Words and expression to use, tips, phrases and idiomatic language
Recap: to pass IELTS with flying colours, you will needs to demonstrate a command of everyday English, the ability to express it with stress and intonation, as well as being able to link your ideas with appropriate discourse markers.
I need to hear nouns described by interesting adjectives, verbs intensified by adverbs and conversation enlivened by low-frequency vocabulary.
Piece of cake, right ?
Low – frequency words (LFW)
Boring: tedious // forgetful: absent-minded // expensive: sky high // what will happen: predict // everywhere: ubiquitous.
Activity 1: Make sentences using the above five LFW
Introduce your answer by:
Let me think // How can I put it // Well, that’s an interesting question
In my opinion // From my perspective // For me // Allow me to explain // By which I mean //
as well as // furthermore // additionally // on the other hand // having said that // however // although // despite that
Activity 2: Give each student a discourse marker and they have to use it in a sentence
EXAMPLE ‘in addition’
I have a busy life; I have to study, work my part-time job and help my family. In addition, I go shopping for my neighbour because he is too old to go out.
NOTE: use of ‘because‘ to explain why you do something … and therefore construct a longer sentence.
It’s raining cats and dogs // It costs an arm and a leg // piece of cake // I’m burning the candle at both ends.
Activity 3: Who can use these idioms correctly ?
Relative pronouns – who / which / where / whose
Activity 4: Use the correct relative pronoun:
We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.
A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know how to switch it off.
The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.
Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.
This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.
Could you repeat that, please // I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that // Would you mind rephrasing the question
Model answer: What do you do in your free time ?
One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends and just catch up on our news, maybe hit a mall because they are air-conditioned and have a wide array of amenities such as shops, cafes and, if I may say, bathroom facilities, as well as services like ATM machines and free wifi. My closest friends are Sheila, who is from Japan and studies here in Sai Gon, and Kerry, who is a gorgeous Thai lady. As we all come from different countries, there can be issues. Allow me to explain; we have to communicate in English, however Kerry is just starting her studies, so we have to use Google translate frequently. Having said that, it’s such tremendous fun to be with my best friends. It helps me forget about the pressure and stress of work.
Use this an a plan – now tell me what YOU do in YOUR free time … DO NOT just copy the above example !
Now … Your turn
Conversation Practice: In pairs or small groups, ask each other these questions. If the answer is too short, ask the person to tell you more, to explain with more details.
Ask each other about your families
How many siblings do you have ?
[You can give names, ages, jobs, what and where they study, what they look like, what their personality is like, if you have something or nothing in common with them]
Do you live with your parents and grandparents ?
Do you often meet your cousins ?
Who is the youngest member of your family ?
Who is the oldest ?
Who is your favourite person in your family and why ?
Can you tell me more ? // In what way ? // Why do you say that ? //
We had a number of blogs devoted to idioms, so now it’s time to practice using them as part of your everyday English. Not only will IELTS students earn points, but every student will feel closer to English, and sound more like a REAL native-speaker. You can only learn so much from text books …
So, without further ado, a range of dialogues for you to practice:
Hello, how’s it going ?
Great, thanks. What have you been up to ?
Oh, same old, same old. Nothing new. Are you busy ?
Do you want a hand ? (Dya wanna hand)
That would be wonderful. Can you take over for a moment ?
I’ll be right back. I need to print out some documents.
What shall I get on with ?
I just need you to finish off the progress reports.
Oh, piece of cake ! (pieceacake)
You’re an angel.
Hello, do you have a minute ?
Sure, what do you need ?
Could we have a little chat ?
OK, let’s go to my office. Have a seat. Now, what’s on your mind?
I’d like an increase in our budget. We desperately need a new photocopier.
Unfortunately, those things cost an arm and a leg. What is the exact price ?
I’ll find out and get back to you. We may have some money in our budget.
How’s the new girl ? Are you showing her the ropes?
She seems to be OK but I still need to keep an eye on her. Are we having a meeting later ?
No, it’s been called off.
Ok, back to work. I need to finish off some expense sheets.
Yes, time is money.
See you later.
What were you doing last night ? I tried to call.
I was watching TV. Was it important ?
We were having a party. I wanted you to come.
Your parties are such fun ! What did you do ?
We were all looking online for bargains. Anna bought some great shoes.
She’s always talking about buying shoes.
I was looking at the clothes from London. So stylish.
Did you see the email from the Manager ?
Oh, that old windbag ! He was talking so much.
Yes, even his emails go on forever hahahah.
Did you bring your raincoat ? It was raining all night.
I know – it was raining cats and dogs.
They were thinking about calling off the meeting because of the rain.
Yes, maybe the traffic will be chockablock.
Oh, do you know how to use this Zoom program ?
Yes, it’s very easy. It’s a piece of cake! Have you met Jane’s new boyfriend ?
He seems a real loser. As far as I’m concerned, she can do much better.
What does he do ?
Nothing, the work-shy layabout. I believe he wants her money.
In my experience, guys without jobs are hopeless. A waste of space !
How did she meet him ? She’s such a workaholic ! At the gym ?
Well, not at the gym, he’s no hunk ! It’s obvious to me it won’t last.
I’m convinced it’ll soon be over. She needs a good solid as a rock guy.
Word bomb– what do you think of when I say ‘hotel’ ?
Checking in to a hotel
reception / lift or elevator / single or double room / king size bed or twins /
first floor / complimentary breakfast / key deposit / luggage storage / safe / mini bar
What would the conversation be ?
Reception: How may I help you / May I ask your name ? / Can I see your reservation code ? / That’s fine. You stay for three nights ? / May I have your passport, please ? / You’re in room 237. That’s on the second floor / Thank you. Sign here, please / Yes, the lift is just over there. / Naturally, as well as a hair dryer, coffee machine and mini bar. / Enjoy your stay.
Guest: Hello, we have a reservation / We booked a room online / My name’s ….. / Certainly, it’s on my phone. / Yes, that’s right. / Absolutely. / Correct. / Just a second; here you are./ Is there a lift ? / The second floor ? / Is there a safe in the room ? / Perfect. Thanks very much
Make a conversation. One student will be the reception, the other(s) a guest or guests.
Write your own conversation
You are in a hotel bar and you meet another guest. Start a polite conversation, but you have to use your English.
Greet each other
Why are you in this city ? (holiday or on business)
Offer to buy a drink (accept or decline – maybe you don’t drink alcohol)
How long are they staying ? What do they think of the hotel ? What can they do in the area around the hotel ?
Small group work
You are two married couples who meet on a tour and are staying at the same hotel OR you are on a business trip and meet some other business people.
Use the following sentences, as well as your own, to make a conversation. try to keep speaking for as long as possible by using small talk techniques (oh, really / that’s interesting / tell me more / what do you do exactly ? / where is that ? / Sounds interesting)
My wife and I are delighted to meet you
Shall we go to the bar or cafe ?
Can offer name first (I’m Simon, what’s your name ?)
Would you fancy a drink … ?
Is there anywhere special to do here ?
Sorry, I have to get my head down, it’s been a long flight (I need to sleep).
My colleague and I were going out to eat.
I fancy a beer or something alcoholic
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask where you are from.
Would you like to join us ?
Peckish (little hungry)
What do you think of these hotel rooms ?
What do you think of the design ?
Would you like to stay in any of these ? Why, or why not ?
This is polite conversation, to pass the time, or to get to know some basic information about people. Do not ask anything too personal; this will differ from culture to culture, but in the UK and the west in general:
Ask why someone is not married or has no children.
Ask how much money they earn, get from their job.
Ask how much something cost. “I like your shirt. How much was it ?”
Talk about politics. “You’re from China ? Chairman Mao was a disaster !”
PLAY IT SAFE – talk about music, football, food or … in the UK … the weather.
Very warm for this time of year.
Did you see …….. last night ? (the football game, the news etc)
How long have you worked here ?
The traffic was so bad this morning.
What team do you support ?
John: I can speak German. Peter: Can you ?
Bella: Ms Nguyen went to Thailand. Carole: Did she ?
Bill: He likes K-pop. Harry: ______________ ?
We are going to the pagoda later. ______________ ?
Ms Thinh has a new job.______________ ?
house prices in your city / why you have or don’t have a pet
an interesting program you saw recently
What you want to do in the future. / Somewhere you would love to visit.
Keep conversations going:
I see / Do you really think so ? /
That’s good point / I hadn’t thought of that
Oh, that’s interesting/ Yeah, right ! / Sure / OK May I just add something ? /
Oh, where is that exactly ?
Speaking Practice – use discourse markers to extend your speaking and to link ideas.
Describe something you own which is very important to you.
You should say:
where you got it from how long you have had it what you use it for and explain why it is important to you.
You will have to talk about the topic for 1 to 2 minutes.
You have one minute to think about what you’re going to say.
You can make some notes to help you if you wish.
Rounding off questions
Is it valuable in terms of money?
Would it be easy to replace?
This could be a physical object, a memento with sentimental value, or an abstract noun such as health, happiness etc
For my Vietnamese students:
How different is Vietnam from other Southeast Asian countries?
What do you think Vietnam will be like 50 years from now?
What do you think Vietnam’s neighbours think of you ?