Sometimes, even when you know a lot of English, you can have difficulty finding the right words or phrases to answer simple questions. Here are 20 of the most common questions in English – each one with five sample responses.
1. WHAT DO YOU DO?
This question means “What is your job/profession?”
- I’m a student.
- I work in a bank.
- I’m unemployed at the moment.
- I run my own business.
The word “run” means you are the primary person responsible for operating the business.
- I’m retired now. I used to be an engineer.
“Retired” means you have stopped working (usually after you are 60 or 65 years old).
2. ARE YOU MARRIED?
- Yes, I’ve been married for two years now.
- I’m divorced.
- I’m engaged – we’re getting married next year.
- No, but I’m in a relationship.
- Nope, I’m single.
“Nope” is an informal way to say “No.”
3. WHY ARE YOU STUDYING ENGLISH?
- For work.
- So I can communicate when I travel.
- I love learning new languages.
- Because I’d like to immigrate to the U.S.
- I’m thinking of studying in England.
The correct way is “thinking of studying” and not “thinking to study.”
4. WHERE/HOW DID YOU LEARN ENGLISH?
- I took classes for three years.
- I did an intensive course.
- I’ve been studying on my own.
You can also say “studying by myself.”
- I picked it up from movies and songs.
In this context, “picked it up” means “learned it casually.”
- My girlfriend taught me.
5. WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
- I don’t have any free time!
- I usually hang out with friends.
“Hang out” means to spend time in an informal way.
- I go running a lot.
- I do volunteer work.
- I like reading and relaxing at home.
6. WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE? / HOW’S THE WEATHER?
- Hot and humid.
“Humid” means there is a lot of water vapor in the air.
- It’s pouring – take an umbrella.
“Pouring” means raining very heavily.
- A little chilly – you might wanna bring a jacket.
“Chilly” means a little bit cold.
- Gorgeous – a perfect summer day!
- It’s quite cold – make sure to bundle up.
“Bundle up” means to wear warm clothing for protection against the cold.
7. WHAT TIME IS IT? / DO YOU HAVE THE TIME?
- It’s ten o’clock.
- It’s half past four.
This means “4:30”
- It’s a quarter to twelve.
“A quarter” is 15 minutes – so this means “11:45”
- Let me check my phone.
- Sorry, I don’t know.
Shopping & Social Questions
8. CAN I HELP YOU? / DO YOU NEED ANY HELP?
This is a question that you might hear from an employee or salesperson in a store.
- No thanks, I’m just browsing.
“Browsing” means looking casually at the items.
- Yes – do you have this in a larger size?
- Yes – where are the try-on rooms?
“Try-on rooms” means the place where you can put on the clothes to see if they are the right size and if you like them.
- Yeah, can you tell me how much this is?
- Yeah, I’m looking for something under $30.
9. HOW’S IT GOING?
- Great! Couldn’t be better!
This means that everything is excellent.
- How are things with you?
- Not bad.
This means that things are OK.
- I can’t complain.
- Do you really wanna know?
Normally when people ask “how’s it going?” they expect a positive response like “fine” or “good.” If you say “Do you really wanna know?” it means that things are going badly, but you are not sure if the other person wants to listen to your problems or not.
10. HOW ARE YOU FEELING?
- Great! Never better.
- I’m all right.
- Like I need a vacation.
- A little depressed.
- Really awful.
You can say you’re feeling “awful” for both physical and emotional pain.
11. HOW WAS YOUR DAY?
- Really good!
- Pretty uneventful.
This means that nothing particularly special or interesting happened during the day.
- Very productive.
- Super busy.
- A total nightmare.
A “nightmare” is a terrible, scary dream. Describing an experience as a “nightmare” means it was horrible.
12. DID YOU LIKE THE MOVIE?
- It was fantastic.
- It was terrible.
- It wasn’t bad.
- It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
- No, I didn’t think it lived up to the hype.
This means the movie was not as good as its publicity presented.
13. HOW WAS THE PARTY?
- Crazy – it was absolutely packed.
“Packed” means it was crowded; there were very many people there.
- It was a good time.
- Small, but fun.
- There was hardly anybody there.
- Boring – I couldn’t wait to get outta there.
14. CAN YOU GIVE ME A HAND?
This means “can you help me?” – often with a physical task like moving furniture or carrying a box.
- Of course!
- I’d be glad to.
- Will it take long?
- Sure – just a sec.
This means “just a second” – you need the other person to wait one moment before you can help them.
- Sorry – I’m a bit busy at the moment.
15. WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO LATELY?
This question means “What have you been doing recently?” – you can answer it in the present perfect continuous.
- I’ve been working a lot.
- Mostly studying.
- I’ve been taking it easy.
This means “relaxing, not doing anything intense or stressful.”
- Planning my summer vacation.
- Nothing much.
16. WHAT’S THE MATTER?
This means “What’s the problem?” – you can ask it to someone who appears sad or upset.
- Oh, I’m just having a rough day.
A “rough day” means a difficult, bad day.
- I’m not feeling so good.
- I just found out my mother’s in the hospital.
The phrasal verb “found out” means “discovered or heard some new information.”
- I’d rather not talk about it.
This means “I’d prefer not to talk about it.”
- Nothing, I’m fine.
17. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DRINK?
- Iced tea, please.
- Just water for me.
- What do you have?
- Could we see the wine list?
- Nothing for me, thanks.
18. ARE YOU READY TO ORDER?
To “order” means to ask the waiter/waitress for the food you want to eat.
- Not quite – I think we need a little more time.
- What are the specials today?
“Specials” are featured dishes that might also have a discount.
- Yes, I’ll have a Caesar salad and then the baked chicken with potatoes.
The most common way to order food is to say “I’ll have…”
- Uh-huh. To start off, we’ll split an order of nachos.
“To start off” means you are ordering an appetizer (small amount of food eaten before the main meal). “Split” means that two or more people will share/divide one order of food.
- Almost – I just have a couple of questions.
19. IS EVERYTHING OK?
While you are eating, the waiter/waitress will often come to your table and ask this question to check if you need anything.
- Yes, everything’s fine, thanks.
- It’s all delicious!
- Could we have some more water, please?
“Could we have…” is a polite way to ask for something.
- Actually, I’m still waiting for my side dish.
A “side dish” is a small portion of food that accompanies the main meal.
- To be honest, my food is kinda cold. Could you heat it up?
“To be honest…” is a diplomatic way to introduce a complaint or negative comment.
20. CAN I GET YOU ANYTHING ELSE?
The waiter/waitress will probably ask you this after you have finished eating.
- Two decaf coffees, please.
“Decaf coffee” is coffee with no caffeine.
- Just the check, please.
The “check” is the list of items and the total price to pay.
- Could I have a look at the dessert menu?
- I’ll have a slice of apple pie.
A “slice” is a single piece of a pie, cake, or pizza.
- No thanks – I think we’re just about done.