, doesn’t it? Thankfully in a casual conversation, there isn’t the same pressure and the reason this question works is you’re giving the speaker control of the conversation. They can decide what they want to share or talk about.

How you can use it:

This is perfect for transitioning from an introduction into getting to know someone. Use it immediately after meeting someone, for example, “It’s really great to meet you. So, tell me a bit more about yourself.”

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.

Are you working on anything interesting/exciting recently? 

Why I love it:

Instead of asking the common ‘what do you do’ question, this one leads to a more interesting discussion and is more focused on something positive from work.

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.

Good alternatives questions include:

  • Are you working on any interesting projects right now?
  • What do you love about your work?
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.

What was the highlight of your day/week/weekend?

Why I love it:

This question immediately brings a focus to something interesting, exciting, or even unusual. There no end to the possibilities when answering this question.

How you can use it:

It’s great for catching up with a friend or coworker. You could even use it at a conference and change the question to, “What was the highlight of the conference for you?”

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.

Tell me more about…

Why I love it:

This is the perfect way to frame a follow-up question or continue a previous discussion. For example, “Last time we met you told me about your scultping classes. Those sound really interesting. Tell me more about them.”

These 4 simple words make continuing a conversation easy and smooth.

How you can use it:

Use this any time you want to easily continue a conversation or get more details.

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.

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?”

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?”

2 Bonus Questions to Start a Conversation with Anyone in English

Have you ever heard an English speaker say, “I love your shoes/sweater/glasses! Where did you get it/them?”

We love to combine a compliment with a question to start a conversation.

Just because they asked where you purchased the item, it doesn’t mean they want to go buy it. It’s just an easy way to get the conversation going.

What do you wish you had more of in your life?

This is my FAVORITE conversation starter.

But as you can see, it’s quite personal. This is best used with friends or coworkers you know well when you’re enjoying non-work related conversation.

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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