Small talk helps people get to know one another. This section presents some common small-talk topics.
Breaking the ice and asking questions
Small talk usually starts with sumimasen (soo-mee-mah-sehn; excuse me). You use this word to break the ice. Then you usually need to ask a few questions to strike up a conversation. If you can form a sentence, you can easily form a question in Japanese. Unlike in English, you don't have to invert the subject and the verb when you ask a question in Japanese.
How you form a question depends on the answer you're expecting. Are you expecting "yes" or "no," or are you expecting a specific piece of information, like a name, place, or date?
To form a yes/no question, just add the question particle ka (kah) at the end of the statement and use a rising intonation, as you do in English. (See Chapter 2 for more on particles.) For example:
You can use these simple ice-breaking questions to make small talk:
Talking about the Weather
The tenki (tehn-kee; weather) is a universally neutral topic. On a clear day, try starting a conversation with Ii tenki desu ne (eee tehn-kee deh-soo neh; It's nice today, isn't it?). The following adjectives describe temperature and humidity:
In a polite/neutral or formal context, add desu (deh-soo; to be) to the end of the adjective. Adjectives always sound polite when they end in desu. For example, you can say Atsui desu (ah-tsoo-ee deh-soo; It's hot) or Atsui desu ne (ah-tsoo-ee deh-soo neh; It's hot, isn't it?).
You can also work these nouns into weather-related conversations:
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