Common English questions and answers

Sometimes, even when you know a lot of English, you can have difficulty finding the right words or phrases to answer simple questions.

One reason why learning a language is so difficult is because the materials can start to seem irrelevant for “real life.”

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Practice these questions with a partner, and then try to use a few of these phrases the next time you meet a new friend at a café, work event or social gathering.

1. So, what do you do?

This question is a typical question when making small talk to get to know the other person better. It’s asking, “What is your job?”

Example answers:

Right now, I’m a student. I’m in my second year of pharmacy school. How about you? What do you do?

I work as a tour guide for a local tour company. I’ve worked there for three years now. How about you? 

That’s a good question! I do a little bit of everything: some writing, some photography and some graphic design, too. What do you do?

To encourage further conversation and be even more polite, you want to ask about them, too. As you can see from the examples above, adding the question “How about you?” or “And what about you?” will give the other person an opportunity to respond. You’ll see this on most of the examples that follow.

2. How’s (summer) treating you?

This question is asking about a specific part of your life, like your summer, your job or any other major event in your life. It’s another way of asking, “How is your summer?” or “How is your new job?”

Example answers: 

Oh, it’s been really great. No complaints here! And how’s it going for you?

Not bad, can’t complain! And how is your summer going?

It’s treating me pretty well! I’ve gotten a lot out of it so far. And how’s summer going for you?

3. So, what have you been up to lately?

A person asking this question is asking about the awesome things you’ve done recently. Another way to ask this question is “How’s it going?” Usually, you only ask this question if you’re already familiar with the person. That is, you’ve seen them or met them before.

Example answers:

Not much. My last class is on Thursday, so I’m excited about that! What have you been up to?

Let’s see…Well, I started a new job last week, but other than that, everything is pretty much the same. What have you been up to?

Well, have you heard that I moved to a new apartment?

What can I say? Nothing too exciting. Things are good—how about you?

4. Long time, no see! Any updates since we last saw each other?

This is another friendly and common way to reconnect and start a conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.

Example answers:

Where to begin? A lot has changed in the past few months. I got a dog, moved apartments and switched jobs!

Nothing too crazy. How about you? Any news?

5. So what do you do when you’re not working?

This question is asking, “What are your hobbies?” It’s also very common for people to ask, “What do you like to do outside of work?” or “What do you do when you’re not busy with (school)?”

Example answers:

Well, recently I started playing volleyball on the weekends.

Usually, I spend my free time doing activities with my family.

6. Do you follow (Stephen Colbert)?

This question is asking if you’re interested in a certain topic or person and if you keep up with it/them on social media or television.

Example answers: 

Oh, yeah! I love him/that show. Why?

Sometimes. A little bit here and there. Why?

No–actually, I haven’t heard of him. Who is he?

7. Would you mind giving me a hand with this?

This question is asking for help. Instead of asking a more formal question like, “Could you please help me?” most native speakers will ask for help with a phrase like this.

Example answers:

Sure thing!

You got it!

I’m afraid I can’t. Maybe (Anthony) could, though.

8. What sort of stuff do you do on the weekends?

This question is asking about your weekend activities. The phrase “sort of stuff” means “things” or “activities.”

Example answers:

Let’s see…I usually spend my weekends reading and relaxing at home. How about you?

Well, I tend to go to a lot of concerts. How about you?

9. So, what’s your take on (the latest movie)?

This question is asking “What’s your opinion of (the latest movie)?” or “What do you think about (a specific event)?”

Example answers:

Oh, I really like it! What do you think?

To be honest, I think it’s just okay. How about you?

Ehh—I’m on the fence. What’s your take?

“On the fence” is a way of saying you neither agree or disagree or you don’t know what to think about a specific topic.

10. Are you here with anybody?

This question is asking if you came to the event or location (like a bar or club) with another person. Usually, people ask this question as an indirect way of asking if you’re in a romantic relationship.

Example answers:

Yeah—I came with my boyfriend.

I just came with a bunch of my coworkers.

11. Do you feel like grabbing a bite?

This question is an invitation to leave together and get something to eat. You might also hear, “Do you want to grab a bite to eat?”

Example answers:

Actually, yeah! I’d love to. Where would you like to go?

It depends. Where are you thinking of going?

Mmm, not today. But I’m game for grabbing a bite together later this week.

No thanks—I’m not really hungry. But thanks for asking.

12. Would you be up for a (movie) some time?

This question is asking if you’d like to do an activity together in the future.

Example answers: 

I’m down! Let’s do it!

Sure. When are you thinking of going?

It depends on what day, but yes.

I’m not really interested in seeing a movie, but thank you.

13. How late are you planning on sticking around?

This question is asking, “What time are you going to leave?”

Example answers:

I’ll hang around until (they cut the cake), and then I plan on heading out. How about you?

I’m not sure…I’ll just have to see how I feel. How about you?

I’ll probably give it another 30 minutes and then go home.

 

As you can see, having a casual conversation in English can be anything but basic! With these phrases, you’re more prepared than ever to make new friends.

 

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

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