...And how to answer them!
To break the ice - to make people who have not met before feel more relaxed with each other
To make small talk – to have a conversation about things that are not important, often between people who do not know each other well
To mingle - to move among and engage with others at a social event
As part of our Intensive English Courses at English Steps, every Thursday we organise English conversation clubs in residential and retirement homes here in Leeds, England.
At these conversation clubs our students meet native English speakers to practise their English with, and the residents can discover new things about different cultures and meet new people.
If you like to mingle, then at the conversation clubs you will meet a lot of new native English speakers. Take a look at the questions below, which English speakers often use in order to break the ice, then take our test - How many do you know?
"How’s it going?"
- A generic question to open a conversation – similar to ‘how are you’ but more informal
- Typical answer: something generic, e.g. ‘not bad thanks, how about you?’
"How are you finding (X, Y or Z)?"
- Asking your opinion on something in process, for example, ‘How are you finding the English lessons?’
- Typical answer: your opinion, e.g. ‘they’re going quite well actually’
(1)"How long have you been here (for)?"
(2)"How long are you staying here (for)?"
- These are two very common questions, which students often get confused. One asks the amount of time already spent in England, the other asks for how much more time will be spent in the future in England. The weak pronunciation of ‘have’ in (1) makes this even harder.
- Typical answer: a time period, for the past (1), ‘just two weeks,’ or the future (2), ‘another three months, and then I’m going to Spain’
"Whereabouts in France are you from?"
- Everybody knows the question 'where are you from?', but we often say ‘whereabouts’, to ask where specifically somebody is from.
- Typical answer: a place, e.g. ‘Just North of Paris, in a small town’
"What do you do?"
- This is the short form of the question "what do you do for a living?". We use this form to ask what your job or occupation is.
- Typical answer: a job, e.g. ‘I'm a civil engineer, and you?’
Remember - if you don't know what to say you can always make small talk by mentioning the weather - it's our favourite subject!