Asking for and giving instructions is something that occurs from time to time. Every now and then someone may ask your help in providing instructions on how to do something. It may be something simple like how to operate a coin operated washing machine at a laundry mat or it may be something more difficult, like programming a remote control for a TV.

Expressions used when giving instructions
    Question: How do you operate (…this camera)?
    Instruction: First, you look through the view finder and the push the red button to take the picture.
    Question: Can you show me how to (…use the FAX machine)?
    Instruction: After entering the phone number put the document in this slot and then press send.
    Question: Do you know how to (… save a PDF file on a computer)?
    Instruction: Sure, click the file menu and select save. Select the folder you want to save it in, give the file a
        name and then click save.
    Question: How do I go about (… making an omelet)?
    Instruction: First crack two eggs and put them in s bowl. After beating the eggs add other desired ingredients
       such as peppers, onions mushrooms, etc. After that, put a little oil in a pan and pour the eggs into the pan.
       Cook for one minute and then turn the egg over and cook another minute.

It’s likely to happen that when giving instructions the listener may become confused and need to have things repeated. This could also happen in any normal conversation between people- one person will not hear or understand what the other has said. Of course, there are other things that hinder communication besides not hearing someone. Examples include unknown vocabulary words, or idiomatic expressions that the listener does not understand, or the speaker is just talking way too fast for the listener to comprehend. Fortunately there are expressions that can be used to cover these situations as well.

English Expressions Used when Asking for Repeats
    Expression: Could you repeat that, please?
    Response: Certainly, the answer is no.
    Expression: What did you say?
    Response: I said the answer is the planet Pluto.
    Expression: One more time.
    Response: What is the chemical symbol for zinc?
    Expression: Come again.
    Response: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.
    Expression: Please speak more slowly.
    Response: Of course, I’m sorry.
    Expression: I’m sorry; I don’t understand the expression (… fill in this form).
    Response: It means to answer all the questions or supply the information on that piece of paper.


Son: Dad, my car has a flat tire. What should I do?
Dad: Change it. of course.
Son: But, I don’t know how.
Dad: No problem, I’ll walk you through it.
Son: OK, I guess.
Dad: First, open the trunk and take out the spare tire, the lug wrench and the jack.
Son: Got them, now what?
Dad: Now, loosen the lug bolts on the flat tire. Then use the jack to raise the tire off the ground 6 to 8 inches.
Son: That’s done, now what?
Dad: Take off the lug bolts and remove the tire.
Son: After that, do I put on the spare and replace and tighten the lug bolts?
Dad: That’s it. After that, lower the jack and put it, the flat tire and lug wrench back in the trunk.
Son: Thanks dad, that was easy.
Dad: There’s one more thing to remeber to do. Be sure to take that flat to the tire shop and get it fixed

Practice Activities

Find a partner and practice using English expressions for asking for and giving instruction. Use the topics below in your conversation.

How to change a screen saver on a computer
How to program a a TV remote
How to change a tire
How to make a grilled cheese sandwich

To find other conversation activities and dialogues for giving instructions take a look at:
Conversation Made Easy OR Talk, Talk, Talk

Other Links for Instructions
XX Hotel English
XX Learning English