How to Talk about Rivers Lakes or Seas in English

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English featured image

You might be asked to talk about RIVERS, LAKES or SEAS in Part Two or Three of the IELTS test.

In this guide, we will look at ways to talk about this topic.

Let’s dive right in!

 

What is a River, Lake or Sea?

What is a River, Lake or Sea?

 

Let’s begin by getting a clear definition of what a river, lake or sea is.

Take a look below.

 

A River

 

A river is a large flowing course of water that usually runs from a point inland to the sea. Most rivers are freshwater, which means they have a very low level of salt.

Examples of famous rivers include:

  • The Nile
  • The Mississippi
  • The Amazon
  • The Yangtze
  • The Ganges
  • The Thames

 

A Lake

 

A lake is a large volume of water collected in a basin or bowl on the land. Lakes are usually freshwater and still.

Examples of famous lakes are:

  • Lake Superior
  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Titicaca
  • Lake Victoria
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Dal Lake
  • Loch Ness

 

A Sea

 

A sea is a large body of water often found on the edge of an ocean and close to land. It is partially surrounded by land too. Seas are usually saltwater.

Examples of famous seas include:

  • The Caribbean Sea
  • The Bering Sea
  • The South China Sea
  • The Mediterranean Sea
  • The Red Sea

 

Can you think of any famous river, lake or sea in your country?

Is there a famous river, lake or sea near your hometown?

Name one.

Where is it?

Have you been there?

What do you think of it?

 

The Names of Rivers, Lakes and Seas

 

Names of Rivers

 

Rivers are usually named after the place they are in or some special feature of the river.

So we have:

 

The River Thames

So-called after the Ancient Celtic word Tame, meaning dark one.

 

The Nile

This name comes from other ancient languages. Neilos from Ancient Greek, Nilus from Latin and Nahal from Semitic.

These ancient words mean valley or river valley, so they were probably just describing the river itself.

 

The Mississippi

This name also comes from an Ancient name — Misi-ziibi.

This is from the language of the Anishinaabe indigenous people of Canada and America.

 

Names of Lakes

 

Lake Superior

This is from the French name for it Lac Supérieur — meaning Upper Lake. Thus called because of its location.

 

Dal Lake

This is a misnomer as the word dal means lake in Kashmiri. So it is as if the lake is called Lake Lake!

 

Loch Ness

The word loch is Scottish Gaelic for lake. And the name Ness comes from the river which flows into Loch Ness. The name Ness comes from the Gaelic word, which means roaring one.

 

Name of Seas

 

The Caribbean Sea

Named after the location of the group of islands in the area. The indigenous people that once lived there were called Caribs.

 

The Mediterranean Sea

The name Mediterranean comes from Latin — mediterraneus meaning inland or middle and terra meaning land or earth.


 

Check out these other great guides to help you master talking about different topics in English!

Fast Food — a complete English lesson plan

How to talk about SHOPPING in English

How To Talk About The Weather In English

How to talk about your Smartphone in English

 


 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Use of the word THE for Rivers, Lakes and Seas

Use of the word THE for Rivers, Lakes and Seas

 

There is no fixed rule for this.

Some rivers have the prefix THE in front of it — The River Thames, The Nile. While others do not — Yellow River.

Lakes seldom use the word THE. But most seas use the word THE — usually because there is only one of this kind of sea in the world.

 

River Thames or Thames River?

 

And some rivers have the word River at the beginning of the name. While others put the word River at the end.

You just have to be aware of which river you are talking about.

 

What about the rivers, lakes or seas near or in your hometown?

Why are they called the way they are?

What is the correct full name for this river, lake or sea?

Sometimes, this information has an interesting story.

 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Vocabulary for Rivers

Vocabulary for Rivers

 

We need to use the right words and phrases when describing a river, a lake or the sea.

First, let’s take a look at words to describe a river. Here is a table of words that we can use.

wide

long

old or ancient

shallow/deep

bubbling

flowing

frozen

gentle

black

roaring

green

yellow

blue

peaceful

clear

murky

grey

dark

muddy

mysterious

underground

rushing

winding

tranquil

 

But how to use them?

Take a look at my sentences below to help you use the above words in sentences about rivers.

 

The River Thames can get quite wide in parts.

 

The Yangtse River runs through my town. It is very long — stretching right across the country.

 

The River Kane is an ancient river that winds through the countryside near my home.

 

(In truth, all rivers are old and ancient! They have been there for many, many years…)

 

The river near where we live can be quite shallow. We go swimming in that part. But further down, it gets very deep. There are signs telling people not to go in the water as it’s too dangerous.

 

A small river runs through the woods nearby. It goes down a hill; the water bubbling and flowing over rocks.

 

The river in town gets frozen over in the winter. It gets covered in ice.

 

In my hometown, there is a river that is slow and gentle.

 

In winter, the river in town looks black and eerie.

 

I went on holiday to Nepal and saw a river roaring down the side of the mountain.

 

Rivers can be in many different colours — some are yellow, some blue, and many are green.

 

The river near to my home is a great place to walk — it is peaceful, and the water is clear.

 

I live near a river that always looks murky and grey. In the winter, it is dark and muddy!

 

There is an underground river near my hometown that feels kind of mysterious.

 

The river that runs through my town is rushing at some parts and in other parts, winding slowly and tranquil.

 

Now You Try!

 

Use some of the words above to describe a river near or in your hometown.

Try to make sentences to describe the look and feel of the river.

When you are finished, read your sentences out loud.

 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Vocabulary for Lakes

Vocabulary for Lakes

 

And now let’s look at some words to describe a lake. Check the table below for some great words to use.

silvery

glittering

clear

peaceful

still

freshwater

blue

shallow

deep

man-made

dried-up

bottomless

glassy

underground

placid

beautiful

circular

stagnant

 

Describing a lake is a little different to describing a river.

A river is moving whereas a lake is still. And lakes are often very wide.

Let’s take a look at some sentences using the words above.

 

I love to walk by the lake in the evening. The sun sets on the silvery lake and it makes me feel really peaceful.

 

I often go fishing by the lake and gaze out on the glittering surface, waiting for a bite.

 

I have been on a boat on West Lake, and the water is very clear. You can see right to the bottom.

 

In the evening, we usually go for a stroll by the lake — it is perfectly still and so peaceful.

 

The lake near my home is a freshwater lake, and the water is blue.

 

There’s a large lake not far from where I live. Some parts of it are shallow and people go swimming there. But you only have to go out a few metres and it gets very deep.

 

In my local park, there is a man-made lake. It’s pretty nice actually — lots of ducks and swans on the water.

 

The local lake is all dried up. I think they did something to the irrigation system.

 

We went out on Dal Lake last summer. It appeared to be bottomless, and the water was all glassy.

 

There are some caves near my town and there’s supposed to be an underground lake there, but I think it is just a story.

 

I like to take my bike by the lake in the morning. The water is so beautiful and placid.

 

There is a small circular lake nearby, but the water is stagnant. I don’t think anything lives in it.

 

Now You Try!

 

Use the above words and sentences to make your own sentences about lakes.

Try to describe a lake near to your hometown or a lake that you have visited.

Speak your sentences out loud!

 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Vocabulary for The Sea

Vocabulary for The Sea

 

Finally, let’s look at some words that describe the sea.

briny

calm

rough

blue

green

turquoise

choppy

sparkling

windy

fresh

relaxing

white tops

waves

tide

shifting

 

And of course, the sea is very different from a river or a lake.

Let’s look at some example sentences using the words above.

 

I love the briny smell of the sea in the morning!

 

I walked past the sea yesterday, and it was so calm. It looked like a lake.

 

Last year, we went on a boat trip to the islands. The sea was really rough though, so we couldn’t leave our seats.

 

I love the blue colour of the sea in the Mediterranean.

 

The sea is a kind of green colour near my home — it almost looks grey!

 

When we travelled to Fiji, I couldn’t believe the colour of the sea — it was turquoise. So beautiful!

 

I like to go swimming in the sea near my home, but sometimes the waves can be a little too choppy.

 

I am very lucky to live near the sea. I can walk by the coastline any time I want and enjoy the view of the fresh, sparkling water.

 

It gets a little windy near the sea sometimes. In the winter, it can get quite chilly.

 

I often sit by the sea in the evening and watch the shifting tide come onto the beach. It’s very relaxing.

 

The sea doesn’t get such big waves where we live. But sometimes you might see some white tops.

 

Now You Try!

 

Go through all the words and sentences above and try to make your own sentences to describe the sea.

Read all your sentences out loud!

 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Things We Can See Near Rivers, Lakes and the Sea

Things We Can See Near Rivers, Lakes and the Sea

 

Another topic you can talk about is the things we can see near rivers, lakes and the sea.

Let’s go through them in detail.

 

Trees

 

We can often see trees beside a river or a lake. And sometimes by the sea — in hot countries, these could be palm trees.

 

I love to sit in the shade under the trees and look out over the lake.

 

I cycle by the river in town, and each side of the river has an avenue of trees. It looks so nice!

 

Banks

 

Of course, all waterways have a bank. This is the side where the water meets the ground. We don’t call it the bank by the sea, though — only for rivers and lakes.

 

I like to walk along the bank of the river and feed the ducks.

 

Birds

 

And there are always birds by the water. They go there to find food to eat.

 

By the lake, near my home, there are so many of these white birds. I think they are called egrets.

 

I always see lots of ducks and swans on the river. People often feed them bread.

 

Bridge/Pier

 

You might see a bridge going over the river. Or sometimes a part of the lake. And you might see a pier by the sea.

 

There are lots of little footbridges by the river. It’s nice to stand in the middle and watch the water flowing by.

 

The pier by the sea is very old. There used to be an arcade at the end of it. But now people just go there for fishing.

 

People

 

And of course, you will always see people by the river, lake or sea. People like to go to the water and walk around or do other activities.

 

In the summer, the river is always full of kids playing and swimming in the water.

 

Sometimes, people go out on the lake in little boats. I think it must be very relaxing to row about on the water.

 

If the waves are a little high, people go down to the beachfront to fish in the sea. They tell me it is good for fishing at this time.

 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Things People Do Near The River, Lake or Sea

Things People Do Near The River, Lake or Sea

 

People like to go near the river, lake or sea. There are many things for them to do.

People might do the following things:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Running/jogging
  • Fishing
  • Paddling
  • Beachcombing
  • Metal detecting
  • Sunbathing
  • Relaxing
  • Having a picnic

 

Now let’s look at some ways to use these activities in sentences.

 

I’m very lucky that I live near this really beautiful lake. The water is so clean and clear. I try to go swimming there at least once a week if I can. It’s a great way to start the day!

 

I go to the river in my town and walk around a couple of times a week. I often see other people walking there. It’s a nice spot to relax and unwind.

 

I like running in the morning and I usually go to the beach. There’s a small path for runners and joggers. It’s a fantastic place to go running and watch the sunset.

 

I love fishing and usually go to the river not far from where I live. Many other people go there for fishing too. I don’t always catch a fish, but it’s a nice place to sit and collect my thoughts.

 

I went to the sea last weekend because the weather was so perfect. Many families were there. And lots of children paddling in the waves.

 

My grandfather said that when he was younger, he would go beachcombing every week. He said he would find many interesting things left behind by other people.

 

I see a few people doing metal detecting on the beach in the evening. I think they are looking for valuable things washed up to the shore.

 

Any time the sun comes out, I always see people sunbathing by the lake. There’s a long strip by the lakeside that is very popular for people to stretch out in the sun.

 

I love to go down to the river and just look out across the water. It’s very relaxing after working all week.

 

Many people go to the lake and have a picnic. It’s a nice place to sit and eat something.

 

Now You Try

 

Talk about the activities you like to do by the river, lake or sea. Write down all the sentences you want to say and then read them out loud.

 

Questions

 

What other kinds of activities do people do near the river, lake or sea in your country?

Are they the same activities as above?

Why are all of these activities so popular, do you think?

Do people get any health benefits from doing these activities?

What other benefits can they get?

 

How to talk about rivers lakes or seas in English Transportation on Rivers, Lakes and Sea

Transportation on Rivers, Lakes and Sea

 

Rivers, lakes and seas all have transportation. People need to cross the river, the lake or the sea and there are different forms of transport to help them do this.

These are some of the most common kinds of transport you can see on the water.

hydrofoil

airboat

boat

cruise ship

barge

ferry

hovercraft

speedboat

ship

container ship

yacht

 

What are these forms of transport? Let’s take a look.

 

Hydrofoil

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English hydrofoil

This is a kind of boat that used two blades or hydrofoils that lift the boat out of the water to improve speed.

Hydrofoils are generally much faster than an ordinary boat or ferry.

 

Airboat

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English airboat

This is a kind of boat that is used in shallow water. It uses a large fan at the back of the boat to propel it forward.

These are very common in the Florida Everglades.

 

Boat

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English boat

This is a loose term to describe any kind of transportation that crosses the water. A boat can be used to transport people, cars, or goods.

 

Cruise Ship

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English cruise ship

This is a large ship used to transport people who are travelling from one place to another on vacation.

These ships are not used for commuting — only for leisure.

They are mostly found at sea.

 

Barge

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English barge

This is usually a long narrow boat that can be found on a river. It is mostly used to transport goods.

 

 

Ferry

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English ferry

A ferry is a kind of boat to transport people across a river, a lake or a short stretch of sea.

A ferry can be very simple with no seats. Or it can be larger and more luxurious with cabins and restaurants.

 

Hovercraft

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English hovercraft

This is a motorised kind of boat that uses technology to allow the boat to hover above the water for more speed.

They are used for commuting and for rapid transportation across the sea or a lake.

 

Speedboat

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English speedboat

These can be very simple boats with an engine to help people cross a short stretch of water in a short period of time.

They can also be used for fun. Many people may use a speedboat while on vacation near a river, a lake or sea.

 

Ship

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English ship

This is a large form of water transportation with cabins, restaurants and a bar.

They are usually found at sea.

 

Container Ship

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English container ship

And this is the same as a ship but used to transport goods in containers across large stretches of sea.

 

 

Yacht

How to talk about rivers lakes and seas in English yacht

This is a boat often with a sail. It can be used to transport people but is mostly used for leisure.

 

 

Questions

Do you have any of these forms of transport near the river, lake or sea near your hometown?

What are the advantages of these forms of transport?

What are the disadvantages?

 

Questions about Rivers, Lakes and Sea

 

Take a look at the questions below and try to answer them. Say your answers out loud.

 

Do you live near a river? Can you describe it?

Do you live near a lake? Can you describe it?

Do you live near the sea? Can you describe it?

What do people do near the river?

What do they do near or on the lake?

What do people do near or in the sea?

What activities can people do near the river, lake or sea?

What sports are popular near or on the river, lake or sea?

Are there any forms of transportation near the river, lake or sea in your hometown?

What are they? What do people use them for?

Is the river, lake or sea near your home used for fishing?

Is this a major industry in your hometown?

What other industries can we find on the river, lake or sea?

What about tourism? Is this a big industry near the river, lake or sea near your home?

Has the fishing industry or tourism industry changed a lot near the river, lake or sea in your hometown?

How has it changed?

Is life better now or worse than before near the river, lake or sea in your hometown?

What kind of people live near the river, lake or sea? What do they do?

What kind of wildlife or animals can you see near the river, lake or sea near your home?

Is this wildlife in danger?

How has the river, lake or sea changed environmentally in the last few years?

Is it better than before? Or worse?

Why is this so?

What kind of services can you see near the river, lake or sea?

For example, restaurants, cafes or other small shops?

Would you like to live near the water? Why/why not?

 

Conclusion

 

I have tried to cover as much as I can about rivers, lakes and seas.

This guide might be useful if you are preparing for the IELTS speaking test — this could be a topic in Part Two — or maybe you just want to talk about waterways in a presentation at school or college.

Either way, I hope it helps you.

And please… leave a comment below! Many thanks!


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