Part 1
Dave: Morning. How are things?
Anne: Not bad. How about you? Been up to much recently?
Dave: Not really. A little busy at work, but apart from that, not much.
Anne: That’s better than me: I’m snowed under at work. I’ve hardly any free time at the moment.
Dave: I’m sorry to hear that. I was going to ask if you fancied joining Philip and me at the movies this Friday.
Anne: I would if I could, but I’m afraid I have to work late every day this week.
Dave: Don’t worry about it. Maybe next time.
Anne: Sure. I’m sure I’ll catch up with you once things have eased off at work.

Notes
1. Morning: In casual English, it is possible to lose the ‘Good’ from greetings
“Afternoon. How are you?”
“Evening. What are you up to?”
2. How are things? = How is life? = How are you?
3. apart from = except for
I can do all the questions apart from the last one.
She likes every flavour of ice-cream except vanilla.
4. snowed under = buried, have so much I can’t go out (usually only used for work)
5. hardly = nearly no; nearly nothing
I’ve hardly had any free time recently.
He hardly notices her at all, which makes her sad.
6. fancy = want to; like
Do you fancy a drink after work?
I fancy going bowling this weekend. Want to come?
7. I would if I could = I want to, but I can’t
Fancy coming to the party?
I would if I could, but I have to go to my boss’s birthday party.

8. catch up = chat about how things have been
It was good to catch up with Dave. I hadn’t seen him for over five years.
9. ease off = go from heavy to light
The rain is beginning to ease off. I think we may be able to go out soon.
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Part 2
Dave: Beautiful weather, isn’t it? It really puts a spring in one’s step.
Philip: Yep, it’s been nice all week. Hey, listen, did you get the chance to speak to Anne?
Dave: Yeah, but she won’t be able to join us; she’s kinda busy at work this week.
Philip: That’s a shame. Well, since we have a spare ticket, why don’t we invite Bob?
Dave: Oh god, not Bob. Anyone but Bob.
Philip: I don’t know what you have against him. He’s OK.
Dave: You’re joking, right? Honestly, that guy is an idiot.
Philip: Fine, we’ll not invite Bob. How about Emili?
Dave: Yeah, OK. She’s alright, and I haven’t seen her for ages. Do you have her number?
Philip: Let me check. (looking in phone) Yes, here we are. Ok, I’ll give her a call after lunch.
Dave: Right. So, whatdaya want to do now? Fancy some lunch?
Philip: Sure, why not. I’m starving.
Dave: I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. Burger King?
Philip: How about Arby’s?
Dave: Sure. Makes no difference to me.

Notes
1. put a spring in your step = makes you feel really happy about life (literal meaning: bounce when you walk)
2. get the chance to = get the opportunity to
I’m sorry, I haven’t had the chance to talk to her yet. But we’ll both be at the meeting tomorrow, so I’ll talk to her then.
3. kinda: in spoken English, some words change when spoken quickly (note: they are not written in this way)
kind of – kinda
want to – wanna
going to – gonna
what do you – whatdaya
4. spare = unused, extra
He has converted his spare room into a games room.
The car broke down, and he realised they had no spare wheel.
5. anyone but…: another way to say ‘everyone is OK, except for…’
anywhere but…
any thing but…
any place but…
any time but…
6. have something against (someone) = have a reason to dislike them
7. honestly: used to emphasise a point – ‘look, what I am telling you is true’
Would you like to go to the Maldives, or the Seychelles?
Honestly, it doesn’t matter. I just want to get out of this place.

8. idiot = stupid person (very common in English)
“I told her I love her.”
“You idiot.”

9. starving = dying of hunger
“Man, I’m starving. Let’s get some food.”
10. I could eat a horse: in English, ‘could eat a (large animal)’ is a way to say how hungry you are
I could eat a whale
I could eat an elephant

11. Makes no difference to me = whatever, they’re all the same; I’m OK with anything
“Do you mind if I change the TV channel? The football is on Channel 5.”
“Makes no difference to me.”

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Part 3
If you think about it, how many of the things that you talk about during a day are truly important? On the surface, perhaps not many; but communicating is a key part of human life. Making small talk is an important part of any culture, no matter whether it is about the weather, last night’s game, office gossip, or complaining about a friend. Human beings are, on the whole, a social animal and talking is one way in which we interact (some people even say our ability to communicate makes us above other animals).

Notes
1. truly = very very; 100%
That dinner was truly excellent.
This movie is truly awful.
2. on the surface = at first look (not looking too deeply)
On the surface, the book is about a girl’s admiration for her father. But if you read a bit deeper, it is really about race relations.
3. key = very important; vital
One of the key reasons I agreed to this job was the chance to meet new people.
The key thing in this game will be whether they can stop Yao. If they can, they should win.
4. small talk: casual, everyday talking about unimportant things
5. no matter = it doesn’t matter
You have to pretend to be interested, no matter how much rubbish she talks.
6. gossip = chat about other people, and things you have heard, which may or may not be true
7. social = like to spend time with other people
Part 4
A lot of people never think about small talk – it is merely communicating – but there are some people who find it boring, and others who are scared of sounding dull. There are also people who, quite simply, can’t think of anything good to say. Whilst the internet and the self-help book market have, for many years, looked to capture these people with ‘experts’ hoping to persuade them to part with their cash, most ideas are roughly similar:
• If you don’t know anyone at a party, look for friendly groups, or people on their own. They are more likely to want to talk to you than couples, who will think you are a ‘third wheel’.
• Ask questions that let people explain their thinking (rather than ‘yes/no questions’). This opens up conversation quicker.
• If you are on a date, try to find out your date’s opinions and feelings by asking what he/she thinks. This is better than telling stories to show how funny or clever you are.
• If you have only just met someone, don’t get too deep, philosophical or political. Meeting people should be fun, and these topics can always be explored later.
• If you want to impress someone, add some things that show that you notice them, such as what they are drinking, looking at, or wearing.
• Don’t be scared. You might think people don’t want to talk to you because you are a stranger, but actually most people like meeting new people. If it doesn’t work out, don’t worry: there are 7 billion people on Earth, and somebody out there wants to talk to you!

Notes
1. merely = only
I don’t know anything. I’m merely the receptionist.
2. capture = catch
This movie captures the difficulty of being poor in the US.
3. persuade = make you believe/do something
If you can persuade him to go, then I’ll go too.
His argument nearly persuaded me to let him do it, but then I remembered what happened last time I agreed.
4. part with your cash = (casual English) spend your money
The salesmen might pretend to be your friend, but they are only interested in making you part with your cash.
I thought it was important to get a good quality machine, rather than a cheap one, so I didn’t mind parting with a little extra cash.
5. roughly = approximately; about
They’re roughly the same age, but look so different.
The plane will be touching down in roughly 30 minutes, so please return to your seats and move your seat to its upright position.
6. third wheel = the useless friend who goes out with a couple, getting in their way and stopping them having a good time together
Last night was awful. Those two just wanted to be together, and I was stuck there like a third wheel.
7. open up (conversation/topic) = get people talking about more things
We didn’t have much to talk about at first – work, family – but after 30 minutes the conversation began to open up, and soon we were talking about all sorts of things.