Real Exam English - B2, C1, C2

S02 - 4 Shopping

February 12, 2021 Real Exam English Season 2 Episode 4
Real Exam English - B2, C1, C2
S02 - 4 Shopping
Show Notes Transcript

Native English speakers answer questions about shopping from previous B2, C1, C2 and IELTS  exam papers. 

You´ll hear plenty of shopping vocabulary today as well as a variety of ways to express preferences. We will take a look at some differences between US, Australian and British English and we also have speakers from Ireland and South Africa so lots of accent practice for you as usual. In addition, we have a dialogue so you´ll hear some great expressions for interacting and giving opinions. 

For classes or transcripts go to

Music: Wholesome by Kevin MacLeod

Thanks to all of the contributors, including Ian from the We Dig Music podcast, Arianwen from the In Mothering podast, Trisha from Conversations with a Random Nobody, Chris, Barbara, Ronny, Zoe, Ofordi, Karen, Keith, Mary, Emma and Ursula.

Support the show

Hello and welcome to Real Exam English. Today we are going to be talking about shopping. Love it or hate it, it´s something we all have to do and it´s a regular topic on English exams. You´ll hear plenty of shopping vocabulary today as well as a variety of ways to express preferences. We will take a look at some differences between US, Australian and British English and we also have speakers from Ireland and South Africa so lots of accent practice for you as usual. In addition, we have a dialogue so you´ll hear some great expressions for interacting and giving opinions. It´s quite a long episode today so let´s get going with the questions.


How important is it to follow trends in fashion?

It's not. No, I think the key thing to do is to find a look that you like And curate it. Like really, really, heavily curate your look. Um, myself and my wife like black. We wear a lot of black clothes.

Um? It's a very, very easy thing to pull off. Flattering and you know more alternative kind of Gothic things come into fashion every now and again. Buy a ton of stuff, move on with your life. Just buy good clothes that last and that look pretty cool. Fashion is for idiots.

do you think online shopping will ever replace going to the shops?

To an extent it has. For things that aren't a physical experience, yes, like food shopping, I can do food shopping online shopping for like You know stuff, DVDs, videos, books, etc. I can do that, but shopping for more Physically engaging things like cars like guitars, artwork. Actually, I said books, but books as well, like the experience of playing a guitar Before you buy, it is vital the experience of driving a car before you buy it. For some people vital like being in a book shop and smelling books is a beautiful experience. I know that sounds weird, but like you know it's a thing. So I think 80% yes 20% no online shopping will never completely replace going to the shops.

Just a phrasal verb here, to pull off. If you pull something off it means you succeed in doing something, usually something difficult or unexpected. For example, he knocked the champion out in the first round and pulled off one of the biggest shocks in boxing history. 

Do people in your country enjoy going to open air markets that sell things like food or clothes or old objects?

I don't think it's that popular in Ireland, really, um? It's the I think it's getting better like this kind of farmers market near us that opens on the weekends. That does a lot of fresh fruit and veg and kind of of specialists, fish and meat. But it tends to be on the expensive side. And then you've got the kind of of the kind of. Markets in town in the city center, which have been there for forever and they kind of are much more affordable for sure. But you know, I wouldn't go all the way into town just to do that, so I tend to shop in. You know, either the local kind of fruit and veg organic place just around the corner or in a supermarket like I'm pretty time short on time usually so I don't like to go to five different places to get what I need, so I tend to just go to one place and get it all. You know, I'd make a special trip to go to go to a good butcher, but other than that I just go to the supermarket. But yeah, I think definitely outdoor markets are becoming more popular on the kind of Um, you know the speciality kind of food thing, but they're not not so much clothes and kind of things, but I think that's partly due to the weather, you know.

Yeah, totally. If it's raining all the time, you know, yeah, you're eating a soggy sandwich or whatever. It's not great.


All right?

Yeah, but there's a lot of places that kind of do indoor markets you know, kind of antiques and, um, different artists like small up and coming artists and that sort of thing. So there's lots of indoor places that would have, like market stalls set up, but not much outdoor.

We had some nice plays on the word market here, we have the supermarket, farmers markets, which are markets where you can buy directly from the farmer, we had outdoor markets, indoor markets and market stalls, which are the little stands where the traders sell their goods. Then we heard about up and coming artists which are artists that making good progress and are likely to be successful. For instance, the football team has some up  and coming youngsters that might make the breakthrough to the first team soon.


some people say we too often buy things we don't really need. What do you think? 

Absolute truth, the absolute truth. I am probably one of the worst for buying things that I don't really need. It's kind of comes down to this whole want versus need thing and I kind of just want a lot of stuff that I Don't really need.

The last thing I bought And I want it and didn´t really need was a Rubik's Cube. I spent 599 a Rubik's Cube. I've tried it twice. I haven't even got near to even doing it so not the best, but that is definitely something I didn't really need, and I think its true  We too often buy things we don't really need.

Do you think people should borrow money to buy something they want?

I suppose there's a. There's a time and a place for things like this, so to give an example.

Well this comes down a little bit of a need so during the Christmas in New Year period when there's always sales on and this is showing my age off here and how UN rock and roll life is is that I had to borrow money to buy a tumble dryer in the sale.

Because it was just over the budget that we had, but It was such a better dryer. We borrowed the money to be able to do it. So I think that this kind of, you know it's not, you know, borrowing 5 grand to buy a holiday to go to Dubai? It's little things like this. I think I I think are OK.

Another phrasal verb here which is comes down to. If a situation comes down to something then that is the most crucial thing. For instance, the success of the lockdown comes down to the public following the rules. Some nice everyday shopping vocab here too, like the sales being on, borrowing money, being over budget, which is more than you had planned to spend and 5 grand, which is 5 thousand.

What is your ideal shopping experience? 

I used to think my ideal shopping experience was like a long day at a shopping mall. Maybe with a girlfriend or my partner having a Cup of coffee halfway through lunch That sort of thing.

Now that I have three children, my ideal shopping experience is doing it online over a Cup of coffee. Yeah, so I'm much prefer online shopping now. For most things, apart from clothes, 

some people say we often buy things we don't really need. What do you think?

Oh my God totally all the time. And I know I do it myself too, so it's not . I'm not blaming anyone for buying too much stuff But I think that we see Things and go wow, that's beautiful. Wow that's useful or I didn't know that existed or And I think we often buy things because we think they're going to make our lives easier and they don't necessarily make our lives easier. I also think now that stuff is really cheap so we don't place a value on it because it's so cheap. So we keep re buying stuff.

Do you think people should borrow money to buy something they want?

I think the answer is probably no. There will be Some things in life that you might need to purchase Where the need isn't that great that you could do without, but it's going to make your life significantly easier. I'm thinking things like maybe buying a car. But I don't think Like say, buying, a new outfit or? I do that even a new phone, really. Those sorts of things aren't necessarily worth going into debt for.

Ok so this speaker is from Australia and says shopping mall. We will also hear someone from the United States saying malls later. In British English this is a shopping centre. She also says she goes shopping with a girlfriend which is a female friend of hers, this use of girlfriend is less common in the UK where your girlfriend is someone you are romantically involved with. In the USA, they again are more similar to the Australians in this respect. We also hear quite a common way of giving examples which you don´t really see in many textbooks and that is with the word say. So the speaker said I don´t think like say….buying a new outfit. We actually hear our next speaker too using say in the exact same way, you´ll notice that there´s normally a little pause too, like the person is thinking. For instance, I don´t like computer games, but when it comes to say board games or cards, I love them.  

When is the best time to go shopping?

That's a great question. I like going shopping when no one else is going shopping as a freelancer there. I have a flexible timetable so I really enjoy shopping at 3:00 PM during the week after lunchtime. After the rush. That way you have a bit more peace and quiet. You have a bit more time with shop assistants who might be more patient with you. Unusual so especially for non food shopping. That's my favorite time to go.

Is it better to go shopping alone or with friends?

So at the moment we have to go shopping alone here in Belgium. Those are the coronavirus rules. You can only be one person, so that's the situation. I think it depends what you're shopping for. Personally, for clothes I much prefer going on my own because I'm quite impatient and I just want to be in and out of there As quickly as possible. But when it comes to say, buying books or music, I really enjoy going with someone else, and you can kind of discuss things with them and and  get their opinion on it. So it depends what you're going shopping for. For food shopping, I absolutely prefer to go on my own as well. No interference, get in and out there as quickly as possible.

We heard a few different ways of expressing likes or preferences here, we had I like going shopping, I really enjoy shopping and I much prefer going on my own. Expressing likes, dislikes and preferences is a key part of learning any language and is really useful both in real life and in an exam situation. Most expressions require a gerund, such as I love playing football, I can´t stand cleaning the bathrooms or I´m keen on learning the guitar. Others need an infinitive, like I´d rather drink tea than coffee or I´d prefer to go to Ireland than to England. So make sure you get plenty of practice with this type of language, particularly with prefer and rather, which can be a bit trickier depending on how you use them. 

Do people in your country enjoy going to open air markets that sell things like food or clothes or old objects?

Yeah, So what I'm noticing a trend in in malls so to speak. Um, is that It's going towards a more of an outdoor shopping experience where like retail is being is. There's still like individual stores, but they're all kind of clustered together. Like like a Plaza if you will, and then they have things like um. They have things like ice skating rinks. They have other entertainment like they'll have like an outdoor ice like in the winter time they'll have a ice skating rink or they have a bowling alley or um movie theater. So it's usually involve some kind of like entertainment and retail, but all kind of. And the outside setting open air. So the concept of the mall like we're seeing a lot of malls just going under going out of business. Because of these new new models that are more of like open concept.

No well. But grocery shopping? I mean, when it comes to food, we're talking about food. I think people specifically still enjoy going to a supermarket. I mean, farmer farmers markets are making a little bit of a comeback, but I think majority people still. It's just easier for them to go to a supermarket and just get everything that they need.

Ok so this speaker is from the USA and uses a lot of the word like here. “They have other entertainment like they´ll have like an outdoor ice rink”. Like doesn´t mean anything here, it´s just a filler word. Depending on where you go in the English speaking world you will hear different filler words, but some of the most common ones are like, y´know, so, right, y´see, ok and well. It´s ok to use them in an exam but just don´t overdo it.

We had a couple of great expressions here at the end to use when a business is unsuccessful and fails, they were going under and going out of business. For example, many restaurants went under during the pandemic.


Next up we have a dialogue about shopping. So this is me and my lovely sister having a chat about the advantages and disadvantages of different ways of shopping. It´s almost 5 minutes long in case you need a break before listening. It features some nice natural interaction and some great vocab too. 

OK, so starting with on a website I would say that one of the major advantages is that you can see reviews of people who have bought the products in the past and you can compare to other websites also quite easily. What do you think? 

Yeah, I think that is a definite advantage for me. The advantage of a website has become more apparent during the lockdown. I particularly like to use a website that's grouped together in a number of local markets and you can look at. Various traders products and their prices and select them and buy them altogether in bulk. Then in one transaction so. Sometimes with a website like the likes of Amazon, I suppose is a similar thing you can buy from different traders all in the one place and get a bulk delivery or a bulk transaction at the end. 

Yeah, sure, that's definitely a great advantage, and I suppose a disadvantage is that you can't try on the clothes, which is something that you can do in a small clothes shop. And Additionally you can get some help from the shop assistants there. 

Yes, yeah. Sometimes I feel a little bit intimidated. Going into a small kind of a. Boutique style clothes shop. Thus, especially if I'm the only customer in there, I feel that all eyes are on me and I can't browse and I can't look at the products kind of in a just a casual way. I feel like there is more pressure on me to buy something, you know, but I like to be. Someone anonymized. When I'm shopping, do you know I don't want people kind of interfering with me? 

Yeah, I. I completely agree with you. I suppose it's a little less apparent in a Department store, but it can also be the same. To be honest, you know people can be trying to push the sales on top of you and another advantage in a Department store is that you can get a lot of different items in the one place like you can buy your shoes and your clothes as well as perhaps your grocer. Oh Be in perfume and all that kind of stuff. 

Yeah yeah it's Department store. Yeah, and though out of all the options, probably Department store would be lower down on my list. There are quite impersonal and tends to only stock some lines.Can be quite expensive. Which is always a factor for me. 

Absolutely, and. I….

 I find if you shop in the supermarkets you know like, uh, Carrefour or those kind of places that you can get better value often and you're left to your own devices. Really kind of walking around the store looking at different. Projects and I love that. 

I see what you mean regarding the better value, but at the same time you're probably getting worse quality an. 

Probably yeah. 

And with regards to the last one, a street market, I guess one of the major advantages would be that you kind of get more alternative items that you wouldn't find in a supermarket or Department store for example would you agree? 

Yeah And, the whole ambience of a street market and the locality of the products and the the seasonal local products is just. Fabulous I love us and I love to interact with the direct growers or makers of different things and ask them about their products.  It's nice to be able to interact with with those people. 

OK, so now we have to decide which one of these ways of shopping is the best for clothes. 

If you ask me, I would say that despite some disadvantages, I would go for a Department store because it's less personal and then a small clothes shop an you still get to try on the clothes. How about you? 

Yeah, probably go probably maybe with the Department store. I don't know if if a small clothes shop encompasses like High Street stores because they would be my go-to really for for clothes shopping. 

Ok so just to pick up on the phrases for interacting here. We had lots of yeahs again, which isn´t great really, but we also had a few nice expressions like I completely agree with you, yea sure, absolutely, probably, I see what you mean. In terms of asking your partner we had would you agree, what do you think and how about you. So we had a nice bit of variety really. And to give opinions we had I think, I suppose, I guess, I´d say that and if you ask me, so again a good range of expressions. 

I´m not going to go through all the vocabulary from that chat as we have gone way over time today but you can check it out in the transcripts on the Real Exam English website.

Ok, cool, that´s it for today guys. If you enjoy the podcast and find it useful it would be great if you could like and subscribe on Apple podcasts, spotify, google podcasts or wherever you listen. And keep an eye out for a special bonus episode next week with tips on how to prepare for your writing exam. 

Ok, folks, have a good one!