Did you know that English conversation can take you on a fun adventure?
Conversing (talking) with others in English opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
Thanks to English, you will be able to talk with people who don’t speak your native language.
This lets you hear ideas and opinions from people who grew up in different cultures. You might even make new lifelong friends!
Talking in English will also be adventurous because you will probably feel a little nervous and excited.
But if you push your English speaking “comfort zone” and just open your mouth, you will feel so accomplished (proud) and motivated to keep learning!
Plus, your English will improve a lot if you have more conversations.
So let’s get started! To help you on this trip, we’ve put together a friendly guide to English conversation for beginners, filled with useful, basic phrases—from greetings and small talk to saying goodbye—that will take you on your first conversation adventure.
English Conversation for Beginners: 45+ Phrases for the English Speaking Adventure of a Lifetime
Starting an English Conversation
If you need a push to start having conversations in English, watch the clip below for motivation.
Then, any polite conversation starts with a greeting (saying hello). There are many ways to greet someone, and your choice will depend on who you are talking to.
It may be an informal conversation with a friend or an acquaintance (someone you know, but not very well). Or you may use a more formal dialogue when having an English conversation with a colleague, a teacher, a stranger or a government employee.
In fact, getting comfortable speaking with strangers is a great way to boost your speaking skills and confidence level in English.
However, it’s important to note that there are a few different ways that English speakers will spark up a conversation (start a conversation) with a stranger. Start with the video below to learn the different ways to speak with a stranger. You’ll be chatting with strangers in no time (without any awkward encounters).
If you enjoy learning native English used in everyday life, you’ll love the FluentU English YouTube channel. It’s your insider’s guide into the wonderful world of daily spoken English, native content and more!
Let’s start with informal greetings. Here is how you can say hello:
(A universal greeting that works for every conversation.)
(A neutral and friendly greeting.)
(An informal and relaxed greeting.)
(This is quite formal and rare these days, but could be used humorously among friends.)
(A casual greeting that is not commonly used, but can add some flavor to your English.)
For an engaging example of the word howdy, check out this sample video from Creativa’s Mastering Business Video Calls in English course, which has tips for expressing yourself effectively:
By the way, if you like that video, you’ll love Creativa.
Creativa provides premium, highly produced videos for learning English and business communication skills. Creativa provides entertaining videos, useful but unexpected tips, and goes beyond just English to teach you body language, intonation and specific pronunciation tips. Creativa is a new product from the FluentU team.
For a more formal way to greet someone, use the model “good + [time of day]”:
- Good morning!
(Reserved for any time before noon.)
- Good afternoon!
(Typically used between noon and 5-6 p.m.)
- Good evening!
(Any time after 6 p.m.)
Remember that “good night” normally means that you are saying goodbye. It is also commonly used right before going to bed.
What if you have never met the person you are talking to before? Then, after greeting them, it would be polite to introduce yourself and ask for their name. Here’s how:
- My name is _____. What’s your name?
(This is simple, neutral and always works well!)
If you met somebody once before, but you do not remember their name, you can say this:
- I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name. You are…?
(This is a bit more informal.)
If you want to introduce a person to someone else, you can simply say:
- Please meet + [name]
Please meet my friend Tom!
- This is + [name]
This is Tom!
Now that you have introduced yourself, use one of the phrases below to respond to someone’s introduction.
- Nice to meet you!
(The most common)
- Pleased to meet you!
(Simple and polite)
- It’s a pleasure!
(Informal, but nice)
You can hear the first one in this video, where two people meet for the first time and then start a conversation. Better yet, since that video is available on FluentU, you don’t have to worry about missing a word.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.Just click the interactive subtitles for an instant definition of any word you don’t know. There are also flashcards, fun quizzes and other learning tools built in.
Check out a free FluentU trial to watch that video—and thousands of other real-world English videos—with all the learning features.
Making Small Talk in English
Great job! You are already having a conversation in English!
After you have exchanged names and greeted each other, you may go on to make some “small talk.”
Small talk is common in many English-speaking countries, especially in the U.S., Canada and England. It is considered polite to add small talk to the beginning of the conversation before talking about the subject of the conversation, whether it is personal or professional.
The most widespread (common) question is “How are you?” In fact, it is so common, that it becomes automatic for people to say, even when they hardly know the person! “How are you” is often even considered part of the greeting (i.e. “Hi, how are you?”). That is how necessary it has become!
There are several ways to ask someone how they are doing:
- How are you? / How are you doing?
- How’s it going?
- How are things?
- What’s up?
An interesting thing about asking these questions is that an answer is not really required. Unless you are very close friends with someone, they are not expecting you to tell them an honest answer about your day—as this funny video shows:
Instead, a simple answer and a “how are you” in return is enough for a typical conversation in English:
- I’m well. How are you?
- It’s going well, thank you. How are you doing?
- Fine, thanks. And yourself?
Note that you might often hear people say “I’m good” when they mean that they are well and doing well. “I’m good” is grammatically incorrect in this context, but it is very common in spoken English, just like a few other mistakes English speakers make, so be careful!
Small talk can also be the primary goal of a conversation, especially when you are talking to people you don’t know and are unlikely to meet again. There are many ways to use small talk successfully, even when you’re still getting comfortable with English conversation for beginners.
Asking and Answering Questions
A conversation is an exchange of ideas, questions and thoughts. The best way to keep a conversation going is to ask questions!
There are two types of questions you may ask: closed-ended and open-ended questions.
Closed-ended questions are also called “yes/no” questions, because their goal is to confirm or deny certain information. For example:
- Are you having a good day?
- Did you just get to the office?
- Have you seen my email?
Compare the examples above to the open-ended questions below. They will ask a person to elaborate—that is, to give more information instead of simply saying “yes” or “no.”
- How is your day going?
(A perfect example of small talk!)
- When did you arrive at the office?
- What do you think about that email I sent?
Open-ended questions typically begin with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “why.” They are important to make your English conversation informative and productive. See more examples here.
When the person you are talking to is asking you a question, listen for the keywords and pay attention to the verb being used. This will help you construct your answer using proper grammar.
Don’t worry about using difficult words—it is fine to keep things simple! And if you don’t understand a certain question or word, don’t be afraid to ask.
As a beginner English learner, you may have trouble understanding everything being said in English. This is okay! You are still learning.
Asking for Clarification
You are getting good at conversations in English, but suddenly you realize that you are lost. Maybe the other person is speaking too fast. Maybe she has an unfamiliar accent. Maybe you didn’t hear the last thing she said.
It is perfectly normal to ask for clarification or to repeat something. Just remember to be polite!
If you don’t understand something, let’s say a word or even some idea relating to your conversation, you could say:
- I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you please repeat that?
- I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you please explain that?
- Care to elaborate?
(This very informal question is the short version of “Do you care to elaborate on this?”)
If you simply didn’t hear something, just say it like this:
- I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that. Could you please repeat?
- I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you please repeat?
- Could you say that again, please?
Don’t be shy to ask for help. People are generally very happy to explain or repeat something! Please don’t forget to thank them after they do.
Bringing an English Conversation to a Close
Say you have got all the information you need from the person. It is time for you to go. Maybe you are running late and want to keep the conversation brief. No matter the reason, it is always nice to let the person know you cannot continue talking to them for much longer.
There are many ways to do it depending on the situation. For example, if you are late, say:
- I have to get going. / It’s time for me to go.
(This is polite and neutral.)
- I have to run—can we continue later?
(This is more informal, but also polite.)
And if you have all the information you’d wanted:
- Thank you so much for your help!
(A very common and useful expression)
- Got it, thanks!
(Very informal and friendly)
- I think I have everything I need, thank you!
(This is formal and may come across as rude if you don’t thank the person after, so use it with caution.)
Using Small Talk to End a Conversation
Hey, guess what? Small talk can be used at the end of an English conversation too! Before saying goodbye, it is polite to say something like…
- Have a good day!
(This works in any situation.)
- Enjoy your day!
(This one is a bit more formal.)
- Good luck!
(If the person needs it; it will depend on the situation.)
- Talk to you soon!
(This is neutral and does not necessarily mean that you will really talk to the person soon.)
- Great seeing you / Great talking to you!
(This is informal yet common.)
- Catch you later!
(This is very informal and fun.)
And after that, the only thing left to do is…
Saying Goodbye in English
This one is easy. You really cannot go wrong with just a simple “goodbye” or “bye” in spoken English. You can also use any small talk expression to complement your goodbye. For example:
- Bye! Have a good day!
- Catch you later! Bye-bye!
And, as mentioned at the very beginning of this guide…
- Good night!
You are now an English conversation master!
Having a conversation in English does not have to be complicated. You may feel a little awkward and shy about your English speaking at first, but it is okay.
If you are scared of making a mistake, it is understandable. But mistakes are going to happen when you get started with spoken English—it is absolutely normal. Making mistakes is a big part of learning English conversations for beginners. This is how you get better, so just go for it. Just start talking, because now you know what to say!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
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