How do you master small talk in English?


Do you know "small talk" that is attracting attention in learning English? Small Talk is also being incorporated into English classes at schools as education reforms.
In this article, we will not only explain what small talk is and how it works, but also introduce English phrases that are useful for small talk.

What is "Small Talk"?

First, let's take a closer look at "what small talk looks like". In addition, I will explain the tips to proceed effectively.

One of the English communication skills

Small talk is translated as "chat" or "small talk", but it is not just a chat or small talk. The difference from general chat is that "dare to choose a topic that is not important, and people who are not familiar with each other dodge words in a flattery." The purpose of Small Talk is to "share a pleasant time" by having a little small talk in a good atmosphere.

Small talk has the important role of shortening the distance with the other person and relieving tension, and builds relationships by finding commonalities with each other and getting interested in the other person. Small talk is indispensable for communication in English and is one of the necessary communication skills especially in business.

Examples of familiar small talks include conversations with cashiers, conversations with people sitting next to you in a vehicle, conversations with taxi drivers, and conversations with online teachers. Of course, conversations with people you meet for the first time at parties and events are also small talks. In this case, it's a "little small talk" that triggers a conversation. Small talk also includes conversations to eliminate awkwardness when you are alone in the elevator. I often feel that "foreigners are friendly" because they have small talk on a daily basis.

Difference between small talk and chat

Small talk is as mentioned above, but what is the difference from chat, which means "chat"?

Both seem like "little chats", but the big difference between small talk and chat is the depth of the relationship with the person you're talking to. Small talk is a chat between "people who don't know each other well", while chat is a chat between "people who know each other well".

So it's not unnatural to ask "○ Let's have a chat!", But suddenly "☓ Let's have a small talk!" Even though you don't know the other person well! ) ”, It sounds unnatural. There are no grammatical mistakes, but small talk is a search for opportunities to build relationships, so natives never express it this way.

Tips for effective small talk

Here are some things to keep in mind in order to have a smooth conversation.

Avoid private talk

I will proceed with the conversation while asking what I like and what I think I may be interested in, but I do not like questions that go into my private life. Questions that go into private are avoided, but it is the same. Enjoy conversations on any topic within the bounds of common sense.

Avoid questions that answer Yes or No

Simple questions that can only be answered with "Yes" or "No" should be avoided as they can interrupt the conversation. If you ask a question that you can answer freely, the conversation will expand further from the answer. Also, when you receive a simple question that can be answered with "Yes" or "No", repeat the same words or ask the same question.

A: It's a beautiful day, isn't it? (It's a beautiful day, isn't it?)
B: Yes, today is such a beautiful day.

A: How's your day been? (How's your day been?)
B: Pretty good. How about you?

How's your day been? is an expression equivalent to "How are you?", Like How are you? And How's your day going ?. How's your day been? Is now complete, so the nuance is "How's your day been?" Also, since I am asking "so far", it is unnatural to use it in the morning when the day has just begun. For early hours, it's best to say something like "How's your day/morning going?".

By the way, How's of How's your day been? Is an abbreviation of "How has", and How's of How's your day going? Is an abbreviation of "How is".

Don't check your smartphone

Checking your smartphone is rude when you're talking to someone, even if it's not a small talk. Of course, it is NG to react to the notification sound or check the notification. If you make the other person feel uncomfortable, the conversation will not bounce, so keep your smartphone out of sight from the beginning.

Show your sincere interest

If you properly say, "It doesn't make much sense because it's a chat," it will be communicated to the other party in some way. Also, if you take a skeptical attitude, the conversation will not continue.

Small talk can lead to big business, and it's quite possible to deepen friendships. Meeting new people has all the potential, so it's important to show your heartfelt interest. Keep in mind that small talk is important in the English-speaking world, and take it seriously.

Keep active listening in mind

Active Listening is active listening. It may seem difficult, but in simple terms, it is "skills to listen to the other person's ears, eyes, and heart".

It is important for building smooth relationships, and it is necessary to look at the other person's eyes, strike an aizuchi, and empathize with them. You should pay attention to the volume and tone of your voice, including your eyes, facial expressions, and posture. Of course, it is NG to block the other party's story.

Topics & phrases suitable for small talk

In small talk, it is important to understand "what to ask" and "what should not be asked". You may also want to think about "how far you speak" and "what is best not to speak". Here, we will look at topics suitable for small talk and English phrases for each topic.


The topic of weather may seem trivial, but it's a topic that you can share with anyone without thinking too much.

Lovely day, don't you think so?

Looks like rain is in the mountains.

Did you order this beautiful weather?

The point is to speak without being too clever. If you mix jokes like the third example sentence, the conversation may bounce.


We also recommend topics such as movies, TV programs, popular music, and books that have become a hot topic for conversation. Ask questions about your favorite podcasts, apps, games, and more to find out what your opponent is interested in. If you can't find a clue, ask according to your interests.

Are you reading any great books? I could use some recommendations. (Are you reading any great books? I would be grateful if you could give me some recommendations.)

Are there any podcasts you love?

Have you tried any new apps or games lately that you really liked? I could use some suggestions. (Have you tried any new apps or games lately that you really liked? I could use some suggestions.)

could use means "I really want ..." and "I'm glad and saved if I get ...". Recommendation is "recommended", and suggestion is "suggesting opinions and plans".


It's also a good idea to bring up the topic of seasonal sports. Specifically, we recommend your favorite teams, local teams, sporting events, championships, and more.

If the other person is rooting for a rival team, avoid complicated talk and focus on the team, performance, etc., and the conversation will be lively.

Have you watched Otani's games? He is amazing! What do you think? (Have you watched Otani's games? He's amazing! What do you think?)

Do you know any good swimming pool near here?

Did you watch the tennis match on Saturday? I missed it, but I heard it was very exciting. (Did you watch the tennis match on Saturday? I missed it, but I heard it was very hot.)


Food topics that do not lead to controversy may be easier to talk about. Ask for recommended cafes, restaurants, menus, etc. You may ask what kind of food you enjoy at home. You should avoid talking about foods you don't like because you want to keep a positive conversation.

Do you know any good restaurants around here?

Have you tried any new cafes lately?

What's your favorite meal to cook at home?


Work talk is also a popular topic in small talk. If you talk about what kind of work you are doing, what you like about your work, etc., the story will spread. However, be careful not to get caught up in your work.

How long have you worked as an engineer [job title]?

What do you enjoy most about your job?

That is an interesting line of work. How did you get into it?

an engineer can be replaced with other occupations. The line of work means "industry/occupation".

Other topics

We also talk about family, travel, celebrity gossip, hobbies, hometown, and more. However, if you have a private question about your family, hobbies, or hometown, you can't ask. Just ask lightly.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Where does your family live?

I've just got back from a trip to Italy. Have you ever been?

Have you got much planned for the weekend?

Topics not suitable for small talk

Knowing "topics that are not suitable for small talk" is also important for smooth conversation. Make sure to remember it so that you can make the mall talk successful.


It's taboo to ask personal financial questions without knowing each other well. It's okay to ask about your job, industry, career, etc., but don't ask about "salary." Of course, it is good manners not to ask the price of what you are wearing or what you have. Money talk is an inappropriate topic.

Politics and religion

It is not possible to judge from the outside who has what kind of political thought. Please note that some people have strong opinions. Also, religion is very personal. Both are at risk of conflict and heated debate. Topics with potentially delicate elements should be avoided.


You may find it easier to talk about in appearance, but it is safer to avoid it as it can sometimes be offensive. For example, if you ask if you are pregnant and just get fat, you will feel awkward to each other. Of course, it's OK to praise your hairstyle and clothes. Also, be aware that it is not polite to ask the age of both men and women.

Offensive joke

Sexist and racist jokes only make people uncomfortable. Of course, you should stop talking to people who make offensive jokes such as gender, race, culture, or sexual orientation because you can't have a positive conversation.


People with high health consciousness may want to recommend the latest health methods and health foods that they are practicing, but it is not always the story that is of interest to the other person. It's okay to ask questions, but I don't recommend talking to yourself. Health may seem like a good topic to talk about, but it's best to avoid it.

Other topics

Personal gossip, death, night life, past relationships, narrow specialized topics, etc. should also be avoided.

Personal gossip only makes the speaker's own impression worse. Also, death is an emotional and heavy topic that can be upsetting, so it is not suitable. Of course, it's not a topic to talk to or openly talk to people who aren't familiar with night life.

Relationships in the past tend to be negative, so it won't be a positive conversation. Talking to the opposite sex you just met about the past relationships between men and women can be awkward.

Also, it is NG to talk long and narrow technical topics that you do not understand well. Of course, specialized topics can be the starting point for conversations, but it's best to avoid lengthy talks about passionate, highly specialized matters.


Small talk seems to be easy and difficult, and some natives are not good at it. Especially for those who are extremely nervous when talking to people they meet for the first time, it may be better to prepare in advance. Small talk can be learned from experience, such as what kind of questions the other person asks and what English phrases are used to answer, so it is recommended that you do not be afraid to challenge yourself. It is natural that we non-natives make mistakes because even natives make mistakes. Let's talk small talk and acquire communication skills in English!