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You've seen someone who you think is really good-looking, but how do you start a conversation with them? Learn how to chat someone up in this session.

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Chat-up lines

Do you come here often?

In this How do you... guide we learn something a bit different: how to chat people up! Chat up is a phrasal verb, which means 'speak to somebody you don't know to try to make them interested in you'.

So do you just use a chat-up line like: "You're the most beautiful man/woman I've ever seen," and hope that it will work? Or is there a better way? Well, as you can imagine, there are no rules for this, but we've done some research and can offer some tips about what NOT to do!

Finn is your host for this topic (though he says he's no expert). He's going to play some examples of people chatting each other up, and give you some tips about how to make conversation...

To do

Listen to the programme. What word does Finn use to describe chat-up lines?

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Neil
I'm not a photographer, but I can picture me and you together.

I seem to have lost my phone number. Can I have yours? 

Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?

Is it hot in here or is it just you?

You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen.

Finn
OK, right, thanks for those Neil! I'm Finn - and Neil has just said a few chat up lines. They weren't for me Neil were they?

Neil
No, they were just examples, Finn. Just examples.

Finn
That's a relief. Now, I'm no expert in chatting people up, of course. So I've just searched online and most websites say: don't use a chat-up line, like Neil just did. They're quite traditional - even quite cheesy, which means of bad quality, they're the kind of thing that make you groan, like this. (Finn groans) That's a groan. So maybe if you're very confident or if you say them in a funny way they might just work.

But otherwise, what can you say if you want to chat someone up? Can we teach you anything to help you chat people up in English? Let's listen to some examples. So, we've got Neil here again, with Helen - let's see if he can do a better job this time. Let's imagine they're waiting at a bus stop. Does Neil do a good job?

Neil
Hi. Have you seen the 185 go by?

Helen
No, I haven't. I only just got here.

Neil
Right, OK. It's really hot, isn't it? It's hot today.

Helen
Yeah, it's a... lovely day.

Neil
Yeah. So, have you got a lighter?

Helen
No. I don't smoke.

Neil
No. Neither do I.

Helen
Right...

Neil
So, can I have your phone number?

Helen
No.

Neil
Oh, right.

Finn
OK, well that wasn't too good. It started well. Neil started by asking something about their surroundings. He broke the ice. That's a good phrase. To break the ice is to say or do something in a situation where people don't know each other - maybe the situation is a bit tense, or a bit cold, like ice, then you say something that helps people relax and talk to each other.

Neil
Hi. Have you seen the 185 go by?

Finn
Now, Neil continued with another line about their surroundings: "Is it hot today?" Now that's fine, but then after that it started to go a bit wrong. Listen again. What do you think he did wrong?

Neil
Yeah. So, have you got a lighter?

Helen
No. I don't smoke.

Neil
No. Neither do I.

Helen
Right...

Neil
So, can I have your phone number?

Helen
No.

Neil
Oh, right.

Finn
Yeah, Neil was a bit too direct. He should have probably made sure she was interested, or at least a little bit interested, before asking for Helen's number. So, sorry, no points for Neil there. If you want to chat someone up, you do need to be confident, but you also need to listen: so, both listen to what they say and listen to their body language - the way they're sitting or looking at you. So, ask questions of course, but also listen.

Now, time for another example. Let's see if Catherine can do any better. She's just seen a very handsome man at a conference - that's Rob - and she wants to chat him up. It's lunch time and Rob is helping himself to a nice, free sandwich at this conference... Catherine goes across to speak to him. How does she do?

Catherine
Nice sandwiches?

Rob
You can't beat a free sandwich.

Catherine
You can't, can you? Have you tried the sushi? It's quite good you know.

Rob
Actually, no. It does look good.

Catherine
The salmon sashimi is incredible. But your cheese sandwich looks nice as well.

Rob
Oh, thanks very much.

Catherine
Anyway, how's the conference? Are you having a good one?

Rob
Yeah, yeah, not bad. I'm doing a presentation this afternoon.

Catherine
Oh what's it about, anything good?

Rob
Yeah, water pipes.

Catherine
Water pipes?! Fascinating, you'll have to tell me all about that. Can I join you while you have your cheese sandwich?

Rob
Yeah, yeah, OK then.

Catherine
Lovely.

Finn
Right - so Catherine did a few things there that helped keep Rob interested. She started by breaking the ice - which is good. She commented on their surroundings - in this case, lunch. She said:

Catherine
Nice sandwiches?

Finn
And then she suggested something just a bit different, maybe to make herself sound interesting. She said: "I like the sushi" - and asked if he'd tried it:

Rob
You can't beat a free sandwich.

Catherine
You can't, can you? Have you tried the sushi? It's quite good you know.

Rob
Actually, no.

Finn
Now Rob didn't seem too interested, so Catherine asked another question, but nothing too personal:

Catherine
Anyway, how's the conference? Are you having a good one?

Finn
They're at a conference, so asking about a conference isn't too personal. And she showed interest in what Rob was saying:

Rob
Yeah, yeah, not bad. I'm doing a presentation this afternoon.

Catherine
Oh what's it about, anything good?

Rob
Yeah, water pipes.

Catherine
Water pipes?! Fascinating, you'll have to tell me all about that.

Finn
And then, when she was confident he was just a bit interested in her, she bravely asked an important question:

Catherine
Can I join you while you have your cheese sandwich?

Rob
Yeah, yeah, OK then.

Catherine
Lovely.

Finn
So, well done Catherine. And let's summarise some points from those two conversations. First, break the ice by commenting on something around you. And then, just ask a few questions, nothing too personal, and remember, do listen to what they say. And finally - don't be scared to ask a slightly more direct question at the end - it might be your only chance! 

All these skills are important in normal conversation too, so don't worry if you're married or you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or you just don't want to chat someone up! You don't need to chat someone up to use these skills, it's still good to know how to break the ice and how to listen well.

So there we go. The art of chatting someone up, as brought to you by BBC Learning English. Before I go, has anyone ever told you look like Angelina Jolie?

Answer: Finn said chat-up lines were cheesy!

Chat-up lines

These chat-up lines are quite funny, but we don't recommend you use them because you could sound unoriginal or even arrogant... unless you say them with a big smile to make it clear you're being silly!

  • I'm not a photographer, but I can picture me and you together.
  • I seem to have lost my phone number. Can I have yours?
  • Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?
  • Is your father a thief? Because someone stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.
  • Is it hot in here or is it just you?
  • You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen.

Conversational tips

1) "Break the ice"

This is a phrase which means to say or do something to help people relax and talk to each other. It's often used in a situation where people don't know each other very well. And good way to do that is to try point 2:

2) Comment on - or ask about - something around you

  • At the bus stop, Neil asked: "Have you seen a 185 go by?"
  • Looking at some sandwiches, Catherine commented: "Nice sandwiches."

3) Don't be too direct too early

  • Neil asked for Helen's number before he knew if she was interested in him.

4) Listen and show interest

  • Catherine showed interest in Rob's presentation about water pipes.

5) Ask a question, but nothing too personal

  • Catherine asked Rob: "How's the conference?"

6) When the time is right, ask a more direct question to show you're interested

  • Catherine asked Rob if she could join him for lunch.

Downloads

You can download the programme and transcript from our Unit 13 Downloads page.

Next

As we said: these aren't rules, just some tips. You can use them in everyday life as well, not just when you're trying to chat someone up.

But now you've listened to the programme, we're sure you want to practise chatting someone up, don't you? Well, in the next activity you have the perfect chance, when you see the person of your dreams... 

Session Vocabulary

  • chat up
    speak to someone you don't know to try to make them interested in you

    chat-up line
    something you say to someone to start a conversation and show you are romantically interested in them

    broke the ice
    (here) said something casual to start a conversation

    cheesy
    not very impressive; a bit silly