IELTS Vocabulary Lesson: Politeness & Birthdays

IELTS Vocabulary Lesson:

Politeness & Birthdays

In this post, we will look at some vocabulary and expressions which you can use to talk about 2 topics seen in IELTS Speaking Tests in June 2017. The two topics which have appeared in recent IELTS tests are:



If you’re a teacher or a student looking for worksheets to help you. You can download worksheets and exercises with PDF worksheets and separate MP3 files here. 


Read the examples answers, highlight and write down words you don’t know. You should also try to write down the verbs you see used with new vocabulary. This makes it easier to create your own sentence.

Who taught you to be polite?

I would say my parents, more than anyone else. They taught me to be considerate and mindful of other people. They also told me to mind my manners, especially with guests and strangers. If I was rude or impolite, they would punish me and tell me what I did wrong.

How important is politeness to you?

I think it’s very important. Good manners can make a big difference to the interactions you have with people every day. I think being polite makes life much easier, as as people are more likely to like you and help you if you are courteous and respectful first. Manners cost nothing anyway, and I don’t think it’s difficult to be polite in most situations.

How do you people in your country show politeness?

In my country, there are lots of different ways. People hold the door open for each other, they apologise if they disturb you, and say ‘thank you’ when someone else is considerate. It’s also polite to bring a small gift, like a bottle of wine or a some dessert to a dinner party, as a token of respect.

Exercise #1

Match the definition to the word. If you don’t know, then look back at the reading passage.

  1. Rude                                                                            A. Not caring about other people
  2. Polite                                                                           B. Very polite, good manners
  3. disrespectful                                                              C. Thinking of others / showing respect
  4. Punish                                                                         D. Being offensive, not showing respect
  5. Say sorry                                                                     E. Showing gratitude
  6. Say thank you                                                            F. Apologising
  7. Courteous                                                                   G. Discipline


Exercise #2
Finish / Complete the sentence with the new vocabulary:

1. Sharon lost her job because she was (rude / polite) to her boss.
2. Parents should definitely (punish / help) their children if they are being rude.
3. My mother taught me to say (thank you / sorry) if I was disrespectful.
4. People should always say (sorry / thank you) if someone helps you.
5. Thinking about other people means you are (courteous / rude).
6. It’s quite difficult to be (polite / rude) when you feel upset.
7. I really liked my teachers at school, they were always (respectful / punishing us.)


Exercise #3 – 

Listen and fill in the gaps with one of the phrases:

A token of respect

Mind your manners

Manners cost nothing

Makes a big difference

Makes life easier

We have a saying in English: ______________________. It means that little gestures, like saying thank you and apologising go a long way, and are always appreciated. When someone doesn’t say sorry or show any gratitude, it can make a bad impression, and it certainly ___________________ to the relationship you have with another person. Although it’s not always easy to _________________, especially when you’re upset or frustrated, if you can get along with your family, your colleagues, or people you need help from, it certainly ____________________

Little _____________________ can also go a long way. Some snacks for your colleagues at work, or a bottle of wine and chocolates for your friends at a dinner party, are some popular ways to get your relationship started on the right on the foot.


Don’t forget, you can download the free worksheets attached to this post, for vocab exercises, more examples and listening practice right here! [link]


How do children celebrate birthdays in your country?

Parents usually throw a party for their children. They also invite their friends and relatives over so they can celebrate together. When the children are young, people often decorate their houses with balloons and ribbons to make it a special occasion.

When kids grow up, they might prefer to have parties outside their home, like at the zoo, or at an amusement park. I think older kids prefer that because they get to spend more time with their friends that way.

How did you celebrate your last birthday?

On my last birthday, I went to a water park with my close friends. I didn’t want to have a huge blow-out with loads of people, so I kept it low key and just invited a handful of my best friends. After we had an awesome time at the park, I had another small get together at one of my favourite restaurants with my family. It was a really fun day and I had a great time.

What kind of birthday gifts do you like to receive?

Well, I don’t expect to get any gifts on my birthday now I’m older, but I prefer to receive gifts that are thoughtful and personal. My friends and family know what I like, and what my passions and interests are, for example, last year, my father gave me a big book about Formula 1, which is my favourite sport. It was a huge book full of pictures and interesting stories, so that was a really thoughtful gift. I appreciate those kinds of presents much more than gimmicky or novelty presents, which I will only use once and then forget about.

Exercise #1

Match the definition to the word. If you don’t know, then look back at the reading passage.

  1. A handful of                                                               A. Get older / become a teenager /adult
  2. Thoughtful                                                                 B. Small, quiet, casual
  3. Grow up                                                                      C. Think of others’ interests
  4. Gimmicky                                                                   D. A small number of
  5. A blow out                                                                  E. Make smth. looking nicer, more attractive
  6. Low key                                                                       F. A large celebration or party
  7. Decorate                                                                     G. Unique, but with no value
  8. Get together                                                              H: A party or gathering


Exercise #2
Finish / Complete the sentence with the new vocabulary:

  1. The show was extremely popular, so only (a low key / a handful of) tickets are available.
  2. My sister’s wedding was a huge event. Around 200 people came to the reception, it was (low key / a blow out)!
  3. My husband and I are going to (decorate / grow up) our apartment for our daughter’s birthday with ribbons and balloons.
  4. My brother knows I love animals, so he took me to the zoo for my last birthday. He is very (low key / thoughtful).
  5. When kids (decorate / grow up), they want to spend more time with their friends than their family.
  6. I don’t like parties, so I just invited (my close friends / a blow out) to dinner for my 30th birthday.
  7. I stayed at home, opened a bottle of wine and watched movies all day. My birthday was very (low key / thoughtful).


Exercise #3 –

Listen and fill in the gaps with one of the phrases:

Decorate the house

Throw a party

Make it a special occasion

Invite (someone) over

Get together


When you’re getting ready to _______________________ there are a couple of things you can do to __________________________ Firstly, you should figure who you want to come to your party. These days most people _________________________ on Facebook, via text or through email. Once that’s sorted, you can head to a stationary or an arts and crafts shop to buy some balloons, streamers, ribbons and stickers, so you can ___________________. Then, on the big day, you can enjoy the _________________ with your guests, and the birthday boy or girl.

Full Vocabulary List / Cheat Sheet:


Words, Phrases and Collocations:

Rude / Disrespectful / Inconsiderate / Impolite

Polite / Respectful / Considerate / Courteous

Good manners / Be mindful of others

A token of respect

Mind my manners

Manners cost nothing

Makes a big difference

Makes life easier

Punish me / Discipline me

Say sorry / Say thank you / Say excuse me / Apologise

Hold the door open

Bring a gift


Words, Phrases and Collocations

A handful of

A get together

Thoughtful / Personal / Special gifts

Gimmicky / Novelty presents

Grow up / Get older

My close friends

A blow out

Low key

Celebrate / Decorate the house

Throw a party / Have a party

Make it a special occasion

Invite over / Get together / Spend time with  

You can download these vocabulary exercises and self-study worksheets here! 

Good luck! Happy learning! 

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