There are lots of possible situations where you’ll meet new people: at a party, in the student lounge, at a conference, on the train, while traveling, just to name a few.
What do you usually say when you meet someone new?
Do you find it difficult to continue the conversation with them after exchanging names?
Even though the language we use to make small talk with new people may appear to be very simple, it is often difficult to use fluently without practice.
(In addition, some questions which are normal in your native country are actually considered rude in the United States!)
Let me guide you. In this article, I’m going to give you some tips on how to find out information you’re interested in from someone new.
Introducing Yourself to New People
If I’m honest, introducing yourself can be the most challenging part of a conversation. Even native speakers feel a little shy when approaching someone new.
That’s why you usually practice the easiest way to introduce yourself in beginning English classes:
- Hi! I’m _____________. What’s your name?
However, there are many other ways to introduce yourself. These expressions sound a little more natural. Make sure you pay attention to your tone so that you sound friendly.
- Hi there! My name’s _________. What’s yours?
- I don’t think we’ve met. I’m ___________.
- I don’t believe we’ve met before. My name is __________.
- Have we met? I’m ____________.
- I think I’ve seen you around, but we haven’t officially met. I’m _________.
Introducing People to Each Other
At any social event, you are probably going to introduce other people to each other and talk with more than one person at a time, which makes conversation much more interesting.
Here are some good ways to introduce two people who haven’t met:
- I’d like you to meet ____________.
- This is ______________.
- I’d like to introduce you to _______________.
- Have you met ____________? (This phrase was made famous by Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, as you see in this video!)
Small Talk Topics
When meeting someone new, we usually stick to very basic conversation topics until we get to know the person better.
While you may want to learn a lot about an interesting person, you need to be careful not to ask too many personal questions the first time you meet.
Americans are well-known for almost always asking these three questions:
- What do you do for work?
- Where did you go to school? (This question means, what college or university did you attend?)
- What brings you to __(this event/this party)__?
In general, people will ask you about work or school as soon as they meet you.
They may ask “What brings you here?” to find out more about you without being too direct.
This question encourages you to talk more about yourself and give reasons for attending the event. (Watch the video lesson on the question “What brings you here?” for more details.)
Similarly, if you live in a city like Boston with a lot of neighborhoods and nearby cities, another neutral topic is asking for more details about where you live.
- Do you live in __(this city/this neighborhood)__?
- What brings you to __(this city/this area)__?
- Where do you live?
- Where are you living?
- What kind of place do you live in? (Is it an apartment, a house, a dormitory, etc.?)
- What’s your place like?
- How do you like living here/there?
If you are just visiting or are not from the United States, people will usually ask you more questions about your background and for your opinion about their city.
- Where are you from originally?
- Where are you from in __(your country)__?
- What are you doing in __(this city)__?
- How do you like living here?
- What do you think about __(this city)__?
- Do you like it here?
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Asking about Romantic Partners and Family
Let’s be honest: if you are single and talking to someone attractive, you probably want to know whether they have a boyfriend/girlfriend or romantic partner, are married, or have kids.
However, it’s best not to be too direct when asking questions about the other person’s relationships. You can ask in a more indirect way:
- Are you here with anyone?
- Did you come here with anyone?
- Did you move to __(this city)__ on your own?
- Do you live with anyone / with roommates? (Note: In most countries, people live with their parents until they get married, but this is not that common in the United States. If you ask someone older than 20 if they live with their family, they may be confused or assume that you think they are married with children.)
If you have been talking to this new person for a while, you can ask more direct questions:
- Is there anyone special in your life?
- Do you have any kids?
Americans also really like their pets, so it’s common to ask, “Do you have any pets?”
After learning basic information about the person you have just met, you can continue the conversation by asking him/her more general questions.
This also enables you to find something in common! Here are some basic questions to start with:
- What do you like to do?
- What do you like to do outside of work/school?
- What kinds of things interest you?
- What kinds of things do you do in your free time?
- Do you like/watch/follow any sports/TV series?
Deciding to Continue or End the Conversation
As you can see, making small talk with someone you’ve just met is easy if you remember to stick to neutral, general conversation topics.
After you’ve talked for a while, you may want to continue the conversation and can ask for more details about their work, studies, or interests. (Get some suggestions in my free guide to more interesting small talk.)
If you don’t want to continue talking, you should end the conversation politely:
- It was nice meeting you. See you later!
- There is someone I want to say “hi” to over there. Nice talking with you!
- I’m going to get a drink/some water. Nice to meet you!
After reading this article, I hope you feel more confident and comfortable introducing yourself to and making small talk with new people.
You may be interested in my article on how to make small talk with acquaintances and friends you run into unexpectedly.
Now it’s your turn! Please leave a comment below introducing yourself and asking me one of the questions we discussed above! I’ll respond and we’ll get the conversation going.
Remember, the language is simple, but you must practice!
In order to improve your conversation skills, you must find opportunities to interact, so go to a party or event, introduce yourself to someone new at your school, or talk to someone at a bus stop.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes!