Shortcut - Talking Course 1: The Art of Small Talk

Small talk is the kind of talk we have with people we meet for the first time or people we don’t know very well. We can also use small talk with our friends. The point with small talk is not to give and get information, but to be nice or polite to other people.

The language you use for small talk depends on how formal the situation is.

We can divide small talk into three phases:
1) Meeting and greeting
2) Main conversation
3) Parting


1) Meeting and greeting
Informal greetings:
Here are some examples of informal greetings:
 Hi  - How are you?
 Hey - What’s up?
 Hello - How’s it going

Some of these sentences are questions, but you don’t really have to answer them. If you want to answer them, you can say something like:
 Good - Fine, thanks
 Great - Not so bad
 OK - Can’t complain

And then you can ask, And you? or How about you?
A more formal answer can be, Very well, thanks. How are you?

Sometimes when we greet someone, we are with another person. Then we need to introduce them. We can for example say, This is Mary! or Do you know Mary? She is a friend from school.


Formal greetings:
You need to use a formal greeting when you meet someone for the first time in a meeting or an interview. First, give your name. Then, say something like: How do you do? Pleased to meet you!
The answer to such a greeting is to say the exact same thing: How do you do? Pleased to meet you! And then to shake hands.

When we just pass someone on the street or in a hallway, we can say Good morning, Good afternoon, or Good evening.


2) Main conversation
After having met and greeted someone, we must find something to talk about. If you meet someone the same age as yourself, this is usually not very difficult. If you meet an adult, for example, the weather can be a safe topic to say something about.


3) Parting
It is an art to know when to end a conversation. If the other person starts saying things like well, anyway, right, or OK, they probably want to move on. When saying goodbye, we can say things like:
 Bye  - All the best
 Take care - See you later

It is more formal to say Goodbye. You also end with a sentence like: Nice talking to you, or I look forward to seeing you again.


It is always difficult to be polite when speaking another language. Norwegians often forget to use the word please because we don’t really have a word for it. In English please is used all the time. If you leave it out, you can actually sound quite rude, even when you don’t mean to.