English Small Talk Phrases (Updated 20.02.14!)

by Robby on September 19, 2010

Robby KukursMY NAME IS ROBBYRead About My 5 Year Long Journey to English Fluency HERE!

Hi my foreign English speaking friends! Here I’ve created a list of the most important English small talk phrases so that you never have situations when you get stuck when bumping into someone on the street or greeting your colleagues in the morning!

Also here you’ll find a good number of English phrases you can use to respond to typical greetings. And even more – some of the phrases below will help you add more substance to what you’re saying to your chat partner and also help you take time and think over the question.

At the end of the list you’ll find typical good-bye phrases and you’ll definitely find them handy when finishing off a conversation or even if you want to get rid of the person you’re chatting with! :-)

Latest addition – Industry small talk – is going to come in handy in work-related situations. Whenever you want to ask your work colleague to cover you for a couple of hours and tell them you’re going to keep a low profile because you went out the night before – all this is covered in the industry small talk section!

So, click on the links below and they’ll take you to the respective section of English small talk phrases! ;-)

Conversation Starters & Greetings

Typical Responses

Industry Small-talk (Updated!!!)

Departure Phrases

Improve Spoken English

Also Check Out these English Phrase lists:

Conversation Starters & Greetings

How are you getting on? – just another way of saying ‘how are you?’

You doing OK? – asked when the person has had some tough experience recently and you want to ask politely if they’re OK.

Hi, …! What’s new? – this is a very informal way of greeting a close friend or anyone who you see on a regular basis and you want to ask has anything happened since you last met.

Hi, …! What’s up? – the same as above with a difference that you’re probably not that interested in what news the other person might have.

Hi, …! Long time no see! – used when you haven’t seen the person for a long period of time and you want to state that fact in the greeting.

Hi, …! Have you been keeping busy? – just a standard enquiry with little or no direct meaning.

Do you mind me asking…? – a typical way of asking something that might be a slightly personal question.

OK, here’s the thing … – a very handy way to start making your point if you’re not sure how to begin the sentence.

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Typical Responses

Thanks, I’ve been keeping busy – just a standard response to a standard greeting with little or no direct meaning.

Thanks for asking, I’m fine, how are you? – a typical response and counter-question to a greeting phrase ‘how are you?’

Hi, how you’re doing! It’s good to see you! – a typical response to a greeting from someone you haven’t seen for a while.

Can’t complain – a response to a standard greeting like ‘How are you?’ It’s not as exciting phrase as ‘Thanks, I’m great!’ but it doesn’t mean you’re having some problems in your life.

Can you say it again, please? – a request to repeat the question if you didn’t understand what was said. This can also be used when the native speaking person speaks a bit too fast – they should get the hint and slow down a bit. But if they don’t, you can ask a more direct question:

Can you slow it down a bit, please?

And how about you? – a typical response when you’re not sure what to ask next so you’re asking the other person the same think they asked you. You can respond with this counter-greeting on nearly all standard greetings.

To the best of my knowledge … – when you’re 99% sure about the statement you’re making. Also a good start of a response you want to take a bit more time to consider what you’re going to say.

As far as I know … – the same as above.

Good for you! – a response to someone telling you about their success in something or some good news that they’re happy about.

Can’t argue with that – used when you agree with the statement of the other person.

How do you know? – a counter-question you can ask when someone surprises you with a question about something they’re not really expected to know.

That’s a good one! – a surprise response to funny or surprising news from your chat partner.

Really? Tell me more about it! – used when you want your chat partner to tell me about what he/she just said.

Frankly speaking, … – just a way to start your response. It indicates that you’re about to open up and be very honest with your chat partner. A great way of establishing an immediate trust.

Well, to be honest with you, … – the same as above.

No problem – a typical response to a small request you’re happy to do. This one is especially used when responding to superiors’ requests and it sounds more enthusiastic than if you simply say ‘sure’ or ‘OK’.

Never mind, it’s fine! - this phrase is used when the person offers to do a favour for you but it’s not really necessary.

Never mind, forget what I just said – this phrase is to be used when you said something that wasn’t important at all but your chat partner wants you to repeat it. You can also use this phrase if you feel that he/she might be slightly annoyed or offended by your question or comment so you want to end it there.

You got me there – this can be said instead of ‘I don’t’ know’ – it will sound more casual and not as defensive as the old ‘I don’t know’!

You’ve got to be kidding me! – said when someone tells you something that borders on the unbelievable and you want to express your surprise.

That’s a good question. – a phrase used when you want to take your time to think over the question. This is an ideal phrase to use when you’re stuck but instead of remaining silent you can start your response with this phrase.

Well, how to put it in the right words. – the same as above.

That would be great! – a response to an offer that you’re really happy about.

… you know what I mean? – this is quite an overused phrase but you can definitely use it at the end of a sentence if you want to emphasize what you just said.

You see, the thing is that … – this is how you begin a sentence when you’re asked to explain something.

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Industry Small-talk (NEW!!!)

Another day! – this is just a short phrase you can use to start your working day with. It doesn’t necessarily mean your job is boring; it merely states the fact that you all have a brand new working day ahead.

Nose to the grindstone! – this one is a typical English idiom, and it means to start working hard and be 100% focused on what you’re doing. Typically you’d use this one at the end of a conversation as a way of indicating you’re going back to your work-related duties.

How was your weekend? – you can use this small-talk greeting to inquire about the person’s weekend and it’s a typical small-talk phrase you’d hear on a Monday morning.

Anything new going on? – again, a typical phrase to be used when coming into work – especially after a weekend or a few days off.

The boss is in a mood… – you can use this small-talk phrase to let your colleagues know your boss is in a bad mood and it’s best to steer clear to avoid trouble. Please note you don’t even have to say “in a BAD mood”; the word “mood” says it all just on its own.

All work and no play! – this is another English idiom and you can use it when having a conversation about going out and taking some rest. Here’s a typical sentence: “Hey Jim, why not go out tonight, we’ve been working so hard – all work and no play!”

Better keep the head down today – this English idiomatic expression comes in handy when you need to advise someone to stay quiet and avoid problems. Maybe it’s because that person’s been out drinking the night before, maybe it’s because they’ve been giving others hard time and the boss is after them – there are many situations when this small-talk phrase can be used!

Thank heavens it’s Friday – quite obviously you’ll be using this English small talk phrase when greeting your work colleagues on a Friday morning – as we all know, Fridays are the most awaited days of the week, and everybody’s looking forward to the weekend ahead!

You working the weekend? – in case you’re doing shift work, this is a handy phrase to use when asking your colleague if she or he is going to work during the weekend.

Are you working hours in? – let’s say, for argument’s sake, you notice someone staying at work longer than normally, so you want to inquire for the reason they’re doing this. Your best guess is that the person in question has taken some extra time off work, so you want to ask them if they’re working those hours in now. Well, this is the perfect phrase for the occasion!

I’m tired – I got no sleep last night – I guess this phrase is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? ;-)

Had a few drinks so I’m flying under the radar! – if you went out the night before, it’s totally understandable you’ll want to stay put and keep a low profile in case someone from the management realizes you’re not fully capable of fulfilling your work related duties! :-)

Can you cover me? – this is a typical way of asking someone if they can work in your place while you’re taking a couple of hours off work to deal with your personal stuff.

INTERESTING! Find Out Why So Many Foreigners CAN’T Speak Fluent English!

Departure Phrases

I’d better be going – followed by a simple phrase like ‘it’s too late’, or ‘have lots to do’ – and indicator you’d like to walk off and finish the conversation.

OK, I’m sorry but I have to leave now! – used when your chat partner has clear intentions of continuing the conversation but you just need to go so you’re making it clear that you need to go.

See you later! – used when you know that you’ll be seeing each other again sometime.

See you around! – the same as above

Keep in touch! – a good-bye phrase meaning you want the other person to get in touch with you every now and then and that you’ve the same intentions.

It was nice seeing you, take care! – a good-bye phrase used when you know that you won’t see the person for a while.

It’s been good talking to you! – the same as above phrase.

Hope to see you again! – you can use this phrase when finishing a conversation with someone you’ve just met.

Say hello to …! – a short and handy way of saying to remind someone from you.

English Idiomatic Expressions

Now You’ve Finished Reading this List… What’s Next?

You’re pretty excited having found my blog and especially this list of English small-talk phrases, isn’t that right?

There’s one small problem though…

The chances are, you’re going to forget MOST of these phrases within a matter of hours, and next week you’ll be lucky to remember ANY of them!

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to insult your intelligence and imply that you have bad memory. It’s NATURAL to forget all kinds of information after just one exposure; it’s just human nature.

So I guess it poses the next logical question“How to make sure you can actually use such and similar phrases in YOUR daily conversations with work colleagues, college friends and people you meet?”

Here’s the Most Effective Way to Learn These Small Talk Phrases…

The best way of imprinting these small talk phrases into your mind is by utilizing spaced repetition. It might sound very technical, while in fact it simply means you have to repeat and memorize a phrase a number of times over a certain period of time.

  1. Repeat each phrase three times.
  2. Then do it once more tomorrow.
  3. Go back to it after a longer period of time – say, a week or two.

This spaced repetition principle ensures that the small talk phrases you’re memorizing REMAIN in your ACTIVE vocabulary. It basically means you’ll be able to USE those phrases in relevant situations, and that’s definitely what you want, isn’t it?

I’ve Got Great News For You!

What if I told you I’ve compiled 900 similar phrases and expressions and also made it SUPER-EASY for you to memorized them using the spaced repetition technique?

Wouldn’t that be cool?

Believe it or not – but I’ve done just that, and here you can check out my unique software stuffed full of English small talk and many other phrases! It’s called the English Harmony System, and here are its main benefits ANY upper-intermediate and advanced foreign English student can avail of:

  • EH System imprints natural English phrases into your mind;
  • EH System makes sure you stop preparing speech in your head;
  • You develop ability to speak instinctively and spontaneously :!:

So, do you want to develop your ability to speak FLUENTLY and use all these and MANY MORE English phrases, expressions and idioms just like NATIVE English speakers do?

Then make sure to check out the English Harmony System RIGHT NOW!

English Harmony System

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome my friend!

  • nums

    thank you

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    No problem, you’re welcome!

  • priya

    interesting:)) thanku:))

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    If you’re up for something a bit more sophisticated, check out these:

    http://englishharmony.com/industry-specific-phrases/

  • katrina

    too easy

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Thanks, I’m glad you like it!

  • Teaandscones

    Good site . Thank you for sharing.

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome, I’m glad you find these phrases useful!

  • Rinks10

    thank you.. it really helps..

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome!

  • MOHAMMED

    Thank u very much n .See u around with some things with some new things

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Hi Theara,

    Here’s phrases you’ll find very useful when doing job interviews: http://englishharmony.com/job-seeking/

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Theara

    thanks so much sir! could you please send me more? I really need the words when we are interview in others companies.

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  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome!

  • Balasurian Nishantha

    superb….thanks a lot

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome my friend!

  • shivani

    thank u so much

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    I’m so glad Joni that you like this article, here’s another phrase article you may find useful: http://englishharmony.com/industry-specific-phrases/

  • Joni

    Hey thanks this is really helpfull article:).

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Hi Jeevan K,

    You’re totally correct in pointing out that only speaking will develop your oral fluency – but it’s also possible even if there’s no-one to talk to you on a regular basis!

    Read/watch more about it here: http://englishharmony.com/non-english-speaking-society/

    http://englishharmony.com/just-an-excuse/

    Hope it sheds light on the matter,

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Jeevan K

    Hey Thanks ROBBY,

    Its really helpful post, I am a IT professional from India and I have been trying to be fluent in English since last 5 to 6 years but i thought all my efforts goes wrong, coz here i have my native speakers and they wasn’t speak with me in english even if i try to speak in english. They feel shy when we speak english they think we speak wrong english so thats why they refuses to speak in english at any place. As i very well known @ speaking in english only can help out instead reading and writing for long.

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Thanks for the positive feedback, much appreciated!

  • shabeeri chirakkala

    thanx a lot
    really useful…..

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  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome!

  • IJECK

    Thanks sir…

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Thanks, much appreciated! ;-)

  • Gavsr

    Hope the blog is very usefull in daily routine

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Thanks Diannah, I’m glad you find my blog useful and I’m also very glad we’re on the same page in terms of our attitude towards English studies! I wish you luck convincing your students of the usefulness of conversational English and the fact that grammar studies are way too overrated!

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Thanks a lot Cecilia, much appreciated!

  • Diannah Llido

    incredible job, Mr.! I’m a young English teacher from the Philippines and I’ve been trying to convince and prove to my students as well as my co-teachers that learning English is not synonymous to studying grammar by counting nouns, verbs, blah, blah, blah……thanks for your blog…this makes a great material for authentic language learning..

  • Cecilia Mburu

    very helpful indeed

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Hi Chandra,

    This blog is already quite famous! ;-)

    Please read this article about the most commonly used words: http://englishharmony.com/english-word-frequency-lists/ and you’ll realize that it’s actually the wrong question.

    Instead we should focus on the most commonly used phrases, and this article is a great start on building your active phraseology.

    More resources:

    http://englishharmony.com/category/english-idiomatic-expressions/

    Regards,

    Robby

  • chandra shekar

    think this blog gonna be femous soon !!
    This blog is very useful to improve my english .. that would be more good when you help me a bit more .. :) i want something more in my english and u can only help buddy :) will u please send some spoken words and line which commonly used in english that would be great for me .. chandra00003@gmail.com thats my email address please do me small fevar :) thanks….

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome Sam!

  • sam

    tanx Dear!

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed these small talk phrases!

  • lizzy

    thank you!!!

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Hi Neetesh,

    This article is full with phrases commonly used in English, and there’s a number of links on the top of the page pointing to even more articles containing such phrases!

    Also check out my other blog where I’m posting idiomatic expression videos: http://easyidioms.com/

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Neetesh Sahu

    I think this blog gonna be femous soon !!
    This blog is very useful to improve my english .. that would be more good when you help me a bit more .. :) i want something more in my english and u can only help buddy :) will u please send some spoken words and line which commonly used in english that would be great for me .. neetesh21@yahoo.com thats my email address please do me small fevar :) thanks….

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re welcome my friend!

  • kam&

    thanks alot bro :D

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Thanks!

  • Pintu Kumar Pal

    That’s a good one!

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