How to talk about personal matters in English

Sometimes, you might need to ask someone a personal question or discuss a personal matter with them. Perhaps there is some kind of conflict or you need to give advice. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that a co-worker is looking sad or depressed and you’re worried about them.

In situations like this, it’s perfectly okay to ask personal questions, especially if you preface your question or comments with a short introduction. Here are some examples based on typical situations.


General questions

  • If you don’t mind me asking, what made you want to move to Germany?
  • May I ask why you decided to leave Google?


If you want some advice

  • Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? You know Betty, don’t you? I’m having some challenges working with her.
  • I wanted to talk to you about a personal matter. Would that be OK with you?


If you’re worried about someone

  • If it’s not too personal a question, is everything alright at home?
  • It might be none of my business, but you’ve been looking a bit worried lately. Is everything OK?


If someone tells you they “have a problem”

  • May I ask what it is?
  • I’d be happy to listen, if you think that might help.