MY NAME IS ROBBY, and I’m the author of the English Harmony System – Read 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!
Here you’ll also 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! 🙂
There’s also industry small talk phrases – and they’re definitely 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 (UPDATED!)
- Typical Responses
- Industry Small-talk
- Departure Phrases (UPDATED!)
Also Check Out these English Phrase lists:
- English phrases with the word “thing”.
- 1001 Ways To Use The Simplest English Verb ‘To PUT’!
- English Verb “To GET” & How To Use It in Phrasal Verbs, Expressions & More!
- 45 Must-Know Phrases to Land a Job!
- Customer Support & Service Industry English Phrases
- Give Weight to Your Opinion by using Smart English Phrases!
- Common English Phrases to Use at Home & With Kids
- 25 Perfect Ways of Starting Sentences in English!
- 38 Typical English Sentence Endings
- 68 Industry-Specific English Expressions & Phrases for Non-native English Speakers
I’ve heard so much about you – in case the person you’re being introduced to is well known, this is just the right English small talk phrase to tell them during the introduction!
It’s good to have you here! – sometimes you may want to make the new person feel welcome at the party or event, so this is what you tell them to make them feel included.
I’d like you to meet someone! – this is a typical way of introducing a new person to one or more people.
I am indeed! And you must be… – when someone else approaches you and calls you by your name, and you’re pretty sure who that person is, this is the right English small talk phrase to use: “Hello, is it Mark?” – “I am indeed! And you must be James!?”
I’ll leave you two to get acquainted! – if you have to leave two people you just introduced to each other, this is the perfect phrase for such a situation.
Please, call me… – a few minutes into the conversation with a new person you may want to lighten up the mood by giving the other person a permission to call you by your name or a more friendly version of your name: “And by the way Michael…” – “Please, call me Mike!”
I almost didn’t recognize you! – sometimes we get to see people we haven’t seen for a long, long time – and this English small talk phrase is the typical way of expressing your excitement at seeing them again.
Have we met before? – in case you really don’t recognize the person saying hello to you, you can use this phrase to ask them if you’ve met before. Yes, it’s a bit awkward, but there’s really no better way of putting it!
It’s good to see you again! – this is how you recognize the presence of an old friend or acquaintance when you meet them after a while.
Conversation Starters & Greetings (UPDATED!)
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.
Is everything OK? – this is what you’d say to a person when you see that they’re distressed and obviously not OK. Normally you’d ask this to a close friend or a work colleague – but you can also say this to a stranger you meet in the street and if it’s obvious that that person needs help.
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?’
Help yourself! – this English small talk phrase is one of the traditional phrases you’ll find in all English phrase-books, and it’s an encouraging phrase used to let the other person know that they can go ahead with the action in question. Typically this is used as a response when the other person is asking for permission to take something, and then you tell them that they can certainly do it: “Sorry, do you mind if I take this cookie? Everyone seems to have taken theirs…” – “Sure, help yourself!”
Where were we? – imagine a situation when you’re speaking with someone, and then somehow you’re getting side-tracked and you veer off the original subject, or it could be that some other person distracts you and you forget where you left off. Now, this is the typical phrase to be used in situations like these – you’re basically asking your conversation partner what it was that you were talking about last.
How’s that sound for you? – let’s say for argument’s sake, you’re proposing something to your conversation partner. Well, in this case this small talk phrase is ideal to ask for their opinion on your proposal! Here’s an example: “Listen, I know what we’re doing tonight. Let’s go to the movies, there’s a new blockbuster out! How’s that sound for you?”
…if that’s alright with you? – you can attach this small talk bit at the end of your sentence to ask for the other person’s permission. Let’s imagine for a second you’re telling your work colleague you have to leave your desk for a few minutes, but you just want to be sure he’s OK with that. So here’s what you say “Listen Jimmy, I’m gonna leave my desk for a few minutes to make a really important phone call if that’s alright with you?”
Hi, how are you 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.
Sure, 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’d 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.
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.
Sorry for keeping you waiting! – and this is what you say to someone who’s been waiting for a while on the line while you’ve been trying to get through to the right person.
I’ll be with you in a minute… – this English small talk phrase will come in handy if you’re working as a receptionist, for example, and you have to leave the client for a short period of time while you’re looking up relevant information in another room or finding the right person to deal with the client’s query.
Just bear with me for a moment… – this is just another way of telling the client that you’ll be with them in a short while. In this context to “bear with me” simply means to be patient with the fact that I’ll be gone, simple as that!
Leave it with me! – if you want to tell the customer that they can leave the matters with you and that you’re going to deal with the issue, this is the right English small talk phrase to use.
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.
It’s so boring! – this is quite a self-explanatory phrase to be used whenever you’re bored. It can be used as a handy conversation starter if there’s another person nearby doing the same job – if they also look bored you can simply exclaim “It’s so boring!” and see if they respond to that.
Wish I had her job! – if someone else’s job looks better than yours, you can use this English small talk phrase to either start a conversation or respond to someone else making a remark about how easy it is for that person compared to the situation that you’re in.
We’re not paid enough! – if you think you’re not remunerated adequately (show me an employee who thinks he’s getting paid enough!), here’s a phrase to be used when you’re having a small talk with some colleague of yours and you have to express your opinion in relation to the small wages.
That’s one job I wouldn’t do! – this is how you refer to a job you definitely wouldn’t be willing to do no matter who asks you to do it. But then again – everything has a price, isn’t that right?
That’s a cushy number! – English idiomatic expression “cushy number” means a very comfortable and easy job. So when you’re seeing someone sitting around all day doing nothing, you can tell your friend “That’s a cushy number!” meaning that the job in question is really easy.
I don’t know how he got that job! – there’s always someone in the company who doesn’t know what they’re doing and you often wonder how they got the job in the first place, right? So, next time around when you make a comment about such a person when having a small talk with someone, you can use this phrase.
Departure Phrases (UPDATED!)
I really gotta go – this is the least formal way of telling someone that you definitely have to leave now. This is the best way of two friends, for example, finishing a conversation and personally I use this phrase quite often!
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
See you in a couple of minutes! – this phrase is typically used when you’re leaving the other person for a short while during an event, for example.
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.
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.
- Repeat each phrase three times.
- Then do it once more tomorrow.
- 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 1350 similar phrases and expressions and also made it SUPER-EASY for you to memorize 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?
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