Using Siri, Apple's voice assistant, you can speak commands to your iPad or iPhone (or Mac, Apple Watch etc) and have it do your bidding. Here's a rundown of all the things you can get Siri to do, plus some tips to get the feature working better for you.

If you'd like to know about the privacy side of things, you might like to read Is Siri listening to my conversations? before you get started.

How to use Siri on iPhone & iPad

If you've got an iPad or iPhone (iPhone 4S or newer, iPad 3 or newer, any iPad Pro or mini, or a 5th- or 6th-gen iPod touch) you can trigger Siri in one of these ways:

  • Hold down the Home button if you've got one (the side button if not - see below)
  • Hold down the control button on your earphones
  • Say "Hey Siri!" (If it's activated. Go to Settings > Siri & Search > 'Listen for Hey Siri')

Note that you will also need to have a data connection to use Siri, and older iPhones (pre-6s) can only use the Hey Siri! prompt when connected to a power source.

When you've prompted Siri, the background should blur, you'll hear a 'ba-ding' noise and 'What can I help you with?' will appear onscreen. You should also see a wavy white line at the bottom of the screen.

Speak your request into the iPad or iPhone; when you've finished, the white line turns into a round microphone icon. Siri should get back to you with an answer (although sometimes it takes a few moments).

How to use Siri on iPhone XS or 2018 iPad Pro

Since the X-series iPhones (X, XS, XS Max and XR) have no Home button to invoke Siri, your options are slightly different. This also applies to the 2018 iPad Pro models.

  • Hold down the Side button (also known as the sleep/wake/power button)
  • Hold down the control button on your earphones
  • Say "Hey Siri!"

How to use Siri on the Apple Watch

  • Press and hold the digital crown
  • Say "Hey Siri!"

For more information, read about how to use Siri on Apple Watch.

What can Siri do?

Siri is the digital assistant that's built into your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac. You can ask Siri to do something and have your device do it, rather than go through multiple menus or tap through lots of options.

Siri is constantly improving to become faster and more reliable, and to expand its repertoire of functions.  In iOS 7.1 it gained a female voice for the UK, iOS 8 added music identification and "'Hey Siri!", and iOS 9 made Siri contextually aware. iOS 10 gave it the ability to control non-Apple apps, and this coincided with it arriving on the Mac. In iOS 11 learned to translate phrases and iOS 12 introduced Siri shortcuts.

In the rest of this article we're going to walk you through the many things that Siri can do. But you can also trigger Siri and then not say anything; after a moment it will default to a screen that lists lots of your options, including actions third-party apps on your device.

How to use Siri on iPhone & iPad: Default screen

Siri can be used for the following:

  • Scheduling events
  • Finding locations and directions in Maps
  • Setting a timer
  • Checking the weather
  • Updating status on Facebook
  • Sending Tweets
  • Calculations
  • Playing music
  • Opening apps
  • Sending emails
  • Sending Messages

Here are some things to ask Siri:

  • Turn Bluetooth off
  • Open an app
  • Post to Facebook and Twitter
  • What is 20 degrees centigrade in Fahrenheit?
  • How many calories in a Big Mac?
  • How much is a 10% tip on a £38.90 bill?
  • What is the square root of 81?
  • Flip a coin (also try Yes or No? and Roll a die)
  • What time is it in San Francisco?
  • Take a picture

How to use Siri: Sample questions

Siri can also be your music DJ

You could ask Siri to...

  • "Play the top songs from 1982"
  • "Play more songs like this"
  • "Add the new Blur album to my library"
  • "After this song, play They Want My Soul"

You'll need to sign up to Apple Music to make the most of this feature, though.

Siri can be influenced by the context

Siri can take into account your location, the time of day, re-occurring activity, usage patterns, the app you are viewing or other connected devices to anticipate your next move and surface relevant actions and information, before you even have the chance to ask a question or type in a query. So, for example, you could:

  • Ask Siri to "Remind me about this when I get home", when you're on a particular web page that you want to come back to later, for example
  • Ask Siri to "Show me videos I took at Iva's birthday party", "Show me photos from Utah last August" and "Remind me about this when I get to my car"

We have more details about the different things you can ask Siri to do below. Plus, if you are looking for a laugh, read: Funny things to ask Siri.

How to set up Hey Siri

"Hey Siri" means you don't need to press the Home button (or Side button if you have an iPhone X) in order to trigger Siri. Which is helpful if you need to have your hands free. (Or if you're cooking, have dirty hands, and want to set a timer.)

It's a helpful feature, but it could get very frustrating if your iPhone answered to everyone. Luckily when you set up Siri you train it to recognise your voice.

Here's how to set up Hey Siri:

  1. First go to Settings > Siri & Search (Previously, Settings > General > Siri).
  2. Make sure Siri is turned on (the switch beside Press Home for Siri should be green).
  3. Toggle the Listen for "Hey Siri" slider on.
  4. This will bring up the setup menu for the virtual assistant.
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts to train Siri to recognise your voice. Make sure you speak as naturally as you can because this is the voice and sound that your phone will be listening out for from now on.
  6. It'll ask you to say "Hey Siri" a few times, and then sentences such as "Hey Siri, how's the weather today?" and "Hey Siri, it's me."

How to type to Siri

You don't necessarily have to talk to Siri; if you prefer, you can type in your question. Here's how to set Siri up so that you don't have to speak your commands:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
  2. Scroll down to Siri and tap on that line.
  3. Turn Type to Siri on (so that the switch beside the option is green).
  4. Now, when you trigger Siri you will be able to type your request in.

Siri tips: How to get Siri to work better

Having a few problems with Siri? Is Apple's digital assistant failing to understand you? Here are a few tricks you can implement to make Siri do a better job.

Make sure you have a data connection

Siri works by recording your voice and sending it to a server that interprets what you've said and returns plain text. If you haven't got an internet connection, Siri won't work.

Manually control how long Siri listens

You can also manually control how long Siri listens to you for, rather than waiting for it to detect that you've stopped speaking. To do this, hold down the Home button while you say your command or ask a question, and release it when you've finished.

Change Siri's language

If you find that Siri isn't understanding you very well, check that you've got the right language selected. If you use UK English you may get better results if you have English (United Kingdom) selected.

To change Siri's language go to:

  1. Settings > Siri & Search
  2. Tap on Language
  3. Choose the language you want Siri to use

Note: If you don't speak a language fluently Siri may not be able to understand you. Even the US version of Siri may have difficulty understanding a British accent. And, as you can see from this video, Siri may struggle with some UK regional accents.

How to dictate with Siri

If you're dictating a message or email using Siri, there are a few things to bear in mind if you want to get the best results.

To get the most out of dictation, you'll need to start thinking in punctuation. For example, to construct a decent email message, we might say, "David. Comma. New paragraph. What do you think about writing a review of iOS numeral 12. Question mark. New paragraph. Let me know what you think. Exclamation mark."

What to do if Siri misunderstands you

Siri is by no means perfect, and occasionally it can mistranslate what you're saying, either transcribing the wrong message or finding the wrong result from Contacts.

The easiest way to correct Siri is to tap on the place where Siri has transcribed what it thinks you said.

  1. Click on Tap to edit below the words Siri thinks you said
  2. Correct Siri
  3. Tap on Done

How to change Siri's gender

You can also switch Siri's gender: 

  1. Go to Settings > Siri & Search
  2. Tap on Siri Voice
  3. Choose the gender on the next screen

Your iPhone may download the Siri voice you have requested.

Things you can ask Siri to do

Here is a list for some of the serious stuff you can say to Siri with some specific examples.

Use Siri to adjust settings

Siri can access the Settings on your iPhone or iPad, which makes it much easier to quickly make changes.

It's much faster to ask Siri to access settings than it is to dive into the menu.

  • Ask Siri to "Turn off Bluetooth", for example
  • Or you can just say "Change wallpaper" rather than opening Settings and tapping Wallpaper

Use Siri to read and reply to messages and emails

When you get a message, you can instruct Siri to read the message, and it will.

  • You can then tell it to reply to the message, dictate the entire message, have Siri read it back to you to confirm that it makes sense, and then send it
  • You can also ask Siri to read out your Mail messages and it'll let you know who sent you a message and what the subject line is

To find out how Siri compares to the competition, read Siri vs Google Now vs Microsoft Cortana vs Amazon Echo.

Set reminders and alarms with Siri

It's much easier to set an alarm or timer using Siri than it is to unlock your tablet, find the Clock app, and tap within the app.

  • Say "Set a timer for three minutes" and your iPad will begin to count down until your tea is ready
  • "Set an alarm for 5am" does what you'd expect
  • "Remind me that I need to take my suit to the cleaners"

How to use Siri: Set alarm

Use Siri to find out whose iPhone/iPad you've found

If you've found an iPhone or iPad that you can't unlock and you don't know who it belongs to, you can try asking Siri.

  • Say, "Siri, who does this phone belong to?" and you will get their name and an alternative phone number if one is listed

How to use Siri: Who is the owner?

Ask Siri about: Maps

  • Direct me home
  • Show me work
  • Find Sheffield
  • Show me local traffic
  • Show me the Statue Of Liberty
  • Find pizza near me
  • Where am I?
  • Get me directions from Leeds to Doncaster
  • Are we there yet?
  • Find a petrol station near me
  • Find a supermarket along the route
  • Find a coffee shop near work
  • Find me a bar near home
  • Find a movie theatre in London
  • What's the best restaurant near me?
  • When is the sunset in Saint Lucia?

Ask Siri about: Stocks

  • What is Apple's stock price?
  • What is Apple's P/E ratio?
  • What is Google's 52 week high?
  • What is Microsoft's market cap?
  • Compare Apple to Google

Ask Siri about: Places

  • Find Trafalgar Square
  • Where is New York?
  • Find a Restaurant near me
  • Where's the best bar?
  • I'm hungry

Ask Siri about: Social media

  • Send a tweet
  • Tell Facebook...

Note: You can't include Share this web page on Twitter or Post this page to Facebook

Ask Siri about: Safari

  • Search for BBC News
  • Bing for elephants
  • Search Google for images of cats

Ask Siri about: The weather

  • What's the weather like?
  • What's the weather like in Barcelona?
  • What will the weather be this Sunday?
  • Is it going to rain this weekend?
  • What's the weather report in Berlin tomorrow?

Ask Siri about: Movies

  • What movies are on?
  • What's the best new movie?
  • Show me reviews for Batman Dark Knight Rises
  • Where can I watch Skyfall movie?
  • Which movie won best picture last year?
  • Do people like Insurgent?

Ask Siri about: Apps

  • Play Angry Birds
  • Open things
  • Get the app Forever Lost 3

(What you can't do: Delete apps, move apps, go to the Home Screen.)

Ask Siri about: Messages

  • Send a text to Jane
  • Send a message to Karen and Ashleigh
  • Tell my wife I'm running late
  • Reply, I'm just testing out Siri
  • Read my new messages
  • Do I have any new messages from Lewis?

Ask Siri about: Email

  • Send an email to Jane
  • Say Hi to Mum in an email (in this case, 'Hi' will be the subject line)
  • Reply, What are we doing for Christmas?
  • Email Kate and say "sorry, I can't make it this weekend"
  • Mail Mum and say "looking forward to seeing you at Christmas" with a subject "Christmas". (Just say "a subject" and then whatever you want to use as the subject line. Note that if you say "a subject that says" iOS will put the "that says" into the Subject header)
  • Any email from Simon today?
  • Did I get an email about football today? (This will search subject headers)
  • Reply with "Are we going to meet up this weekend?"

Ask Siri about: FaceTime

  • FaceTime Steven
  • FaceTime Dad's iPhone

Ask Siri about: Find My Friends

  • Where is Dave?

Ask Siri about: Music

  • Skip track
  • Play songs by Abba
  • Play First Cut Is The Deepest
  • Play the Back to Black album
  • Play the next track, or "next"
  • Play some random music
  • Stop playing music
  • Say "Genius" to play similar songs

Ask Siri to identify music

While we're talking music, did you know that you can tell Siri to identify music?

If you later want to look back at the songs Siri has identified in the past, you can open the iTunes Store app on your device, tap the button in the top right corner with three lines, and then tap Siri.

Hoe to use Siri: Identify music

Ask Siri about: Sport

Siri used to be extremely football-centric (at least in the UK), but these days you can also ask for cricket scores or say "Who's winning the Formula One World Championship". We've not had much luck with rugby or snooker, but this is an area where Siri improves on a regular basis and we might have just been using the wrong terminology - Siri responds best to official names.

  • When are the next Tottenham Hotspur matches?
  • When is the next Tottenham Hotspur match?
  • Who is on the Manchester United team?

How to use Siri: Get cricket scores

Ask Siri about: Clocks and Alarms

  • Set an alarm for 7 o'clock
  • Change the 7 o'clock alarm to 7.30
  • Wake me up in 8 hours' time
  • Turn the 7 o'clock alarm off
  • Turn all my alarms off
  • Delete the 6am alarm
  • Cancel all alarms
  • Switch off my morning alarms
  • Set a timer for five minutes
  • Cancel the timer
  • What time is it in Berlin?
  • What’s the date this Saturday?
  • How many days are in this month?
  • How many days till Christmas?

Ask (or tell) Siri about: Contacts

  • Who is Simon Jary?
  • Find people called John
  • Dave Smith is my dad
  • Kate Smith is my mum
  • Louise Smith is my sister

Ask Siri about: Phone

  • Call my dad at home
  • Call Kate
  • Dial 020 555 555

Ask Siri about: Calendar

  • Meet with Simon at two o'clock
  • Meet with Kate at noon
  • Change my three o'clock meeting to two o'clock
  • Cancel my two o'clock meeting
  • Cancel my meeting with David
  • Move my four o'clock meeting to tomorrow
  • Create a meeting on...
  • Meet with Mum and Dad on Christmas day
  • Create an event with my parents at Easter

Ask Siri about: General knowledge

Siri uses Wolfram Alpha to provide stats and facts. Wolfram Alpha can answer questions related to mathematics, geography, chemistry, words and linguistics, units and measurements, and all kinds of things.

For many general knowledge questions, Siri will automatically offer Wolfram information. But if it's refusing to do so, try prefacing your question with "Ask Wolfram..."

  • How many calories in a banana?
  • Calculate 20 multiplied by 13 (or just "20 times 13")
  • What are the properties of gold?
  • How many people live in Japan?
  • How far is Mars from Venus?

Siri shortcuts

Since the launch of iOS 12, Siri has offered a feature called shortcuts. This allows you, or third parties, to create custom, potentially multi-step, Siri commands.

Sometimes apps or websites will offer shortcuts that you can 'install' by tapping a single button and speaking a trigger word or phrase. But by installing the Shortcuts app itself you could set up a sequence of events that turns on your HomeKit heating and the radio, checks the traffic and sends an email to a specific contact, all from the single trigger "Wake up".

This is a pretty big topic, so those who are interested would be best advised to read our dedicated tutorial: How to make a Siri shortcut.