ielts-yasi.englishlab.net                                                                                                       

(Updated Jun. 19, 2007) 

Part 2 Topics Grouped by Verb Form

On this page, I have grouped all the known possible Part 2 topics by verb form.

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Groups of Part 2 Topics - grouped by verb form

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Summary of Verb Forms

1. Past tense

2. Simple Present tense

3. Subjunctive (虚拟语气), using “I’d” (= I would). 

4. Using “I’d like to” + verb (Similar to “I want to” + verb)  

5. Using Present Perfect Tense (现在完成时)  

6. Using 'Used to +Verb'

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1. Past tense

The following topics should be answered in the past tense. Here, the topics are listed by using the first line of the task card, to help you see what verb tense it is.

Topic #01.   

Describe an important letter you received.  

 

Topic #02.   

Describe an important decision you made.  

 

Topic #06. 

Describe a film that you recently saw.

 

Topic #09. 

Describe an unhappy shopping experience that you had

 

Topic #10.   

Describe an exhibition you visited

 

Topic #11.   

Describe a work of art that you saw

 

Topic #12.

Describe your childhood room. [Childhood is in your past. Even if you still live in the same room, describe how it was when you were a child.]

 

Topic #14.    

Describe a book you enjoyed reading.

 

Topic #17.    

Describe a practical skill that you have. (Past tense used for part of your talk, e.g., say who taught you this skill, how long you studied it.)

 

Topic #18. 

Describe an evening class (or a class or course in school or university) that you studied (or are studying now).

Topic #19.    

Describe an interesting or unusual thing you did recently.

 

Topic #21.    

Describe an unforgettable (or, enjoyable) activity that you took part in as part of your English study.

 

Topic #23.    

Describe a local event you attended in your community or hometown.

 

Topic #24.    

Describe (a place in a) city you visited

 

Topic #28.    

Describe a time when you helped someone.

 

Topic #29.    

A foreign culture

[If the wording is: “Describe something you learned from a foreign culture.”]

 

Topic #30.    

Describe a friend you had when you were a child.

 
Topic #31.    

Describe a character from a story you read or heard in your childhood.

 
Topic #36.    

Describe an interesting subject that you studied in school or university. 

 

Topic #41.    

A radio program [If the wording is: “Describe a radio program that you found interesting.”]

 

Topic #44.    

Describe a person you visited recently.  

 

Topic #45.   

The house you lived in as a child. [If you still live there, say that and change the tense to present tense or present perfect continuous.]

 

Topic #46.    

Describe some interesting news (消息) that you received recently. Or, Describe a recent news story (新闻) that you read about or heard about. *

 

Topic #47.    

Describe a positive change (that happened) in your life. 

 

Topic #48.    

Describe something you wanted and saved money to buy.

 

Topic #49.    

Describe a person you met who spoke a different language.

 

Topic #54.    

Describe a present (a gift) you received when you were a child.

 

Topic #56.    

Describe a foreign language skill you learned.

 

Topic #59.    

Describe some advice you received (from a friend or family member).

 

Topic #63.    

Describe an occasion when you were late.  

 

Topic #64.

Describe a sports event that you enjoyed watching.

 

Topic #65.

Describe an unforgettable advertisement (that you saw or heard).

 

Topic #66

Describe a hotel you visited (or stayed at) or have seen.

 

Topic #67

Describe an item of clothing that you often wear. (Or: Describe an item of clothing that you recently bought.)

 

Topic #68.    

Describe how you spent last weekend.

 

Topic #69.    

Describe an open-air market (or street market) that you enjoyed visiting.

 

Topic #72.    

Describe a book that you learned something from.

 

Topic #73.    

Describe a (popular) public event that you attended.

 

Topic #74.    

Describe a happy memory from your childhood. (Mixture of present & past tense.)

 

Topic #75.   

Describe a stage of your life that you enjoyed.

   

Topic #76.   

Describe something you made by hand (either alone or with others)

 

Topic #80.   

Describe a memorable meal or dinner you had (= ate).

 

Topic #82.   

Describe a new or exciting thing that you did recently.

 

Topic #83.   

Describe an interesting old person who you spoke to recently.

 

Topic #85.   

Describe a gift that you recently gave to another person.

 

Topic #88.   

Describe a book you enjoyed reading when you were a child.

 

Topic #89.   

Describe a lesson, class or training session that you enjoyed.

 

Topic #90.   

Describe a trip ( = a journey) that you made (for example, by car, train or plane).

 

Topic #91.  

Describe a person you enjoyed talking with recently. (Possible Version B)

 

Topic #92.   

Describe a decision you made that changed your life for the better.

 

Topic #93.   

Describe a time when you lost something.

 

 

Topic #99.   

Describe a film that you enjoyed watching. (Possible Version A)

 

Topic #100. 

Describe a game you enjoyed playing when you were a child. (Not a sport.)

 

Topic #103. 

Describe a person who took care of you when you were a child.

 

Topic #105. 

Describe an important letter that you received.

 

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2. Simple Present tense

 

Topic #03.   

Describe an adventurous person who you know. (Possibly: "or who you have heard about.")

 

Topic #04.  

Describe a time when you are very busy.

Note: It is possible that this question is 'Describe a time when you were very busy'. If it is like this, you choose a particular time in the past and use the past tense in your answer.

 

Topic #08.   

Describe a friend. (= Describe a person who is a friend of yours.) [Some items on the task card require you to use the present tense.] 


Topic #11.   

Describe a painting or work of art that you saw.  [If you see this work of art frequently, say so and use the present tense.]


Topic #13.    

Describe an important building (that is) in your hometown.

 

Topic #16.    

Describe an item of furniture that you use often.

 

Topic #17.    

Describe a practical skill that you have (such as driving a car, speaking a foreign language, cooking etc). [Some items require present tense.]

 

Topic #20.     

Describe a place where you often walk.

 

Topic #25.   

Describe your favourite season or time of the year. (= Describe what your favourite season or time of the year is.)

 

Topic #26.   

Describe a place you often visit in your leisure time.

 

Topic #27.   

Describe one of your neighbours. (= Describe someone who is your neighbour now.) [Some parts require present tense.]

 

Topic #29.   

Describe a foreign culture that you are interested in. [The topic might be: Describe something you learned from a foreign culture. In this case, use the past tense.]

 

Topic #31.   

Describe a character from a story you read or heard in your childhood. [Normally, you should use the past tense for this answer. But you could use the 'dramatic present tense' at times to describe what the character does and says in the story.]

 

Topic #32.  

Describe a trip you plan to take (in the near future). 

[Use: 'I plan to', 'I intend to', I hope to' 'I want to'  and 'I'm going to' in this answer.  Don't use, 'I wish to' - it sounds overly formal and unnatural here. Only use 'I will' when you are very certain that you will do it. Saying 'will' is similar to making a promise.] 

 

Topic #33.  

Describe a photograph that you like. [Of course, you will need to use the past tense to talk about when the photograph was taken.]

 

Topic #34.  

Describe the oldest person that you know.

 

Topic #35.  

Describe a building (that is) in your school or university.

 

Topic #38.  

Describe a place where you often go shopping.

 

Topic #39.  

Describe a wild animal (that is) from your country.

 

Topic #40.  

Describe a child you know.

 

Topic #41.  

Describe a radio program that you find interesting. [ If the word is 'found', use past tense and speak about one particular time heard this program or one particular episode. If the word is 'find', it means describe a radio program that you habitually listen to (even if only once a year).]

 

Topic #42.  

Describe what you usually do in your leisure time.

 

Topic #45.  

Describe the house that you lived in when you were a child. [Present tense is possible if you still live there and nothing has changed since you were a child.]

 

Topic #50.  

Describe the work that you do.

 

Topic #51.  

Describe a useful piece of (electrical) equipment (such as a mobile phone or computer) that you use at home or at work.

 

Topic #52. 

Describe a library that you often go to.

 

Topic #53.  

Describe a domesticated animal. (= Describe an animal that is used by people or lives with people) This topic is possibly mistakenly reported as a Part 2 topic.

 

Topic #55.  

Describe two people who you know from the same family.

 

Topic #57.  

Describe an outdoor activity that you like doing.

 

Topic #60. 

Describe a leader who you admire (for example, in sport, business or politics).

 

Topic #61. 

Describe a means of transport that you like to use. (Or, 'that you often use')

 

Topic #67

Describe an item of clothing that you often wear. (Or: Describe an item of clothing that you recently bought.)

 

Topic #70.    

Describe a person who you live with (or who you once lived with).

 

Topic #74.    

Describe a happy memory from your childhood. (Mixture of present & past tense.)

 

Topic #77.    

Describe someone (you know) who does something very well.

 

Topic #78.    

Describe what you usually do (or used to do) during your school holidays.

 

Topic #79.   

Describe a small shop or a small family business near your home that you like to go to.

 

Topic #81.   

Describe a piece of (= a work of) art or music that you like.

 

Topic #84.   

Describe a place (near where you live) where people go to swim.

 

Topic #87.   

Describe a television program that you like.

  

Topic #91.   

Describe a person you enjoy talking with. (Possible Version A)

  

Topic #94.   

Describe something you do that relaxes you.  

 

Topic #95.   

Describe your favourite weather.

 

Topic #97.   

Describe the work ( = the job) that you plan to do in the future.

 

Topic #99.   

Describe the type of film that you most enjoy watching. (Possible Version B)

  

Topic #101. 

Describe a newspaper or magazine you like to read.

  

Topic #104. 

Describe a person you know who likes to help others.

 

Topic #106. 

Describe a good friend. (Possible Version A)

  

Topic #106. 

Describe your best friend. (Possible Version B)

 

Topic #108. 

Describe an important traditional event (such as a national holiday or festival) in your country. 

 

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3. Subjunctive (虚拟语气), using “I’d” (= I would).    

I am only including here those topics where the use of 'would' is hypothetical (假设的). "Hypothetical" means "imaginary". (The word 'would' can be used in several situations, for example, to talk about past habits, with the same meaning as 'used to'. However, those examples of usage are not included here, in this explanation.) 

 

'Will' is the real future; 'would' is hypothetical = unreal. If you answer, 'I will buy a new house for my parents' as part of your answer to topic #5, a listener might ask you, 'When will you buy it?' The listener might ask this question because 'will' is used when we talk about the real future. Of course, your reply would be, 'Of course, I'm not really going to buy a new house for my parents. I'll only do that if I (suddenly) get a lot of money!' [Sentence A]

By saying Sentence A, you are showing that you understand that it is all a question of 'if I get the money' and that you don’t have a real plan to buy a house - you are just imagining. However, the grammar of Sentence A is not completely correct. A better answer is: 'I'm not really going to buy a new house for my parents. I would only do that if I got a lot of money.' By changing ‘will’ to ‘would’ and ‘get’ to ‘got’, you are showing that you think it is unlikely to happen. In other words, you should say something like this in answer to #5: If I got a lot of money, for example, ten million yuan, I'd certainly buy a new house for my parents. I'd also buy a car and ...” 

There are two types of ‘if’: the ‘real if’ and the ‘unreal if’ (hypothetical,假设的). ‘Real’ means that it is a real possibility and you are making a prediction; ‘unreal’ means that it is either impossible or unlikely.

Real if’ sentences have this pattern: “If + present tense + will …”

Unreal if’ sentences have this pattern: “If + past tense + would ...”

(Strictly speaking, this is the ‘Present Unreal If’. But for the purposes of this explanation, I am keeping it simple.)

Below are some examples.

Real if’: “If it rains tomorrow, I’ll take the bus to work. If it’s sunny, I’ll ride my bicycle.”

Unreal if’: “If I found a wallet on the street, I would give it to the police.” It is not impossible to find a wallet on the street but it is unlikely. Therefore, it is not 'real'. On the other hand, “If I find a wallet on the street (today), I’ll give it to the police,” can be used but it means that I think it is quite possible that I will find a wallet on the street today.

 

 

Here's another example: "What would you do if the building you are in now was on fire?" Answer: "I'd run out of the building!" No English speaker would say, "I'd like to run out of the building." (See below for more on 'I'd like to'.)

In summary: For Topic #5, do NOT say, a) "I will buy a house" or b) "I'd like to buy a house" or c) "I want to buy a house." Instead, the correct way to speak is to say, "I'd (I would) buy a house.

        

Topic #05.  

Describe what you would do if you (suddenly) received a very large amount of money.

 

Topic #96.   

Describe the ideal home that you would like to live in.  (‘Ideal things’ & ‘perfect things’ require ‘would’ because they are imaginary.)

 

Topic #102. 

Describe the perfect park for your hometown. (‘Ideal things’ & ‘perfect things’ require ‘would’ because they are imaginary.)

 

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4. Using “I’d like to” + verb  (Similar to “I want to” + verb) 

The words, 'I'd like to' has subjunctive form but it is not fully or not always hypothetical in meaning. Those topics listed under 4a, (called "The Real I'd like to") are not hypothetical (假设的) or are hypothetical only sometimes. Those topics listed under 4b (called "The Unreal I'd like to") are usually hypothetical.

4b) Real "I'd like to": When "I'd like to +Verb" means "I want to + verb"

Sometimes 'I'd like to' is a polite way to say 'I want to'. 'I'd like to' softens the tone of  'I want to' because 'I want to' can seem demanding.

The important point to understand is this: When you say you 'want' something you are talking about a REAL desire for the future. In other words, when "I'd like to" means "I want to", the grammar is not subjunctive (虚拟语气) because the subjunctive is used to talk about unreal situations.

Unlike Chinese and many other languages, 'want' is not used in English as a form of future tense.

For the following topics, most people interpret 'I'd like to' as meaning 'I want to':

 

Topic #22.   

Describe a job you would like to have in the future. 

 

Topic #32. (Version A)   

Describe a place that you would like to travel to.

 

Topic #43.  

Describe something that you would like to succeed in doing in the near future.

 

Topic #107.   

Describe something you would like to learn.

 

For these topics, most people interpret "I'd like to" as meaning "I want to" because most people doing the IELTS test do, in fact, have a job goal, a country which they are planning to go to, several goals to achieve in the near future and most people doing the IELTS test want to learn something.

If you do in fact have a very strong desire or a plan to do something, you should at times change from saying 'I'd like to' to 'I want to' in order to emphasize that your desire is strong.  In other words, the meaning of 'I want to' is stronger and shows a stronger determination than simply 'I'd like to'. 'I'd like to' might, at times, give the impression that your desire is a little weak because you are trying to speak 'politely' - people with a very strong desire don't concern themselves with speaking 'politely' -  they express the strength of their determination by speaking strongly and directly. 

You can use "I'm going to" when you mean an intention to do something that is very likely to actually happen. 

Except for using the word 'would' in "I'd like to .." (meaning "I want to ..."), don't use the word 'would' to describe your desires for the future if your desires are real desires.

You should also be very careful about using 'will' in your talk because 'will' is referring to a near-certain future event - nobody can be 100% sure of the future. For example, "I will get my Master's degree after one year in England" is a little unsuitable because how can you be 100% sure that you won't have an accident or get sick or fail your course? These possibilities are not very likely but they are not impossible - 'will' expresses a great degree of confidence in the future, a great degree of certainty. Only use 'I will' when you are very certain that you will do it and you can give a specific time in the future when you will do it. Saying 'will' is similar to making a promise. For example: "I will call you at 6 o'clock" or, "I will give you the money I owe you tomorrow".

The only time when 'will' is suitable in your answer to the topics listed below is when you want to express that you are extremely determined and that NOTHING will stop you from achieving your goal. For example, "No matter how hard the course is, I WILL pass it with top grades! I know it!" This is a form of self-hypnosis in order to maximize the strength of your determination. 

Instead of using 'will', it would be more suitable to use, 'I've decided to', 'I plan to', 'I intend to', 'I'm determined to' and, when you want to express that that are not 100% confident of success, you can say, 'I hope to'. (Don't use, 'I wish to'. That is overly formal.) 

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4b) Unreal "I'd like to": When "I'd like to +Verb" means "I'm just imagining"

Sometimes people say "I'd like to" when they are talking about an imaginary desire, a fantasy, i.e., NOT A REAL DESIRE FOR THE FUTURE. In this case, "I'd like to" means "It would be nice to + verb but I don't think it is likely to happen." For example: "I'd like to be able to fly like a bird." Obviously, this is 100% imaginary. Other examples are not impossible but are unlikely to happen. For example:  "I'd like to be the richest man in China" or "I'd like to be the leader of China" or "I'd like to live in Paris" or "I'd like to have a Mercedes Benz car".  The last two are far from impossible but if you are NOT ACTIVELY PLANNING to reach those goals, then it is imaginary.

For this meaning of "I'd like to", do not use "I will" in your talk because "I will" is talking about a near-certain real event in the future. Instead, use 'would'. For example, "If I were the richest man in China, many women would be in love with me." In other words, most of the things you say should use the grammar of 3. Subjunctive (虚拟语气), using “I’d” (= I would), above.

It is possible to treat the 4 topics (#22, #32, #43 & #107) in 4a (Real "I'd like to") as unreal desires. That is, you can talk about fantasies. For example the following are (usually) fantasies: 

- A job you would like to have in the future - I'd like to be the Premier of China

- A place that you would like to travel to - I'd like to travel to the edge of the universe 

- Something that you would like to succeed in doing in the near future - I'd like to succeed in becoming the richest man in China

- Something you would like to learn - I'd like to learn the secret of living forever

If you choose to treat any of topics #22, #32, #43 & #107 in this way it is perfectly acceptable to examiners, AS LONG AS YOU USE THE CORRECT GRAMMAR. The grammar must be as for 3. Subjunctive (虚拟语气).

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Examples of Real and Unreal "I'd like"

In the examples below, pay attention to the verb forms that are used. 

'Real' situations use 'If + present tense + will' and 'After + present tense + will'. 

'Unreal' situations use 'If + past form of verb (but not past meaning) + would'.

Examples

Question: Tell me something you would like to learn.

Answer 1: Example of Real "I'd like"

I'd like to learn to drive. In fact, I intend to learn driving this year. After I get my driver's license, I'll be able to drive my son to school. And if I get my license soon, I'll be able to hire a car for my vacation.

Answer 2: Example of Unreal "I'd like" - (Fantasy; dreams; unlikely or impossible situations; ideal situations; perfect situations) 

I'd really love to learn to speak 5 languages fluently over the next three years. If I could do that, I'd be able to get a good job at the United Nations in New York. No. On second thoughts, if I knew the secret of how to learn 5 languages so quickly, I would make more money if I taught my skills to others!

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The following topics are possibly either 4a or 4b - you choose. Most people would choose 4b (Unreal "I'd like to")

 

Topic #07.  

Describe a vehicle you would like to own.  

 

Topic #15.  

Describe a meal you would like to invite your friends to eat with you.

 

Topic #37.  

Describe a small business that you would like to own.

 

Topic #91.   

Describe a person you would like to talk with. (Possible Version C)

 

Topic #96.   

Describe the ideal home that you would like to live in.

 

Topic #98.   

Describe a small business that you would like to open. (2)

 

You also should at times use other suitable verbs (= verbs that fit your meaning), besides the verb 'like'. This will add variety to your answer. For example, 'It would be nice to' and 'I would enjoy" are expressing wishful thinking (a fantasies); and 'I'd love to' is an especially strong, emphatic way of expressing a fantasy or saying what you would very much like to do, if you had the opportunity or if you could. 

 

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5. Using Present Perfect Tense (现在完成时)  

       Not many Part 2 topics are written in the Present Perfect tense but such questions are possible. The Past tense is used much more often. 

 

Topic #71.   

Describe an interesting modern building that you have visited or seen

(You don't need to say when you saw or visited the building.)

 

Topic #86.   

Describe a famous person who has helped your country. 

(If you only know the good things he/she has done but don't know when these things were done, you can use the present perfect tense.)

 

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6. Using 'Used to +Verb' 

       Not many Part 2 topics are written using 'used to + verb' but such questions are possible. This refers to actions that were performed habitually in the past but not now. 

      You can also use 'would' but this is a different usage to the hypothetical 'would'. For example: "When I was a student, I used to run five kilometers every day before breakfast." = "When I was a student, I would run five kilometers every day before breakfast." Using 'would' is a little more formal than using 'used to'. (In most cases, the less formal is the more suitable.)

 

Topic #78.    

Describe what you usually do (or used to do) during your school holidays.

 

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