Describing things and their use can be a useful skill. Sometimes you may be asked to describe something, what it looks like, and it’s function or purpose or what it is needed for. 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 for this.

English Expressions Used to Describe Things
    Expression: What does it look like?
    Response: It’s big, with eight hairy arms.
    Expression: How big is it?
    Response: It’s 3 feet, by 4 feet, by 5 feet.
    Expression: How much does it weigh?
    Response: It weighs 75 pounds.
    Expression: What color is it?
    Response: It’s bright yellow, brighter than a banana.
    Expression: What’s it made out of?
    Response: It’s made of plastic and aluminum.
    Expression: What is it?
    Response: It’s a garlic press.
    Expression: What does it do?
    Response: It puts a sharp point on wooden pencils.
    Expression: What the purpose of a refrigerator?
    Response: The purpose of a refrigerator is to keep food cold so it does not spoil.
    Expression: What do you use a (… cheese grater) for?
    Response: A cheese grater is used to make small strips of cheese from a larger block.
    Expression: How does a (… water heater) work?
    Response: Water is collected in a large tank and heated by either gas or electricity.


Teacher: Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, a very important invention at the time.
Student: What is a cotton gin?
Teacher: It is a machine that removes the cotton fibers from cotton seeds.
Student: How big is a cotton gin?
Teacher: Today they are very big, but the one Eli Whitney invented was much smaller, basically a wooden box maybe 3 feet long, 12 to 16 inches wide and about 2 feet high.
Student: How did it work?.
Teacher: It was pretty simple really. Inside the box there were two cylinders. The cylinders
were turned round and round by a crank. Cotton bolls were put in one end of the cotton gin. The first
cylinder had tiny wires all around it that caught hold of the fibers and moved them to a metal plate
with tiny slits is it. The tiny wires on the cylinder drew the cotton fibers through the slits, but seeds
were to big, so the cotton fibers were pulled of the seeds and fell to the bottom. The second cylinder
contained brushes that removed the cotton fibers from the first cylinder and pulled the cotton fibers to
the end of the box.
Student: Why was the cotton gin so important.
Teacher: Because it greatly increased the production of cloth that was needed to make clothes and other things.

Practice Activities

Find a partner and practice describing objects, or what their purpose is and or how they work. Below are some things to describe.

Describe a giraffe
Describe a snow ski and what it is used for
What is the purpose of a remote control for a TV
How does a thermometer work

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

Other Links for Describing Things

XX Video: Describing a garden
XX Describing a Picture
XX Worksheets