Speaking: What Do You Say in These Situations? (General ESL)

ESL Level: Pre-intermediate+

Class Time: 30-45 minutes

Language Focus: General expressions used in everyday situations

Worksheet Download: general-speaking-situations.docxgeneral-speaking-situations2.docx

Activity Description

Sometimes as teachers we get caught up in teaching verb tenses and job-related tasks, so we end up forgetting that students need to know how to order eggs and get their hair cut. Below are two worksheets that contain 20 or so (somewhat) common situations in English.

First, put the students in pairs or groups of three. Give them 20 minutes to think of expressions they could use for each situation.

Next, take up the answers as a class. Write the answers on the board and suggest alternatives as necessary. Teach idioms where appropriate.

Note: Situation #11 on the first worksheet was put in there for comedic purposes only =) You could replace it with the question, "How would you like your steak?"

Everyday Expressions Worksheet Preview (Worksheet #1)

Expressions for Everyday English #1

1. Your hairdresser asks you how you'd like your hair cut.


2. You order eggs and the server asks you, “How would you like your eggs done?”


3. You are at a bar, and you want to know what kind of beer the bar has.


4. Your coworkers invite you out for drinks but you don't want to go.


5. Your friend tells you that her grandfather has just passed away.


6. Someone phones you but you are too busy to talk.


7. You want to compliment your friend on her new haircut.


8. The restaurant server wants to take your order but you haven't decided yet.


9. You have finished eating at a restaurant and you want to pay.


10. The bill comes and you want to tell your friend that you'll pay for it.


11. A beautiful woman/handsome man is smiling at you.


Update: Some of you have been asking for possible answers. Well, there are no answers to these open situations, but here are some ideas from a Canadian (me):

  1. Key vocabulary: I'd like a trim / Just a trim please. Please cut it shoulder-length. Leave the bangs. I part my hair in the middle.
  2. I'd like them poached/fried/sunny side up/over-easy/hard boiled/scrambled.
  3. What do you have on tap?
  4. Sorry, but I have to [add an excuse]
  5. I'm sorry to hear that. My condolences (on your loss).
  6. Sorry. You've caught me at a bad time. Can I call you back later? / Sorry. I'm just in the middle of [cooking dinner]. Can I call you back later?
  7. I love your new hair cut.
  8. Sorry. I just need another minute. / Sorry, I haven't decided yet.
  9. Can I have the bill please?
  10. It's on me. / I've got it.
  11. (anything)

Everyday Expressions Worksheet Preview (Worksheet #2)

Expressions for Everyday English #2

1. You order coffee, and the server asks you, “How do you like your coffee?”


2. The clerk at a clothing store asks you if she can help you find something.


3. You order steak and the server asks you, “How would you like your steak cooked?”


4. A woman cuts you in line at the supermarket.


5. You want to introduce your co-worker, Denise, to another co-worker named Mark.


6. You get your bill at the restaurant and you notice that you were charged for food you didn't order.


7. You need to know what time it is and you don't have a watch or a phone.


8. Your friend offers you some food but you don't want it because it looks disgusting.


9. A beggar asks you for spare change.


10. You want to order beer “on tap” at a pub.


11. You'd like to `say hello' a stranger's cute dog.

Update: Some of you have been asking for possible answers. Well, there are no answers to these open situations, but here are some ideas from a Canadian (me):

  1. I'd like it black / I'd like one sugar one cream / ... ?
  2. I'm just browsing. / I'm just looking around.
  3. I'd like it rare/medium rare/medium/done/well-done
  4. Sorry. I was in line. / Sorry, the line up starts over there.
  5. Denise, this is Mark. Mark, Denise.
  6. Sorry. I think there might be a mistake on my bill. I didn't order a salad.
  7. Excuse me. Do you have the time? / Do you know what time it is?
  8. Sorry. I've just eaten. / Sorry. I'm full.
  9. ...
  10. What do you have on tap? What draught beers do you have?
  11. Can I pet your dog?

The download links are above. If you are a student and need an answers for some of the above speaking situations, just leave a comment below.

Have fun with your ESL classes.

- Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com

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25 comments on “Speaking: What Do You Say in These Situations? (General ESL)

  1. Irma (Posted on 6-8-2016 at 18:26) Reply

    Wanted to ask a new question but couldn’t find a way to do it.
    If I am mentioning two brothers from the same family, does their family name have to be in plirat? E.g. George and Leo Khans.
    Meaning George Khan and Leo Khan.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 6-8-2016 at 20:06) Reply

      Hello. It would be singular. ‘George and Leo Khan’. Together, you can refer to them as ‘the Khans’ if you want to use a plural form.

  2. Irma (Posted on 6-9-2016 at 01:03) Reply

    Thanks- I knew the Khans but wasn’t sure of the other version.

  3. Dr ashok vyas (Posted on 7-3-2016 at 13:09) Reply

    Very useful and practical to introduce in the classroom

  4. kh¡nh (Posted on 7-4-2016 at 08:58) Reply

    nam is sitting on the desk

  5. Denis (Posted on 7-19-2016 at 09:48) Reply

    Hey man,

    I just wanted to express my gratitude for this wonderful resource. I’m an ESL teacher in Spain and your site has helped me out of many a tricky class! Cheers!

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-19-2016 at 11:30) Reply

      Thanks. The material is kind of a mishmash. I’m glad to hear that you’ve found some useful pages.

  6. Jay Simon, Shunde, China (Posted on 8-8-2016 at 23:59) Reply

    ESL tutor/teacher/instructor in China, always looking for new and fun ideas to use in my classes, thanks for the many uses!

  7. Nadia (Posted on 10-18-2016 at 10:20) Reply

    I’m a teacher from Russia, thank you for the good lesson ideas. Where can I fimd the key? Thank you.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 10-18-2016 at 14:10) Reply

      Hello Nadia. There is no key. As a teacher, you’ll need to suggest appropriate expressions to use (if your students can’t come up with them themselves).

  8. Nang Khae Mu (Posted on 12-27-2016 at 09:51) Reply

    Hi! I’m an English teacher from Myanmar. I love all your different kind of speaking activities. Could you tell me the answers of your questions. As I am not a native speaker, I just want to make sure that I have the specific answers. I’m trying my best to be the best.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 12-27-2016 at 14:14) Reply

      Hello Nang. I’ve added a few answers above.

  9. Priya Sundaravalli (Posted on 4-8-2017 at 13:31) Reply

    Hi..I’m an english language trainer from India ..your speaking situations are more useful and make my classroom lively everyday ..Thanks a lot for your priceless help.

  10. M Bross (Posted on 11-30-2017 at 12:56) Reply

    I am a conversational English teacher at my church. These conversation starters are exactly what I need for my class. The students can read and write and complete workbook exercises– but have real difficulty in making conversation. Thank you so much.

  11. Richell Deiparine (Posted on 4-13-2019 at 05:04) Reply

    Hello! thank you so much for this activity. I’m an English teacher and mainly my students are Japanese. I’m going to use this activity as an experiment.

  12. Luis Angel Duran Suarez (Posted on 9-1-2019 at 23:09) Reply

    I am really thankfull , this has helped me a lot with my speaking skills, since it has forced me to look for way to explain something, therefore Im going to continue using this.

  13. Madina (Posted on 11-12-2019 at 04:04) Reply

    Great! I am about using this worksheets in my English lesson. Thanks for the creators!

  14. Anonymous (Posted on 8-4-2020 at 02:14) Reply

    This is wonderful! Thank you very much.

  15. Jacqueline (Posted on 10-26-2020 at 23:02) Reply

    Thank you! These are very useful. Do you have more of these?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 10-27-2020 at 09:19) Reply

      Hello. No, these are the only worksheets like this.

  16. Mari Rocha (Posted on 10-29-2020 at 10:14) Reply

    So helpful and full of ideas to use with our esl students! Thank you so much!

  17. Anonymous (Posted on 2-3-2021 at 05:42) Reply

    When you want to enter a class

  18. M.Gracia (Posted on 4-27-2021 at 01:16) Reply

    thank you for this! I love it, and it can be used in different levels. It has been a different speaking lesson. Thanks a lot :)

  19. Rex (Posted on 10-12-2022 at 04:54) Reply

    Thanks a bunch for this. :)

  20. Aditya Sajal (Posted on 6-4-2024 at 00:32) Reply

    I am getting more help from online learning platform

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