Five tips for continuing conversations

Do you find it difficult to continue conversations in English?  Maybe you can’t think of things to say quickly. Maybe the other person doesn’t understand you. Or, maybe you can’t keep the other person interested.

Don’t worry, there are some strategies and phrases that can help you keep conversations going.  Also, remember conversation is a skill that you will get better at with practice, so try not to be shy or quiet.  Don’t be afraid to start conversations or new topics, especially with people you know.  Below are a few tips and phrases that may help you.


Give more information
When you’re asked a question, always try and give more information in your answer.  This will show you are interested in the topic and want to talk about it more.  For example, if you’re asked “What did you do in the weekend?”, don’t just say “I saw a movie”, instead say “I saw Star Trek with my old school friend on Saturday night.  It was a lot of fun but it was ready crowded.  Have you seen it?”


Change “No” to “No, but…”
Maybe sometimes you have to give a negative answer.  Negative answers like “no” or “can’t” or “haven’t” can quickly stop a conversation.  Try to follow your negative answers with “but…” to continue the topic in a different direction.  For example, if you’re asked “Have you been to New York?” don’t just say “No”, instead say “No, but I’ve been to Los Angeles.” Or, maybe you’re asked “Can you speak any other languages?”, then don’t just say “I can’t” but instead say “No, but I’ve always wanted to learn Chinese. How about you?”

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Be prepared
You can often predict topics used at the start of conversations.  People like to make small talk about recent topics like news, weather, or the latest TV shows or big sports games.  Thinking about what you want to say about these things beforehand can make your conversations go more smoothly.  Perhaps you can even practice the conversations in your head first by imagining you’re talking to another person.


Show interest in the other speakers
It’s important to also show you’re listening to other people speaking.  You can easily do this just with eye-contact, smiling, and nodding your head.  But you can show more interest by sometimes saying things like “Really?” or “Me too”.  If something is very interesting or surprising, you can also use phrases like “You’re joking!” or “No way!”  Also, ask for more information by saying “What kind of…?” or “Tell me more about…”


And finally….keep it balanced
While it’s great to talk a lot in the conversation, be careful not to talk too much.  Try to keep the conversation balanced and interactive.   Watch the listener when you’re speaking.   Do they look bored?  Is there something they want to say?   Make sure they also have a chance a speak.  Or, maybe even ask them questions about the topic. Use phrases like “How about you?” or “Don’t you think so?”



Extra tip!!
Sometimes the conversation topics may come to an end or become boring or even awkward. If so, use phrases like “By the way…”, “So…” or “Speaking of…” to change the direction of the topic or start a new one. More on changing conversation topics.

Related links:

Practice your speaking at the live-online Pomaka Conversation Café

How do I start a conversation?

Can you tell a funny story in English?

How do I end a conversation politely?