When you’re having a conversation with a fellow ESL student, it can sometimes be challenging to get started. Even if you and your classmate are great conversationalists in your native language, you may have trouble coming up with questions to ask each other that will lead to more than just a one-sentence response in English.
The next time you’re stuck coming up with a good conversation starter while practicing your English, try picking something from this list of 24 ESL conversation questions for adults (update: here are another 84 conversation questions). You can even print the questions out so you can easily reference them. Each one is designed to spark a discussion between you and your speaking partner that will go well beyond a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
Check out the 24 conversation questions below:
Daily life questions
What’s one thing in your home you couldn’t live without? Why?
If you had $5,000 that you had to spend today, how would you use it? (You can always raise or lower the dollar amount in the question.)
What are you going to do after class today? (If your conversation partner gives a short answer like “Watch TV” or “Study,” ask a follow-up question like “What are you going to watch?” to get him or her to elaborate.)
How do you cope with stress? (Or “How do you relax after a busy week?”)
What is the most challenging part of your job or your studies? What is the most rewarding part?
If you could live anywhere in the world for one year, where would you live and why?
Can you think of a time when a failure actually worked out well? Tell me about it.
What was the last movie you saw at the theater? Tell me about it (without spoiling the ending).
What is one thing you’ve never done but would like to do?
If you had to give up your cellphone, your computer, or your TV, which one item would you choose to give up and why?
If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you were going on a twelve-hour flight and the only entertainment you could bring was a book, what book would you choose? (Ask your conversation partner to tell you a little about this book and why it would keep him or her entertained.)
If you could meet one musician, living or dead, who would it be? (If your partner is not particularly interested in music, choose another category, like authors or scientists. The idea is to get your partner to talk about someone he or she admires without asking a question quite as broad as “If you could meet anyone, who would it be?”)
A note on opinion questions: Asking your conversation partner how they feel about certain current events may be a good way to start a lively discussion, but make sure you are respecting one another’s ideas and not attacking each other’s ways of thinking, even if you disagree.
Do you think marriage as an institution is outdated? Why or why not?
How do you think technology, such as smartphones and social media, has changed the way we interact with people?
What is your opinion about legalizing marijuana?
Do you think US colleges are effective (or even necessary) in preparing students for professional careers? (If your conversation partner did not go to school in the US, ask them what they think about their home country’s education system.)
What do you think would happen if the drinking age in the US was lowered to eighteen? (This might lead your conversation partner to talk about the drinking culture in their own country, especially if they grew up somewhere with a lower drinking age.)
Do you think it’s possible to have a happy family and a successful career at the same time? (Your conversation partner may be able to talk about their personal experiences.)
What is your opinion about violence in TV, movies, and video games?
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? (If your conversation partner is still in school and has never had a full-time job, they may still be able to talk about a summer or weekend job.)
If you could open up your own amusement park, what would it be like? (Encourage your conversation partner to get creative and pretend they have as much money as they need.)
Do you enjoy spending time on your own? (If your partner answers yes, talk to them about what they like to do on their own. If they say no, ask what they do to keep from spending too much time alone.)
If you were making a movie about your life, which actor/actress would play the part of you? Why did you choose this person?
Keep in mind that this is just a small sampling of questions. For even more conversation fun, check out these 84 additional questions. You can always elaborate on each question as needed or come up with your own questions in order to keep your conversation flowing.
Joana Avelar says...
Thanks a lot for sharing. I’de like to have more ideas for speaking topics for adults.
On April 01, 2019
I love you guys
On April 01, 2019
Thank you for such great ideas,they were a great help.
On April 01, 2019
Marcia Lagoa says...
Thank you for sharing. I really liked them.
On April 01, 2019
Thanks for sharing your colourful ideas! Best
On December 18, 2016
Wasiela Kenny says...
Thanks very much for all these ideas, it’s going to be a great help.
On November 01, 2016
Thank you, it’s very helpful.
On October 03, 2016
Thank you for putting these up for our use, but I think it would be more helpful if these were arranged by topic or by grammar point and less random, thereby eliciting the grammar or vocabulary we’d spent the hour teaching.
On September 26, 2016
Saimon ishak says...
Thanks a lot for your some ideas.
On September 24, 2016
Niyitegeka Marie Agnes says...
it is helpful ,thanks
On April 27, 2016
Leopoldo Ibarra says...
Thanks a lot for giving such wonderful ideas. Blessings to all of you for your generosity.
On March 11, 2016
Thanks for posting this. Great to incite my students, young and old, to talk. Sometimes we can spend 10 minutes on one question. Speaking about theses subjects makes them more at ease and increases their confidence!
On October 21, 2015
Nilceia Cruz souza says...
Thanks for all the hints you have sent me. These 24 questions
will help me with conversation classes, for sure. Have a great
and blessed career. I really enjoy reading the texts you send
and also getting your hints about any subjects related to the
English language and to teaching English. Have a great life!
On October 19, 2014