Let’s face it: “Hello! How are you?” can only get you so far in life.
Your English classes have prepared you for language exams, university classes and travel—but have they prepared you for Friday night?
One reason why learning a language is so difficult is because the materials can start to seem irrelevant for “real life.”
While it’s good to have an understanding of basic grammar, common questions, key phrases and vocabulary, it’s also important that you be able to use English to communicate with people in the real world.
What’s So Special About These Types of Questions and Answers?
Look at the questions below and see if you can spot the differences:
“Hello! It is nice to meet you. How are you?”
“Hi there! I don’t think we’ve met. How are you doing?”
In essence, these questions are asking for the same information. However, #1 is more formal, while #2 shows a feeling of ease and familiarity. That being said, the first one is a good example of an appropriate question to help you prepare for a job interview in English, but the other will serve you better in many social situations that you’ll encounter in life.
These types of questions and answers will also force you to get comfortable with English contractions. The majority of time, English speakers use contractions in their normal speech to shorten words, making them smoother and faster to pronounce. For example, while it’s rare to hear “It is nice to meet you,” you’ll very commonly hear, “It’s nice to meet you.” There are many different contractions in English, so be patient—it will take time and effort to master them all.
13 Common English Questions and Answers to Give Your Social Life a Boost
For the sake of your social life, look at the following questions and answers that you’ll likely hear in casual conversations in English (for more basic questions, you can practice with resources like this English question and answer video).
Practice these questions with a partner, and then try to use a few of these phrases the next time you meet a new friend at a café, work event or social gathering.
If you don’t have a partner to practice with, you can explore the resources on the FluentU English Language and Culture Blog.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
You can also explore other online resources like LingQ to learn English from a variety of popular, interesting content such as books and movies. You can also prepare yourself for social events by watching this short video with a few simple tips for making small talk.
Learning English for casual conversation is an important step towards mastering the art of small talk. Not only will these questions and answers help you to sound more natural in English, but they’ll allow your new friends to feel more comfortable and open around you, too.
1. So, what do you do?
This question is a typical question when making small talk to get to know the other person better. It’s asking, “What is your job?”
Right now, I’m a student. I’m in my second year of pharmacy school. How about you? What do you do?
I work as a tour guide for a local tour company. I’ve worked there for three years now. How about you?
That’s a good question! I do a little bit of everything: some writing, some photography and some graphic design, too. What do you do?
To encourage further conversation and be even more polite, you want to ask about them, too. As you can see from the examples above, adding the question “How about you?” or “And what about you?” will give the other person an opportunity to respond. You’ll see this on most of the examples that follow.
If you do answer that you are a student, chances are you will then talk about what you’re studying at school. For that, you’ll need some school vocabulary, as seen in the following video from FluentU English’s YouTube Channel.
In this video, the host explores the movie trailer for a movie called “Gifted” featuring Chris Evans. The movie revolves around a man (Evans) who cares for his niece (actress McKenna Grace) after the death of her mother. Evans’ character discovers that his niece is gifted (or “very smart”), and a battle takes place between Evans—who wants to give the girl a normal life—and her grandmother, who wants her to become a successful mathematician.
As you can imagine, there are loads of school-related words and phrases to learn in this video as well as the phrase ad nauseam, a phrase that originally comes from Latin but is used in English all the time. If you wanted to focus on school vocabulary as a topic, this movie would be a great way to see the words used naturally and have a more in-depth conversation when you meet a student or talk about being a student.
Check out this video and many others like it on FluentU English’s YouTube Channel.
2. How’s (summer) treating you?
This question is asking about a specific part of your life, like your summer, your job or any other major event in your life. It’s another way of asking, “How is your summer?” or “How is your new job?”
Oh, it’s been really great. No complaints here! And how’s it going for you?
Not bad, can’t complain! And how is your summer going?
It’s treating me pretty well! I’ve gotten a lot out of it so far. And how’s summer going for you?
3. So, what have you been up to lately?
A person asking this question is asking about the awesome things you’ve done recently. Another way to ask this question is “How’s it going?” Usually, you only ask this question if you’re already familiar with the person. That is, you’ve seen them or met them before.
Not much. My last class is on Thursday, so I’m excited about that! What have you been up to?
Let’s see…Well, I started a new job last week, but other than that, everything is pretty much the same. What have you been up to?
Well, have you heard that I moved to a new apartment?
What can I say? Nothing too exciting. Things are good—how about you?
4. Long time, no see! Any updates since we last saw each other?
This is another friendly and common way to reconnect and start a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.
Where to begin? A lot has changed in the past few months. I got a dog, moved apartments and switched jobs!
Nothing too crazy. How about you? Any news?
5. So what do you do when you’re not working?
This question is asking, “What are your hobbies?” It’s also very common for people to ask, “What do you like to do outside of work?” or “What do you do when you’re not busy with (school)?”
Well, recently I started playing volleyball on the weekends.
Usually, I spend my free time doing activities with my family.
6. Do you follow (Stephen Colbert)?
This question is asking if you’re interested in a certain topic or person and if you keep up with it/them on social media or television.
Oh, yeah! I love him/that show. Why?
Sometimes. A little bit here and there. Why?
No–actually, I haven’t heard of him. Who is he?
7. Would you mind giving me a hand with this?
This question is asking for help. Instead of asking a more formal question like, “Could you please help me?” most native speakers will ask for help with a phrase like this.
You got it!
I’m afraid I can’t. Maybe (Anthony) could, though.
8. What sort of stuff do you do on the weekends?
This question is asking about your weekend activities. The phrase “sort of stuff” means “things” or “activities.”
Let’s see…I usually spend my weekends reading and relaxing at home. How about you?
Well, I tend to go to a lot of concerts. How about you?
9. So, what’s your take on (the latest movie)?
This question is asking “What’s your opinion of (the latest movie)?” or “What do you think about (a specific event)?”
Oh, I really like it! What do you think?
To be honest, I think it’s just okay. How about you?
Ehh—I’m on the fence. What’s your take?
“On the fence” is a way of saying you neither agree or disagree or you don’t know what to think about a specific topic.
10. Are you here with anybody?
This question is asking if you came to the event or location (like a bar or club) with another person. Usually, people ask this question as an indirect way of asking if you’re in a romantic relationship.
Yeah—I came with my boyfriend.
I just came with a bunch of my coworkers.
11. Do you feel like grabbing a bite?
This question is an invitation to leave together and get something to eat. You might also hear, “Do you want to grab a bite to eat?”
Actually, yeah! I’d love to. Where would you like to go?
It depends. Where are you thinking of going?
Mmm, not today. But I’m game for grabbing a bite together later this week.
No thanks—I’m not really hungry. But thanks for asking.
12. Would you be up for a (movie) some time?
This question is asking if you’d like to do an activity together in the future.
I’m down! Let’s do it!
Sure. When are you thinking of going?
It depends on what day, but yes.
I’m not really interested in seeing a movie, but thank you.
13. How late are you planning on sticking around?
This question is asking, “What time are you going to leave?”
I’ll hang around until (they cut the cake), and then I plan on heading out. How about you?
I’m not sure…I’ll just have to see how I feel. How about you?
I’ll probably give it another 30 minutes and then go home.
As you can see, having a casual conversation in English can be anything but basic! With these phrases, you’re more prepared than ever to make new friends.
Keep practicing your informal, conversational English in order to give your social life a boost!
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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.