Looking for questions to use in English conversation classes? Look no further. While you can find longer lists elsewhere, this article gives you templates and structures that you tailor to your students for unlimited use!

Generic questions are boring. Sure you can get lucky and kick-start a longer discussion, but most are cookie-cutter.

“What are your hobbies?” and “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” are the kind of basic drivel you can find on most sites. They work for the first couple of sessions, but after that they lack depth and interest.


It’s important.

In this article you’ll find seven question stems. They are the basis of dozens, even hundreds of questions.

For each, I’ll give examples around some common topics, but the idea is that you use the stems to come up with your own questions based on the needs of your students.

Because all students are different. They have varying interests, jobs, living situations, etc. When you get to know them, you can build whole conversation lessons around those things. And nothing on the internet can do that better than you.

One carefully crafted question is more powerful than a hundred bland, generic ones.

1. Tell Me About a Time When…

Everyone likes to tell stories and anecdotes. Tell Me About a Time When gets students remembering a time in their life when something happened and using the past tense to recount it.

If you’re not pressed for time, you can dig deep into these. In a group, get other students to ask questions and react to what happened.

Sure, some students aren’t the best storytellers, but learning about their experiences can be enlightening, and a fantastic way for them to develop their English fluency.

Here are a few prompts to get you started.

Tell me about a time when…

  • you had a memorable encounter with a wild animal
  • you had to go to hospital
  • you met a famous person
  • you thought something supernatural had happened
  • you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe
  • you accidentally sent a message to the wrong person

There’s a fun way of twisting this question type to turn it into a game. It’s best for upper intermediates or advanced learners who are confident in expressing themselves.

Instead of telling a true story, the student might decide to invent one. You (and any other students) can ask questions and pick holes in the story, with the aim of deciding if it’s true or false.

This can be a lot of fun with the right students!

2. If You Could Change One Thing About … What Would It Be?

Practice the second conditional with some hypothetical situations with this question stem you can use for a variety of themes.

Students like to imagine how they could improve certain things about their life, their city, or the world in general, and narrowing it down to just one change provides the basis for debate.

However, if students are reluctant to go into detail, you could get them first to choose three things, then narrow it down to one. Get them to verbalise their thought process and they’ll be talking a lot!

And with a group, you could talk about general issues, with students trying to convince others why their change is the best.

Here are some great examples you can use right away:

If you could change one thing about…

  • your daily routine, what would it be?
  • healthcare in your country, what would it be?
  • the way people celebrate birthdays, what would it be?
  • how your mind works, what would it be?
  • your kitchen, what would it be?
  • the way people use technology, what would it be?
  • the weather where you live, what would it be?
  • modern music, what would it be?

With more confident students, you can take it a step further and go back into the past. Talk about regrets and things that “could have been” while practicing the third conditional.

If you could change one thing about…

  • how you acted as a teenager, what would it be?
  • an exam you took, what would it be?
  • the way you used to use technology, what would it be?

Click here to buy 480 ESL Conversation Prompts and never run out of engaging topics!

3. Would You Rather…

This is one of my favourites. The trick is to offer two situations of equal value. They could be equally good or equally bad. Hopefully, your student will have to think about and explain why they would choose one of the options.

It’s a game you may have played before with friends or on a long car journey. The usual debate is: would you rather fight ten duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?

You can have silly ones like that, or make it more serious. There are hundreds, even thousands, of these questions, but I’ll give you a taste of what’s possible here:

Would you rather…

  • give up eating meat or give up eating sweets and desserts?
  • have a job in which you travel all around the world or a job you can do from the comfort of your home?
  • be a brilliant singer or play a musical instrument perfectly?
  • never read a book again or never watch a film again?
  • have a house filled with dogs or a house filled with cats?
  • be very strong or very flexible?
  • travel to the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon rainforest?
  • give up your phone or your computer?
  • have free time during the morning or the evening?
  • live in a treehouse or a lighthouse?

It’s important to know your students with these. Sometimes you’ll read a question and instantly know what their answer will be. In those cases, don’t ask the question. Choose ones which might provoke thought or debate.

To take it to the next level, get your students to come up with “Would you rather” questions of their own!

4. What Three Things Would You Take…

I like this prompt because it gets students thinking about the uses and merits of items, and questioning what is most important in certain situations.

The structure goes: “What three things would you take to [a particular location or event]?”

For example, “What three things would you take to a meeting with the President?”

In cases like this, focus on what unique things you’d take. I imagine everyone would take clothes, so you don’t need to include that!

However, if it was a difficult situation, like trapped on a desert island, you could say the three things are the ONLY things you have at all.

I’d approach this differently with a one-to-one student compared to a group. With an individual, you want to tease out their ideas, perhaps write them down, then help them make a decision.

With a group, suggestions can come from all sides, and you definitely want to write the ideas down. Then you can enter a mini-debate where students convince each other of their opinions.

This whole process could take quite a while – even a full session for just a single prompt, if you present it in the right way.

Here are some great examples:

What three things would you take to…

  • the North Pole?
  • a meetup with your favourite musician/band?
  • a family talent show?
  • the moon?
  • investigate a haunted house?

Once students have chosen three, you can get them to narrow it down to one. This is optional, though, and can be harder than it sounds!

5. Best and Worst

Something I always relish is getting my students to express their biggest likes and dislikes. Using lots of exciting language to express opinions about things that are great, and things that are horrible – it’s a really useful skill, and will get them saying more than “it’s very interesting”.

The structure is “What are the best and worst…” then you can add anything you like, really.

For example, “What are the best and worst popular films?”

That’s sure to provoke some strong opinions, and in a group might cause some controversy. Which is great! (assuming it stays respectful).

It’s tricky to find prompts that are interesting both for the best and the worst. Often, it’s just one of them. Like “what’s the best place to go for a run”. The best could be debated, but the worst could include many places (in a fridge, for example).

And that’s okay. It’s fine just to focus on one half of the question if students don’t connect with the other.

Here are some examples:

What are the best and worst:

  • parts of your job?
  • musical instruments?
  • fast-food chains?
  • movie genres
  • activities to do with your family?
  • sports to watch live?
  • cities to visit?
  • things about online learning?
  • hobbies for relaxation?
  • things about living in a big city?

When using these prompts, bring in lots of descriptive language and superlatives like “it’s the most horrendous place in the world” or “it is unbelievably thrilling!”

And you can expand the conversation to drill down into what makes something the best or worst. What qualities are important? Would other people think the same if they’d had your experiences?

Click here to buy 480 ESL Conversation Prompts and never run out of engaging topics!

6. If You Were…

Another question stem for conditional practice, and we’re actually touching on the subjunctive, too!

But don’t worry, you don’t need to know the grammar here. The question stem is very simple. If you were …, what would you do/think/be?

For example, “if you were an animal, which would you be? (and why?)”

An answer might be: “If I were an animal, I’d be an eagle because I could fly really fast and not be afraid of other animals trying to hunt me.”

There are lots of these, and you can get creative. Here are some examples:

  • If you were suddenly rich, what’s the first thing you would buy?
  • If you were a professional musician, what kind of music would you play?
  • If you were able to turn back time, when would you go back to?
  • If you were three metres tall, what problems would you have?
  • If you were a character from a book or film, who would you be?

Get more confident students to come up with their own questions, too. You’d be surprised how creative they can be!

In fact, you could build a whole session, or even a batch of sessions around this one sentence structure. Dive into the subjunctive, or unleash your students’ imaginations.

7. Who Would You Bring To…

Yes, this is another conditional-based prompt, but I actually prefer to focus on the qualities and interests of people rather than the structure of the sentence.

It’s very easy – students have to decide which person they would bring to a certain situation or location.

There are two ways of doing this. The first is to limit it to people they know: family, friends, colleagues, etc.

Or, you open it to everyone in the world. Alive or dead, recent or from history. You could even include fictional characters!

I use the first option with individual students, but with a group, the second is best because everyone is drawing from the same pool of possibilities.

Focus on adjectives of personality and attributes. Words like dependable, courageous and perceptive might come up to explain why a student would choose a particular person.

Here are some examples:

Who would you bring to…

  • a day of bungee jumping?
  • a spa retreat?
  • court to defend you as a lawyer?
  • the gym to help you get in shape?
  • a karaoke night to sing a duet with you?
  • a haunted house?
  • the bottom of the ocean?


In this article. I’ve given you over 50 conversation questions. Do NOT use all of them! Some of them won’t be appropriate for your students. Others will be perfect.

That’s why I always bang on about the importance of knowing your students. It makes your life so much easier and helps them improve their English faster.

A massive list of thousands of questions online won’t help you, because you’ll spend hours filtering through them for the good ones.

Less is more. One good question can prompt a whole session of discussion. A hundred bad ones can fill a session with boredom.

Click here to buy 480 ESL Conversation Prompts and never run out of engaging topics!

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