You can use questions to describe people in English. Let me show you how.
It is very common in the IELTS speaking test for the examiner to ask you to introduce a person or someone you know.
This could be in the form of one of your parents or grandparents, a friend or classmate, a neighbour or a teacher. This can often present some problems to IELTS students, who then just give the briefest of answers and are unable to talk about any person they know at length.
In fact, talking about someone you know should be one of the easiest things to talk about. You just need to do it the right way.
In this guide, I would like to show you how you can introduce any person you know in the IELTS speaking test.
So let’s get right into it…
Who What Where When Why How??
A great way to plan a talk in the IELTS speaking test is to use all the questions words as an outline. This will help you cover all the points you need to make when introducing someone you know to the examiner. By doing this, you should easily be able to speak for the full two minutes in the speaking test.
What are the Question Words?
They do not appear in any particular order but usually, when talking about a person we might use who first.
How to use the question words as an outline?
You just think of questions about the person you are describing and answer them.
So, for example, the first question could be a who question.
Who is your teacher?
You answer the question and say their name.
Then you might have a what question.
What subject do they teach?
What does he/she look like?
What do you think of this teacher?
You make notes of all the answers and move on to the next question.
You should spend more time on the answers than writing down the questions. Remember that you only have one minute to prepare in the test, so you need to practice doing this.
Then when you do the test, you should be skilled enough to use all these question forms to help you make notes.
You should spend more time on the answers than writing down the questions.
Let’s look at the questions in more detail.
There are only a few who questions we can ask.
Who are they?
Who else likes this person?
Who else knows this person?
Essentially, you are just saying the person’s name and maybe their relation to you.
So the answer could be:
This is my friend Michael, we have known each other since we were in the first grade at school.
I want to talk about my next-door neighbour, her name is Elizabeth.
Let me introduce my teacher. His name is Dan.
The next question in the list above, you could answer like this:
Most people like Michael, he is very popular in our circle of friends.
Many people know Dan as he is a teacher in my school. All the students know him.
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Let’s think about questions we can ask using what.
What do they look like?
What are they like?
What does this person do?
What is their job?
What things do you do together?
The first two questions are asking about the person’s appearance and their personality. So you just describe them to the examiner.
He is of average height and a little thin. He has dark-brown hair, and he wears glasses.
He is pretty outgoing, and he has a very good sense of humour.
She is kind of tall and has long dark hair. She’s always smiling so I guess she is a happy person.
The next question describes them generally as a person. In this, you can say something about their personality, their general habits and behaviour as a person.
He’s always busy, I think his job must be very stressful.
She is a very positive person, she sees the best in everyone.
He can get angry sometimes. But I think it’s because we make him angry…
She is kind of quiet, maybe shy. As a teacher, this doesn’t really help us.
The third and fourth questions are asking about the person’s job.
He is an engineer
She is our teacher
He runs a small advertising agency
She is a manager. Whenever I see her she is wearing smart clothes for an office.
The last question asks about what activities you may do together.
If the person is your friend, a parent or a teacher, then it is very easy to say what you do together.
John loves to play basketball and so do I, do we often play together after school.
Sometimes I help my mum with the cooking, I think it is a useful skill to learn.
Mr Brown is our English teacher, we usually read books in class together. Right now we are reading Lord of The Flies.
But if the person is your neighbour or someone you do not know well, then you just have to say whatever things you do together.
Mr Jacobs is my neighbour, we usually just say hello to each other. Sometimes he asks me about school but that is it.
Where questions can be a little tricky because they often rely on more detailed knowledge of the person you are talking about.
But we could have the following:
Where do you see this person usually?
Where does this person live?
Where do they work?
Where do you go with this person?
The first one is straightforward. You just say where you see the person.
I see Mr Brown at school. One time we saw him in the High Street but we didn’t speak to him.
I see Mr Jones in my street. Usually, he is going home as I am on my way somewhere.
The second question you just say:
My grandfather lives miles away from us. In another town.
My friend lives three streets away from me.
For the third question, you might say:
Mr Davis works in my school as a teacher, he is the physics teacher.
My father is an engineer.
I think my neighbour works in a factory.
And for the final question, you could say:
Sometimes me and my friend Sam go to the cinema together. We like the same kind of movies.
Both me and my brother enjoy fishing so we try to go at the weekend.
There may be just a few when questions you can ask yourself about the person you want to describe. And even then, most of these questions could be self-explanatory with someone like your immediate family.
Just use these questions if they can help you, there is no need to use them if they do not fit your answer.
When did you first meet this person?
When did you first know this person?
When do you usually see this person?
For the first two questions, you should probably only use these when talking about someone outside your immediate family.
If you start telling the examiner about the first time you met your mother or father, he might think it is strange for you to talk about it.
But with friends, school classmates and teachers, or neighbours these questions can be useful.
You could say:
I first got to know my friend John in middle school. Then we became good friends.
I met my maths teacher, Mr Thompson, in the seventh grade.
For the last question, you can talk about anyone you know.
I usually see my mum in the morning as I am getting ready for school.
I see my brother after school as we go to the same school, we take the bus home together.
I see my grandmother at the weekend
I see my science teacher every Tuesday and Friday
There is probably only one question you could ask yourself using why questions.
Why do you like this person?
It would be kind of strange to talk about why you dislike someone. In the IELTS test, you should try to keep things positive. You can say what things you dislike about someone, but that is not the same as saying why you dislike someone.
So let’s keep things simple and just use the one question.
I like my friend because we share the same sense of humour, we laugh at the same things.
I like my English teacher because he always introduces interesting books to us for reading.
I like my mum because she can always give me good advice about things.
How questions can be very useful as the answers can often be more complex. You may find that you have more to talk about with these questions.
How often do you see this person?
How did you get to know this person?
How do you spend time together?
Then you can answer in the following way:
I see my parents every day
I see my friend every day at school
I see my neighbour every now and then
I see my grandparents about once a month
I got to know my friend at school
I got to know my French teacher in class
I got to know all my classmates from middle school onwards
We usually hang out together at the weekend
We usually watch TV together
We sometimes play computer games together
We do our homework together
For each of these question words, you may only be able to ask one or two questions for any person you are describing. But you will find that this is enough for you to talk about the person at length.
Students taking the IELTS test often just describe the person in very simple terms and often forget to use all the questions to help them.
A good way to practice doing this is to think of different people you want to talk about and think of as many questions you can to ask about them.
In the test, you do not have time to write down all these questions, so the more you practice in your own time, the better it is for you when it comes to the test.
Let me know if you can think of any other interesting questions to ask in the comments below.