Manimegalai Samidurai

updated on 14-02-2023


Phrases for IELTS speaking


Idioms and phrases for IELTS speaking have an extraordinary power to increase your chances of getting a high band score in the IELTS Speaking test. Knowing the importance, we have included many important phrases in this article to facilitate the student’s speaking preparation. Learn when to use the phrases and how to use them in your IELTS speaking exam from this article. 

The IELTS speaking test is quite a challenging module as candidates have to be spontaneous while delivering an answer or speech. The speaking task consists of three distinct parts including introduction, cue card and follow-up rounds. To clear this section with a high band score, the candidate must be proficient in knowing and implementing the perfect IELTS speaking vocabulary, linking words, idioms and phrases for IELTS speaking while responding to the examiner.

Click to view some professional IELTS speaking tips for your preparation guidance. 

Table of contents

Top 40 best phrases for IELTS speaking 
Check out more possible phrases for IELTS speaking part 1 and part 2
Pros and cons of using phrases in the IELTS speaking 
Useful phrases for IELTS speaking part 1 
Useful phrases for IELTS speaking part 2 
Useful phrases for IELTS speaking part 3 

Top 40 best phrases for IELTS speaking

Ideal phrases for IELTS speaking offers you a great chance of boosting your final band score in the IELTS speaking module. To help out the candidates, we have included the top 40 best phrases with exact meanings and examples below,


1.Short on cash 

Meaning : Not having enough money

Example : He is not one who is short on cash

2.Went up

Meaning : increase/raise

Example : We went up to Montreal last weekend

3.Funny you should ask that

Meaning : interesting thing/ I was already thinking about that

Example : Funny you should ask that, I thought the same thing.

4.The rate dropped

Meaning : decreased/ fallen

Example : For higher earners, the rate dropped from 5 % to 3 %.

5.Over the moon

Meaning : Overjoyed/ delighted

Example : She was over the moon about her final score. 


Meaning : Advanced/ innovative
Example : They succeed because of their cutting-edge equipment. 

7.Born to

Meaning : Having a natural ability

Example : He was born to be a musician

8.Let me think

Meaning : Consider or remember something

Example : Let me think about it and get back to you

9.Hold a sec

Meaning : asking someone to wait/ slow down

Example : Hold a sec. This is not what you said yesterday.

10.If I had to take a guess, I would say…

Meaning : Predicting about something

Example : If I had to take a guess, I would say she might be a dancer.

11.He’s broke

Meaning : have/has no money

Example : I am pitiful that he’s broke and homeless

12.Off the top of my head, I’d say…

Meaning : not thinking too much before conveying 

Example : I'm not sure, but off the top of my head I'd say she's from Delhi.

13.I wouldn’t be surprised if…

Meaning : something that already guessed/ sure enough

Example : I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins this game

14.Flying high

Meaning : successful/ becoming popular/ making more money
Example : Over the last couple of years, the company seems to be flying high.

15.pinching pennies

Meaning : spending as little money as possible

Example : John plans to buy a new car, so he's pinching pennies for every expense.

16.Be at the end of the rope

Meaning : tough time/ difficult situation

Example : Mary is a bit down as she is at the end of her rope. 


Meaning : good condition/ have more money

Example : Sita’s quite well-off enough to afford this expensive product. 

18.Bite my head off

Meaning : angry/ yelling at someone

Example : My manager bit my head off when I asked him for permission

19.She’s loaded

Meaning : rich enough/ wealthy/ intoxicated by alcohol or drugs

Example : The woman getting out of that expensive car is obviously loaded.

20.Black mood

Meaning : sad/ not in a good mood

Example : Arjun is in a black mood as he got low marks in exams.

21.Afraid of your own shadow

Meaning : fear/ frighten of small things

Example : Sometimes people who look confident are actually afraid of their own shadow.

22.Chill out

Meaning : relaxing/ calm down

Example : I was chilling out at last night's party. 

23.Fed up 

Meaning : unhappy/ bored/ irritated 

Example : She was fed up with all his excuses for not being on time

24.Once in a blue moon

Meaning : A very rare occurrence 

Example : Once in a blue moon, I go to a luxury restaurant with my family.

25.A hot potato

Meaning : Hot topic/ topic is discussed by a huge number of people

Example : The issue is back and it is a kind of hot potato these days. 

26.Filthy rich

Meaning : extremely rich/ someone who is well enough to compensate for anything

Example : A friend of mine is filthy rich, so he buys what he wants.

27.A piece of cake

Meaning : very easy/ something easily done/ no trouble in doing something

Example : My friend said the exam would be hard, but it was a piece of cake.

28.Hit the books

Meaning : to begin studying in a determined manner.

Example : As I have an important exam next week, I have to hit the books this weekend.

29.Sit on the fence

Meaning : doubting or delay in making a decision

Example : If you are still sitting on the fence and not making any decision, it will not be nice.

30.rolling in dough

Meaning : having excessive amount of money

Example : I wondered to hear that her dad is rolling in dough.

31.For ages

Meaning : a very long time/ a length of time

Examples : I met my long-distance friend after many ages. 

32.Stroke of luck

Meaning : unexpected happens/ something occurs by chance

Example : We narrowly escaped a major accident last night, which was purely a stroke of luck.

33.I am scared of

Meaning : fear about something/ expressing something politely

Example : I always skip giant wheel rides as I am scared of heights. 

34.Put it down

Meaning : to make a note of something/ unable to stop reading

Example : The book was so interesting I couldn’t put it down.

35.Bored to death

Meaning : extremely bored/ uninteresting action/ irritated 

Example : I was bored to death watching this movie

36.Bit down

Meaning : Feeling sad/ depressed/ unhappy

Example : She looks a bit down after her exam result

37.Let down

Meaning : disappointment/ fails to support or help someone

Example : Come to the party tonight. I believe you won’t let me down.


Meaning : teasing/ joking/ mocking

Example : I was kidding at the time, don't take it too seriously.


Meaning : suspicious/ doubtful/ strange 

Example :  There is something fishy about him.

40.Stretching the truth

Meaning : telling something is not exacting true/ elaborating to make a story

Example : She was stretching the truth to frame a story.

Also check IELTS speaking band descriptors to gain knowledge about the scoring pattern. The linking words for IELTS speaking will be aiding you in forming your sentences cohessively. 

Check out more possible phrases for IELTS speaking part 1 and part 2 

1.High spirits

Meaning : excited/ enthusiastic/ cheerful

Example : All the students were in high spirits about the annual day celebration.

2.Under the weather

Meaning : feeling sick/ unwell/ a little sick

Example : I took medicine as I am feeling under the weather.

3.Fingers crossed

Meaning : hope that something will happen for sure 

Example : Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she will win the game. 


Meaning : a person perfectly matched to another in attitudes or beliefs

Example : The couple I met last evening were perfect soulmates.

5.Bent out of shape

Meaning : become angry/ upset/ annoyed

Example : I literally got bent out of shape due to their humiliating act.

6.A drop in the ocean

Meaning : A small amount of something that gives not much difference

Example : His contribution in the celebration part is just a drop in the ocean

7.White elephant

Meaning : more expensive with less profit

Example : Our homeowner thought remodelling his bungalow might become a white elephant.

8.Sounds great

Meaning : A phrase used when we feel that the idea or decision is good.

Example : The idea you told sounds great to me, too!


Meaning : confused/ couldn’t understand the exact thing

Example : I am still puzzled as to what’s going on here. 

10.Long face

Meaning : facial expression of disappointment or sadness

Example : She made a long face as our outing plan was cancelled.


Meaning : attacking someone/ robbing someone’s money

Example : We consider that mugging is on rising in our area

12.It’s on me

Meaning : agreeing to do something on their own

Example : Let’s plan for dinner today, it’s on me!

13.She could do it in her sleep

Meaning : An action that one does frequently/ very easy to do

Example : It's so familiar to me that I can even do it in my sleep. 

14.On the other hand

Meaning : A phrase used to mention the contrast statement

Example : He is a nice guy, but on the other hand, he has a selfish personality.

15.It’s up to you

Meaning : An important phrase is used when telling someone to make their own decision.

Example : I don’t care if you go with him, it’s up to you!

16.Looking back, I would say…

Meaning : To consider or think about past events or occurrences.

Example : Looking back, those days were filled with lots of fun and joy.

17.What rotten luck!

Meaning : bad luck/ unluckiness

Example : I lost this game too. What rotten luck!

18.My goodness!

Meaning : a little shock of good occurrence

Example : Maths teacher is absent. My goodness! I have not completed my homework.

19.Action speak louder than words

Meaning : It is best to execute it rather than just talking with words.

Example : I work hard to let my actions speak louder than words.

20.Probably not…

Meaning : A phrase used when you are not sure about what the action will be

Example : Someone  -  Are you planning your vacation? 
                   You          -   Probably not !

21.Odds are that…

Meaning : A phrase used when there is some chances to happen 

Example : Odds are they'll be serving some snacks at tomorrow's event.

22.I was so into it

Meaning : interested in some activity/ being very active in doing something

Example : I couldn’t notice what you said as I was so into reading this book. 

23.Look on the bright side

Meaning : A phrase used when one tries to be happy when bad things happen by considering some positives. 

Example : I continue to face many downs but still I look on the bright side.

24.It’s not the end of the world.

Meaning : A phrase that says the problem is not as big as it seems

Example : Failing exams doesn't have to be the end of the world.

25.not up to the mark

Meaning : not satisfactory/ not as good as what was expected 

Example : His performance in this project was not up to the mark. 

You must also pay attention to the idioms for IELTS speaking and must know the appropriate usage of the words for Band score 7. 

Pros and cons of using phrases in the IELTS speaking

Using phrases will definitely aid you to impress the examiner and score a higher band in the speaking test. However, there are certain do's and don'ts. To make it clear, we have provided the pros and cons of using phrases for IELTS speaking in the table below. Pros Cons
1. Using phrases not only makes you sound like a native speaker but also shows that you can handle real-life situations in different countries.  Phrases should be used, however, it is equally important not to use complex phrases. This can affect your fluency while speaking.
2. Using phrases naturally and using familiar words is likely to increase your final band score.  Using the same phrases over and over again creates a bad impression and shows that you are short on words.
3. Using proper idioms and phrases in the speaking test naturally and accurately will boost your band score. Stuffing too many phrases and idioms in inappropriate places is not appreciable.
4. Practice will aid you to use the phrases naturally. So, try to use phrases in your normal conversation with your close ones. Not using the proper phrases and expressions will definitely affect your final band score. 
5. Using useful phrases and expressions effectively in IELTS speaking indicates that you are proficient in English. Avoid two or more phrases in a simple response. Because it affects your coherence and fluency while speaking. 

To excel in the speaking test with a band 9, practice regularly with the following IELTS speaking test samples.

Useful phrases for IELTS speaking part 1

The below presented phrases are some of the common phrases for IELTS speaking that can be used in the IELTS speaking part 1 test. Phrases Meaning Examples
1. Knack Natural ability or a tendency to do something She has a knack for cooking many Italian foods
2. Lost track of time Unaware of spending or passing so much time I used to easily lose track of time whenever I saw my cousins.
3. Hopeless A phrase can be used when you completely have no idea to do particular activity I am hopeless at surfing
4. Gifted A phrase used to describe someone born with natural abilities at something  or when one feels special about that person. Her parents say that she is a God-gifted child.
5. Inside out  A phrase used when you know someone extremely well She knew that book inside out
6. Bear with me A phrase used when you ask someone to be patience with your activity Please bear with me until I find the right route.

Click here to know more about IELTS speaking part 1

Useful phrases for IELTS speaking part 2

Check out some important phrases for IELTS speaking provided below in the table format. You can use these common phrases in the speaking part 2 to improve your band score Phrases Meaning Examples
1. Chalk and cheese A phrase means that the two people are totally different from each other.  My elder sister and I are like chalk and cheese
2. Down-to-earth A phrase used when we refer to someone who never lets their importance and talent go to their head. She is the most down-to-earth person I have ever met
3. pulling someone’s leg It means the lie or trick used with someone to make believe something in a playful way Actually it was not true, II was just pulling her leg
4. Personally, I’d choose…  It can be used when preferring or deciding something. Also, you can use it while expressing your opinion. Personally, I’d choose this shop for buying traditional clothes. 
5. A person who stands out is… A phrase used to describe a person's excellence in certain activities. To be better than ordinary people/things. His performance always stands out among other workers.
6. Once in a while A phrase used when we mention any occurrence that does not happen very often  He visit his native place once in a while

Click here to know more about IELTS speaking part 2

Useful phrases for IELTS speaking part 3

Phrases for IELTS speaking are crucial parameters that make a huge difference in your score. Find the given phrases with precise meanings and examples to know what kind of phrases can be used and how to use them. Phrases Meaning Examples
1. Well, I’d say that…  This is a good phrase to use when you need time to think about what to say next. Well, I'd say that I love to visit that place because of its amazing architecture.
2. I strongly believe that... You can use this phrase when you express your opinion and when you know it is a valid point.  I strongly believe that the positives outweigh the negatives in this case. 
3. Yes, that’s obvious It can be used when something is easy to see and understand Yes, it is obvious that there are many differences. 
4. I completely agree that You can use it when you wholeheartedly agree with something I completely agree with your sayings on this topic
5. I am not quite sure about that…  It can be used when you are not aware of something/someone I am not quite sure about where the shop is exactly situated. 
6. To get to the main point A phrase can be used when you get diverted from your main topic/ to stop talking about unnecessary points He spoke for so long that I got irritated and interrupted him, telling him to get to the main point.

Click here to know more about IELTS speaking part 3


Try to extend your answer using different idioms and “phrases for IELTS speaking” naturally to achieve the band score you expect in the IELTS Speaking test. To help in this regard, we have included a lot of useful and important phrases here. Hope this article will be fruitful for your IELTS speaking preparation progress.


1.Will my accent affect my final band score?

Accent is not a big issue unless the examiner has some problems understanding your words. Make sure you speak clearly and audibly to the examiner.

2.How important is the use of phrases and idioms in a speaking test? 

Correct use of idioms and phrases can help candidates improve their band score in the IELTS Speaking test. Try to use them naturally as stuffing in inappropriate places can lead to lowering your score.

3.How long does the speaking test take?

The IELTS Speaking test consists of three sections and takes a total of 11 - 14 minutes. Part 1 is 4 - 5 minutes, Part 2 is 3 - 4 minutes and Part 3 is 4 - 5 minutes.

4.Is the IELTS speaking test formal?

The IELTS speaking test is conducted between a candidate and a certified examiner. It is an informal test where candidates can speak in everyday language. 

5.How to learn to use useful phrases in IELTS speaking? 

A quick internet search will provide you with important phrases and idioms for IELTS speaking. Filter out a few that you find useful to use naturally in your speech. Practice using them spontaneously. Apart from the internet, you can learn different phrases, idioms and vocabulary by reading newspapers and magazines, watching news, movies etc.

FREE Online IELTS Mock Test 2023

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