The hardest part of a conversation might be ending it. Gracefully wrapping up conversations can be a real challenge, even for native speakers.
To help you tactfully end conversations, here are some strategies and expressions you can use.
For more polite language, see How to be Polite in English.
1. Mention something that you need to do
You can easily end a conversation by saying Well…, or Anyway…, and then mentioning something you need to attend to. The beauty of this technique is that it always works. There will always be something that you need to take care of (and if not, you can always make something up).
• Well, I really should get back to work.
• Well, I should probably go home and get started on dinner.
• Anyway, I still need to pick out a gift for my wife. I’d better get on that.
• Anyway, I have to get to the bank before it closes.
• Well, I’m actually on my way to meet someone. I’d better get going.
• Well, I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee.
Note that we often add an exit line to these expressions. I’ll talk to you later, I’ll see you later, and We’ll catch up later all work well. Sometimes we also reference a future meeting with our conversation partner. You could say “I’ll see you at our meeting,” “I’ll talk to you at lunch,” or I’ll see in class.”
2. Mention something your conversation partner needs to do
You can also end a conversation by saying Well…, or Anyway…, and then mentioning something that your conversation partner needs to attend to. This is a polite technique that lets your conversation partner know that you value their time and understand they have a busy schedule.
• Well, I’ll let you get back to your work.
• Well, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I know you’re busy.
• Anyway, I’ll let you get back to your shopping.
• Anyway, good luck at the meeting.
• Anyway, let me know if you need any help planning your presentation.
As with the first strategy, we often add an exit line to these expressions. I’ll talk to you later, I’ll see you later, and We’ll catch up later all work well.
3. Sum up the reason for your conversation as well as anything that was agreed upon
This strategy works well if your conversation had a specific objective. By summing up what the conversation was about, you’re politely letting your listener know that you’d like to end the conversation. Your conversation partner should pick up on this social cue and allow you to make your exit.
• Well, I really appreciate your honest advice. Thanks.
• Anyway, I’ll talk to Kevin about the proposal and I’ll let you know what he says.
• Anyway, I’ll talk to my husband and let you know if we’re available this weekend.
• Well, I’ll work on the document and email you later tonight.
As with the strategies above, we normally add an exit line before walking away.
4. Thank the person or tell the person it was nice talking to them
This strategy works well for conversations with people you haven’t talked to in a while. It’s polite way to indicate that you are finished with the conversation and are about to say goodbye.
• Well, it was great talking to you.
• Anyway, it was nice catching up with you.
• Anyway, it was great seeing you.
• Anyway, I’m really glad I ran into you.
Note that we often combine this strategy with the first strategy. Example: “Anyway, it was nice catching up with you. I should really get back to work.”
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Make a conscious effort to use these strategies and expressions the next time you need to politely end a conversation.