While having some English conversation starters on hand (ready for use) in the grocery store may seem like something unimportant, in reality it’s a great skill to be learned…and one that should be practiced.

You see, when working with Americans (at least), it’s not only important that we can work with you, but that we can pass the time (hang out, talk) with you. We’re interested in you and your life, and we show that through small talk. Here are some great ways you can start talking to anyone!

Do You Have Anything Planned Tonight?

This is super (very) common to hear when you are leaving the office. Even if you just plan on staying home, making dinner, and watching TV, the other person is interested in hearing that! It’s an important part of getting to know someone: what they like to do and how they spend their time. It also can give you one of your English conversation starters in the office the next morning, so don’t be surprised when your coworker asks how your quiet evening at home was!

How’s Your Boyfriend/Mother/Sister Doing?

If you mentioned (said) something about how your Mom had a cold (was sick), or how your brother had gotten a new job, be prepared (ready) to be asked about it! It’s another part of the getting-to-know-you process.  We’re genuinely (actually) curious (not nosy!) about the people you care about, and that they’re doing well.

How Are You?

This is a big one. “How are you,” is a bit different in the United States than it is in Germany and Europe. Think of it more as the introduction (beginning) to the conversation than an actual statement of how you’re doing, which is why most people answer with “well!  For Americans, it’s a question that initiates (starts) the larger topic of conversation. Once that’s started, feel free to discuss (talk about) how you’re really feeling.

I Like Your Shirt/Haircut/Bag

A compliment is an easy way into the affections (being liked) of an American. When I worked in retail (working in a store) in college, noticing something nice about our customers was a sure way (definite way) to connect with them and get a conversation going.  From my experience, nine times out of ten, your conversation partner will say thank you, and return a compliment.

Do You Like XYZ?

When in doubt as to what to say, turn the question around and ask the other person what they like. People love talking about themselves!

Small talk is a great way to get an American to open up. Showing interest in (asking about) others and what they’re up to (doing) is a sign of politeness. You’re putting the interests of others first, and it’s a great way to get to know all different kinds of people! Just ask my Mom. She’s made some lifelong friends by engaging in (using) small talk with people next to her in line.

What do you think about these English conversation starters? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

Are these English conversation starters just the beginning for you? We’ve got five more great tips to improve your English conversation!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and uses these English conversation starters regularly!

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