Practice English Speaking&Listening with: SMALL TALK: What to say and what NOT to say!

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My name is Emma, and in today's video we are going to talk about something very, very important

in English, and that is small talk.


So, I'm first going to talk about: What is small talk?

And then I'm going to talk about the good things to do in order to make good small talk,

and the don'ts - the things we don't do when we're making small talk.

Okay, so first of all, what is "small talk"?

Very good question.

So, I've written some question words up here: "What?", "Who?", "Where/When?", "Why?", and


So, what is "small talk"?

"Small talk" is a type of conversation.

It's conversation we make with people we don't know that well.


So, it's conversation we make when we don't really know people that well.

We use small talk not with our family, not with our friends; we use small talk with strangers

- with people we don't know.

We use it with acquaintances.

And for those of you who don't know, "acquaintance" is somebody you know, but not really well.

So, for example, your neighbour might be an acquaintance.

Your friend's friend might be an acquaintance.

So, with strangers, with acquaintances, people you know their name but you don't really know

them well.

With your co-workers, with your boss, with your neighbours, with the clerk at the store

maybe - if you like to go to a cafe, you might use it with the person who works at the cafe.

So, small talk is for people you don't know that well.

So, where and when?

We've already talked of a couple of examples.

Have you ever been on an elevator, and everybody's look at their phone; nobody's making eye contact?

A lot of people will make small talk on elevators.

At parties.

We use small talk at parties.

We use them when we're in line ups; sometimes we talk to people near us.

We use them at conferences when we're in business or academics.

We use them in our classes.

When you have a classmate, you don't know them that well, you would probably use small


And there are many, many other situations you use small talk.

So, why do we use small talk?

Well, number one, we want to be friendly.


When we meet somebody, we don't want to seem rude, we don't want to seem unfriendly; we

want to seem friendly, so we use small talk.

We use small talk to meet new people.

A lot of students, when they come to other countries, they want to meet new people.

A good way to do that is by using small talk.

We want to not feel uncomfortable.


We want to feel comfortable; not uncomfortable.

If, for example, you're in an elevator and nobody's talking, it makes everybody feel

a little bit uncomfortable.

Small talk could make that situation feel more comfortable.

We also use small talk to make other people feel comfortable.


We're trying to make a connection with other people and make them feel comfortable, too.

All right?

So, key point: Small talk we use for people we don't know that well; we use it for strangers,

acquaintances, neighbours.

Do we use it for family and friends?

Not really.

We use it for many different types of situations, and we use it for multiple reasons.

So now I'm going to teach you some great ways to make small talk.

Okay, so remember small talk is for everybody.

So, we want to keep the conversation easy, and things everybody can talk about.


So, what are some things that would make great small talk?

Well, first of all, I want you to imagine you're at a party and you don't know anyone,

and you want to talk to somebody.

Here are some great things you could say.

So, to start, you can talk about the place you're in or the venue.


So, for example, if music is playing, you can just say to someone: "Oh, I love this

song", and that can start a conversation.

Or maybe you can say: "What a great apartment this is" or "Isn't that such a beautiful painting?

You know, it's such a nice painting."

So, what you can do is you can start by talking about the place you're in; whatever is around


"You know, this restaurant, it's so busy; it's packed" is another thing you could say.

So, you can talk about the place you're in.

Another good thing to talk about, if you want to start a conversation, if you want to start

small talk, you can compliment somebody.

So, for example: "Wow, I love your earrings.

Where did you get them from?"

Or: "What a beautiful shirt.", "I love your purse.", "That's such a nice scarf."


So, if you compliment someone, you can ask them where they bought it from, and that can

open up a conversation.

Another good thing you can use for small talk is you can talk about your connections to

people in the area.

So, for example, if you're at a party, you might want to know how the person knows the

host of the party.

So, you might ask: "So, how do you know the host?", "How do you know Frank?", "How do

you know Amy?", "How do you know my sister?"


So, this just establishes how you...

How the person fits into your life.

So, it's a really good question to ask if you're at a party, if you're at any type of


You can also ask: "Do you know many people here?"

If yes: "Who do you know here?"


Another good question you can ask is you can ask people where they're from.

So, this I'm calling location.

You can ask them: "Oh, are you from Toronto?" if you're in Toronto.

If you're in Paris, you can ask them: "Are you from Paris?"

If they say: "Yes", you can ask them: "What neighbourhood did they grow up in?"

If they say: "No", you can say: "Where are you from?

You know, how long have you lived here for?

You know, what do you think of this city?"

So these are types of questions you can ask about a city or a location you're in.

These all make for great small talk topics.

So, let's look at some more.

Another great thing you can talk about, another great topic for small talk is asking somebody

for recommendations.


So, for example, if you're at a party and, you know, you've already said hello, you can

ask them: "I'm new to this city.

Anything you would recommend to see?"

Or: "Anything you would recommend to do?"; "I'm new to this neighbourhood" - maybe you've

just moved to a new neighbourhood.

So, it's always good to ask people for recommendations and suggestions on what to do.

You might ask them: "What's a good restaurant in this city?", "Do you have a favourite restaurant?"

You know, and then...

The purpose of this is it can lead to other topics.

So, this is a way to open up conversation.

You might ask: "What's a good coffee shop?", "What's a good cafe?"

So this is a really good thing to do.

Sometimes we, in small talk-it's very simple-we just want to know what somebody does for work.

So, we might ask them: "So, what do you do for a living?", "Are you a student?", "Where

do you work?"


Very common questions we ask in small talk.

We talk often about weather, especially for those elevator situations or if you're in

a line up and, you know, there's an older person in front of you, a lot of the times

we talk about weather.

So, you might ask...

Or you might even just say a comment: "What a beautiful day.", "What a horrible day.",

"What a snowy day.", "What a cold day.", "What a hot day."

Now, this is really good to talk about if you're in a country where the weather changes

a lot.

So, the US, this is great; Canada, England.

But if you're in a really hot country where the weather is always hot and always the same,

then weather is not really the best subject.

It's good to choose weather if it actually does change a lot.

Another example: "Can you believe the weather today?

It's so beautiful out."


So, this is a great thing you can talk about, and this leads to other conversation topics.

Sports and movies, or hobbies are also great small talk topics.

So, you might ask somebody: "What sports do you follow?"

Maybe there's a local team.

Maybe you live in a city where there's a local hockey team, or a soccer team, or a baseball

team, and you can ask the person: "Oh, did you watch the hockey game last night?", "Did

you watch the soccer game last night?

What did you think?"

Or you can ask them about movies: "Have you seen any good movies lately?", "What kind

of movies do you like?"

So, these are all great questions.

And remember, with all of these questions, these are just openings.

So, the purpose of this is you want to make the conversation longer.

The way to do this is to ask more questions.

Ask questions about the other person.

These are just ways to start small talk.

Now I'm going to tell you about some things you should not do when you're making small



The don'ts of small talk.

Okay, so the point of small talk is to have light, easy conversation.

I'm now going to tell you some things that are not good topics for small talk, and I'll

tell you why.

The first one is religion.


An example is: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour yet?"

This is not good small talk.

Asking somebody about religion: "Have they converted to this?"

You know, telling them they should convert to somebody.

It really...

It can really annoy people, maybe people already are that religion but they don't want to talk

about it, and you might even offend somebody; you might make somebody angry or upset, so

we try to avoid religion.

Now, if you're at a church making small talk, religion might be fine; or if you're at a

mosque, or if you're at a synagogue, or a temple - it's fine to talk about religion

depending on the context.

So, if you're in a place of worship - yeah, religion's great; but if you're at a party,

at a conference, in the elevator - it's not usually good to talk about religion.


Now, politics is sometimes okay to talk about in small talk.

If you ask somebody politely: "Oh, are you going to vote?", "Who do you think is going

to win the election?"

"You know, which party do you like?"

That's okay.

But if you become aggressive, this is when politics is no good for small talk.

So, for example, if you tell somebody: "Oh, you know, you're voting for this person?

You're so stupid.

You shouldn't vote for this person" - that's not good small talk.

People don't like to be told what to do, so it's good to avoid politics for the most part.

And if you do bring up politics, try to be friendly about it.


We don't ask people how much money they make or what their salary is.

So, if somebody tells you about their job, don't ask: "How much money do you make?"

Even if you really, really want to know, it's not acceptable small talk.


Talking about somebody's weight or their looks - this is not good small talk.

So, for example: "You see that man over there?

He's so ugly."


That's not a good small talk conversation, or you know, telling somebody: "Oh, you know,

you'd be pretty if you lost some weight."

These are not good topics for small talk.

Heavy subjects.

"Heavy subjects" are subjects that make people feel very sad and depressed.

Remember, you're trying to make people feel comfortable.

You want people to have a smile on their face during small talk.

If you talk about death, disease, war, crime - this can really make people feel sad, and

so because you don't know these people that well, it's not a good topic for small talk.


So, "gossip" is when we talk about somebody in a bad way when they're not there.

So, if you're at a party and you just meet somebody for the first time, it's not good

to start gossiping because you don't know them and it might look bad on you.


So that's not appropriate for small talk.

Controversial subjects.

So, usually we try not to talk about abortion, you know, divorce, depending on who you're

talking to.

If you're in an elevator and you've just met somebody for the first time, you don't want

to start the conversation by talking about abortion or anything that's really controversial.

Also, your problems.

It's great to talk about your problems with your friends and your family, but when you're

meeting a stranger or an acquaintance for the first...

You know, you're meeting somebody you don't really know that well, they don't really want

to know about your problems because they don't know you.

So, if you start talking about your money problems, you know, you have a gambling addiction,

you have no money left, your wife or your husband is cheating on you-okay?-you have

all these relationship problems - these types of things, they're great to talk about with

your friends or family, but not for small talk.


The topic will make other people feel a little bit uncomfortable or maybe very uncomfortable,

depending on what you're talking about.

Okay, so one other thing you should not talk about in small talk.

Small talk is friendly conversation, and you're trying to talk about things everybody can

talk about; you want to include everybody.

So, if you have your PhD in quantum physics or quantum mechanics, or if you're the world's

leading expert on, you know, penguins - maybe certain people, they have no idea what you're

talking about, they won't be able to add to the conversation, so it's good to choose conversation

that people can actually get involved with; easy topics.

Okay, so now we're going to talk a little bit more about small talk.

Okay, so we've talked about the good things to talk about for small talk, and the things

we shouldn't talk about for small talk.

Now in this last part of the video I just want to talk about: How do you end small talk?

So imagine you're at this party, you've had a great conversation, and now you want to


What do you say?

Well, the first thing you can do is you can say: "I need": "I need to get something to

eat.", "I need to get a drink.", "I need to use the restroom.", "I need to talk to my


So, saying: "I need" and what you want to do is a great way to start.

The next thing you can do is tell the person that it was nice talking to them.

So: "I need to get some food.

It was nice talking to you."

After that, it's good to think about something that you really enjoyed talking to them about.

So, if you were talking about movies, you can say: "I enjoyed talking about movies with

you.", "I enjoyed talking about sports with you."


And then, finally: "I hope to talk to you again soon.", "It was really nice talking

to you.

I hope we can talk again soon."


So, these are three different things...

Or, sorry.

One, two, three, four?

Four things you can say which will help you get out of a small talk conversation.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this video.

I want you to come visit our website at

There, you can find a quiz where you can do some practice; you can practice small talk,

you can practice understanding small talk better on this quiz.

So, until next time, take care.

The Description of SMALL TALK: What to say and what NOT to say!