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How to use small talk in English

5 min read
9 February 2023
3 persons talking together in a Kaplan school

What is small talk? 

If you’ve moved to an English-speaking country, you might notice that many locals will talk about rather mundane topics – such as the weather, current affairs or a recent social event – while waiting for the bus or waiting for a meeting to begin. This practice is known as ‘small talk’ and is an important social custom. 


Why do we use small talk? 

Small talk is used in many different situations – but it’s most commonly used to either break the ice or fill an awkward silence between people. It might seem tedious at times, however, in many English-speaking countries, it’s considered polite.  

For example, when attending a business meeting or interview, or when interacting with a person you don’t know that well, small talk is expected – to say nothing or to immediately talk about the purpose of the meeting could make you come across as blunt and rude.  


Examples of small talk

But what to say? Here are some of the most popular topics to discuss when engaging in small talk: 


Talking about the weather 

  • It’s a beautiful day, isn't it? 
  • Can you believe all this rain we're having? 
  • It’s so cold outside. I hope it doesn’t snow 
  • We really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day 
  • I heard there’s going to be a storm this weekend 
  • I can’t believe this wind – it almost blew me over! 
  • The lightening last night really upset my dog; I hope it doesn’t continue tonight 


Talking about the news 

  • Did you hear the news about the fire? 
  • Did you watch the House of Commons debate last night? 
  • I read in the paper that the leisure center is closing! 
  • What do you think about these train strikes? 
  • Did you hear about that volcano erupting? 
  • I heard on the radio today that they are finally going to fix those potholes 


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Talking about sports/popular culture

  • How did you enjoy the match last night? 
  • I think Cristiano Ronaldo played amazingly last night! 
  • Have you seen that new horror film? 
  • Did you see how beautiful Blake Lively looked at the Met Gala? 
  • What did you think of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie? 


At the office 

  • Looking forward to the weekend? 
  • How was your weekend? 
  • How long have you worked here? 
  • I can't believe how busy/quiet we are today, can you? 
  • Has it been a long week? 
  • What did you think of that meeting? 


At a social event 

  • So, how do you know the host? 
  • Have you tried the chocolate cake Dave made? 
  • Are you having a good time? 
  • It looks like you could use another drink 
  • It’s a lovely venue, don’t you think? 
  • I love your outfit. Can I ask where you got it? 


Waiting somewhere 

  • I didn't think the trains would be so busy today 
  • The bus must be running late today – what's new? 
  • It looks like we are going to be here for a while! 
  • Going shopping on a Sunday was a bad idea! 
  • How long have you been waiting? 


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