IELTS Relationship Vocabulary

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My name is Anna Large and I specialise in teaching Academic English. I also teach English to adults on Skype. Today I would like to work with you on the vocabulary related to relationships. This is something you will have to talk about in your IELTS Speaking exam. Let’s look at sample questions in Part 1. Here the examiner is asking about friendship. Look at the highlighted expressions. They will make all the difference in the exam as they will raise the quality of your answer.

Part 1 of the Speaking exam

Examiner: How often do you meet with your friends?
Louisa: Well, usually every other weekend. I have to study most weekends but I do try to find time for them. We get on quite well and have similar interests so tend to hang out together.

Examiner: What kind of activities do you normally do with your friends?
Hannah: Well, we go bowling and to the cinema. Most likely, we grab a bite to eat before going out to save money because the prices for these activities have gone up quite a lot and the student card doesn’t really get us a huge discount.

Examiner: How long have you known your friends for?
Matt: I’ve known my school friends for years. When we first met, we got on like a house on fire though now we don’t really meet that often.

Part 2 of the Speaking exam

Here is an example task for this part of the exam:
Describe a person you are very close to. You should say:
• Something about this person;
• How long ago you met them;
• Where you first met;
• What is so great about them.

My advice in this section of the speaking exam is to prepare in advance. But let’s simplify the task and make it more fun. You are going to watch a short clip from Shrek, i.e. when he meets Fiona for the first time. I would like you to enter your answer to the above question in the form provided. We can all join in and collaborate.

If you post your answer here, I will reply with my comments. Now, in the speaking exam you will need to talk about your friend or girlfriend using slightly more advanced expressions and phrases. Normally, we would talk about very simple things like in this story timeline:
• Gradually got to know Angela well
• Close friends
• Angela left for uni
• Kept in touch on Facebook and whatsapp
• Shared similar interests: trips abroad, passion for foreign languages and local food
• Angela grew on me
• Love at first sight
• Got on like a house on fire
• Well suited for each other
• Introduce her to my parents
• Popped the question
• Tied the knot

But how do we turn these simple bullet-points into a great answer in the exam? I’m suggesting you add some phrases that native speakers use naturally. Here is the example of what you can say. All the phrases are highlighted:
I’d like to talk about my girlfriend, Angela. We bumped into each other when we were at school and hit if off straight away. This was about 5 years ago. Angela treated me as a good friend for quite a while but I had a secret crush on her. Anyway, after school we both went to uni but in different towns but still kept in touch. We talked every day on Facebook and WhatsApp until we met for Christmas at my parents where I introduced Angela to them for the first time. I know that for her it wasn’t love at first sight but still she realised later on that she couldn’t find someone with similar interests like going on trips, speaking Chinese and cooking Chinese food, so we started dating. It was great fun because we studied together and went places together as well. I had to get a part-time job to afford it though. Anyway, we’ve just graduated and going to move in together. I’ve already popped the question and she said ‘YES’. Next year we are planning to tie the knot in Cuba. Why Cuba? We both speak Spanish and it seems like a romantic location for a special day.
Ok, you have seen above what kind of answer you can give in the exam. You will need to say as much as you can. Please don’t attempt to do what Ricky K. did in the X-factor audition or the examiner might laugh too much:

What can we learn from the above video? Ricky K uses his body language to make the audience laugh but he also summarises his love story very well. In the exam you will also provide a summary of your relationship but dressed up in commonly used spoken English.

Part 3 of the Speaking exam

Examiner: Do you think marriage is still important?
Ameen: Well, I have friends in many countries. A friend from Ireland once said that Irish men don’t rush into marriage because they are afraid of making a mistake and then not being able to divorce if the relationship goes pear-shaped. I can see in the UK couples live together before tying the knot which would not be allowed in my country. We believe that marriage is final because it’s linked to the country’s traditions. It’s quite normal to have arranged marriages and people tend to go for it even these days because of family traditions and a belief that they can eventually fall in love with each other. I know any relationship has its ups and downs and depending on a person they either work on a relationship or prefer to break up. I put it down to their personal values and beliefs.
Examiner: When is the ideal time to get married?
Jackie: I believe it depends on a person. In my case, I think it’s best to get somewhere with your career and climb on the property ladder. It’s also a good idea to travel around the world because if you get married and have a baby, neither of you will have enough time to travel, at least in the beginning. I think there’s always time for tying the knot.
Examiner: How would you deal with friends who do not support your relationship with your girlfriend?
Zehra: I have been in a situation when my friends didn’t support my relationship with my boyfriend. I’d say it was tough. I find it a bit unfair that friends have to offer advice that can be upsetting. I think they should be more supporting and respect my choices. What I did once is to tell my friends that it was none of their business who I was dating because it was not up to them. Also, I said that everyone has different tastes and there’s no need to push me to choose between my boyfriend and them. They got the point. I think it’s important to set the boundaries and not to encourage someone to discuss your relationship because it’s noone’s business. It puts friendships at risk of falling apart as well.
About the Author

Anna Large

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Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, business owner in the UK

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