The Best Questions for Starting a Conversation

Here are 10 questions to help you start speaking English. Each of these questions can help you begin or continue a conversation. The questions are divided in two categories: Basic Facts and Hobbies, and Free Time. There are also a number of questions that can help you continue the conversation after the first question.

Five Basic Facts
These five questions will help you get to know people. They are simple questions with simple answers and provide information so you can ask more questions.

What is your name?
Where do you live?
What do you do?
Are you married?
Where are you from?

Peter: Hello. My name is Peter.
Helen: Hi Peter. I’m Helen. Where are you from?

Peter: I’m from Billings, Montana. And you?
Helen: I’m from Seattle, Washington. What do you do?

Peter: I’m a grade school teacher. Where do you live?
Helen: I live in New York.

Peter: That’s interesting. Are you married?
Helen: Now, that’s an interesting question! Why do you want to know?

Peter: Well …

More Questions for …
These questions help to continue the conversation after your first question. Here are some more related questions to ask for more details.

What is your name?

It’s a pleasure to meet you. Where are you from?
That’s an interesting name. Is it Chinese / French / Indian, etc.?
Does your name have a special meaning?

Where do you live?

How long have you lived there?
Do you like that neighborhood?
Do you live in an apartment or house?
Do you have a garden at your home?
Do you live alone or with your family?

What do you do?

Which company do you work for?
How long have you had that job?
Do you like your job?
What’s the best / worst thing about your job?
What do you like best / least about your job?
Would you like to change jobs?

Are you married?

How long have been married?
Where did you get married?
What does your husband / wife do?
Do you have any children?
How old are your children?

Where are you from?

Where is ….?
How long did you live there?
What is XYZ like?
Do you like living here?
How is your country different than here?
Do the people in your country speak English / French / German, etc.?

Hobbies / Free Time
These questions will help you find out more about people’s likes and dislikes.

What do you like doing in your free time?
Can you play tennis / golf / soccer / etc.?
What kind of films / food / vacations do you enjoy?
What do you do on weekends / Saturdays?

More Questions for …
These questions will help you ask for more detail once you’ve learned if someone does certain things.

What do you like doing in your free time?

How often do you (listen to music, eat out in restaurants, etc.)?
Where do you (listen to music, eat out in restaurants, etc.) in this town?
Why do you like (listening to music, eating out in restaurants, etc.) so much?

Can you play tennis / golf / soccer / etc.?

Do you enjoy playing tennis /golf /soccer /etc.?
How long have you played tennis /golf /soccer /etc.?
Who do you play tennis /golf /soccer /etc. with?

What kind of films / food / vacations do you enjoy?

What’s the best place to see /eat / go on vacations?
What’s the best type of film /food / vacation, etc. in your opinion?
How often do you watch films / eat out / go on vacation?

What do you do on weekends / Saturdays?

Where do you go to …?
Could you recommend a good place to (go shopping / take my children swimming / etc.)?
How long have you done that?

Questions With “Like”
Questions with “like” are common conversation starters. Notice the differences in meaning in these questions that use “like” but ask for different information.

What are you like? – This question asks about a persons character, or how they are as people.

What are you like?
I’m a friendly person, but I’m a little shy.

What do you like doing? – This question asks about general likes and is often used to ask about a person’s hobbies or free time activities.

What do you like doing?
I enjoy playing golf and taking long hikes.