Where have you had the most interesting discussions?
For me, it was at parties.
Where have you sat through the most boring chit-chat?
For me, it was also at parties.
Party conversations can go either way.
Sometimes you talk all night, get to know lots of people and have the time of your life. Other times you stand in the corner, trying to understand an incoherent dialogue. It can be boring or even stressful when you lose track of the conversation.
What can you do to make sure you have the best time at parties, and get plenty of English practice, too?
It is time you learned to start a casual conversation at a party and to keep it going. This guide will give you ideas about safe and familiar topics for small talk as well example phrases that you can use at your next party.
Tips for Smooth Party Conversations in English
Conversations at a party tend to be different from ones in formal settings (like a business meeting or an academic conference). Here are the three keys to help you fit in and thrive when conversing with English-speaking partygoers.
Keep It Light
You do not want to be that person who drags a party down with depressing topics like the spreading of Zika virus or ocean pollution. You will be better off reserving those issues for intimate dinners with close friends or colleagues.
Parties are the time to relax, unwind and let your hair down (be free and have fun). Stay upbeat and stick with topics like your plans for the weekend or the weather (both of which we will cover below).
As a party goes on and you get into more in-depth conversations, it is probably alright to discuss serious matters. If you have to bring up one of those topics, perhaps use a lighthearted manner. At a party, a joke works better than a confrontational argument.
Balance Between Sharing and Asking
Do not just talk about yourself for the whole evening. Sharing your stories can be a good place to start, but make sure that you have a two-way conversation. Not only will this make you a better party guest, but it will also help you improve both your English speaking and listening skills.
Ask others about themselves, their experiences and their plans. (If you need a refresher on forming questions in English, here is a great guide.) If you show that you genuinely care about the other person, they will be more likely to keep talking to you rather than moving to the next person.
Practice with Real English Videos
There is nothing more immersive than attending a party in English. You are surrounded by fast, slang-filled English speech everywhere you turn. FluentU is one of the best tools to prepare for this because it gives you immersive English practice anywhere.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU 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'll 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 is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Life of the Party! 40 English Party Conversation Phrases for Fun, Easy Chatting
1. Break the Ice
That moment when you arrive at a party and do not recognize anyone is terrifying, but try not to worry. Think about the opportunities to make new friends, find out new things and, of course, practice your English.
Thus, take this chance to meet new people and break the ice (get the conversation started).
Be proactive and friendly. Come to the nearest person and say something like:
- Hi, I’m Sarah, nice to meet you.
- Hello, I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Sarah.
See someone you have already met? In that case, you can remind the other person of when and where you two last met, as a way to start the conversation. Here is an example for you:
- Hi, we met here the last time but I don’t think we’ve spoken. I’m Sarah.
Introduce Your Companion
If you go to the party with a friend, you can also introduce him or her, saying something like this:
- Hi, this is my classmate/colleague/friend/boyfriend Tom.
Ask Context-based Questions
After introducing yourself, you can start with some basic questions to establish common ground for the conversation to develop. The easiest way is to start with things you are most likely to have in common: knowing the host of the party and living in the same city.
Here are some questions you can use:
- How do you know [the host]?
- Do you live/study/work here in [the city]?
- How long have you been here?
If something stands out in the person you are talking with, like if he or she arrived with a companion, it could be appropriate to ask, “How do you know each other?” Similarly, if they have a name you do not recognize, you could ask something like, “This is the first time I’ve met someone named [their name]. Where is that name originally from?”
Give a Compliment
People like compliments, especially if they are genuine. A positive comment followed by a question is a good way to break the ice.
Here are some examples to give you ideas:
- The food is delicious. Did you make it?
- That’s a lovely bracelet. Can I ask where you got it?
2. Discuss a Universal Topic
Once you get to know the other person a little bit, you can discuss a topic in more detail. It is best to start with something universal (something that almost anyone can relate to) and uncontroversial. Here is some safe ground.
You might find talking about the weather a bit boring. After all, we all know what the weather is like today, right? But the weather is one thing we can all relate to. Therefore, you can ask more questions and your new friend might have things to share.
If you decide it is a good enough starter, here are some sample sentences you can use:
- How do you find the weather here?
- Do you prefer hot or cold weather?
- It’s a lovely day today. Have you been doing anything outside?
- It’s freezing today, isn’t it?
- The snow is amazing! Do you like snow?
Here is an in-depth guide to vocabulary and phrases for talking about the weather in English.
Did you hear some exciting news today? Share it and ask for others’ opinions.
Of course, if you want to avoid arguments, it is best to stay away from political news. Try topics like technology, health, the environment, etc.
Here are examples of how you can bring up the news:
- Did you hear about the latest test of self-driving cars? When do you think we will see one in our city?
- I heard on the news today about the plastic-free pledge from some supermarkets. Do you think it will make a difference?
Movies or TV Shows
If you spent the last few evenings watching a new TV show, do not hesitate to share it. Questions about the latest movies and shows are an easy win. It is likely that you will find something you both enjoy and can talk about it. So keep this topic in your pocket and practice questions like these:
- Have you seen “Stranger Things?”
- I watched the latest episode of “Black Mirror” last night. Did you see it?
- I heard Ryan Gosling was terrific in “La La Land.” What do you think?
If you have seen “Interstellar,” you can use this video from FluentU’s YouTube English channel:
After watching the movie and this video, you will not only have an awesome conversation topic, but also plenty of phrases you can use while talking. Subscribe to FluentU English today and you’ll always have something to talk about!
Just like TV and movies, games can be a great topic to find common ground. Besides asking pointed questions, you can share your experiences with a game to see if the other person relates to it.
Here are some examples:
- Have you ever played Dungeons & Dragons?
- I love Monopoly. We used to play it on the weekend when I was a kid. Do you know the game?
3. Get a Bit More Personal
Polite and safe conversations about universal topics can only take you so far. As the party goes on, and when you have talked to one person for a while, it is appropriate to ask more personal questions and share your own stories.
Here are some topics you can touch on.
How Your Day Has Been
This is a somewhat personal topic, but it is still safe because it is so general. The person you are talking to can choose to tell you whatever they want about their day. Plus, it can make good conversation because your day is still fresh in your memory.
Here are a few ways you can approach this topic:
- How was your day?
- Did you have a good day at work?
- What did you learn today at school/class? Anything exciting?
- I had a hard time at work today. Do you have a problem with Mondays as well?
Notice how you can choose to just ask questions, or share your experience and see if it resonates.
Work or Studies
You are likely to find out about the other person’s job or school within the first few minutes. However, you can move along by asking more questions about how they find it.
Here are some examples:
- How do you find your work/studies?
- What is a typical day at your work/school?
- How are things going with your work/studies?
- I am looking for a job in marketing and I heard you work in marketing. Do you have any advice?
Hobbies and Interests
If you do not find common ground in work and study topics, you can always ask about hobbies.
You have the option to ask directly:
- What do you like to do on the weekend?
- What do you do for fun?
- Do you have any plans for the holiday?
Alternatively, you can make it more appealing by giving it the context of your own experience, then ask about their opinion. Here are some examples:
- I saw this documentary about South Africa yesterday. It was amazing. I would love to go there. Have you been?
- My husband bought me this vegetarian cookbook for my birthday and I cannot wait to try it out. Do you like cooking?
4. End the Conversation
Every party has to come to an end no matter how much fun you have. When it is time to leave, there are a few rules of politeness that you should follow.
Americans are very polite and enthusiastic. You will find that people thank one another a lot and always want to leave one another on a pleasant note. Therefore, you should learn to do the same.
Here are a few things you can say when you are about to leave the party:
- It’s been nice talking to you.
- Thanks for telling me about your studies. It was fascinating.
- You have some real travel stories there. I cannot wait to hear more.
Promising to speak again is a nice way to indicate that you enjoyed talking to someone. Even if you do not know whether you will see them again, there are polite expressions that people use and you should too.
- Bye for now. See you next time/next week/soon.
- Have a safe trip home. I hope to see you again.
- Goodnight. Take care. We will talk more next time.
Party conversations can be challenging, but they can also be a lot of fun. When you have to make conversation with someone you do not know very well, and in a second language, you might feel stuck. These topics and phrases will help. With them, you do not have to worry about what to say, but can focus on practicing your English.
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