Problems abound in life and many concerned people are constantly looking for solutions to these problems. You may find yourself in a very serious discussion about some the the more pressing problems facing the world today. Many times in these kinds of discussions, the answers proposed are just possibilities or suggestions. There are certain structures that can be used when talking in possibilities. Look at these examples.


English Expressions

Asking about solutions   Giving Solutions
What should we do (… about high rate of

absenteeism in public schools)?

  Maybe we should ( … hire truant officers to

visit the student’s home or contact the

parents when students are absent).

What can be done to (… get more people to

vote during national elections)?

  How about (…passing a law that taxes them if

they don’t vote).

What is a solution for ( … reducing the hearing

lose of employees at this plant? The machines

are so loud they are effecting peoples hearing).

  Why don’t we ( … make it mandatory that all

employees wear ear plugs).

How do we ( … get traffic to slow down on 5th

  Street? There have been 7 accidents on that

street in the last month because drivers are

going to fast).

  The city needs to ( … install speed bumps

along that stretch of road. That will slow

people down).


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 follow in similar conversations.


Professor: One of the biggest problems facing this country today is illegal drug use.  What are some of your

suggestions for solving this grave social plight?

Student A: Put all the drug users in jail. If they are in jail, they can’t get or use the drugs.

Professor: That’s a little naive. Illegal drugs are fairly easy to get in prison, if you know the right people. Another


Student B: I think rehabilitating drug users is the best solution.

Professor: Possible, for some individuals it would work, but, I suspect, not all.

Student C: The schools need better education programs to warn and instruct kids about the dangers and

consequences of drugs. If kids never start taking drugs, there is no problem.

Professor: That’s true, but children get much of their education of life on the streets, not in the classroom.

Student D: Attack it at its source. Bust all the dealers and suppliers of drugs.

Professor: That might work, if it weren’t impossible to do. I think that we would all agree, that arresting all

dealers and suppliers would be virtually impossible and prohibitively expensive in terms of

money and manpower.

Student E: In my opinion, one of the reasons that drug use is so attractive to kids is because of its mystique.

Their parents say they can’t or shouldn’t use them, which of course tempts kids to want to try it even

more. People always want what they can’t have. If you eliminate the mystique, you eliminate the


Professor: I’m sure that’s true of a small percentage of people, but not all.

Student F: How about monetary incentives. The government could give people money- cash, not tax breaks or

other such things, but cold hard cash, for not taking drugs.

Professor: Now that is a solution I have never heard of or contemplated before. It might have merit, but it would

be very, very expensive.

Student G: I don’t think there is any one solution. All the suggestions offered so far have merits and faults. It

seems to me that using a combination of all those solutions could be effective.

Professor: I think you’re right. There are no easy answers and it will take multifaceted approach to eliminate the



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 about finding solutions to the drug problem. One suggestion was …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. Group or Pair Work- debate

     Get into two groups of four or six each for a debate. One group take the pro side and the other group the con

side. If working in pairs one person take the pro side and the other the con side.


     The teams will be debating the merits and faults of the given solutions to the problems below. Use the

suggestions listed, in addition to your own thoughts, for possible points to cover in the debate.


  1. Problem: Littering

Solution:  Moderate fines for people that litter


● will act as a deterrent


● difficult to enforce consistently

● will generate income for the government ● doesn’t educate people about the problem
● will focus peoples attention to the


● cost more to implement than income it would


● it will serve as just punishment ● could create ill will among the populace
  2. Problem: Pollution caused by power plants using fossil fuels

  Solution: Replacing those plants with atomic power plant


● eliminates major source of pollution


● too expensive to replace existing fossil fuel


● generates more electricity for less cost ● would have world wide economic impact (if

fossil fuel demand decreases substantially)

● benefits non-oil producing countries ● fear and danger of nuclear accident
● conserves natural resources ● fear and danger of terrorist attacks
● creates higher educated and

technologically advanced workers

● is relatively safe  
● there are less health related concerns  
 3. Problem: Use of hand guns in crimes

Solution: Mandatory 20 year prison sentence for any violation, 30 years prison if weapon is



● will act as a strong deterrent


● it is not just, too severe a punishment

● is easy to verify and implement ● would increase already unmanageable prison


● offers greater assurance to potential


● would not really act as a deterrent


2. Group or Pair Work- discussion

Get into groups of three or four people. You are members of the U. N. addressing

world wide issues. Select one of the topics below (or choose your own) and discuss and

present your solutions to them. Cover each of the areas under the identification and

solution of the problem.



             ● why it is a problem                               

             ● the people who it is a problem for        

             ● its effect on those people                   




            Illiteracy                                  Water pollution


                 Population explosion            World hungry


                 Drug use                                 AIDS epidemic


                 Nuclear proliferation            Terrorist groups


                 Fair and equal access to medical treatment and medicine