Describe Graphs – Part 1

Business English

When you give presentations you might need to describe graphs. You also need to describe graphs in TOEFL and IELTS tests sometimes.

Bar Charts

Let’s look at bar charts first. This is the most common type of graph to appear on tests and in business or news media.

It’s normal to compare the figures for different years or different products. It’s best to use comparatives (‘higher than’, ‘lower than’) and superlatives (‘the highest’, ‘the lowest’).

Bar Chart
We might describe this bar chart as follows:

The Faeroe Islands have the highest rainfall, over 4500 mm, whereas Burundi has the lowest at around 700 mm; The Faeroe Islands have approximately six times the amount of rain as Burundi. Canada and Denmark have roughly equal amounts of rainfall, approximately 3200 mm, while Albania, Estonia and Greece have roughly 2000 mm, 1500 mm and 900 mm respectively.

Line Graphs

Line graphs usually describe trends or changes. With these, it is quite common to use different words to describe increases or decreases.

increase decrease
go up go down
grow diminish
rocket plunge
climb drop
develop fall

These changes can be used with adverbs to describe magnitude of change.

strongly weakly
significantly slightly
aggressively gently
dramatically negligibly

You can also describe the graph staying the same using the verb phrases ‘remain unchanged’ or ‘remain constant’.

Small changes up and down are called ‘fluctuations’.

Line Graph

We can describe this graph as follows:

The revenues increase slightly over the first quarter (January to March) while there is a developing loss. Between March and April revenues increase significantly and there is a profit to correspond with this. The growth slows between April and June and there is also a fluctuation in profit. The revenue has an upwards trend though this plateaus in Autumn and goes up once more in November, albeit less dramatically than previous increases. Profit also plateaus and shows negligible fluctuations throughout the final quarter of the year.

Book Hotel Rooms

Kawagoe Business Hotel

When you book hotel rooms, it is important to know what kind of rooms you need.

  • A single room has one single bed.
  • A twin room has two single beds.
  • A double room has one double bed.
  • A suite usually has a double bed and a living room facility and often also has private dining facilities. It may also include adjoining rooms for staff.

There are also different meal options.

  • ‘All inclusive’ means you can eat and drink as much as you like. This is mainly offered in resort hotels as part of a package holiday.
  • ‘Full board’ includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, usually without alcoholic drinks.
  • ‘Half board’ includes breakfast and dinner, again usually without alcoholic drinks.
  • ‘Bed and breakfast’, or B&B, includes breakfast.
  • ‘Self catering’ or ‘room only’ means you have to eat out or you may have cooking facilities available in your room.

Example Conversation

Booking Clerk: Hello, Paradise Hotel. How may I help you?
Customer: I’d like to book a room for two weeks from the twentieth of July, please.
Booking Clerk: What size room would you like?
Customer: A twin room, please.
Booking Clerk: Will you dine at the hotel?
Customer: I’d like bed and breakfast, please.
Booking Clerk: Certainly. That’s a twin room for fourteen nights, checking in after two o’ clock p.m. on the twentieth of July and checking out before eleven o’ clock a.m. on the third of August. Your catering requirements are bed and breakfast. That will be a total of nine hundred and ten dollars including taxes. Could I take a credit card number to guarantee the room?

English for Banking

Business English

This post has the Business English graphic but really, it’s for anybody who needs to use banks in English.


  • open an account
  • When you want to start using a bank you have to open an account, which is a section of a bank database that says how much money you have available.

  • close an account
  • When you want to stop using a bank you have to close an account. Easy!

  • make a withdrawal
  • To get your money out of the bank you make a withdrawal.

  • make a deposit
  • To put your money into the bank you make a deposit.

  • be in credit
  • If you have money in the bank you are in credit.

  • be overdrawn/go overdrawn
  • If you have taken more money from the bank than you had available you are overdrawn. You can also say you have gone overdrawn.

  • an overdraft
  • The bank lets people go overdrawn without any penalty if they set up an overdraft facility.

  • take out a loan
  • When you want to borrow money from the bank and pay it back month by month, you take out a loan.

  • make a transfer
  • If you want to send money to a different bank account you have to make a transfer. If you want to send money to an account in a different country you need a SWIFT code, which is an international bank number.

Example Conversation

Customer: Hello, I’d like to make a withdrawal. I couldn’t get my money out of the cash machine.
Banker: Could I take your bank card, please?
Customer: Here you are.
Banker: Do you have any photo ID?
Customer: Is my driving licence okay?
Banker: Yes, that’s fine. I’m afraid you’ve gone overdrawn by fifteen pounds and seventeen pence.
Customer: Really? That is strange because today is pay day and I should have around one thousand six hundred pounds going into my account. I also need to make a transfer. Could you tell me if my salary has been transferred to my account?
Banker: It appears that it hasn’t. I may be able to set up a temporary agreed overdraft for you while you deal with this problem. Would you like me to set up a five-hundred pound overdraft for you?
Customer: Yes, please. I’d like to transfer two hundred dollars to this account in Thailand, please.
Banker: Do you have the SWIFT code?
Customer: Sorry, I don’t.
Banker: I’m afraid I need the SWIFT code; it’s an international bank ID number.
Customer: Well, I’ll have to find it later from my son. I suppose I should phone work as well. Thank you for your help.
Banker: Thank you.

Making English-Speaking Friends


One of the things a lot of students worry about is making English-speaking friends, or how to find them. It is much the same as finding friends that speak your own language.

  • Don’t look to people just because they are native English speakers

  • This is a big one. Nobody wants to feel used but this is how it can feel if you just want to speak to people because they are native speakers. Not only this, but you are limiting yourself: there are some great non-native speakers out there and most non-natives tend to speak English most frequently to other non-natives.

  • Have something interesting to talk about

  • When you start a conversation on something that the other person has no idea about or has no experience of, you are starting a conversation that is going to fail. Keep it simple but normal. Ask the other person or people about themselves and be willing to listen but also ready to talk about yourself, too.

  • Don’t interrupt busy people

  • I am usually willing to talk to anybody even though giving people the chance to speak English is something I get paid to do. Note that I said ‘usually’. This does not include:

    • while waiting in line at the post office or for the ATM,
    • while listening to my iPod,
    • while I am visibly angry or annoyed
    • while I am with my family and my son is not behaving well.

    Basically, think about whether you would want to give me a chance to practise my Japanese, or any language I may or may not be learning.

  • Don’t start a conversation and then get shy

  • If you have the confidence to start a conversation, keep it going. It is a two-way deal. Ask questions if you don’t have the confidence to say a lot.

  • Find something in common

  • If you want to make friends, try to find something in common. If you play sports, why not try to meet people at a sporting event or club? If you like eating and drinking, see if there are any international dining clubs.

I hope this helps. Do you have any tips? Leave a comment to help others!

Describe Games


People love playing games. Human beings and dolphins are the only animals with a sense of leisure. We love to play because it is a way to develop rapport, or a way of dealing with each other.

If you want to play with someone, you have to be able to describe games. To do this you need to talk about:

  1. items needed,
  2. main rules, or how you win, and
  3. special rules, or what’s not allowed

Items Needed

What kind of game is it? Is it played on a field? On a board? Is it a computer game? How many players are there?

Chess is played by two players on a squared chequered board of eight by eight squares. There are sixteen pieces per player, which are:
eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, one queen and one king. The pieces are black or white.

Tennis is played by two players (singles) or four players (doubles) on a grass or clay court separated in the middle by a net. Each player or pair’s half is divided in half parallel to the net and the front half closest to the net is divided in half again. There are two short sections on either side of these halves that are only used in the doubles game.

Main Rules

As I said before, this is how you win. It is the main point of the game. If you can describe this, you can start playing and explain the rest of the rules as you play on.

The point in chess is to create a situation called checkmate where one’s opponent is unable to move without his king being captured.

In tennis, you take the first shot, called a serve, from the back half of the court and hit it between the net and the halfway line, called the serve line, in your opponent’s half. You hit the ball back to your opponent. Shots are played that land anywhere within the main lines in singles or the side lines in doubles. If you let the ball bounce more than once in your half or if you hit the ball at the net or out of the lines, your opponent wins a point.

Special Rules

These are the difficult rules that are best explained while playing.

In chess, you can make a move called ‘castling’ if you haven’t moved your king or a rook that you use in this move and if your king is not in check (a possible capture situation). You move the king to the square in the middle of the quarter on the rook’s side and the rook to the square in the middle of the quarter on the king’s side of the back line. It should be empty, king, rook, empty on the left side or empty rook, king, empty on the queen’s side.

When you serve, you get two chances to serve correctly. If you mess up both serves, your opponent gets the point.

How to Talk About Predictions


This Summer the Football World Cup will take place in Brazil. Now, most of the provisional squads have been named so people are starting to make predictions.

To make a prediction you need to use an adverb of probability.

  • Certainly/Definitely
  • This is 100% probable. It will happen.

    Brazil are certainly going to make it to the last four.

    Iran have a tough group. They are definitely not going to play after the group stages.

  • Probably
  • This is about 70% probable. It has more chance of happening than not happening.

    Belgium are probably going to do well because they have a good balance of youth and experience.

    Japan probably won’t go further than the group stages unless they have a surprising result against Greece or Colombia.

  • Likely
  • Likely is about 60% probable.

    The USA have a hard group so they are likely to play a heavily defensive game.

    Côte d’Ivoire are likely to play very aggressively to tire the opposition.

  • Unlikely
  • This is only around 10-20% probable.

    Honduras are unlikely to get past the group stages.

    Germany are unlikely to be knocked out before the semi-finals unless they have injury problems.

  • Not a cat in hell’s chance
  • 0% probable. This is never going to happen.

    Every four years they are overconfident but England don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning the World Cup.

    They are an excellent team but Cameroon don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of beating Brazil in their own country.

Why not leave a comment with your predictions for the World Cup?

Useful Phrases for Chairing Meetings

Business English

Chairing a meeting means that you have to be in charge of keeping the meeting on topic and on schedule so that important information can be given and decisions can be made. Here are some useful phrases.

  • Starting the meeting

  • You need to make sure that everybody knows it is time to start and it is best to keep the meeting friendly so use a friendly but authoritative phrase like:

    Now everyone is here, let’s get started.

    If there is a lot of noise from continuing small talk, especially in a large meeting, you may want to be more direct:

    We have a lot to get through so let’s start.

  • Inviting people to speak

  • As the chair of the meeting, you shouldn’t be doing much of the speaking yourself but you should be inviting others to present their information or opinions following the meeting’s agenda. This could be formal:

    First, I’d like Mr. Said to give us his analysis of the first quarter’s revenues. Would you begin, please?

    It could also be informal:

    Next, Molly’s going to run through the new IT policy. Molly.

  • Maintaining order

  • If there is a lot of disagreement, people may keep interrupting. This is not always bad but it may become chaotic. If this is the case, saying something similar to the next example may help. Please note that this is not a question. You are giving instructions, not making a request.

    Mr. Arnold, I understand that you have something to say but I’d like to give Ms. Capello the opportunity to finish. I’ll come back to you soon.

    To come back to the speaker who was interrupting is very simple.

    Mr. Arnold, could you give us your ideas, please?

    If the meeting has become chaotic, give a reminder.

    I’m sure everyone would appreciate it if we avoided talking over one another.

    If all else fails, why not give everyone a break.

    I think we all need to take time out. Could everyone come back by twenty-past ten, please?

Don’t forget that there are other posts to help you, too:

I hope this helps. Remember, if you have any questions or requests, send them in the comments, by emailing me or sending a tweet.