1. Start a Conversation in English by Commenting on What’s Around You
So, what can you say? A good trick is to comment on what’s around you.
You could say something like, if you’re at a party:
- Hi, great party isn’t it?
…or, if it’s your first English class:
- I’ve heard this is a really good school.
…or if you’re at a restaurant with some colleagues:
- I love the fish—it’s so tasty!
It’s a good idea to say something positive to create a good impression! You don’t want to start complaining to someone you don’t know.
After your opening, be ready with a follow-up question.
So, after you say something like I’ve heard this is a really good school, you could ask them why they chose it too, like this:
- I’ve heard this is a really good school. Why did you choose it?
- Hi, great party, isn’t it? Who do you know here?
- I love the fish—it’s so tasty! Have you been to this restaurant before?
Another great topic is the weather, especially in places like Britain and Ireland where the weather is always changing and unpredictable.
You could say something like:
- It’s very warm today isn’t it?
- Bit cold today, don’t you think?
It’s not the most interesting way to start a conversation, but sometimes you just need to get started. What you say isn’t always so important.
2. Start a Conversation by Talking About People You Both Know
Here’s another thing you can try: if you’re at a social event, like a party, you might both know the same people. Try asking how they know the person whose party it is.
They might not know John and would be grateful for an introduction!
If you’re in your first English class, you could ask another student about the teacher:
Then, ask a follow-up question, like:
If you’re at work, you could ask something like:
Don’t forget the follow-up question:
- Do you get on alright with him?
Follow-up questions are very important, so make sure you have one ready! They really help to get the conversation started and show that you’re interested in the other person.
3. Start a Conversation by Complimenting Someone
Complimenting someone is a great way to start a conversation. Everyone likes hearing nice things about themselves, right?
Imagine you’re at a party. You see someone you want to talk to. They’re wearing a t-shirt with a band you recognise on it, so you could say:
- Hey, nice T-shirt! I like that band too. How did you hear of them?
Let’s look at something quickly. What’s the difference between a follow-up question like:
- How did you hear of them?
- Do you like their song ‘________’?
Which do you think is better?
The first is an open-ended question. It has many possible answers, and it will probably make the other person say more.
If you ask a closed yes/no question, then it can lead to a short answer, which makes it harder to continue the conversation.
So, try to make follow-up questions with question words like What…? When…? Where…? How…? Why…? and so on. Using these open questions will help to keep the conversation going.
What else can you compliment them on?
When visiting someone’s house for the first time, it’s always a good idea to tell them what you like about it.
- Your house is beautiful. Did you decorate it yourself?
Follow-up questions could be something like:
- Where did you get your ideas?
- How did you choose the colours?
Another situation: your friend cooks for you and the food is delicious. Tell your friend how much you like it and again, ask an open-ended question.
- This is delicious. How did you make it?
- This is so good! Is it typical where you’re from?
4. Start a Conversation by Asking for Advice
Let’s look at another way to start a conversation in English.
If someone asks you for your advice, does it make you feel needed? A lot of people like to be asked their opinion.
Imagine you’re at a company lunch and you find yourself sitting beside someone you’ve never met before. You could try asking them if they’ve been to this restaurant before and what food they recommend from the menu.
- Have you been here before? What do you think looks good on the menu?
- Would you recommend anything in particular? I like chicken but I’m not sure if it’s good here.
- What are you thinking of getting?
OK, new situation: you join a language class to learn English. Everyone else in the class already knows each other, and you don’t know how to join in with the others.
Don’t worry—this is a great opportunity to get some advice about the school and the classes.
You could try asking:
- Do you know which social activities are good at this school?
- How much extra study would you recommend doing outside class?
- What else can we do here to practice English?
You might get some useful information as well as meeting a new person!
5. Start a Conversation by Asking People About Themselves
Do you like it when someone shows they’re interested in you, your life and your ideas? I know I do, so try asking other people about themselves!
A good trick is to make a comment about yourself, and then ask the other person to respond.
Hopefully you can find something in common, and then it will be easy to keep the conversation going!
- I love real pizzas when they’re made in the traditional Italian way. What do you think of Italian food?
- I’m a huge Chelsea fan. Who do you support?
- These lessons are really interesting, aren’t they? What made you decide to study English?
Remember, it’s good to keep it light-hearted. Try to avoid heavy topics like religion and politics with someone you’ve just met.
Thanks for watching!