Sometimes you may be asked to describe something, what it looks like, and it’s function or purpose. For example, You may to talking to a person not up on the latest technological devises or telling someone about the newest time saving kitchen gadget.

When you are describing objects you use adjectives, (words that describe nouns) such as the size, color, shape, material made from, thickness, texture, etc. Look at the expressions below that can be used when asking for descriptions of things

English Expressions

Expression   Response
What does it look like?   It’s big, with eight hairy arms.
How big is it?   It’s 3 feet, by 4 feet, by 5 feet.
How much does it weigh?   It weighs 75 pounds.
What color is it?   It’s bright yellow, brighter than a banana.
What’s it made out of?   It’s made of plastic and aluminum.
What is it?   It’s a garlic press.
What does it do?   It puts a sharp point on wooden pencils.
What the purpose of a refrigerator?   The purpose of a refrigerator is to keep food cold so

it does not spoil.

What do you use a (… cheese grater) for?   A cheese grater is used to make small strips of

cheese from a larger block.

How does a (… water heater) work?   Water is collected in a large tank and heated by

either gas or electricity.

English Dialogue

Students should work together in pairs and read the following dialogue, one student reading one part, the other student reading the other. Note the expressions used in the dialogue and the progression of the conversation. The dialogue can be used as a model to have similar conversations.


Randall: Do you know what a grandfather clock is?

Horace: Yes, of course.

Randall: I assume it is a kind of clock, but what does it look like?

Horace: Well, they’re usually big, about an average person’s height, and maybe 20 to 24 inches wide.

Randall: And.

Horace: The clock face is at the top, usually a round face, and many have Roman Numerals.

Randall: Go on.

Horace: Below the face is a pendulum which hangs from a chain, or something similar, which swings back and

                forth as the clock ticks.

Randall: I’m sorry, what’s a pendulum?

Horace: A weight hanging from a chain, cable, or string.

Randall: I see.

Horace: In all the grandfather clocks I have ever seen, the cabinets were made out of wood, usually stained


Randall: Why are they called grandfather clocks?

Horace: I don’t know. Maybe because they are an old style of clock that was common in our grandfathers’ days.

Randall: The clock in your father’s office is a grandfather clock, isn’t it?

Horace: Yes, but he calls it his grandmother’s clock.

Randall: Why?

Horace: Because his grandmother gave it to him.


After reading, close your book and tell your partner a summary of the dialogue. Then switch and have your partner tell his or her summary. Start like this: This dialogue is one person describing a clock. It is … This may seem silly, since you both already know what the dialogue is about, but the purpose is to practice using your English, not to give information or test your reading skills.

Conversation Activities

1. Pair work- discussion

     Do you or your family have a grandfather clock or any other antique items that has been handed down from

     one generation to the next? Tell your partner about it using some of the ideas for discussion below. Your

     partner should ask questions to get more information.    

  •  what is it      
  •  its age and its history    
  •  why it is significant or important to your family                                                     
  •  who in your family will the item be handed down to next
  •  why that person will get the item

2. Pair work- discussion
     Work with a partner and describe the following items are and how they work. The listening partner should ask

      questions to get more detail or clarification. Obviously most (if not all) people already know what these things

      are and how they work, but the purpose of the exercise is to practice using the language. So… the partner

      asking about the items should pretend to be very, very stupid or from a very remote, uncivilized location that

      has never been exposed to these modern conveniences.

  • Pencil sharpener
  • Bicycle
  • Toaster
  • Clock
  • Calculator
  • Camera
  • Stethoscope
  • Bow and arrow