How to Maintain Conversation in a Busy Minute
The most common mistake people make when speaking American English is using “you” as a subject. When Americans speak in English, they tend to refer to themselves and others as “you”. For example: Joe – “You’re the guy in charge.” Tom – “You’re the guy in charge.” Mary – “You’re the one in charge.” Notice the use of “you” in these sentences.
When you talk about your business with someone in America, “You’re the boss.” If you share a business conversation with someone in Britain, “You’re the businesswoman.” You can use “you” or “your” to address a person in the third person, depending on your familiarity with British English. This shows up in sentences like: Joe’s the manager of the company.
What are you doing for lunch? A question you might ask yourself if you’re talking to a friend in America or another country. “I am having lunch with Mary.” “You are having lunch with Mary.” These are all examples of polite speech, but the same grammatical structure can lead to a problem.
In British English, it’s correct to introduce yourself by using pronouns such as “we”, “us”, “our” or “my” but using “you” in sentences with the subject as a single word creates a sentence where “you” is the subject. For example, “We are having lunch.” “We are having lunch with Mary.” It’s incorrect to follow-up a statement with “you” because it shifts the emphasis to you, not the other person. You’re still being polite, but you’ve lost the opportunity to demonstrate how important Mary is to you.
What are you up to is a commonly asked question in any language and can be answered with an overview of your daily activities. “I am going to have a leisure time and work on my novel.” However, in a British context, it would be more appropriate to add, “and also look forward to having a leisure time together.” It’s perfectly acceptable to include a few adjectives in what are you up to, but don’t overdo it.
So, what are you up to is a polite way of asking if you two would like to continue your conversation. Use “you” when you first say it, and then include the persons’ names if necessary. It turns out you were just doing it to see if she’d get interested in continuing, so keep it to that extent. If she agrees, you’ve successfully maintained your conversation in a polite manner.