Entries Tagged as 'Small Talk'

Ways to ask someone about their job

Here are some phrases you can ask someone about their job:

So, what do you do?

So, what do you do for a living?

Where do you work?

Do you work nearby?  Is your job close?

How do you get to work? (Do you drive to work or take the train/bus/public transportation?)

How long have you been … (a therapist, in the hotel industry)?

You can respond by:

  • smiling, nodding, agreeing
  • saying you know someone in the same (or a similar) industry or company
  • mentioning anything you have in common

Avoid talking about the following because they are too personal:

  • salary
  • level of expertise
  • training
  • awards
  • qualifications


Conversation Tips: American Football

Here are some open-ended questions you can ask Americans about football:

  • Who’s your favorite team?
  • Where are they from?
  • Why do you like them?/Are you from that area?
  • Do they have a good defense/offense?
  • Who is their quarterback?
  • What is the goal/objective of the game?
  • Who is playing in the Superbowl?
  • Who do you think will win?

ESL phrases to use while playing games

Now that the holidays are over, is it all work and no play?   Well, take a break to learn about some fun expressions to use the next time you play games:

  • You’re it.  (It, here, means the person whose turn it is)
  • Who’s it?
  • It’s your turn. (It, here, is just the subject of the sentence)
  • It’s your go.
  • It’s my turn.
  • It’s my go.
  • Let’s take turns.
  • Whose turn is it?
  • Whose go is it?

When you’re playing tag, there are many people in a group, and one person, “it”, has to chase everyone until they are caught. Can you think of equivalent games that are played in your country?  Here are some we played when we were kids:

  • hide and seek
  • red-light green-light
  • duck duck goose
  • tag
  • freeze tag

Small talk while playing games is a great way to pick up on these phrases and more.

Nelson Mandela Quote & Writing Tip

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Adding “Do you agree with the following statement,” to the beginning of axioms such as this is a good way to create sample essay topics if you’re taking or helping someone practice for the SAT, GRE, or other test with a writing component.

Phrases of Praise

You might really like one of the projects your friend designed.  You might be trying to cheer someone up.  Maybe you want to offer congratulations.  Whatever the situation, if you want to show approval or appreciation, here are some phrases you can use:

  • Good job!
  • Nice.
  • That’s great!/Great!
  • That’s terrific!/Terrific!
  • That’s wonderful!/Wonderful!
  • That’s awesome!/Awesome!
  • That’s fantastic!/Fantastic!
  • You did it!
  • You rock! – or – This rocks! (more casual)
  • Great work!
  • Wow!




6 Ways to Meet English Speaking Practice Buddies

You’ve been trying for a while now to master English.  You read books, do online grammar practice activities, read articles, comment on blogs, and tweet all the time.  So why is it that when you speak English, people still struggle to understand you?

You really need to talk…a lot…to people…face to face. You need the two-way interaction with another human being to build speaking skills.

How can you meet these people?

  1. Signing up for an English speaking class seems obvious, and I bet there are free classes within driving distance, but during group work, who are you partners with?  Not native English speakers, I bet.  Instead, sign up for an English literature or career training class where you’ll learn alongside native speakers.
  2. Sign up for any class, but preferably one where you’ll work in groups.  Business leadership, team building, or conflict resolution classes will give you the speaking opportunities you need.
  3. Join a sports team and invite your teammates out for snacks or drinks after practice or a game.
  4. Go to a social media club meeting.  Don’t just listen to the presentations;  network with other attendees during intermission. You don’t have to be clever.  Start with, “Where are you from?”  or “Have you been here before?”
  5. Get a roommate if you can.  It’s really difficult to avoid speaking regularly with someone who shares your kitchen and bathroom.
  6. Get a part-time job.  It’s only temporary, so you don’t have to love it.  You make friends immediately because of all the other employees who are in the same boat as you.  You might even be able to talk to the customers.  The best part is that it’s 10-20 hours per week of additional English practice.

The key is to actually speak.  Get out of your shell, get out of your patterns, get out of your house, meet people and speak.





Blog Updates

I’ve been making some updates to my blog. For instance, if you want to follow me on Twitter or contact me for tutoring or conversation practice through Skype, both buttons are working now! If you try to use them and they don’t work, please let me know.

Also, I’ll be uploading some new English tutorial videos to my Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/user/ALLENGLISHLLC), which you can subscribe to by clicking the link on the right menu.

As always, thank you for visiting!

Last and Time

The word last has a few different meanings, but this post refers to the word last in terms of duration.  As a verb, last is stative, meaning it cannot be used in the progressive forms.  It refers to the length of time of an event, or how long something continues.

Take a look at these examples:

  • The movie lasted 90 minutes.
  • Our relationship has lasted for a decade.
  • Excuse me, how long is this session going to last?
  • If I enroll full-time, the program will last 2 years, but if I enroll part-time, it will last 3 years.

Other ways you can express the same concept are by using these expressions:

  • keep going
  • continue
  • go on (for)


  • The movie seemed to go on forever.
  • I wanted to get off the phone, but the conversation just kept going.
  • I asked the receptionist when the contract ended, and she said it would continue until I cancelled it.


Morning or Afternoon; Evening or Night

Learning how to express the appropriate times of the day can be tricky.  Morning, afternoon, evening, and night.  There are some cultural or practical differences in when some begin and some end.

I think a lot of the difference comes from the time we go to bed or wake up.  For example, I couldn’t sleep the other night.  I accidentally woke my husband up after getting some water.   He said, “I don’t want to go to the gym this morning.”  I said, “You mean tomorrow morning…right now it’s 2:00 at night.”  I used the word “night” because I hadn’t slept yet.  He used the word “morning” because he had just woken up.

Strictly scientifically speaking, however, you would say that the morning begins at 12:00 a.m.  However, if you see someone at a night club at 12:05 a.m., you don’t say, “Good morning” to them, but saying “good morning” would be accurate by this a.m./p.m. rule.

We need the generalities, however, because it gives us some guidance about which phrase is the most appropriate.  Try these categories:

  • from the time the birds start chirping until you go to work:  This time is morning, but also referred to as early morning. Early morning ends around 9:00 a.m.
  • from the time you start work until you have lunch:  You can safely call anytime you’re working before 11:59 a.m. morning.
  • from the time you have lunch until you leave the office:  A typical lunch hour in America is between 12 and 1 p.m. Because it’s now p.m., it’s no longer morning.  The afternoon begins at 12:01 p.m., but if it’s 12:00 p.m. people still say “Good afternoon”, even though, technically, 12:00 p.m. is noon.
  • from the time you leave the office until you eat dinner:  This time is the evening.  Notice I’m not putting an exact time here because I think the transition between afternoon and evening is difficult to define, and many people have different times they eat.  If I had to pick a time, though, I would say the evening takes place between 5 and 8 p.m.
  • from the time you eat dinner until you change for bed:  This time is usually considered night.  It’s dark, the homework and the housework are done.  We’re winding down, getting very, very sleepy.
  • the time you are in bed asleep:  This time is also called night.  When the clock strikes 12:00 a.m., however, it’s not necessarily morning.  This time is called late night.

Speaking of…

You’re talking with your friend.  Your friend is talking about one topic…restaurants, for example.  You also want to mention a restaurant.  Interrupt by saying, “Speaking of restaurants…I went to a great restaurant on Friday.”  This is a great way to participate in the conversation and to bring up a new topic.

There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to use “Speaking of…”

When you want to bring up a noun (like restaurants), the noun must be plural.

  • Incorrect: Speaking of restaurant…
  • Correct: Speaking of restaurants…

When you want to bring up a verb (like eating), the verb must be a gerund (the –ing form)

  • Incorrect: Speaking of eat…
  • Correct: Speaking of eating…