Teaching Kids To Speak English At Home (The Complete Guide)


Quick intro: Helping your kids to speak English at home

As a parent, you are in an ideal position to teach your kids to speak English and develop their language skills at home. We’ve written this study guide to help you do this!

Before we get started, there are several important things to consider:

  1. If there are no native English speakers in the family, then the mother tongue shared by the parents will dominate in the household. Children cannot learn English without regular “contact” with the language. You should facilitate and encourage language contact as much as possible.
  2. Children are able to learn languages quickly and relatively easily, but this can only happen if the environment is right. Speaking English should be interesting and fun in a place where your child feels safe and comfortable.
  3. It is best to think of English as “a lifestyle” (not a boring school subject!). This “English lifestyle” can be made up of fun speaking activities each day. This is how British children learn English at home with their parents…and it works!

Let’s take a look at some study techniques and resources that you can use today to help your child speak more English at home…

English speaking games for kids

Kids love games! If you want your child to love English, then it makes sense to combine the two.

To improve your child’s spoken English, try introducing some language games into your daily routine. These games should be fun and short in duration. Some can be played at home, and others when you are out and about.

In this list of kids’ games, we have included: word games, family games, riddles and storytelling activities. All of these can be played at home with just you and your child, but of course more children (and parents) can get involved too! Always remember that using language is primarily a social activity so inviting others to participate is often a good idea.

Word games

Word games are a great way to expand your children’s vocabulary and get them speaking in English about the world they see around them. Try some of the speaking games below when you are at home or on the go with your son or daughter!

  1. 1. Find that colour!

    To play this game, simply give a command to your child, for example: “Go and touch something blue” or “Go and find me something yellow”. To make this more difficult (depending on your child’s level of English), you can add more detail to your requests. For example: “Bring me a red pen” or “Find a picture with green in it”. You could also play this game in the garden or when out walking in the park – “Show me a yellow flower”. This game is great for learning and remembering new colours and other everyday vocabulary connected with common objects!

  2. 2. I spy (with my little eye)

    “I spy” is a popular guessing game that British parents often play with their kids in the car or when travelling by train. In case you were wondering, “spy” is just another word for “see”. One person says the phrase: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with…” and then gives a letter of the alphabet (A-Z). The other players then have to look out of the window and guess which object the first person has “spied”. For example:Parent: I spy with my little eye…something beginning with “T”!
    Child: Is it tree?
    Parent: Good try, but I’m thinking of something else. Guess again!You can help others to guess by giving clues: “It’s like a very big car and it’s long too, and it carries things from one place to another” (truck).This is a fun game to help children speak and improve their vocabulary in English. It also helps kill time on long journeys or when your kids are bored in the car!

  3. 3. Say the opposite!

    In this game, you say a word aloud and your child has to give the opposite (e.g. girl – boy, big – small etc). The great thing about this activity is that it can be adapted for any level. If your child is a beginner, you can start with basic words (cat – dog, mum – dad, good – bad), but for more advanced learners you can use harder words (difficult – easy, interesting – boring, greedy – generous).

If you are playing this game with more than one child, you can make it fun by using a ball! Throw the ball to one of the kids and shout out the word. The child should say the opposite and then throw the ball back to you. Try to speed the game up so the children have to think and answer quicker!

  1. 4. Where is it?

    This speaking game is like Hide & Seek, but with objects rather than people! First, ask your child to take an object (e.g. a book, a pen, a pair of glasses etc.) and hide it somewhere in the house. Next, you will need to find the object by following their instructions in English. For example: “It’s next to the sofa”, “It’s upstairs”, “It’s on the top shelf” etc. Remember to switch roles so each participant has a chance to ask questions and find the object. This is also a good activity for practising prepositions of place.

  2. 5. Dressing up box

    This is a fun way to learn the names of clothes! Start by asking your child to put on different items of clothing from a “dressing up box” (but without pointing to them). For example, a hat, a coat, a scarf, a jumper. Your child will need to find the item of clothing and repeat the word back to you. He or she will then put it on, but without removing the previous item! You can then switch roles. You can make this game more fun by having bright or unusual clothes to wear. If there are several similar items, specify which one you mean with phrases like: “The red stripy t-shirt” or “The long purple dress”. This is a good method for practising adjectives in English.

  3. 6. What am I doing?

    This is a simple activity to get kids speaking English at home! First you need to mime or perform an action – run, dance, skip, hop, jump, climb etc. Ask your child to describe what you are doing, for example: “You are jumping” or “You are dancing”. You could even do this while you are cooking and ask your child to give more complex descriptions: “You are chopping onions”, “You are boiling water” or “You are frying potatoes”.

When you are playing these games with your child, make a list of 10 new words or phrases each week. Choose words that are common and of practical use. Stick this list on a door, fridge or other highly visible space in your home where the child will see it every day. Try to use these same words frequently when playing. Hold a vocabulary test at the end of each week and give your child a reward for remembering all the new words! Never throw away the old lists – just keep adding new ones.

  1. 7. As many as you can!

    For this game you will need a pen and paper! Write down a long word on the paper and explain its meaning (if the child doesn’t know it already). Then set a timer for 2 minutes. During this time, you and your child should write down as many English words as you can find by using the letters in the long word. For example, if the word is “conversation” you could list: sit, sat, one, tin, note, van, version, coin etc.! At the end you can take turns to read out your words. The winner is the person who gets the most words, but make sure they are all spelt correctly! Longer words can be awarded more points.

  2. 8. Tongue twisters

    This is a great game to improve your child’s pronunciation and spoken fluency in English. Tongue twisters, such as She sells seashells by the seashore, are a sequence of words that are difficult to pronounce quickly and correctly! Print out a short list of several tongue twisters – one copy for you and one for your child. Practise saying them together slowly and make sure you understand the words.  Then take turns to see who can say the tongue twisters fastest. This can be a lot of fun because everyone makes mistakes!For example, try this famous English tongue twister:How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
    He would chuck, he would, as much as he could
    And chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would if a woodchuck could chuck wood.If you are unsure of the pronunciation, try these tongue twisters with audio recordings from the British Council Learn English Kids website!


Family games

Using the language in any type of play situation is a great way to get your kids speaking English while having fun too. So next time you are going to play a game with your family, why not trying doing this in English? Below are some examples of games you can play at home with your family and friends! These are best played with 3+ players.

  1. 1. Board games

    Popular board games like Monopoly are interactive and involve both speaking and reading. This means they are a great way to practise English at home with your kids! If you buy the original version, the board and all the cards are written in English. It may be best to choose board games that your child already knows in your native language so that the rules are familiar. If you don’t like Monopoly, give these other games a try:

    • Scrabble (create words from A-Z letters)
    • Guess who? (ask questions to guess the person, x2 players max.)
    • Cluedo (solve a murder mystery by collecting information and asking questions)
  2. 2. Charades

    This is a miming and guessing game. First you need to write down some English words on small pieces of paper. These words should be a secret from the other players. It is best to choose a specific topic or theme that your child knows well – for example, simple actions (running, swimming, climbing) or familiar cartoons. Take it in turns to pick up a piece of paper and act out the words or phrases on it. Remember that the person acting out the word or phrase is not allowed to speak! The other participants should ask questions and try to guess the word.

For children with more advanced English, you can play a different version of Charades. This game requires more speaking. Write down the names of some famous people on your pieces of paper (e.g. Spiderman, Angelina Jolie, etc.). Stick a name to the forehead of each participant. Then each player should ask yes/no questions to get information and guess who they are.

  1. 3. Pictionary

    This game is like Charades, but instead of acting you need to draw pictures to guess words! Write down some English words or phrases on small pieces of paper. These could be nouns (apple, bucket), verbs (swim, climb), adjectives (greedy, lazy) or even the titles of kids’ books (The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland). One person should choose a piece of paper and then draw the word that is written on it. The other players should try to guess what the “artist” is drawing. This is a fun game that helps kids combine English speaking with art!

  2. 4. The memory game

    For this game you will need to collect some random household objects (e.g. banana, pen, whisk, candle, book, etc.) and put them together on the table. Set a timer for 1 minute. During this time, you and your child need to memorise all the objects! When the time is up, cover the objects with a towel or place them in a box under the table. Take some paper and pens. Now write down as many objects as you can remember. When this is done, you can take turns to read them out and see who has the best memory! For extra speaking practice, you can play this game orally and without writing anything down on paper.

  3. 5. Computer games

    Unfortunately, most kids these days prefer computer games to those we have described above! However, you can still encourage your children to improve their English while playing games on consoles, iPads and mobile phones. Here are some ways of doing this:

    • Change the default language of the device to English
    • Buy original English language games or select English via the in-game settings
    • Choose games that involve storytelling or dialogues between characters (e.g. role-play games – RPG, strategy games), e.g. Zelda
    • Play computer games with your child and talk in English about what you are doing together in the game (Minecraft multiplayer could work well)


Fun with riddles

Kids are often fascinated by riddles or puzzles, and these can be a lot of fun in English too! Riddles make children “think outside the box” and test their ability to problem solve. They are also a great way to help your child speak English a bit more at home. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Q: What has a face and two hands, but no arms or legs?
A: A clock.

Q: What goes up when the rain comes down?
A: An umbrella.

Q: What can you catch but never throw?
A: A cold.

You can use riddles to help your child remember new vocabulary, form questions correctly and be more creative with language. Here are some ways you might use riddles:

  • Choose 5 new riddles each week. Help your child to learn them by heart and then challenge family or friends to guess the correct answers!
  • Go to riddles.com and take it in turns to read out riddles to each other. See who can work out the most answers.
  • For more advanced learners, try to create your own riddles and puzzles in English. If your child already knows some riddles in your native language, try to translate them together.


Storytelling activities

Kids have active imaginations and love making up stories! These can be simple or more detailed, depending on the level of English spoken by your child. Storytelling activities can help kids improve their English speaking in several ways:

VOCABULARY = Storytelling involves sequences of events, characters and descriptions. Words and phrases are repeated frequently and this helps your child to remember them in context.

PRONUNCIATION = Storytelling is a verbal activity and involves speaking aloud to other people. This provides a good opportunity to listen carefully to your child’s pronunciation. You can then help to improve this, or perhaps look for a native English tutor.

SPEAKING = Your child will gain confidence when speaking English to others and can have fun being creative with the language. Learning to produce unique sentences (or utterances) independently is an important part of developing spoken fluency.

Let’s take a look at three storytelling activities that you can do with your kids at home:

  • Bits’n’bobs

    This funny phrase in English just means “small, random things”. Start the activity by collecting some small objects from around the house – e.g. toy horse, flower, cup, doll, Lego man, etc. Place these on the table and put out some paper and coloured pens. Now your task is to write a simple story that includes the objects on the table! You can begin by arranging them in an order of your choice. Then ask your child to fill in the details as you ask questions and write down the story:

    • “Where was the horse?” / “In a forest.”
    • “Cool! What was the horse doing?” / “Eating the flowers!”
    • “Oh, naughty horse! Was Lego man there too?” / “Yes, he was angry!”
    • “So what did Lego man do next?” / “He gave the horse some food.”
    • “That was kind of him. What did the horse do?” / “He said thanks.”
    • “A talking horse, great!”…

    As you can see, making up stories like this can be a lot of fun! Once you have finished your story, read it to your child and then ask him or her to tell it back to you. If it’s a good one, you could turn it into a little play and act it out for your family.

If your child is having difficulties finding the right word, you can use a dictionary or help with verbal translations from your native language. Always write down any new vocabulary so that you can repeat it later together. Repetition is the most important factor when remembering new words. Encourage your child to use a real dictionary, rather than a mobile phone app like Google Translate.

  • Blind storytellers!

    This is a popular storytelling game among English teachers and can be played in pairs or with a bigger group of children. Start by cutting some A4 sheets of paper in half. Give one piece of paper and a pen to each player. On another full sheet of paper (or small whiteboard) write down these numbered questions:

    1. Who?
    2. Where?
    3. Who with? (Brits never say “with whom” because it’s old-fashioned)
    4. What were they doing?
    5. What happened next?
    6. How did the story end?

    Next ask each player to write down their answer to question 1 at the top of their piece of paper. This is a secret so don’t show your answers to the others! Tell the players to fold their paper over to hide the first answer. Now everyone should write “2” below the fold and pass their piece of paper to the person on their left. Repeat this with the remaining questions.

    When you have answered all the questions, stop and ask each player to read out the finished story in their hands. These are often funny because each player is “writing blind” and doesn’t know what has gone before. This activity works best with 3+ players.

  • Comic book creators

    In recent years, comic book heroes have become “super popular” in cinemas and on TV! Kids love them and often play games where they imagine being superheroes themselves. If your child is into comic books, you can try creating some together in English! Here’s how:

    1. a) Download and print some free comic book templates.
    2. b) Ask your child to draw out a story using a template, colour everything in, BUT leave some space under each picture for the text.
    3. c) Ask your child to tell you (in English!) what is happening in each picture. Then help him or her to write down the comic book story in English. One short sentence under each picture is enough. You can also use speech and thought bubbles like in real comics!
    4. d) Keep a collection of your best comics. Get these out each week and have another read through them together. This is a good exercise to repeat and remember any new vocabulary you have used. 


Nursery rhymes and children’s songs


Nursery rhymes

These are primarily for younger learners who are getting started with their English. Nursery rhymes usually focus on a narrow set of words connected with just one topic – e.g. colours. This makes them perfect for teaching vocabulary and pronunciation in a simple and repetitive format. Some nursery rhymes also come with actions that you can perform with children to help then remember the meanings of the words. Let’s take a look at five of the most popular rhymes in English:

  1. 1. Old MacDonald Had A Farm

    This classic nursery rhyme is a great way to learn and practise the names of animals and the noises they make. These can differ greatly between languages and are funny to compare! You can try adding an action for each animal – e.g. wings flapping for a chicken. Children can also continue the rhyme by adding new animals of their own.

  2. 2. I Can Sing A Rainbow

    A simple nursery rhyme for teaching children colours in English. These are represented in the form of a rainbow: “Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue…I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too”. The repetition in the rhyme helps kids remember the words.

  3. 3. Row, Row, Row Your Boat

    Parents have adapted this rhyme over the years. It now has many different “additions” that include animals and reactions to seeing them. The classic line goes like this: “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…life is but a dream”. The word “but” here means “just”. The newer additions to the rhyme include crocodiles (shriek), polar bears (shiver), lions (roar) and sometimes other animals!

Looking for more rhymes in English? There are plenty of them online! For example, check out this list of 30 popular nursery rhymes with lyrics. While visiting this page, you may also want to check out the rest of the website because it’s all about the topic of raising bilingual children.

  1. 4. The Wheels On The Bus

    This popular rhyme describes the journey of a bus and its various passengers. It includes vocabulary that describes actions and noises made by people and things: wheels go round, horn goes beep, doors open and close, etc. As with rhyme 3 above, there are many alternative versions of this song. Try adding some new words and actions/noises of your own to make it unique to you!

  1. 5. If You’re Happy And You Know It

    This nursery rhyme helps children to practise physical actions. It gives various instructions: nod your head, clap your hands, stamp your feet, etc. Often kids know the names of parts of the body, but don’t know the more difficult vocabulary that describes what these parts do. To add more complexity later in the song, you can ask kids to repeat several actions in a row with: “If you’re happy and you know it do all three!” – nod nod, clap clap, stamp stamp.

English songs for kids

For most kids, music and singing is a natural part of their daily lives. Your kids may already be used to learning through songs, so the next step is to add a bit of English! In this section, we will look at some songs that may be suitable for older children with more advanced speaking skills. But first let’s look at HOW you might use these songs to improve your child’s spoken fluency.

Recommended strategy:

Listen to the song before you play it to your child. Make sure you understand it and write down any words you think your child may not know already. Perhaps also translate it into your language.

  • Play the song once to your child. Then discuss what the song is about and go through the vocabulary in it. What do you think of the song? Is it happy or sad? Is it a silly song? Do you like the melody? Have you heard it before?
  • Print a copy of the song lyrics and read through them with your child. You can add notes to the song sheet – translations of words, reminders on pronunciation, etc.
  • Play the song again and follow it with the song sheet, but don’t sing it yet. Try to connect the written words with those spoken in the song.
  • Finally, play the song and sing along together!

For a large collection of kids’ songs in English, try the British Council website. This has a great resource page for teaching kids English through music. You can choose from over 50 different songs and each one comes with an animated video and lyrics. There are also free pdfs to download with vocabulary and activities for each song.

  1. 1. She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain

    This one is somewhere between a nursery rhyme and a kids’ song. It’s actually a traditional campfire tune and has a lot of repetitive elements. It’s a good one to start with, and is fun to sing too! The song describes the arrival of a lady and what she is doing on the way. There are some funny verses like: “She’ll be wearing pink pyjamas when she comes”. It’s also common for people to create their own short verses, so feel free to try this with your kids!

  2. 2. The Great Big Moose Song

    This is a funny song by the creators of the Scratch Garden YouTube channel for kids. It’s a crazy song about “a moose drinking juice”, but it’s great fun! Sometimes it’s easier to remember words if you make unusual associations with them. This song certainly uses this memory technique.

  3. 3. Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)

    Every parent probably knows this old classic by The Beatles! It’s still popular with kids today and is sometimes used in English nurseries and primary schools. To refresh your memory, here is the first verse:

    In the town where I was born
    Lived a man who sailed to sea
    And he told us of his life
    In the land of submarines
    So we sailed up to the sun
    Till we found a sea of green
    And we lived beneath the waves
    In our yellow submarine

    It’s an imaginative song that appeals to kids’ creative side. Perhaps combine this song with some art or drawing activities. You could even make a picture of a big yellow submarine and write the lyrics down around it!

  1. 4. What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong)

    This is another classic song that will be familiar to many parents. It’s a great one to sing with kids because it’s full of hope and optimism about the world around us. The lyrics to the track are simple enough for children to understand, it’s short in length and the words are pronounced clearly. Here is the opening to the song:

    I see trees of green, red roses too
    I see them bloom for me and you
    And I think to myself what a wonderful world

  2. 5. Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)

    Older kids may think some of the songs above are “uncool” or “boring”. This one is an example of a modern pop song by British artist Ed Sheeran. It’s a good track for kids because the words are simple and the pronunciation is understandable. The content of the song is also suitable for children. You can help your son or daughter by finding out about their favourite English bands and then selecting appropriate songs to use for home study.

Older children may already have some favourite bands or songs in English. If so, singing karaoke could be a good exercise to get them interested. There are many videos on YouTube created especially for karaoke. For example, take a look at the Sing King Karaoke channel or search for “name of song + karaoke version” on YouTube. It is also a good idea to download the song lyrics to practise with beforehand (try this website).


Best cartoons for learning English

For your kids to improve their spoken English quickly, they need to have daily contact with the language. One way to increase this “contact time” is to swap some activities usually done in the child’s mother tongue to equivalents in English. Why not try this with cartoons?

Recommended strategy:

  • Start with just one cartoon so that your child can become familiar with the story and its characters.
  • Watch the same episode not once, but several times. Repetition helps children memorise new vocabulary and dialogues.
  • Listening only: Simply watch and listen to the cartoon. As you would in your native language. The visual element helps children to understand English in context.
  • Voiceover: Turn off the sound and ask your child to speak for the characters.
  • Storytelling: Ask your child to retell the story from the cartoon in his or her own words. Help by asking questions.

Below we have selected our top-10 cartoons, all of which can be found on YouTube!

  • 1. Martha Speaks
    Martha Speaks

    This is a cartoon about a talking dog. It is designed for teaching vocabulary. New words are explained at the beginning and end of each episode. This vocabulary is also repeated throughout the cartoon to help kids remember. Martha Speaks is both clever and funny, so it’s really popular with children (and their parents!) in the UK and America.

  • 2. Word Girl
    Word Girl

    Word Girl is about a young girl who is secretly a superhero! She fights bad guys through words. It’s another great cartoon for learning vocabulary. Although intended for younger children, it includes some quite advanced words. This means it can help expand your child’s vocabulary at higher levels too. It’s also ideal for brushing up on pronunciation and listening skills, both of which are important when improving spoken English.

  • 3. Sesame Street
    Sesame Street

    This classic TV series dates back to the late 1960s, but kids still love it today! It’s more like a TV show than a cartoon because it uses puppets for its main characters. Sesame Street includes a wide variety of educational topics for kids and presents them in a bright and engaging way. You may already know some of the most famous characters – Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the Cookie Monster. If not, you should try watching it too!

  • 4. Peppa Pig
    Peppa Pig

    This one is something of a global phenomenon so most parents will know it well. It follows the adventures of Peppa Pig, her mum, dad, little brother and friends. It’s great for teaching kids to speak English because it uses easy language with lots of repetition. Each episode is only 5 minutes long so there’s no time to get bored! YouTube has compilation videos with back-to-back episodes to make life easier for busy parents.

  • 5. Super Why
    Super Why

    Super Why is a cartoon all about reading! It is set in a magical world called Storybook Village. The main character is Whyatt Beanstalk and he lives with his friends (Super Readers) Pig, Red Riding Hood and Princess Pea. Each episode explores a different book to solve the problems of the fairytale characters in Storybook Village. Children learn important lessons and morals, such as: telling the truth, being yourself and acting kindly. New words are spelt out and pronounced on the screen to help kids use and remember them correctly.

  • 6. Little Einsteins
    Little Einsteins

    This cartoon by Disney Junior uses art and music to teach kids English by introducing them to famous artists and musicians! In each episode four explorers go on a mission in their rocket ship to somewhere different in the world. They examine the geography, culture, music and art of each place. This cartoon is interactive and encourages kids to participate in activities like singing along, patting their knees and performing actions to help with missions. This is great for children with shorter attention spans as it keeps them on their toes!

  • 7. Wallace & Gromit
    Wallace & Gromit

    Created by British artist Nick Park, this kids’ comedy series uses clay models to bring its characters to life. The action is centred around an eccentric inventor (Wallace) and his clever dog (Gromit). The dialogues include plenty of words and expressions used in modern English by Brits in the UK. Characters in the cartoons also speak with different English dialects and accents. Note that these are not short cartoons and the language used is for children with more advanced English.

  • 8. Hey Duggee
    Hey Duggee

    This is a very popular kids’ cartoon series in the UK now. The main character is a dog called Duggee, who is like a scout leader. Duggee has a group of young learners (The Squirrels) – a crocodile, rhino, mouse etc. In each short episode, the group goes on an educational adventure to earn a “badge”. Although this cartoon is intended for younger learners, some of the language it uses will challenge kids with more advanced English skills. The dialogues are a good reflection of modern British English as it is used today by parents and their kids in the UK.

  • 9. Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures
    Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures

    Kids are often fascinated by dinosaurs! This BBC series is about a man (Andy) who works at the dinosaur gallery of the National Museum with his colleague Hatty. In each episode there’s a problem that Andy needs to fix by using his time machine to travel back to the age of the dinosaurs! There are some amazing special effects that really bring the dinosaurs to life and show kids how they might have lived. This TV programme teaches children the names of dinosaurs and explores some scientific language in a simple way.

  • 10. Postman Pat
    Postman Pat

    This original British cartoon series dates back to 1981! There is now a new version called “Postman Pat Special Delivery Service” that uses 3D animation, but the original was made using models. Both are great fun to watch! This is another example of a cartoon that uses modern English as it is spoken by Brits. You’ll hear expressions like “Cheerio” (bye), “What are you up to?” (What are you doing?) and “Well I never!” (expression of surprise). The characters speak with different dialects and accents so this helps children to develop their “native English ear”.

When watching cartoons on YouTube, you can turn on English subtitles for most videos. To do this, look for the “CC” button under the video and click once. Subtitles can help parents and children to understand narration and dialogues in cartoons. However, note that automatic subtitles are not always 100% correct.


Interesting children’s books in English

What does reading have to do with speaking English? A lot!

Children cannot speak English well without also developing their vocabulary, listening skills and general understanding of language structure. Books offer us a way of practising all of these skills together. Kids’ books usually contain plenty of colourful pictures that tell the story. These visual aids also help children to understand the English being used.

Recommended strategy:

  • Reserve some time for reading with your child each day. You can call this “Story Time”. Sit down for 20 minutes to read in a quiet place without distractions.
  • Give your child a choice of English books to read. Never force your child to read books that he or she finds boring. Select books that are attractive and possibly connected with your child’s existing hobbies or interests.
  • Take it in turns: Read the book together and take turns to read a line or a page aloud. Encourage your child to speak loudly and clearly.
  • Read to me: Ask your child to read aloud solo. Help with the pronunciation and meanings of any difficult words.
  • Retell: Read the same storybook several times over a couple of weeks. Once your child is familiar with the story, ask him or her to retell it without the text (just using the pictures).

Let’s take a look at our top-10 list of English children’s books:

  • 1. Each peach pear plum
     Each peach pear plum

    This imaginative children’s book is a popular classic. It tells a story in rhyme and includes some famous fairytale characters. The book describes a sequence of connected events and ends will all the characters enjoying a picnic together with plum pie. This is an example of a simple book for younger learners of English. If you like this story, be sure to check out others by Janet and Allan Ahlberg!

  • 2. The Gruffalo
    The Gruffalo

    This is a series of children’s books by illustrator Axel Scheffler and writer Julia Donaldson. It follows the story of a mythical beast call the Gruffalo. In the original book, the story follows a clever mouse who scares other animals with his tales about the Gruffalo. In the end, he comes face-to-face with the scary creature but avoids being eaten! Other titles by this duo include Tiddler the Storytelling Fish and Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book.

  • 3. Mr Men & Little Miss
    Mr Men & Little Miss

    This classic series of children’s books has a wide variety of characters, each with their own unique feature or skill. Mr Tickle has very long arms, Mr Bump is clumsy and always has accidents, Little Miss Sunshine is always happy, etc. Each story follows a different “Mr Man” or “Little Miss” and teaches children about these characteristics. It’s a great series for learning adjectives, and the books are enjoyable to read.

  • 4. The Lion Inside
     The Lion Inside

    This is one of several fantastic books by British illustrator Jim Field. His drawings are colourful and really bring his stories to life! The Lion Inside is a story told in rhyme. It teaches kids that we all have a mouse and a lion inside – that we are sometimes scared or brave, loud or quiet – but that we should be ourselves. The rhyming element of the book shows children some of the beauty of the spoken language.

  • 5. Traditional English Fairytales
    Traditional English Fairytales

    Fairytales are usually suitable for children with a higher level of fluency. They can contain some old-fashioned language, but they also provide some interesting insights into history and culture. These stories often teach moral lessons about being good or bad, naughty or nice, greedy or generous. Classics of the genre might include The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, or Cinderella.

  • 6. Beatrix Potter books
    Beatrix Potter books

    This English writer is most famous for her character Peter Rabbit. However, the series actually includes a wide variety of different animals like Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs Tiggywinkle (headgehog) and Jemima Puddle-Duck! These stories are imaginative and sometimes humorous. The language is suitable for children with a Pre-Intermediate level of English. These books are great for bedtime stories!

  • 7. Winnie the Pooh
    Winnie the Pooh

    Everyone knows A. A. Milne’s famous character Winnie the Pooh, who has also featured in a number of cartoons. The English originals are interesting because they include lots of inventive language and poems. These books are good for kids with more advanced English because they introduce some complex vocabulary.

  • 8. Fantastic Mr. Fox 
    Fantastic Mr. Fox 

    This book by British author Roald Dahl is about a clever fox who steals chickens from a neighbouring farm. Roald Dahl is famous for his children’s books and collections of rhymes. His stories often contain some darker humour so they are popular with parents too! If you like this book, also try: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, George’s Marvellous Medicine, or Revolting Rhymes.

  • 9. The Wind in the Willows
    The Wind in the Willows

    Kenneth Grahame brings to life a world of riverside animals in this classic children’s book series. His stories contain beautiful and descriptive language. The books follow the adventures of several friends – Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad – as they get into various scrapes and situations. These stories are suitable for children with more advanced English.

  • 10. The Lion and the Wardrobe
    The Lion and the Wardrobe

    This is the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia trilogy by British writer C.S. Lewis. These stories have been made into Hollywood movies, but the books are even better! Although written for children, then fiction novels are also popular with adult readers around the world. They follow the adventures of a family of children through an imaginary world, which they discover by chance (in their wardrobe!). This book is a good introduction to higher level literature and would be suitable for children with Intermediate level English.

Why not create your own “English library” at home? Always try to buy original English books in paperback with illustrations. These are much more interesting for kids compared to pdfs or printouts. The best books are usually impossible to find for free online. You can purchase original books via the internet – either new or used. Charity shops in the UK are a good place to get cheap second hand kids’ books. You could also organise to share books with other parents in your neighbourhood.


5 English speaking apps for kids

Getting children to use English apps is a simple and easy way to incorporate English into their daily lives in a fun way. This list of the 5 best free English apps includes both educational apps (specifically for learning English) and general play apps for native English children.

The more your child is exposed to the language in their daily play time, the more English will become naturally part of their life. Apps are great for children as they are interactive and visually stimulating; designed to keep your child’s attention and engage them fully. These apps will make learning English a lot more entertaining than just studying with a textbook!

  • 1. Duolingo

    Duolingo is one of the best known and most popular language learning apps today – and for good reason. Its lessons are short (20 minutes) and are structured around learning new vocabulary every day based on a given topic. The lessons are interactive and involve listening and speaking, using repetition to learn new vocabulary. The visuals make it ideal for children! Lessons are adapted to your individual learning style and you are given rewards for completing lessons.

    iOS download
    Android download

  • 2. Pili Pop English
    Pili Pop English

    This is another educational app designed specifically for learning English in a fun and engaging way. Pili Pop is the number 1 language learning app for children between the ages of 5 to 10. Using an oral-based method, it encourages children to speak to help them with pronunciation. There are also over 200 activities for your child to choose from, with new ones added every month. The focus here is on learning by playing and getting your child comfortable with speaking.

    iOS download
    Android download

  • 3. Lingokids – English For Kids
    Lingokids - English For Kids

    Lingokids features learning material from Oxford University Press. This language learning app is designed especially for children and focuses on learning through videos, activities, songs and games. This app adapts to your child’s level and learning speed, and offers weekly progress reports for parents to monitor progress.

    iOS download
    Android download

  • 4. World of Peppa Pig
    World of Peppa Pig

    As we’ve discussed, play is a great way to get children learning a language. The Peppa Pig app is immensely popular with English speaking children and it’s not hard to see why. Featuring the show’s characters, the World of Peppa Pig is an interactive app filled with games, videos to watch, read-along stories, sing-alongs and activities that are both fun and educational.

    iOS download
    Android download

  • 5. YouTube kids
    YouTube kids

    This popular app is a great way for your child to watch YouTube videos in a safe environment. Whether they want to watch music videos, their favourite cartoons or nursery rhymes, the app comes with parental controls, meaning you can tailor your child’s experience while keeping them safe.

    iOS download
    Android download

35 Comparative And Superlative Adjectives | List With Examples + Exercises



Are you having problems understanding the comparative and superlative in English? Don’t worry – even native speakers make mistakes with these! In this study guide, we will explain each type of adjective and give you a list of the 35 most common. You will improve your understanding with our native examples and can test your knowledge with the exercises at the end of the guide. Ready? Let’s get cracking!


Comparative adjectives


What are comparative adjectives?

Comparative adjectives are used to compare differences between the two objects they modify (e.g. larger, smaller, faster, higher). They are used in sentences where two nouns are compared:

Noun + verb + comparative adjective+ than + noun.

E.g. The cat ran faster than the dog.

How do I make comparative adjectives?

The way we form comparative adjectives depends on the adjective!

For one-syllableadjectives and two-syllable adjectives ending in‘y’we add an –erto the end of the adjective (e.g. old – older). With short vowels we double the final consonant before adding the –er (e.g. big – bigger), and with adjectives ending in ‘y’ we add an ‘i’ before the –er (e.g. friendly – friendlier).

For two-syllable or longer adjectives (that don’t end in ‘y’) we keep the adjective the same but add ‘more’in front of the adjective (e.g. boring – more boring).

There are also some irregular forms that don’t follow these rules. You will have to learn these separately! For example, the comparative form of far is further, the comparative form of badis worseand of goodis better.

Examples of comparative adjectives

Trains are more expensive than buses in London.
(We are comparing two forms of transport: trains and buses. Expensiveis a three-syllable adjective so we keep the adjective the same and add ‘more’ before it)

Hannah is taller than Jane.
(We are comparing Hannah and Jane’s height. Tallis a one-syllable adjective so we add –er to the end)

Fruit is healthier than chocolate.
(We are comparing two different types of food. Healthyends in –y so we add –ier to the end of the adjective)

Max is better at maths than David, but is worse at maths than Sarah.
(We are comparing Max’s ability at maths to David’s and then to Sarah’s. As goodand badare both irregular forms we use better and worse)

With some one-syllable adjectiveswe double the final consonant before adding an –eror –est. For example: big – bigger – biggest, fat – fatter – fattest, thin – thinner – thinnest. If a one-syllable adjective ends in –e, then we simply add an –ror –st. For example: fine – finer – finest.


Superlative adjectives


What are superlative adjectives?

Superlative adjectives are used to describe an object which is at the upper or lower limit of a quality (e.g. the tallest, the smallest, the fastest, the highest).

In other words, they describe extremes. They are used in sentences to compare three or more nouns:

Noun + verb + the + superlative adjective+ noun.
E.g. Parrots are the noisiest birds in the jungle.


How do I make superlative adjectives?

To form superlatives, you need to follow similar rules to those above for making comparative adjectives.

For one-syllable adjectives and two-syllable adjectives ending in ‘y’we add –estto the end of the adjective (e.g. old – oldest). With short vowels we double the final consonant before adding the –est(e.g. big – biggest), and with adjectives ending in ‘y’ we add an ‘i’ before the –er(e.g. friendly – friendliest).

For two-syllable or longer adjectives (that don’t end in ‘y’) we keep the adjective the same but add ‘the most’ in front of the adjective (e.g. boring –the most boring).

The irregular forms in comparative adjectives are the same for superlative adjectives. So the superlative form of far is (the) furthest, badbecomesthe worstand goodis the best.

Examples of superlative adjectives

Trains are the most expensive transport in London.
(We are comparing trains vs. all other forms of transport. Expensiveis a three-syllable adjective so we keep the adjective the same and add ‘the most’ before it)

Hannah is the tallest person in her family.
(We are saying Hannah is taller than everyone else in her family. Tallis a one-syllable adjective so we add –est to the end)

Grapefruit is the healthiest fruit.
(We are comparing grapefruit to all other types of fruit. Healthyends in ‘y’ so we add –iest to the end of the adjective)

Max is the best at maths in his class, but is the worst at science.
(We are saying that Max is better at maths than everyone in his class, but is worse at science than everyone in his class. As goodand badare both irregular forms we use the best and the worst).

Table: How to form comparative and superlative adjectives

One-syllable adjectives and adjectives ending in -y 


adjective + -er


the + adjective + -est
 oldolderthe oldest
 bigbiggerthe biggest
 friendlyfriendlierthe friendliest
Two-syllable or longer adjectivesmore + adjectivethe most + adjective
interestingmore interestingthe most interesting
boringmore boringthe most boring
narrowmore narrowthe narrowest
Irregular forms
 goodbetterthe best
badworsethe worst
farfartherthe farthest
littlelessthe least


A-Z list of 35 comparative and superlative adjectives with examples

  1. angry – angrier – the angriest
    He was angrier yesterday than he was last week.
    He is the angriest man I have ever seen met!
  2. bad – worse – the worst (irregular)
    I think the weather’s worse than last winter as it’s rained nearly every day!
    This is the worst weather in December since records began!
  3. big – bigger – the biggest
    Your desk is bigger than mine.
    You have the biggest desk in the whole office.
  4. boring – more boring – the most boring
    The film was a bit more boring than I thought it would be.
    That film was the most boring thing I’ve seen for ages!
  5. cheap – cheaper – the cheapest
    Your car was cheaper than mine by about two grand (£2,000).
    Our package deal to Spain was by far the cheapest holiday I’ve ever been on!
  6. clever – cleverer – cleverest
    I was cleverer when I was younger.
    Sarah is the cleverest student in our year. 

Note that some native English speakers also use the forms ‘more clever’ and ‘most clever’. These forms appear to follow the rules more closely, but they are less popular when it comes to real usage in the UK.

  1. cute – cuter – the cutest
    Your new dog is cuter than your old one.
    That is the cutest dog I’ve ever seen!
  2. clean – cleaner – the cleanest
    The house is looking a lot cleaner than it was this morning.
    The house is the cleanest it has ever been.
  3. comfort – more comfortable – the most comfortable
    I would be more comfortable wearing jeans.
    These are my most comfortable trousers.
  4. dirty – dirtier – the dirtiest
    That seat looks a bit dirtier than this one.
    After our walk, my little brother had the dirtiest pair of shoes.
  5. expensive – more expensive – the most expensive
    It’s more expensive to go to France in the summer (than in the winter).
    Switzerland is the most expensive country in Europe.
  6. far – further – the furthest (irregular)
    From London, Liverpool is further than Oxford.
    Leeds is one of the furthest big cities from London (in England).
  7. fast – faster – the fastest
    It’s faster to use the self-service checkout at the supermarket.
    That was the fastest journey I’ve ever been on.
  8. fat – fatter – the fattest
    She was fatter when she was younger, but she’s lost weight recently.
    She used to be the fattest girl at school.
  9. funny – funnier – the funniest
    Dave is funnier when he’s drunk!
    Apparently, Americans are some the funniest people in the world.
  10. good – better – the best (irregular)
    Baan Thai has got better reviews than the other restaurants in the area.
    It has by far the best reviews we’ve read so far.
  11. happy – happier – the happiest
    I’m always happier in the summer.
    John is the happiest I’ve seen him in years.
  12. hard-working – more hard-working – the most hard-working
    Michael is more hard-working than Harry.
    He’s the most hard-working student I’ve ever taught.
  13. healthy – healthier – the healthiest
    It is healthier to eat vegetables than meat.
    The Mediterranean diet is the healthiest in the world.
  14. high – higher – the highest
    The Himalayas is a higher mountain range than The Alps.
    Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
  15. interesting – more interesting – the most interesting
    I found the book more interesting than the film.
    It was the most interesting film we’d seen this year.

  1. little – less – the least (irregular)
    I did less work than Hannah this term.
    Simon has done the least work in the whole team, but has got all the credit!
  2. long – longer – the longest
    The Nile is longer than the River Thames.
    The Amazon is the longest river in the world.
  3. loud – louder – the loudest
    You should give the speech because your voice is louder than mine.
    Jane has the loudest voice I’ve ever heard!
  4. nice – nicer – the nicest
    The pasta is nicer than the pizza in this restaurant.
    The Margherita is the nicest pizza on the menu.
  5. old – older – the oldest
    As a nation, Italy is older than America.
    Damascus is thought to be the oldest city in the world.
  6. poor – poorer – the poorest
    Financially speaking, Greece is poorer than Sweden.
    Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
  7. popular – more popular – the most popular
    Spain is a more popular holiday destination for Brits than Croatia.
    Mauritius is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations.
  8. pretty – prettier – the prettiest
    That dress is prettier than the other one you tried on.
    I think this is the prettiest dress in the shop.
  9. rich – richer – the richest
    If you hadn’t wasted your money on fancy cars, then you’d be richer now.
    Bill Gates is the second richest person in the world.
  10. slow – slower – the slowest
    The bus is slower than the train.
    Walking would be the slowest option.
  11. small – smaller – the smallest
    Peru is smaller than Brazil.
    Out of Peru, Panama and Brazil, Peru is by far the smallest country.
  12. tall – taller – the tallest
    The Empire State Building is taller than the Shard.
    The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world.
  13. ugly – uglier – the ugliest
    That hat is uglier than anything else in your wardrobe!
    Julie bought the ugliest bag in the shop!
  14. young – younger – the youngest
    I don’t have any cousins who are younger than me.
    I am the youngest member of my family.


Quantifiers for comparatives

We can use quantifiers with comparative adjectives to show if there is a big or small difference between the two things we are comparing.

For a big difference use…

A lot
The US is a lot bigger than Ireland.

Sarah has much longer hair than Anna.

A great deal
It is a great deal more polluted in London than Cornwall.

It’s far healthier to eat a salad than a burger.

The company’s sales have been significantly better this year.

Siberia is considerably colder than Australia.

Way (informal)
This week’s homework is way easier than I thought it would be.
For a small difference use…

A little
The chocolate cake was a little more popular than the lemon sponge.

A bit (informal)
First class train tickets are always a bit more expensive than standard ones.

A little bit
The UK is a little bit further north than France.

France is slightly bigger than Spain.

My hotel room is only marginally bigger than yours.

Some comparative quantifiers are more informal than others so it’s important to know when to use each one. You will find a lot, wayand a bitare very common in spoken English. However, you generally wouldn’t write way or use it in more formal contexts. In these formal situations, you would be more likely to use a great deal, considerablyor marginally.

Superlative phrases

We don’t use quantifiers with superlative adjectives but there are common phrases that are used with superlatives. These are useful to know as they are very commonly used by native speakers and you will likely hear them a lot!

One of the…

Aramaic is one of the oldest languages in the world.
(We are not saying it is necessarily the oldest. Often used when we don’t know something for sure)

The second/third…
According to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, London is the second most visited city in the world.

By far the…
In England, the bus is by far the cheapest mode of transport.
(Meaning by a long way or by a significant margin)

Exercises: Comparative vs. superlative adjectives

Task A

Fill in the correct form of the words in brackets (comparative or superlative).

  1. This tree is (tall) __________ than that one.
  2. The weather this summer is (good) _______ than last year.
  3. Rome is (crowded) __________ city I’ve ever been to.
  4. That was (boring) ___________ film I’ve ever seen!
  5. He’s a lot (friendly) _________ than his wife.
  6. Tokyo is (big) __________ city in the world.
Task B

Rewrite these sentences to give them the opposite meaning by using the adjectives in brackets.

  1. My house is cleaner than your house. (dirty)
  2. The bus is the most expensive form of transport in this city. (cheap)
  3. We live nearer to (from) the supermarket than the train station. (far)
  4. The traffic’s worse than I expected. (good)
  5. This is the most interesting documentary on the subject of farming. (boring)
  6. That’s the tiniest frog I’ve ever seen. (enormous)
Task C

Match the pictures with the correct sentences below.

  1. House A is a lot smaller than house B – picture 1 or picture 2?
  2. House B is a little bit taller than house A – picture 1 or picture 2?
  3. House A is slightly smaller than house B – picture 1 or picture 2?
  4. House A is significantly shorter than house B – picture 1 or picture 2?
  5. House B is far bigger than house A – picture 1 or picture 2?


Task A

  1. taller
  2. better
  3. the most crowded
  4. the most boring film
  5. friendlier
  6. the biggest
Task B

  1. dirtier
  2. the cheapest
  3. further
  4. better
  5. the most boring
  6. the most enormous
Task C

  1. Picture 1
  2. Picture 2
  3. Picture 2
  4. Picture 1
  5. Picture 1

How to prepare for IELTS online: 25 best resources in 2018


Quick intro to IELTS

IELTS – or The International English Language Testing System – is the most popular English language proficiency test for people who want to study or work in English speaking countries.

It is accepted by over 10,000 organisations around the world, including: schools, universities, employers, and immigration authorities. IELTS is available at more than 1,200 locations worldwide and there are 48 test dates a year.

IELTS tests your English abilities in four skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking and takes 2 hours 45 minutes in total to complete.

The IELTS test is available in two versions: General Training and Academic. The Speaking and Listening sections of both tests are identical, but the Reading and Writing parts are different. For example, General IELTS Reading texts may focus on everyday articles, adverts or magazine extracts, but the Academic version of the test uses journals, scientific literature and more intellectual copy. This difference in approach is mirrored in the Writing sections of both tests.

General IELTS is the most popular and tends to suit candidates who need to prove their level of English for university entry, usual jobs or immigration purposes. Academic IELTS is more for postgraduates, students studying technical subjects at university, or those wishing to register with professional organisations (e.g. GMC to register as a doctor in the UK).

IELTS is scored using a band scale from numbers 1 to 9. The IELTS scores are given for each section of the exam (writing, speaking, listening, and reading) and then added together to give you an overall band score, ranging from non-user (band 1) to expert user (band 9). Most educational institutions set IELTS score requirements between 5.5 and 7. You can check here to see what score your chosen organisation requires.

25 best online resources for IELTS preparation

Main sites for IELTS preparation

  1. IELTS.org

This is the official IELTS Exam website and is a very useful starting point to help you understand everything about IELTS! It gives you practical information on the different types of IELTS tests (General and Academic Training), what IELTS is used for and how to book your test. 

As well as this, there are lots of free IELTS materials to help you study at home. These include sample test questions and links to books and brochures for download. You can also find links to their YouTube channel and Facebook page, which have lots of handy tips for your online studies! 

  1. IELTS Liz – YouTube channel

These video lessons from teacher and IELTS examiner Liz are a good way of getting some general tips on the IELTS exam. This channel also offers specific lessons and advice on each aspect of the test (Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening). The videos range from 3 minutes up to 20 minutes and include topics such as: “IELTS writing task 2: How to write an introduction”, “IELTS listening tips: preparing answers” and “Vocabulary for IELTS: paraphrasing tips”.

  1. IELTS Buddy

This site is packed full of useful information and resources about the IELTS exam. It includes information on the exam format, resources, sample questions and materials to download for each module. It also provides a reading list of books to help you study. This includes their own ebook called “IELTS made easy”, and a page dedicated to videos to help you prepare for and understand the exam.

There are some useful pages on grammar and vocabulary – two skills that carry significant marks on the IELTS exam. Here the site walks you through how the IELTS test marks you on “grammar” and “lexical resource” (vocabulary). These pages specifically offer guidance on more complex areas of vocabulary, such as: phrasal verbs, collocations and idioms.

If you want to get a higher band score on your IELTS exam, you need to improve your vocabulary to include more complicated language. Check out the OTUK blog for some detailed study guides on idioms, phrasal verbs and much more!

  1. British Council – IELTS

The British Council IELTS website provides you with information and resources on the full IELTS process. It explains why you might want to take the test in the first place, where you can sit the exam and how the scoring bands work.

The most useful part of the site, however, is the “Prepare for IELTS” page which is crammed full of helpful resources. As well as extensive free practice tests, you will find tips for each module, advice for the test day itself and a walk-through of the test format. They also provide links to IELTS books and study guides if you wish to buy additional materials.

Video:(IELTS Speaking test Part 1, Band 6)

  1. IH London – blog

This blog post from International House London – an internationally recognised language school – gives you a brief overview of the IELTS exam and how to prepare effectively for it. At the top you will find links to their own preparation guides for each section to help you prepare for each module and improve your band score.

This article also walks you through the difference between the Academic and General Training tests and explains exactly what to expect in each module – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

  1. IELTS-Simon

This site is run by ex-IELTS examiner Simon and therefore provides expert, in-depth advice on the exam. Simon writes a ‘lesson of the day’ to help share his knowledge. Some recent examples include: “IELTS Writing Task 1: collocations”, “IELTS Reading: it’s a vocabulary test!” and “IELTS Speaking: how examiners decide on scores”. He also has an ebook on ideas for IELTS writing topics, as well as his own video lessons.

IELTS Speaking resources

  1. IELTS Advantage

This page provides tips and advice for those specifically preparing for the IELTS Speaking test. It includes really useful information on: test format, understanding the scoring system, working out what level you are now and what your target band should be. It also explains how to make an effective study timetable.

There are also some helpful tips on achieving higher band scores by using real life situations to practise and expand on your answers.

Video: (IELTS Speaking test Part 1, Band 9)

  1. British Council – speaking test tips and advice

These two pages from the British Council IELTS site are great! 

The first page provides general tips for the speaking test, including: the purpose of the test, the individual sections within it and their duration, and the exam criteria you should know. The second page provides short, easy to read advice for the speaking test; focusing on spoken fluency and more natural sounding English. 

  1. Video: English Pronunciation Roadmap – How to prepare for the IELTS speaking test

This is a helpful video from English Pronunciation Roadmap to help prepare you for the Speaking test. This clip focuses specifically on pronunciation during the exam.

  1. British Council – Speaking practice tests

The British Council website has a range of IELTS practice tests. Have a go at these Speaking practice tests for part 1, 2 and 3. You can download the tests, answer sheets, transcripts and answers if you prefer to work offline.

If you want to find more online practice tests for IELTS, check out these websites: IELTS Essentials, IELTS Online Tests, British Council, IELTS.org and IELTS Buddy.


IELTS Listening materials 

  1. IELTS – Eight ways to improve your IELTS listening score

This blog post from IELTS Canada provides eight simple and practical tips to improve your listening skills for the exam. Some useful advice includes: practising topics that are interesting TO YOU and using English in real life situations as part of your daily routine.

DID YOU KNOW? The IELTS Listening exam uses a variety of accents. It is important that you are able to understand speakers from the UK, America, Australia, Canada, etc. The best way to practise for the Listening section is to watch original TV shows and films from Britain or America so that you get used to the various accents used. For example, try watching this episode of The Graham Norton Show and try to distinguish the accents.

  1. IELTS Liz – IELTS Listening Tips, Lessons and Videos

This page is crammed full of useful resources for improving your listening skills! Here Liz provides you with general tips (in video form) as well as video lessons. These focus on specific areas, such as: “listening for plurals” and “listening for names practice & tips”.

  1. British Council – Listening test advice

This page from the British Council IELTS website gives you concise tips on the listening section. It recommends that you pay special attention to “exam technique” and explains how best to answer “completion” type questions so that you do not drop marks.

  1. Video: IELTS Essentials from IDP – Five top tips to improve your IELTS Listening score

This video provides simple tips to help you prepare for your listening test! The advice includes: listening to the radio to help you get used to different native English accents, reading instructions carefully, and improving your prediction skills.

  1. Listening practice tests: IELTS essentials

Have a go at these listening practice tests from IELTS essentials. You can download the tests and MP3 recordings too!

IELTS Reading practice

  1. IELTS Liz – IELTS Reading Tips: How can I improve my score?

In this article, Liz gives you a list of 15 in-depth, practical tips to help improve your IELTS Reading score. Some of these tips are particularly useful, especially given the time restrictions when reading and the amount of text there is to get through (it’s rather a lot!).

Particularly useful tips include:

  • Identifying and locating keywords in the text
  • Developing your skimming and scanning skills when reading
  • Analysing texts, but without needing to understand every detail 
  1. IELTS Advantage – Secret to getting a 9 on the IELTS Reading Test

This blog post from IELTS Advantage focuses on vocabulary with regards to the Reading test. It gives tips on how to improve your vocabulary and highlights the importance of learning synonyms. Well worth a read!

  1. British Council – Reading test advice

This page from the British Council IELTS webite provides simple but essential advice for the Reading test. They recommend that you pay particular attention to the time allowed to answer each question and do not spend too long on one individual task.

  1. Video: Learn English with Emma – IELTS Reading: Top 10 Tips

This video walks you through 10 top tips for the Reading exam in a clear and accessible way! The focus is on the exam itself. Emma stresses the need for quick reading (skimming and scanning) and recommends you leave adequate time at the end of the exam to transfer your responses to the answer sheet.

  1. Reading practice tests: IELTS Online Tests General and Academic

This website offers some good examples of General vs. Academic Reading tests for IELTS. Most candidates take General IELTS, but you may require the Academic version for certain professions and university degree programmes. The reading tests on the Academic exam tend to be highly technical in nature.

IELTS Writing websites

  1. Study Portals – 7 key tips for success when preparing for the IELTS Writing test

This article gives you practical tips for IELTS writing – looking at preparation and at final exam technique. It also gives several links to useful online resources to check your grammar/spelling, and offers some new methods for learning vocabulary.

  1. British Council – Writing test advice

This page from the British Council IELTS site gives you practical advice for the Writing test. It emphasises the importance of the word count in Tasks 1 and 2 – i.e. you should write enough, but not too much. Failure to do this can cost you marks on the final exam.

  1. IELTS Liz – IELTS Writing task 1: Tips, Videos, Model Answers & Info and IELTS Writing Task 2: Tips, Lessons & Models

These guides from IELTS Liz on both Tasks 1 and 2 of the Writing exam are packed full of information! There are general tips, model answers, videos and practice questions. If you are preparing for the IELTS Writing exam, then these self-contained guides are a must!

  1.  Video: English Lessons with Adam: IELTS Writing task 1 – What to write

This helpful video focuses on Task 1 of the Writing exam and talks you through how to go about writing an answer. Adam focuses on what information to look for and include, and how to plan and structure your answer to achieve a good score.

  1. IELTS.org – Writing practice tests General and Academic

The Writing test for IELTS has a General and an Academic version. Be sure to know which one you are doing in advance! The Academic option tends to be more technical in terms of the vocabulary expected and topics are often of an intellectual nature.

A-Z of English Idioms: 150 Most Common Expressions


Quick intro

An idiom is a phrase or group of words that, when taken together, has a meaning that is different from that of each individual word. To put it another way: idioms cannot be understood literally.

For example, ‘Once in a blue moon’ means ‘when something happens rarely’. So the example sentence: ‘I eat McDonalds once in a blue moon’ doesn’t make any sense when the words are taken literally (you only eat McDonalds when there is a blue moon?!). But when you understand the meaning of the idiom, the sentence makes perfect sense (you don’t often eat McDonalds).

Idioms are very important when learning English because they are used a lot in everyday communication and can help you sound more like a native. To speak and understand conversational English better, learning the correct use of idioms is essential. Idioms also help give character to the language; making it more colourful and interesting.

In this study guide, we’re going to walk you through the most common 150 English idioms used today, with their meanings and example sentences. We will also highlight a few outdated idioms that you should avoid, and give you some exercises to practise your understanding.

A-Z of English Idioms: 150 Most Common Expressions



Something that appears bad at first but ends up having good results
Missing that plane turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I got to spend more time with my family.


A humorous way of saying someone is stupid or is a bit mad
He brought only shorts and t-shirts when he went to Sweden in the winter – I think he might be a sandwich short of a picnic!


Something is very close or near
Luckily the wedding is just a stone’s throw from our hotel so we can walk there.


What you do is more important than what you say; someone’s words may not be trustworthy
Person A: “John keeps saying he wants to take me out for dinner, but then he never does!”
Person B: “Actions speak louder than words.


When someone does something to make a bad situation worse
When Sarah started laughing during the argument, it really added fuel to the fire!


To make a bad situation worse
As if breaking my arm isn’t bad enough, to add insult to injury I have to pay £1,000 in hospital fees as I didn’t have travel insurance!


To be eagerly waiting to hear about something
Person A: “I have to tell you about what happened on our trip to Spain…”
Person B: “I’m all ears!”


To be at a point in your life when you need to make an important decision
I was at a crossroads when I was offered a job in the US, but my boyfriend wanted to stay in London.


To be wrong or misguided about the reason for something
He thinks the company’s problems can be solved just by firing the sales team, but he’s barking up the wrong tree.


To talk about unimportant things because you’re avoiding a particular topic
Stop beating about the bush! Are you planning to quit university, or not?


It’s better to do something late than not at all
Person A: “Sorry I missed your birthday! There’s a card in the post.”
Person B: “Don’t worry. Better late than never!”


To be in a difficult situation where both options are bad
Person A: “If I go to the wedding mum will be upset, but if I don’t go then I’ll be letting down the rest of the family!”
Person B: “Sounds like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”


To do too much or take something on that is too difficult
Person A: “I’m going to start that weekend job at the museum on top of my full-time job because I really need the money.”
Person B: “Sounds like a lot of work! Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”


To decide to do something that is difficult or unpleasant, but necessary
You’re going to have to bite the bullet and tell your ex-(girlfriend) that you need the apartment back.


To do something that helps you get rid of stress, energy or anger
After my meeting with the boss, I went for a run to blow off steam.


To say that a set of instructions or task is simple or easy
To make the salad dressing, you just put oil, vinegar, honey and mustard into a bowl, mix them together and bob’s your uncle!


Something that is very ordinary or basic, nothing special
Despite the excellent reviews, we thought the restaurant was just bog-standard.

When learning idioms in English, you need to watch out for old-fashioned expressions. For example, you probably know the idiom ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’. However, most Brits would never use this expression now. It is outdated. Instead we say: ‘It’s bucketing it down!’, ‘It’s chucking it down!’ or ‘It’s pi*sing it down!’.


Work that has been done badly, in a clumsy, lazy way
The original builders did such a bodge job of our kitchen that we had to get it completely redone.


An informal way of asking someone to move to make room for you
Could you budge up a bit so I can sit down?


Strongly-brewed English breakfast tea with milk
I’ll have a builder’s tea, please.


To refuse to think about or confront serious issues or situations
Martin just buries his head in the sand when it comes to his financial problems.


To work very hard on something, or to harass someone
I was busting my chops all night to get that report finished!
Stop busting my chops! I’ll mow the lawn later.

Note: In British English slang, the word ‘chops’ is used to mean ‘mouth’. So the idiom above literally means ‘punch in the mouth’.


To narrowly succeed in doing something
The traffic was terrible so we only made the plane by the skin of our teeth!


To state the truth about something even if it’s unpopular or unpleasant
I know he’s your brother, but let’s call a spade a spade: he’s pretty lazy.


To stop working on something
It’s almost 9pm. I think we should call it a day and finish the report tomorrow.


When something is inexpensive or good value for money
It doesn’t look it, but our new sofa was (as) cheap as chips!


Information or rumours that have been passed on by many people and are no longer reliable
John and Maggie from the office haven’t actually announced they’re getting a divorce. It’s probably just Chinese whispers.


To hold a grudge/be angry about something that happened in the past, or to be arrogant and think too highly of oneself
Whenever we mention his childhood, he gets really angry. He’s got a chip on his shoulder about it.
The new sales guy at the office has a real chip on his shoulder. He’s not even that good!


To become silent or stop talking
When Bill came into the room, Jenny just seemed to clam up. I think she likes him!


To get nervous or to have second thoughts about doing something
He’s getting cold feet about the wedding, but I told him that was perfectly normal.


To deliberately ignore someone
I got the cold shoulder from Anna at the party. I guess she’s still annoyed with me.


When something is very expensive
That Italian meal cost a bomb! We won’t be going back there, unless we win the lottery!


When something is very expensive
The new bar in town was really fancy, but my drink cost an arm and a leg!


A lazy person who doesn’t do much exercise and spends a lot of time on the sofa watching television
My husband has turned into a couch potato since he lost his job.


To show indifference to something or a total lack of interest
I couldn’t care less if Harry comes out tonight or not! I don’t really like the guy.


A warning that being inquisitive or curious can get you into trouble
Person A: “Where are you going at this time of night?”
Person B: “Curiosity killed the cat!”


To get to the point, to not include unnecessary detail
To cut a long story short, she has to move back to the US until her new visa comes through.


To do something in the easiest way possible (usually not very well) in order to save time or money
We had to cut corners to get the project done within our budget and by January.


To avoid being critical or judgmental of someone (even if they deserve it)
Person A: “Hannah’s late for the second time this week!”
Person B: “Cut her some slack! The traffic’s awful this morning.”


To get directly to the point when speaking, to not give unnecessary detail
I have to leave in a minute so can you cut to the chase? What exactly do you want me to do?


To refuse to do something or change your mind, especially when people are trying to persuade you
I wanted to go on the earlier train, but Mary dug her heels in so we had to get the later one.


A situation that is very competitive, where people are willing to harm each other’s interests to get ahead
The music industry is dog eat dog these days.
I’d stay out of the legal sector. It can be a cut throat business.


Used in a humorous way to tell someone they’re not very good at something
Person A: “What do you think of the haircut I gave Hannah?”
Person B: “Don’t give up the day job, mate!”


A warning not to put all your resources or efforts into just one thing
Although you’ve made an offer on this house, I would still visit some others. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.


A warning not to try something difficult before you understand the basics
If you’re not very good at swimming, I’d stay in the shallow end and keep close to the side. You don’t want to run before you can walk.


In a very challenging situation you need to take extreme actions
She moved to Australia after she found out about her husband’s affair. I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures!


To slow down or do something slowly/carefully
Easy does it! Those boxes you’re holding are very fragile.


To be extremely hungry
I am so hungry I could eat a horse.


An important and obvious topic that everyone knows needs to be discussed, but that isn’t brought up or mentioned
David leaving the company was the elephant in the room during that meeting – no one wanted to bring it up!


Even a bad situation may have a positive aspect to it
I might have lost my job, but at least I don’t have that awful journey into work every day. Every cloud…!


To accept responsibility for something bad you have done
I’m meeting Hannah tonight and it’s the first time I’ll have seen her since our argument. I guess I’ll finally have to face the music.


To adjust or settle into a new environment or situation
I’ve only been at the new company for a month so I’m still finding my feet.


To be involved or have influence in many things (often has a negative association)
Person A: “Steve offered to sell me some secondhand TVs and holiday to Spain!”
Person B: “That guy’s got a finger in every pie!”


When someone is (or feels) out of place in a situation
Judy was like a fish out of water at the kids’ party. I don’t think she likes children at all!


To be in good physical health
He’s in his 90’s, but he’s fit as a fiddle!


To do the same as someone else did before you (often a family member)
All the men in my family are doctors so I’ll probably follow in their footsteps and go into medicine too.


To become very angry, scared or excited (can be negative or positive)
I freaked out when I saw The Rolling Stones perform. I’d wanted to see them my whole life!
That Goth at the club freaked me out a bit because he was dressed like a vampire!


Someone who is energetic, lively or enthusiastic
You’re full of beans this evening! You must have had a good day at work.


When someone won’t stop criticising, bothering or telling you what to do
I wish she would get off my back about the meeting! I know I have to send the agenda out, but I’ll do it in my own time.


To become difficult to control
The protest got out of hand and the police had to intervene when some demonstrators broke down a fence.


To overcome or move on from a difficult situation
Moving out of the city for a while might help you get over Harry. (This could be the breakup of a personal relationship/marriage, or the person’s death)


Do something you have wanted to do so that you can then move on from it
I don’t drink much anymore; I got it out of my system when I was at university!


To wake up in a grumpy or bad mood for no obvious reason
You’re very argumentative today! Did you get up on the wrong side of bed, or something?


To take action in order to be more effective
I haven’t got any work done this morning – I really need to get my act together!


To believe or trust what someone tells you (even though it might not be true)
Hannah said she missed the exam because her car broke down. I’m not sure that was the case, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.


To be happy that you no longer have to deal with someone
I was very glad to see the back of John because he made the atmosphere in the office so uncomfortable.


Start planning something again because earlier attempts were unsuccessful
The client didn’t like our original concept so let’s go back to the drawing board!


To suddenly and completely stop using an addictive substance
I gave up smoking by going cold turkey; it was difficult but it was also the only thing that worked for me.


To take a particular course of action, both literally and figuratively
Let’s not go down that road again! It always leads to an argument.


To make more effort than is expected or necessary
Frank is a great asset to our team as he always goes the extra mile.


To mean a person is never satisfied with their own situation, they always think others have it better
I always think the countryside looks nicer than the city, but I guess the grass is always greener…!


To be good at gardening, able to make plants grow
I’ve heard you have green fingers – we’ll have to get your advice about our garden!


To persist with something, to not give up
Hang in there! I know it’s tough but you’re almost halfway through the course.


To be able to see or sense what’s going on all around you, when you can’t physically see everyhing
You need eyes in the back of your head when you have two small children!


To be extremely in love with someone
They’re head over heels in love with each other!


To hear news about something from someone else, not directly
I heard (it) on the grapevine that you and Alex are splitting up. Is that true?


To start studying seriously
After dinner I’m really going to hit the books. Not much time left before my exams!


To be completely right or correct about something
I think Lucy hit the nail on the head when she said there’s no such thing as an ideal school. There are pros and cons to all of them.


To leave somewhere or start a journey
It’s getting late so I’m going to hit the road.


To go to bed in order to sleep
It’s been a long day so I’m going to hit the sack. Night night!


Another way of saying ‘Wait a moment’ or ‘don’t rush’
Person A: ‘The train’s at 9. Grab the bags, find your shoes and call a taxi!’
Person B: ‘Hold your horses! We’ve got plenty of time.’

In English, there are many ways to say ‘Wait a moment’. Next time you want to express this idea, try one of the following expressions: ‘Wait a sec’ (second), ‘Hang on a tick’ (like of a clock), ‘Give us a mo’ (moment).


Sometimes it’s better not to know all the facts about something
Person A: “Did you know that cake you just ate was 600 calories?”
Person B: “I didn’t…ignorance is bliss!”


To say something isn’t very complicated
You just need to fill in the form and you’ll get an e-ticket. It’s not rocket science!


To join an activity, trend or opinion that has become popular
Everyone thinks Boris is going to win the election so they’ve jumped on the bandwagon.


To leave or abandon a difficult situation
I don’t think the company is going to survive. We should probably jump ship!


To encourage someone to stay positive in a difficult situation
It’s been a difficult month for you but keep your chin up! It will get easier.


To achieve two things at once
I could pick up the dry cleaning on my way the doctors. That way we’d be killing two birds with one stone.


To do everything you can to achieve something
During firm’s the financial audit they left no stone unturned.


To leave a situation as it is, in order to not make it worse
Don’t bring up what happened at Alison’s party again. You should just let it lie.


To avoid being punished for something or to avoid doing something
It was my turn to do the washing-up, but mum let me off the hook because I wasn’t feeling well.


To reveal a secret by accident
Their engagement was meant to be a secret, but Adam let the cat out of the bag!


To look very good, often due to what you’re wearing
You look like a million dollars in that black dress!


No longer able to do something as well as you could before
I tried to chat a girl up at the bar the other night, but she just ignored me. I must be losing my touch!


To be slow and not take an opportunity when it’s offered to you
I would call the company back now about the job and not wait until the morning. You don’t want to miss the boat!


To stop something at an early stage, before it has a chance to develop
I’ve noticed that people are starting to arrive late for work. I think we need to have a meeting about it and nip this in the bud before it becomes a real problem.


You need to suffer or work hard to get what you want or deserve
Person A: “That gym class was so hard I thought I was going to pass out!”
Person B: “No pain, no gain!”


An easy decision, something you don’t need to think too hard about
Person A: “Do you think I should get travel insurance before I go to Nigeria?” Person B: “That’s a no-brainer. Of course you should!”


Something you don’t like or are not interested in
She’s a great cook, but the meal she made really wasn’t my cup of tea. It was far too spicy.


Someone who acts very strangely, seems crazy or insane
You must be off your trolley if you think I’m going to climb up there! It’s way too high!


From memory, without a lot of thought or consideration
Off the top of my head I think we’re expecting about 18 guests for the party, but I’ll check to make sure.


To be alert, quick to understand and react to things
You really need to be on the ball in this job because it’s fast-paced with lots happening all the time.


To go out with the intention of finding someone to have sex with
Those lads on the dance floor look like they’re on the pull tonight!


To live in a way that is honest and moral, to stay out of trouble
He was very wild for many years, but he seems to have grown up and he’s on the straight and narrow now.


Something that happens rarely
I eat McDonalds once in a blue moon, when I feel like a treat!


Something that is very easy
My English exam was a piece of cake.


Something that will never happen or is very unlikely
Person A: “I’m going to play tennis at Wimbledon one day!”
Person B: “And pigs might fly!”


To join in, contribute or help with something
If we all pitch in we can get Charlie a really nice birthday present.


To plan something in an improvised way (instead of planning ahead), deciding what to do as the plan develops
Person A: “Shall we have dinner before or after the cinema on Friday?”
Person B: “Perhaps we should just play it by ear – we don’t know how hungry we’ll be.”


Tease or joke with someone by saying something that’s not true
You’re pulling my leg! I don’t believe you met Elton John at the pub!


To regain control of your emotions after you’ve been upset, to calm down
You need to pull yourself together! Stop worrying about work so much.


To make an effort to improve at something or perform better
You’ll need to raise your game if you’re planning on beating Anna’s time in the half marathon.


When something seems familiar or you’ve heard it before
Person A: “Do you know Hannah Stewart?”
Person B: “That name does ring a bell, but I can’t think why.”


To do or say something that could cause a problem or disturbance
The kids are all getting along fine at the moment so let’s not rock the boat.


Judging a situation by experience rather than an exact assessment
As a rule of thumb, you should use two cups of water for one cup of rice.


To do someone a favour in the hope that it will be returned, can relate to corruption (commonly used as: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours)
My boss got caught taking free holidays from a company client! I think it was a case of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”.


To agree with someone
We don’t see eye to eye when it comes to politics, but I do like her as a person.


To reveal information about something or to clarify something
You were in the office on Tuesday when the incident took place so perhaps you could shed some light on it for us?


To speak honestly and directly or to react to a situation very quickly without thinking it through
Person A: “What do you think we should do about Harry’s poor sales this quarter?”
Person B: “If I can shoot from the hip, I’d say he probably needs to leave.”


To adopt a position of compromise, take neither stance on an issue, not yes or no
There are a lot of people still sitting on the fence over Brexit.


To wait patiently
Sit tight! The nurse will be with you in just a moment.


To delay making a decision for a short period of time
You don’t have to decide straight away. Why don’t you sleep on it and let us know in the morning?


To suspect someone is a traitor, behaving illegally or is up to no good
I thought I could smell a rat when john refused to give me a straight answer about his sales figures! Now we know he’s been stealing from the company.


To express satisfaction with how a situation is progressing
Person A: “How is the building work going?”
Person B: “So far, so good…the house is still standing!”


Something that prevents or disrupts an event from happening
We had invited everyone round for a BBQ today, but the rain has really thrown a spanner in the works!


Said when the person you are talking about appears unexpectedly
Did you hear about what happened to Michael? …Oh speak of the devil, here he is!


To reveal information that was secret
We are throwing David a surprise birthday party, but please don’t spill the beans!


To spend a lot of money on something
We splashed out on new phones for the whole family.


To betray or hurt someone who trusts you
This industry is so competitive; it’s easy to get stabbed in the back by your closest colleagues.


To take attention or praise away from someone else’s accomplishments by outdoing them with your own
My sister is always stealing my thunder – I announce I’m getting married and she tells everyone she’s pregnant!


To refuse to change your mind or beliefs about something
I really respect Sarah. She always sticks to her guns, even if others disagree.


Information straight from the person who saw, heard or experienced the event
Person A: “Are you sure Andy is quitting his job?”
Person B: “Positive. I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth!”


To make fun of someone, or to take liberties
Dave’s a laugh, but he always taking the mickey out of you down the pub.
£4 for a cup of coffee? They must be taking the pi*s!


To doubt the accuracy of what someone is telling you
I would take Sam’s motoring advice with a pinch of salt. He doesn’t actually know much about cars.


When someone does something unpleasant and the same is wished on him/her
My boss is a real bully. Someone should give her a taste of her own medicine!


It is up to you to take the initiative or make the next move
I’ve told you how I feel about the wedding so the ball’s in your court now.


Where you can enjoy the advantages of two different things at the same time – an ideal situation
He lives in England during the summer and lives in Australia during the winter months so he gets the best of both worlds.


The last in a series of bad things to happen, when your patience has run out
When the dog destroyed their antique furniture it really was the final straw. After that, they decided to give poor Rex away.


To continue to support someone even during difficult times
John and Chloe have stayed together through thick and thin.


When you’re enjoying something time seems to move faster and you don’t notice the passing of time
I can’t believe it’s 10pm already! Time flies when you’re having fun!


To convince someone to do what you want them to
I didn’t want to go out tonight, but Ruth twisted my arm!


Not feeling very well, a little sick
Sarah’s not going to come out tonight. She’s had a busy week and is feeling under the weather.


A decision or plan is uncertain or unsure
Person A: “Are they still getting married?”
Person B: “We don’t know as it’s all up in the air at the moment.”


If you use what you have to the full, then you won’t desire or need more
Person A: “Are you going to finish those carrots on your plate?”
Person B: “If not, I’ll have them. Waste not, want not!”


To deal with something when it happens rather than worrying about it before
Person A: “What if there’s bad traffic on the motorway?”
Person B: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it“.


A hopeless pursuit, something that is unattainable
We were told that if we searched the library archives we might get some answers, but it turned out to be a wild goose chase.


Dislike or would never do something
I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those shoes – they’re so ugly!


To understand something that is complicated or shocking
I can’t wrap my head around why Megan would leave London for Rotherham!


To agree with someone
Person A: “It’s absolutely boiling in here!”
Person B: “You can say that again!”


Warning not to judge someone or something just based on appearance
Person A: “I’ve only met Richard a couple of times, but he seems a bit shy.”
Person B: “You can’t always judge a book by its cover. He’s actually a really outgoing guy once you get to know him!”


To have no idea about something
Person A: “Do you think Ivan is going to remember all 150 idioms in this guide?!”
Person B: “Your guess is as good as mine!”

Practice exercises: A-Z of English Idioms

Task A

Choose the correct option that best expresses the meaning of the idioms below.
Watch out because in one of the exercises two answers are possible!

  1. Actions speak louder than words means that what someone does is more important than what they…
    1. Think
    2. Say
    3. Believe
  1. If you’re beating about the bush you’re…
    1. talking about unimportant things because you want to avoid talking about something important
    2. being aggressive when you’re speaking and not listening to the other person
    3. lying to someone or being dishonest
  1. If someone is let off the hook he/she
    1. gets into trouble for something
    2. is not punished for something
    3. avoids doing something
  1. If you sleep on it you…
    1. delay making a decision in order to think about it
    2. protect something important
    3. keep a secret
  1. If you cut corners you…
    1. remove unnecessary details from something
    2. are very fit and healthy
    3. take the easiest, quickest or cheapest route to something

Task B

  1. Fill in the blanks for these animal idioms from the options a-e below:
    1. Straight from the _______’s mouth
    2. Dog eat ______
    3. Curiosity killed the _______
    4. And _______s might fly
    5. The _______ in the room


    1. Dog
    2. Horse
    3. Elephant
    4. Cat
    5. Pig
  1. Match the animal idioms in (1) to their definitions:
    1. Something that will never happen or is very unlikely
    2. You hear information about something from the person who has direct knowledge of it
    3. A situation that is very competitive, where people are willing to harm each other’s interests
    4. An important and obvious topic that everyone knows needs to be discussed but which isn’t brought up or mentioned
    5. Being inquisitive can get you into trouble
Task C

Choose the appropriate idiomatic expression for the sentences below:

  1. She is very good friends with Martin so perhaps she can ____________ his behavior.
    1. Let the cat out of the bag
    2. Throw some light on
    3. Leave no stone unturned
    4. Heard it on the grapevine
    5. Hit the nail on the head
  1. I have a big exam next week so I’m going to ____________
    1. Eating a horse
    2. On the ball
    3. No-brainer
    4. Hitting the books
    5. Finding my feet
  1. I ________________ going to that club – It’s awful!
    1. Wouldn’t be caught dead
    2. Stab someone in the back
    3. Sit tight
    4. Pitch in
    5. Miss the boat
  1. I’m sure I’ve met you somewhere before, your face really _________
    1. See eye to eye
    2. Clam up
    3. Rings a bell
    4. Bob’s your uncle
    5. Barking up the wrong tree
  1. I’d love to __________ and buy the whole family a really nice holiday somewhere!
    1. Cost a bomb
    2. Piece of cake
    3. Cheap as chips
    4. Splash out
    5. Cut to the chase


Task A

  1. b
  2. a
  3. b and c
  4. a
  5. c
Task B. I

  1. b
  2. a
  3. d
  4. e
  5. c
Task B. II

  1. b
  2. c
  3. e
  4. a
  5. d
Task C

  1. b
  2. d
  3. a
  4. c
  5. d

19 English Phrasal Verbs With Get


19 phrasal verbs with ‘get’

  1. To communicate an idea successfully, to make someone able to understand something
    The local residents got their point across at the council meeting.
    The book really got across what it was like to be a soldier during WWII.



Also: get along with

  1. To have a good, friendly relationship with someone
    Harry and I get along really well, but I don’t get along with Lucy at all.
  2. To deal with a situation
    I’ve been getting along really well in my new job.


  1. To travel to many places
    I’ve been to France, Australia and Mexico this year. I get around!
  2. To become known or to circulate information
    Word got around that he was leaving the company.
  3. To avoid something difficult
    Is there any way of getting around the rules so that we can bring our dog into the country?
  4. To find the time to do something (used with ‘to’)
    I’ll get around to (doing) the washing up once I’ve finished my dinner.


  1. To criticise someone frequently, be unpleasant to someone
    She keeps getting at me for every little thing. I can’t do anything right!
  2. To reach something successfully, gain access to
    The kids can’t get at the sweets because I’ve hidden them!
  3. To suggest, mean or intend
    When you mentioned “local problems”, what exactly were you getting at?
  4. To annoy or irritate someone
    The dogs’ barking outside really started to get at me.

Many of the ‘get’ phrasal verbs in this list also have separate meanings in English slang. These are commonly used by native speakers in daily conversations. For example, ‘get over it!’ means ‘move on or forget about something’ and ‘get out of my face!’ is a rude way of saying ‘leave me alone because you are annoying me’.


  1. To leave or escape from someone or something
    Get away from me!
  2. To go somewhere to have a rest or holiday
    It’ll be nice to get away! Work has been so stressful this past month.
  3. A holiday, often short (noun)
    We enjoyed a weekend getaway in a lovely hotel in the countryside.


  1. To avoid getting caught for something you weren’t meant to do
    I got away with sitting in the reserved seats at the cinema!
  2. To do something successfully even though it may not be the best choice or way
    I think we could get away with just gluing the wood together, rather than nailing it in place.
    phrasal verbs get


  1. To manage something with difficulty, to make ends meet
    Some poor families manage to get by on just £10 a day.
  2. To succeed with the minimum effort
    He hasn’t revised for his exams at all, but he’s clever enough to get by.
  3. To move past something or someone
    Excuse me, could you please move your bag so I can get by?


  1. To feel depressed or unhappy
    The political situation at the moment is really getting me down.
  2. To party, sometimes dance
    You guys were really getting down last night! Did you have a good time?
  3. To swallow food
    I know you don’t like eating vegetables, but you need to get them down.


  1. To start working on something, especially something you’ve been avoiding
    I must get down to (doing) these tax returns today, or I’ll never finish them!
  2. To start work or focus attention on a task
    Ok, let’s get down to business!


  1. To physically leave a mode of transport
    The traffic is terrible! Let’s get off at the next stop and walk.
  2. To leave work, usually at the end of the day
    What time do you get off tonight?
  3. To avoid something more serious
    He got off with an automatic fine, but we thought he’d have to go to court.
  4. To experience pleasure or a high
    John got off on extreme sports like paragliding.
  5. To kiss, make out or have sex with someone
    I heard that Harry and Emma got off at the party!
  6. To secure the release of a defendant in court, to be acquitted
    The thief was clearly guilty, but his lawyer got him off.
  7. To succeed in doing something
    The annual meeting got off to a good start.

Be careful when using ‘get on/off’ vs. ‘get into/out of’. These phrasal verbs are used differently depending on the type of transport. We say ‘get on/off’ for big vehicles like buses, trams, trains, planes and ships. However, we say ‘get into/out of’ for cars, vans, lorries, boats and other smaller modes of transport. Bicycle is an exception – there is no “inside” (it only has surfaces) so it takes ‘get on/off’.


11. GET ON
  1. To physically put yourself on or in something
    We got on the bus at the usual stop.
  2. To have a good relationship with someone
    They’re brother and sister but don’t get on very well.
  3. To grow old
    I saw Uncle Max the other day. He’s getting on, isn’t he?!
  4. To manage a situation or continue a task
    How are you getting on with renovating your new house?
  5. Becoming late
    It’s getting on a bit and will be dark soon.
  6. Almost or nearly
    She must be getting on for 30, I would think.


  1. To push or hurry somebody
    You’re peeling those potatoes so slowly. Get on with it!
  2. To start or continue doing something
    I’ll leave you to get on with the report.
    I’d better get on with these tax returns.


  1. To leave a place
    They were in Thailand during the Tsunami and were lucky to get out alive.
  2. To become known
    Word got out about the wedding, even though they wanted to keep it a secret.
  3. To go and visit somewhere
    Why don’t we get out to the countryside this coming weekend?
  4. When you don’t believe someone, expression of shock/surprise (Amer. Eng)
    ‘My dad’s going sky diving for my 70th birthday!’
    Get out (of here)!

The slang expression ‘get out (of here)’ is common in American English. However, in the UK native speakers are more likely to use one of the following expressions to show they are surprised or shocked: ‘(Are) you having a laugh?’, ‘You must be joking/kidding!’, ‘Seriously?’, ‘My word!’ (posh), ‘Bloody hell!’, ‘Really?!’.


  1. To avoid something
    She got out of the washing-up by saying she had homework to finish.
  2. To physically remove yourself from somewhere
    When I saw the cyclist coming I got out of the way.
  3. To stop doing something
    I used to sing in a choir three times a week, but I got out of it last year.


  1. To recover from something, usually an illness or unhappiness
    It was really hard when Dave and I split up, but I got over it eventually.
    I had the flu all last week and I’m still getting over it.
  2. To accept something that you’re unhappy about
    I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the job, but I got over it.
  3. To overcome something
    She managed to get over her shyness and give a speech at the wedding.


  1. To eliminate or throw something away
    I want to get rid of all these boxes. They’ve been lying around for ages!
    Let’s get rid of all this mess before mum comes home.


  1. To succeed in talking to someone on the telephone
    I had to wait for over ten minutes, but in the end I managed to get through to someone in the Customer Service Department.
  2. To communicate successfully with someone, be understood
    We finally managed to get through to him and he agreed to get some therapy.


18. GET UP
  1. To stand up
    We all got up to let the elderly lady past.
  2. An outfit or costume (noun)
    He was in a farmers get-up and looked very funny!
  3. To climb or ascend
    We managed to get up the mountain in about 3 hours.
  4. To arise from bed, to start the day
    I got up at 10am this morning as I didn’t have work.


  1. To do something (often something mischievous)
    What have you been getting up to?
    Lucy’s always getting up to no good!


Exercises: phrasal verbs with ‘get’

Task A

Choose the correct phrasal verb to complete the sentences below:

  1. What time did you get through/get up/get on this morning?
  2. We get on/get out/get over so well. He’s like a brother to me!
  3. Stop getting up/getting out/getting at me today! I feel like I’m doing everything wrong.
  4. At the meeting, I think you got out/got across/got on the main ideas really well.
  5. Do we get off/get along/get up here or at the next stop?
  6. What have you been getting up/getting up to/getting at since I last saw you?
  7. Is there any way to get on/get through/get around paying income tax?
  8. Get out of/get over/get up the road! There’s a car coming!
Task B

Match the phrasal verbs 1-8 with their correct meanings a-h:

  1. Get out of
  2. Get over
  3. Get on with
  4. Get down
  5. Get around
  6. Get across
  7. Get at
  8. Get rid of


  1. To feel depressed or unhappy
  2. To become known or to circulate information
  3. To avoid something
  4. To start or continue doing something
  5. To accept something you’re unhappy about
  6. To annoy or irritate someone
  7. To eliminate or throw something away
  8. To communicate an idea successfully, to make someone able to understand something
Task C

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate ‘call’ phrasal verb:

  1. He always __________ of doing his homework.
  2. I’ve been living here for 6 months now and I’ve been __________ really well.
  3. I can’t believe you’ve visited every city in England. You really __________!
  4. I’ve been putting off doing the ironing all day, but I should really ___________ it.
  5. I think you’ll have to ____________ so I can reach my seat.
  6. I’m trying to __________ my point but I’m not sure that you understand what I mean.
  7. Your phone ringing all the time is really __________ me! Could you put it on silent, please?
  8. When I lost my job it was very hard to __________.

Check your answers:

Task A

  1. get up
  2. get on
  3. getting at
  4. got across
  5. get off
  6. getting up to
  7. get around
  8. get out of
Task B

  1. c
  2. e
  3. d
  4. a
  5. b
  6. h
  7. f
  8. g
Task C

  1. gets out
  2. getting on/getting along
  3. get around
  4. get down to
  5. get up
  6. get across
  7. getting at
  8. get by

17 English Phrasal Verbs With Call


17 phrasal verbs with ‘call’

  1. To give a child the same name as someone else, especially someone from the same family
    The baby was called after her grandmother.
    She was called Sally after her great aunt.


  1. To visit someone
    Let’s call around to see your mother later.
  2. To call multiple people in order to get information about something
    We didn’t know which hospital he was in, so we had to call around.

There are many ‘call’ phrasal verbs to describe the act of visiting someone at their home for a short time. These are: ‘call in’, ‘call in on’, ‘call on’, ‘call round’, ‘call around’ and ‘call by’. They are all very similar in meaning and are often used in native conversational English.


  1. To stop at a place for a brief period of time (usually referring to a ship or train)
    This train will call at: Eastbourne, Brighton and Croydon…
    The ship will call at several ports en route to the Bahamas.


  1. To ask someone to leave somewhere or stop what they’re doing in order to go somewhere else, usually urgently.
    The doctor was called away during dinner to attend to a patient.
    She was called away from the meeting to take an urgent phone call.


  1. To return a telephone call
    I’m just in the middle of something. Can I call you back later?
  2. To ask someone to return for another interview or audition for ajob
    We’d like to call you back for a second interview next week.
  3. To go and see someone again, usually just briefly
    I’ll call back later when you have more time.

It is a common mistake to confuse the word ‘recall’ with ‘call back’. The suffix ‘re-’ usually means: to do something again. However, the word ‘recall’ means: to remember or to officially order the return of an item. You cannot ‘recall someone on the phone’. Instead we say ‘call back’.


  1. To visit someone briefly on your way to somewhere else
    Would it be ok to call by this afternoon on our way to the theatre?
    Let’s call by Alice’s place on our way back from town.


  1. To telephone or shout to someone downstairs
    Call down to reception and ask for some more cups for the meeting.
  2. To pray for something bad to happen
    I shall call down God’s wrath upon you!
  3. To reprimand or tell off (old-fashioned)
    The teacher called me down for being late.


  1. To publicly demand or ask for an action to happen
    After the fire, the residents called for better health and safety procedures.
  2. Something that is required or necessary
    The job calls for excellent communication and networking skills.
  3. To deserve a particular action
    This good news calls for champagne!
  4. To pick someone up from somewhere to then go somewhere else
    I’ll call for you at 8pm and we can go to the party together.                       


9. CALL FORTH (Old-fashioned, formal)
  1. To summon, bring into action or existence
    Mary called forth all her courage and jumped from the plane.
    That film always calls forth happy memories.


 10. CALL IN
  1. To telephone somewhere (often a television or radio station to give your opinion, or your place of work)
    Call in to tell us about your funny pets and you could win £100!
    Sally called in to work sick today.
  2. To ask someone to come and carry out a job
    We had to call in the electrician as all the lights went out.

A common phrase in British English is ‘call in sick’. This is used to inform your boss that you won’t be coming into work because you are ill or unwell. In UK slang, ‘pull a sickie’ is used when someone pretends to be ill in order to have a day off work! For example, ‘I had a heavy weekend so I pulled a sickie on Monday!’.


  1. To visit someone (usually for a short time)
    Let’s call in on your brother for a cup of tea on our way home.
    Shall we call in on Hannah to drop off those DVDs?


  1. To cancel a plan or event that is happening or will happen
    The rain meant we had to call off the tennis match.
    Due to the fading light, the police called off the search.
  2. To tell an animal to stop attacking or chasing someone/something
    We had to get the owner to call off his dog.


  1. To formally ask a person or organisation to do something
    The UN has called on America to act swiftly.
  2. To use something that someone can offer you
    We may need to call on your excellent diplomacy skills in this meeting.
  3. To summon or use a quality in yourself
    She called on all her years of experience to face the challenges ahead.
  4. To visit someone (usually for a short time)
    We called on Maggie on our way to the local cinema.


  1. To shout or speak loudly in order to get someone’s attention
    I called out her name, but she couldn’t hear me over the music.
  2. To ask someone to come and carry out a job/do something
    We had to call out the plumber when there was no water in our house.
    phrasal verbs with call
  3. To challenge or criticise someone
    She called out his actions, and he apologised.
    If I think you’ve done something wrong, I’ll to call you out (on it).


  1. To visit someone
    Let’s call round on the Smiths later as we’ve been meaning to see them for ages.
    I was thinking of calling round later, if you’re going to be home.


  1. To telephone someone
    I called up Tom yesterday as we hadn’t spoken in months.
  2. To be summoned for military service
    I was called up when I was just 17!
  3. To bring back memories
    That music calls up summers in the Lake District.
  4. To use magic to try and make the spirit of a dead person appear
    One Halloween we tried to call up the ghost of my step-mother!
  5. To open something on the computer, bring up (Brit. Eng)
    If you want to call up the document, we can go through it together.


  1. To formally ask a person or organisation to do something
    He was called upon to give a speech at the awards ceremony.
    The UN will call on Sweden to lead the negotiations.


Exercises: phrasal verbs with ‘call’


Task A

Choose the correct phrasal verb to complete the sentences below: 

  1. Shall we call after/call round/call out to see Harry later?
  2. This train is calling at/calling upon/calling up Sheffield so we don’t need to change in Manchester.
  3. I’ll call you round/ back/by later as I’m very busy at the moment.
  4. You’re getting married! I think this calls for/calls up/calls out a glass of champagne!
  5. I think we should call up/call off/call back the football match because it has started snowing!
  6. Journalists called out/called back/called on the Prime Minister to give a statement after the terror attacks.
  7. It was noisy in the street so when I called out/called back/called up to Mark he didn’t hear me.
  8. I called round/called at/called up Mary at the weekend to see if she wanted to play tennis.
Task B 

Match the phrasal verbs 1-8 with their correct meanings a-h:

  1. Call back
  2. Call at
  3. Call away
  4. Call upon
  5. Call out
  6. Call in
  7. Call after
  8. Call round


  1. To ask someone to leave somewhere or stop what they’re doing in order to go somewhere else, usually urgently
  2. To challenge or criticise someone
  3. To return a telephone call
  4. To visit someone
  5. To stop at a place for a brief period of time (usually referring to a ship or train)
  6. To formally ask a person or organisation to do something
  7. To give a child the same name as someone else, especially someone from the same family
  8. To telephone somewhere (often a television or radio station to give your opinion, or your place of work)
Task C

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate ‘call’ phrasal verb:
 (Note: in some answers there is more than one possible answer) 

  1. Your grandfather was __________ when he was only 17 years old.
  2. I didn’t realise I’d done something wrong until I was __________ on it.
  3. __________ your dog! He’s scaring me!
  4. The hot water stopped working so we had to __________ a plumber.
  5. The position __________ excellent IT skills and a good eye for detail.
  6. Let’s __________ your mother later as she’d really like to see us.
  7. I think we should __________ the two strongest candidates for a second round.
  8. She was very happy the baby was __________ their uncle.


Check your answers:

Task A

  1. Call round
  2. Calling at
  3. Call back
  4. Call for
  5. Calls off
  6. Called on
  7. Called out
  8. Called up
Task B

  1. c
  2. e
  3. a
  4. f
  5. b
  6. h
  7. g
  8. d
Task C

  1. Called up
  2. Called out
  3. Called off
  4. Call in/call up
  5. Calls for
  6. Call in on/call on
  7. Call back
  8. Called after

11 English Phrasal Verbs With Break

11 phrasal verbs with ‘break’


  1. To become separate, move away or leave something
    A few members of the mainstream political party broke away and formed their own, more radical party.
  2. To escape physically from someone or something
    The attacker grabbed her hair but she managed to break away.


  1. To stop working (usually referring to a machine or vehicle)
    My car broke down on the way home last night!

phrasal verbs break

  1. To become very upset or emotional
    She broke down when she started talking about her bad childhood.
  2. To become weak or collapse (often due to stress)
    His work was so stressful that he had a breakdown and had to take 6 months off.
  3. To cause something to fall or be destroyed
    I will break down this door if you don’t open up!
  4. To explain something step by step
    I don’t think you understand so let me break it down for you.
  5. To divide something into separate parts
    That’s come to a lot of money! Could we see a break down of the bill?
  6. When a discussion or relationship stops being successful
    A lack of communication caused the relationship to break down.
  7. To remove a difficulty that stops something from happening
    We hope this event will break down barriers between neighbours.
  8. To reduce something to its component parts
    Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen.


  1. To start doing something
    I broke into a sweat when I started climbing the mountain.
  2. To begin working successfully in a new business or area
    She only managed to break into the music industry later in life.
    The company broke into the European housing market last year.
  3. To enter somewhere by force, illegally
    Some teenagers broke into the school and stole all the computers!


  1. To interrupt or interject a conversation
    I’m sorry to break in on your chat, but could I borrow your pen?
    His loud voice broke in on their conversation. 


  1. To enter somewhere by force, illegally
    The thieves broke in through the side door that was left unlocked.
  2. To make new shoes or clothes comfortable by wearing them
    Those shoes won’t be uncomfortable for long. You just need to break them in.
  3. To tame a horse
    We got a trainer to break in our new horse. 

There are many ‘break’ phrasal verbs to describe entering somewhere by force! For example, ‘break into’, ‘break in’, ‘break open’ and ‘break through’ can all express this but with slightly different meanings. Usually ‘break into’ or ‘break in’ are used to describe entering somewhere illegally – e.g. ‘The thieves broke into my house at night and stole all my jewelry!’.


  1. To separate something
    She broke off a piece of chocolate and put it in her mouth.
  2. To end a relationship
    She broke off the relationship after she found out he was cheating.
  3. To stop talking or doing something (usually abruptly)
    She broke off in mid sentence after realising she’d said the wrong thing. 


  1. To open something by force
    The police broke open the door when no one opened it.
    We had to break open the petty cash box because the key didn’t work.


  1. To escape from a place or situation
    They managed to break out of prison by digging a tunnel.
  2. When something suddenly begins (often dangerous or unpleasant)
    War broke out after the opposition leader was shot.
  3. When something suddenly appears on your skin
    She broke out in a rash after she was stung by a bee.

break phrasal verbs

  1. To force yourself through something that is holding you back
    They broke through the barriers to get into the music festival.
  2. To go higher than a certain or expected level
    Profit this year broke through our annual sales targets.
  3. To appear from behind something
    The sun broke through the clouds. 

‘Break it up’ is often used informally to ask two or more people to stop fighting. For example, ‘Break it up, you two!’ is a common phrase you might hear in England if a parent’s kids are arguing over a toy.


  1. To divide something into smaller pieces
    The land was broken up into smaller plots.
  2. Unable to hear someone when you’re talking on the phone
    Could you repeat that, please? It’s a bad line and you’re breaking up.
  3. When a business or personal relationship ends
    It was sad when Anna and Tom broke up.
  4. When a school term ends, school finishes and the holidays start
    We break up for Christmas this Friday. I can’t wait!
  5. To stop a fight
    The police broke up a fight outside our local pub.

Many phrasal verbs with ‘break’ are to do with leaving or ending something. For example, ‘break away’, ‘break up’ and ‘break with’ can all mean: to move away or leave something or someone. In everyday spoken English, ‘break up’ is most commonly used to describe the ending of a romantic relationship – e.g. ‘Hannah broke up with me last night by text message!’.


  1. To stop doing something that is normal or traditional
    She broke with convention and trained as a mechanic.
  2. To leave a group or relationship
    He broke with his local church group after a disagreement with the priest.


Exercises: phrasal verbs with ‘break’


Task A

Match the phrasal verbs 1-8 with their correct meanings a-h: 

  1. Break out
  2. Break down
  3. Break in
  4. Break through
  5. Break up
  6. Break with
  7. Break open
  8. Break off


  1. To make new shoes or clothes comfortable by wearing them
  2. To divide something into smaller pieces
  3. To open something by force
  4. When something suddenly begins
  5. To become very upset or emotional
  6. To stop doing something that is normal or traditional
  7. To stop talking or doing something
  8. To get higher than a certain or expected level
Task B

Choose the correct phrasal verb to complete the sentence below:
(Note: Some phrasal verb may be used more than once!)

  1. She broke down/broke open/broke apart when she heard the news.
  2. I heard he broke down/broke out/broke off the engagement.
  3. The burglars broke into/broke down/broke off the shopping centre.
  4. The protestors broke up/broke through/broke in on the fence.
  5. When I thought I might miss the train I broke into/broke out/broke open a jog.
  6. Mark and Olivia broke down/broke up/broke with yesterday! I thought they made a nice couple, but it didn’t work out for them.
  7. A number of priests broke down/broke away/broke open from the Catholic Church because they disagreed with the new Pope.
  8. France and the UK couldn’t agree on the terms of the deal so the talks broke down/broke open/broke with.
Task C

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate ‘break’ phrasal verb:
(Note: Some phrasal verbs may be used more than once!)

  1. The train __________ so I’m going to be home very late tonight.
  2. These new shoes hurt! I’ll have to __________ them _________.
  3. The new restaurant __________ all sales expectations.
  4. I can’t wait to ___________ for summer holidays next week!
  5. I’m not sure why she suddenly __________ in mid sentence; perhaps John thought he was listening to the conversation.
  6. The drought caused a famine to ___________.
  7. He’d always wanted a career in journalism and finally he managed to ___________.
  8. He grabbed me but I ___________.


Check your answers:

Task A

  1. d
  2. e
  3. a
  4. h
  5. b
  6. f
  7. c
  8. g
Task B

  1. broke down
  2. broke off
  3. broke into
  4. broke through
  5. broke into
  6. broke up
  7. broke away
  8. broke down
Task C

  1. broke down
  2. break in
  3. broke through
  4. break up
  5. broke off
  6. break out
  7. break in
  8. broke away

16 English Phrasal Verbs With Bring

16 phrasal verbs with ‘bring’ (with example sentences)


  1. Cause something to happen
    Government investment in infrastructure brought about huge changes to society.
    Social media has brought about big changes in how children interact.


  1. Take someone or something with you when you go somewhere
    “Is it ok if I bring along a friend to the party?” – “Sure, everyone is welcome!”
    I brought along my camera to the museum in case I wanted to take some photos.


  1. Change someone’s view or opinion
    At first she didn’t agree that exercise was important but I managed to bring her around to my opinion.
  2. Bring something with you when you visit
    I’ll bring around a bottle of wine when I come over later.
  3. Make someone conscious after being unconscious
    He fainted so we splashed cold water on his face to bring him around.


  1. Learn or gain something valuable, often through experience
    I brought away a lot from my cooking classes.



Bring back

  1. To return something
    My clock stopped working so I brought it back to the shop.
  2. Think about memories/feelings from the past
    Those photos bring back memories of our holidays in Spain.
  3. Reintroduce something from past
    It would be a very bad idea to bring back slavery.
  4. Re-employ
    They’re bringing back their old football manager in the hope that he can turn their season around.
  5. Save someone’s life when they almost died
    His heart stopped but they managed to bring him back.
  6. Talk about something you’ve already spoken about
    That brings us back to our original point: We need to regulate guns.


  1. Fall/collapse
    No one knows what brought down the Malaysian airplane in 2014.
  2. Topple/overturn a government
    The government was brought down by the corruption scandal.
  3. Make someone feel bad emotionally
    David is so negative, he always brings down my mood.
  4. To reduce something/make it lower
    The Prime Minister’s aim was to bring down unemployment by half.


7. BRING FORTH (old/formal)

Bring forth

  1. Cause something to happen/to create or generate something
    Her complaint brought forth changes to the company’s policies.
  2. To produce something
    The old trees in the garden brought forth apples and pears each year.
  3. To give birth to (old-fashioned)
    She brought forth four sons and one daughter.


  1. Change the date or time of an event so that it happens earlier
    They brought forward the meeting to 11am as they had another appointment in the afternoon.
  2. Announce a plan or proposal so people can consider it
    The Ministry of Defense will bring forward their budget next week.


  1. Use skills of a particular group or person, invite them into an organisation or job
    We brought in a marketing expert for the campaign launch.
  2. To make or earn money
    With my main job and my freelance work I bring in around £40,000 a year.
  3. To introduce a new law or system
    In 2015 the new tax law was brought in throughout the country.
  4. To involve someone new in a discussion or conversation you’re having
    At this point I’d like to bring in my colleague Anna, who has some interesting information on this issue.


  1. Succeed at something that is difficult
    It was a very difficult presentation but she brought it off.
    If he can bring off this deal he’ll be a very rich man.


  1. Cause something to happen/appear (often related to an illness, pain etc.)
    Jane’s illness was brought on by stress.Bring something on
  2. Confidence in meeting a challenge
    “Bet I can run up that hill faster than you.”
    “Bring it on!”

While ‘bring on’ means to cause something (usually negative) to happen, in conversational English ‘bring it on!’ is used to show that someone is ready and eager to face a challenge or difficult situation. It is often used in sports or physical challenges (e.g. “England vs. Germany? Bring it on!”)


  1. Produce a new product
    Toyota brought out a new, environmentally-friendly car this year.
  2. To stress, highlight or reveal something
    That colour really brings out your blue eyes.
    He was such a great teacher that he always brought out the best in his students.
  3. To publish something
    When are you bringing out your new book?



Bring on

  1. Physically take someone or something from one place to another, especially someone’s home
    She’s going to bring over a film on DVD this evening.
    David is bringing over his new girlfriend this afternoon.


  1. Regain consciousness (in particular after someone faints)
    We were worried it was more serious but the doctors managed to bring her round.
  2. Convince or change someone’s opinion or point of view
    He didn’t believe in gun control but we discussed it and managed to bring him round.
  3. To come to someone’s home with something
    Could you bring round some wine when you come for dinner tonight? 

Some phrasal verbs have very similar meanings. For example, ‘bring round’ and ‘bring to’ can both mean: to make someone regain consciousness. Similarly, ‘bring around’, ‘bring round’ and ‘bring over’ can all mean: to physically bring something or someone with you from one place to another (usually when you’re visiting someone’s home). But remember that ‘Bring round’, ‘bring to’ and ‘bring around’ all have additional meanings too!


  1. Make someone regain consciousness
    After she fainted, the doctors brought her to.
  2. Cause a ship/vessel to stop
    We’re approaching the harbor so let’s bring the boat to.


  1. To mention a topic or subject in a conversation
    Don’t bring up that topic with Sarah or she’ll get annoyed.
  2. To raise children or animals, the place someone was raised
    She brought up three children all on her own.
    I was brought up in London.
  3. To vomit
    I got food poisoning last night and brought up everything I ate.
  4. To open a program or website to view on a computer screen
    My Google search brought up some very interesting results.
    Could you bring up that email so I can take another look?


Exercises: phrasal verbs with ‘bring’

Task A

Match the ‘bring’ phrasal verbs 1-8 with their correct meanings a-h: 

  1. Bring forward
  2. Bring down
  3. Bring to
  4. Bring around
  5. Bring about
  6. Bring up
  7. Bring in
  8. Bring round


  1. To change someone’s view or opinion
  2. To mention a topic or subject in a conversation
  3. To change the date or time of an event so that it happens earlier
  4. To regain consciousness (in particular after someone faints)
  5. To make someone feel bad emotionally
  6. To cause something to happen
  7. To involve someone new in a discussion or conversation you’re having
  8. To bring something with you when you visit
Task B

Choose the correct ‘bring’ phrasal verb to complete the sentences below: 

  1. I was brought up/brought in/brought around in South America but I live in Europe now.
  2. I’m looking forward to seeing you later for dinner. Could you bring in/bring round/bring up some wine when you come?
  3. The doctors thought that too much stress had brought forth/brought out/brought on the illness.
  4. As the project was so important we decided to bring on/bring in/bring to external consultants to advise us.
  5. This song always brings back/brings along/brings round memories of my childhood.
  6. We argued for hours about it but in the end I managed to bring her back/around/over.
  7. It would be a good idea to bring along/bring back/bring forth a camera as it’s very beautiful in the forest.
  8. The war brought about/brought in/brought up a revolution.
Task C

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate ‘bring’ phrasal verb: 

  1. Could you __________ my DVD when you come round later?
  2. Our company __________ over £1 million profit last year.
  3. The place where I was __________ is very small, unlike the place I live now.
  4. He never figured out what _____________ the pain but we thought it was psychological.
  5. After she passed out, the doctors ______ her ______ with some medicine.
  6. She was very ill, she __________ all her food.
  7. If we __________ the dinner to 6pm then we can get to the theatre in time.
  8. The dress was just a bit too tight so I _____ it _____ to the shop.

Check your answers:

Task A

1. c
2. e
3. h
4. a
5. f
6. b
7. g
8. d

Task B

1. Brought up
2. bring round
3. brought on
4. bring in
5. brings back
6. bring around
7. bring along
8. brought about

Task C

1. Bring around/round/over
2. brought in
3. brought up
4. brought on
5. brought round/to
6. brought up
7. bring forward
8. brought back

16 English Phrasal Verbs With Take

16 phrasal verbs with ‘take’ (with example sentences)


  1. To surprise or shock someone (old-fashioned, rare)
    We were taken aback by the news.
    His voice was so loud that it took us aback at first.


  1. To be similar to someone in appearance or character, especially a family member
    She’s very funny. She takes after her mother.
    He takes after his father’s side of the family.


  1. Take something apart or separate something into its different parts
    He took my phone apart to fix it.
  2. Showing the weakness of an argument or an idea
    They will take our report apart and then give us feedback.
  3. To criticise something (British English)
    The reviewers took apart the new film.
  1. To remove something
    Take that table away as we don’t need it in here.
    They took away my passport so I can’t travel.
  1. To subtract a number or amount
    Six take away four is two.
  1. To buy food from a restaurant and eat it elsewhere
    We ordered Chinese food to take away

phrasal verbs with take

  1. To get a piece of information or message from something
    What I took away from that film is that neither side wins in a war.
    Take away from something
  1. To reduce the positive effect of something
    The drunken fight after the party took away from the celebration.
    Take someone away
  1. Bring someone from their home to an institution
    He became very aggressive so we called the police and they took him away.



Take something back

  1. Return something to the place you bought it
    The dress was too tight so I took it back to the shop.
  1. Admitting something you said/thought was wrong
    You’re not selfish. I take that (comment) back.
  1. To regain possession of
    I took back my jacket from Sarah.
    Take someone back
  1. Allow someone to come back/return
    He cheated on her but she finally took him back.
    Takes you back (British English)
  1. Reminds you of a time in your past
    Playing that game took me back to my childhood.

In British English the phrases ‘to take down a notch’ or ‘to take down a peg’ are commonly used in conversation to express lowering/reducing someone in power. For example, “He’s so arrogant! I’d like to take him down a notch”.



Take something down

  1. Reach up and get something from a high place
    He took down the book from the top of the bookcase.

take phrasal verbs

  1. To dismantle a structure
    After the music festival, they took down the stage.
  1. To write down a piece of information
    She took down John’s number so she could call him back.
    Take somebody down
  1. To humble or humiliate someone, to lower/reduce in power
    The journalist took the politician down with her difficult questions.
  1. To hit or shoot someone so they fall down
    My brother would easily take you down in a fight!
  1. To remove a prisoner from where they stand in court (British)
    Court is adjourned. Take him down.



To believe something about somebody, often wrongly
You took me for an idiot.
She looks very mature so I took her for much older than 14.

Some phrasal verbs have many different meanings – both formal and informal. The intended meaning can only be understood from the context. For example, to ‘take in’ can mean to pay attention to something or to make an item of clothing smaller. To ‘take something back’ can mean to return an item to a shop for a refund or to admit that something you said was wrong. And to ‘take off’ can either mean a plane leaving the ground or it can be used to describe someone becoming successful very suddenly.



Take somebody in

  1. Allow someone to stay in your house/country
    He had nowhere to go so she took him in.
  1. When the police remove someone from their home in order to question them
    The police took him in for questioning about the robbery.
  1. Deceived by something/someone
    She lied! I can’t believe I was taken in by her.
    Take something in
  1. To pay attention to, understand something
    It was a very good speech and I took it all in.
  1. See everything at the same time with just one look
    When she walked into the room she took it all in.
  1. Allow something to enter your body, by breathing or swallowing
    Some plants take in a lot of water and can’t grow in dry places.
  1. To make clothing smaller/tighter
    She took in her dress as it was too big.
  1. The amount of money a business gets from people buying goods or services
    It was a successful year as the company took in £1.5 million.
  1. To include or constitute something
    The book takes in the period between the First and Second World Wars.

Phrasal verbs are very common in native English conversation. For example, try using ‘take off’ to describe suddenly leaving somewhere, ‘take up’ to mean start doing a hobby or ‘take down’ to mean defeat or humiliate someone. When you next watch a TV show or film in English try and listen out for phrasal verbs with ‘take’ and note how they are used.


  1. Leave the ground (an airplane, bird or insect)
    The plane took off at 2pm.

phrasal verbs list take

  1. To become successful or popular very suddenly
    Her career took off.
  1. To suddenly leave somewhere (informal)
    He took off before I had a chance to say bye.
  1. Imitate/impersonate somebody
    She takes off her mother so well.
  1. When a service is withdrawn
    The program was taken off TV because it wasn’t very popular.
    Take something off
  1. To remove a piece of clothing
    It was hot in the room so he took off his jumper.
  1. Not go to work, but with permission
    She took a week off to go and visit her family.



Take something on

  1. Accept a job or responsibility, especially a difficult one
    I took on the project.
  1. Develop an appearance or quality
    The room took on a 1970s look.
    Take somebody on
  1. Employ someone to do a job
    I went for the interview last week and now they’ve decided to take me on.
  1. To fight or compete against someone
    Germany will take on Mexico in the first round of the World Cup.
  1. Allowing people to get on a vehicle
    We can only take on five more passengers at the next stop.

When it comes to food, ‘take out’ and ‘take away’ both mean the same thing – to buy food from a restaurant and eat it somewhere else. But ‘take away’ is more common in the UK and ‘take out’ more common in the US.



Take something out

  1. Remove something from its place
    I got my wisdom tooth taken out.
    I took out my wallet from my bag.
  1. Obtain something official, such as a loan, licence or insurance policy
    She took out a loan from the bank.
  1. Buy food from a restaurant and eat it elsewhere
    Do you want that to eat in or take out?
    Take someone out
  1. Go somewhere with someone, you usually invite them and pay
    David took his girlfriend out for dinner.
  1. Kill or destroy someone/something
    His entire army unit got taken out in Afghanistan.
    Take it out of you
  1. Something that requires a lot of effort and makes you tired
    The journey to work this morning was a nightmare! It really took it out of me.
    Take something out on someone
  1. To treat someone badly because you feel upset or angry
    Sorry, I was very upset yesterday and I took it out on you.



Take something over

  1. To get control of a company, business
    Facebook took over WhatsApp in 2014.
  1. To seize power/control (e.g. of a country), often by force
    When the protests started the army took over.
    Take over from something
  1. To become bigger/more important than something else, take control
    Her desire to win took over.
    Take over from somebody
  1. To start having control of something, in place of somebody else
    Susan is taking over from Anna as manager.


13. TAKE someone THROUGH something
  1. To explain something to someone
    Let me take you through the instructions for the exam.
    If you don’t understand what you’re meant to do, I can take you through it.


  1. To like something/somebody
    It was only the teacher’s first class but the students really took to him.
  1. Start doing something often
    She’s taken to drinking green tea every morning.




  1. Spend time doing something regularly (e.g. a hobby)
    She took up swimming and started going twice a week.

phrasal verbs take exercises

  1. Act on a question, problem or cause
    When she read about the libraries closing, she took up the issue with her MP (Member of Parliament, local politician).
  1. Start working at a job
    He will take up his position next week.
  1. Accept an offer or challenge
    He was offered a promotion at work and, although it was a lot more work, he took up the challenge.
  2. Use space, time or effort
    I know you’re busy so I won’t take up too much of your time.
  1. Get into a particular position
    She took up a position in the corner of the room.
  1. To start something after an interruption or someone else has started it
    When David left the police, Anna took up his unfinished case.
    Take somebody up on something
  1. Say yes to an invitation or offer
    – I can show you round London if you like. – I’ll take you up on that (offer)!
    Take something up with somebody
  1. Discuss a subject with someone, usually a complaint
    If you’re unhappy with the service, you’ll have to take it up with my manager.


16. TAKE it UPON oneself
  1. Accept responsibility for something
    He took it upon himself to show the guests around.
    I took it upon myself to give him the bad news.


Exercises: phrasal verbs with ‘take’

Task A

Choose the correct phrasal verb to complete the sentences below:

  1. Will you take on/take out/take up the trash?
  2. You take after/ take in/ take to your mother! You have the same hair and eyes.
  3. Are you going to take to/take up/take her out this weekend for dinner?
  4. I didn’t like the shoes I bought so I took them back/ took them apart/ took them in to the shop.
  5. I love this dress but it’s a bit big, I think I should get it taken in/taken away/taken back at the waist.
Task B

Fill in the gaps with an appropriate ‘take’ phrasal verb:

  1. She’s _______________ dancing, she goes once a week.
  2. I know you’ve had a bad day but don’t __________ on me.
  3. Do you want this food to eat in or _________?
  4. Let me get a pen so I can ____________ your details.
  5. How many refugees did the UK _______ this year?
Task C

Match the phrasal verbs 1-5 with their correct meanings a-e:

  1. Take aback
  2. Take it upon oneself
  3. Take off
  4. Take for
  5. Take after
  1. To believe something about somebody, often wrongly
  2. To become successful or popular very suddenly
  3. To surprise or shock someone
  4. To be similar to someone in appearance or character, especially a family member
  5. To accept responsibility for something

  1. take out
  2. take after
  3. take her out
  4. took them back
  5. taken in

  1. taken up
  2. take it out
  3. take away
  4. take down
  5. take in

  1. c
  2. e
  3. b
  4. a
  5. d