Shopping in English — Your Complete Guide

Nov 20, 2019 | 4 comments

At the end of the year we have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — the busiest shopping days of the year. And that means you need to get ready for shopping in English.

Whether you’re a shopaholic (review the lesson to find out what that means) or simply preparing for the holidays, I want you to know exactly what you’ll hear and what you should say when shopping in English.

Sometimes it’s the small, simple things that are most challenging in another language. Like ordering a coffee, saying thank you, or shopping for a new sweater. 

I want daily life in English to be easy for you. And that’s exactly why I’m sharing this lesson.

Consider this your complete guide to shopping in English. 

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Questions you might hear from a shopkeeper or sales assistant when you’re shopping 
  • How you should respond to those questions
  • What to say when you’re looking for something specific, what to try something on, how to ask for another size/color, or where to find a specific department
  • The differences between items on sale and clearance items
  • What to say if you buy something but need to return or exchange it

Watch the lesson below and, if you want, you can read along with the transcript.

The language you need for shopping in English.

Lesson by Annemarie

Shopping in English — Your Complete Guide (Full Transcript)

Hey, it’s Annemarie with Speak Confident English.

This is exactly where you want to be to get the confidence you want for daily life and work in English and that is especially true this week if you’re a shopaholic.

If you love shopping or even if you don’t, but you’re already preparing for the holidays which are coming up in December and January, then you know we have some pretty big shopping days coming up soon in the United States.

Black Friday, the busiest and biggest shopping day of the year always happens at the end of November. It comes just after our Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday has also spread to many other countries around the world. Then because of the popularity of online shopping, just a few days later, we have Cyber Monday where you can find huge discounts and deals when you’re shopping online.

Now I have to admit, I don’t love shopping. Being in a crowded shopping mall is overwhelming and usually stressful for me, so I tend to shop online or I love shopping at small local stores where I live.

Thankfully about 10 years ago in the United States, we also started Small Business Saturday . This is an opportunity to support and shop at local stores and boutiques where you live and I love supporting local businesses.

All of that means we have three massive shopping days coming up at the end of November and beginning of December. So if you’re planning to take advantage of some of those discounts and go shopping, I want you to know exactly what you’re going to hear when you’re shopping in English and what you should be prepared to say when you’re shopping in English.

But before we get started, if shopping isn’t for you, if you’re overwhelmed or you dislike the idea of all this consumption, I have one more day for you to think about. After Cyber Monday, we have Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a global effort to focus less on consumption and more on supporting organizations that help people and other important causes around the world. If you love the idea of giving money to an organization that helps others.

I’ll leave a link just below this video so you can learn everything you need about Giving Tuesday and I’ll also give you a popular alternative at the end of this lesson if you want to avoid all the Black Friday craziness.

All right. Before we dive in to everything you need to know about shopping in English, I have to pause here and give kudos to someone in our Confident English community.

Last week I got an email from Teresa who’s part of our Confident English community. She’s been watching videos on the Speak Confident English channel for about two months now and I want to share with you what she said in her email.

Teresa said, there are a couple of things that I love about your videos. One is the way that you speak just a bit slower than normal so that it’s easy for me to understand you clearly. It feels like my brain finally matches my mouth. I feel empowered to express my thoughts clearly.

The second reason is your video content. You cover the most practical, real and ready to use English speaking materials so that we non native speakers can jump right into any English speaking situation.

It feels like you are showing us a variety of maps to different locations so that there are no mysteries. All we have to do is study the different maps, start walking, running and climbing.

Teresa, that is one of the most amazing emails I’ve ever received. I’ve read it every day for the last week. It puts a smile on my face every single morning and it makes me feel so happy to know that you feel that way and there’s a couple of things I want to say.

Number one, I do have a lot of students who say, I seem to speak slower than normal. To be honest with you, the way that I speak in my videos here isn’t that different from how I speak in my everyday life. I truly believe that fluency is about clear communication. It’s not about how fast you talk, it’s about giving people the ability to understand you and making sure that you can express your ideas clearly.

This is exactly what I help students do in my Fluency School courses as well and I love that the way I communicate is helpful to you and it gives you the ability to feel empowered and to express yourself more easily.

The second thing is I love that you feel my lessons are practical and useful. Your description of my lessons being like a map and all you have to do is read the map, start walking, running, and climbing is the best analogy I’ve ever heard and I definitely want to continue providing those kinds of lessons to you in the future. So Teresa, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me and taking the time to send that email. I absolutely loved it.

All right, now let’s dive in to the complete guide to what you need to know about shopping in English.

Here’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this lesson today.

  • First, what are some of the questions you might hear from a shopkeeper or sales assistant when you’re shopping?
  • Then how do you respond to those questions.
  • Number three, what to say when you’re looking for something specific. When you can’t find what you’re looking for or maybe you want to try something on.
  • Number four, we’re going to talk about the difference between things that are on sale, things that are on clearance and other words that you’ll often see related to discounts.
  • And finally, the last thing that we’ll talk about is what do you need to say and what will you often hear if you need to return or exchange an item.

That’s definitely a lot to cover, but I promise it’ll get you ready for all those shopping days in English.

Let’s dive in with that first topic on what you are likely to hear when you enter a store and how you should respond in English.

When you walk into a store, you’ll often hear a sales assistant or shopkeeper say, hi, how are you doing today?

Yes, they are asking how are you doing? But honestly, they don’t really want to know. Hi, how are you doing? It’s really just a polite greeting in English. It’s a long way to say hello.

When you hear that you can respond simply with hello, hi, fine thanks or you could even respond by saying the same exact words back, hi, how are you doing? Again, you’re not really asking them how are you doing. It’s just part of that polite greeting.

The second thing you might hear is, can I help you with anything today or are you looking for anything specific? And here are several ways you can respond to that whether you want help or not. Number one, you can say, no thank you. I’m just looking or I’m just browsing.

Now, if you do want some help looking for something specific, here are a few examples. Yes, I’m looking for your clearance items. We’ll talk more about clearance items in a little bit and how they might be a little different from things that are on sale.

You could also say something like, yes, could you tell me where the home goods department is? Home goods would include things like bedding, blankets, lamps, small kitchen, appliances, rugs, and so on. Another option, yes, I’m looking for the men’s department or yes, I’m looking for the men’s section.

Let’s talk a moment about the difference between department and section. A department store is a very large store that sells many different items. For example, children’s clothing, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, shoes, luggage, purses, scarves, winter items, kitchen items, home goods and so on. And all of those different sections are called departments.

So if you’re in a very large store, you might look for the men’s department. But if you’re in a smaller store that still sells a variety of items like a Walmart or a Target, those different areas are called sections. So when someone asks if they can help you, you might say, yes, I’m looking for the toy section.

Now what if you’re shopping and you find the perfect sweater or pair of jeans, but you want them in a different size or color?

First, of course, you want to find someone who works at the store and then here are a variety of questions you can ask to get what you’re for. Number one, excuse me, do you have this sweater and a size six or number two, excuse me, do you have this skirt and a medium?

Excuse me, do you have this dress available in blue? Excuse me, I saw this shirt online in green. Do you have that color available in the store? And number five, excuse me, do you have this computer available but with a larger amount of memory?

What do you notice about all of those examples? Yes, I started with, excuse me, that is the perfect, polite way to get someone’s attention and to ask that question to get some help.

Similar to getting help for a different size or a different color, you might find the perfect sweater and you want to try it on, but you’re not sure where to do that.

So in that situation you could ask, excuse me, could you tell me where the fitting rooms are?

Now, depending on what kind of store you’re in, you might have a sales assistant check on you while you’re in the fitting room first. When you go in, they might ask you how many items do you have?

They simply want to know how many things you’re taking with you into the fitting room. So if you have a pair of jeans and three shirts, you have four items.

Then when they show you your fitting room, they might say something like, let me know if you need any help or different sizes. I’ll check on you in a few minutes.

After a few minutes you might get a little knock at your door and they’ll ask you how is everything going or how’s everything working out? Do you need any different sizes? And in that moment, again, you can either say no thank you, everything’s fine. Or you could say, yes, could I get this pair of pants in a different size and then give them the specific size that you want.

And finally, when you leave the fitting room, you’ll probably hear someone say, how did everything fit? Or how did everything work out?

If you’re happy with everything and you plan to purchase the things you tried on, you can simply say, great, thank you. If you didn’t like anything that you tried on and you don’t plan to purchase anything, you could say they didn’t work out unfortunately, but thank you. But if it’s a mix, if you’re going to keep one item and not the other, you can say I’m going to keep the dress but not the jeans, thanks.

All right. How are you doing?

We’ve covered quite a few things on shopping in English so far, but we have two more to discuss.

Number one, what’s the difference between sale and clearance items and what are some other words that you might see related to discounts and number two, what to do when you need to exchange or return something. So let’s dive in to sales and clearance items.

A sale is when things are available for a discount and usually they’re very popular items.

For example, if you go shopping on Black Friday or if you’re waiting for a special deal on Cyber Monday, they’re probably items that you and a lot of other people want.

A clearance is a little different. When an item is on clearance, it is at the lowest price possible. It’s the biggest discount you’ll find. And this is usually for items that are outdated, they’re unpopular or it’s the end of this season.

For example, usually in February or March in the United States, we transition from winter to spring, so all those winter clothes go on clearance. It’s the end of the season and stores want to reduce the inventory, the number of items they have for winter clothes so that they have room for all the new spring clothing.

Now one important thing to know about clearance items, you need to be careful about buying those because sometimes when you buy a clearance item, you’ll see the words final sale and what that means is that if you buy it, you cannot return it or exchange it, so it’s really important to try those things on or make sure it’s something you really want to.

Other words that you see related to discounts, are rebate and special offer.

A rebate is when you initially pay the full price, but then they give you money back based on a special condition. And a special offer is when there might be a discount available, but only under specific conditions. For example, maybe you have to buy two items in order to get the discount.

All right, let’s get started with the final part of this lesson on shopping in English, which is what to say when you need to exchange or return an item.

 Let’s say that you go on a little shopping spree on Black Friday, you buy way too many things and when you get home you realize I don’t need all of this, or maybe you bought a few things that just aren’t the right fit. In that case, you have two options.

One, you can return the item to the store, which means you take it back to the store and you get your money back.

Or number two, if you just want a different size or different color, you can take the item back to the store to exchange it for another item.

 In both cases, there are a few things you definitely need. Number one, you need to make sure you know how long you have to return or exchange an item. Usually you have 30 or 60 days to return or exchange an item and you’ll always find that information on the receipt that you get. The receipt is that piece of paper that lists what you paid and it’ll also give you the store’s exchange and return policy.

Also, you usually need to make sure that the original tags or price stickers are on the item. And finally you’ll need to take that receipt with you as proof that you purchased that item.

When you go back to exchange or return the item, here’s exactly what you can say, I’d like to return this item. Or you can be specific and say, I’d like to return this shirt. Or maybe you just want to exchange. And in that case you can say, I want to exchange this sweater for another size.

Most of the time when you do this, there are no questions asked. It’s your right to return an item or exchange it. But you might hear someone ask, was there anything wrong with this item? They’re asking that question because they want to make sure that it’s not broken and that it’s okay for them to resell it.

So in response, you could say, no, it just wasn’t the right size, or no, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Or no, I decided it’s not what I need.

Now, I mentioned earlier that some people don’t like to shop on Black Friday. I’m definitely one of them.

I avoid all those crowded shopping malls, the crazy traffic and there are a couple of things you can do instead. I will definitely be hiding at home, probably reading a book and just enjoying a relaxed atmosphere.

And there’s another alternative that is growing in popularity. It’s the “opt outside” alternative. Now this idea was actually started by a large store in the United States that sells outdoor goods, so things that we use for camping, hiking or anything we do outside, but the idea of it is great. Instead of shopping and being inside, maybe you could choose to go outside and do something healthy. Go roller skating, go jogging, go on a hike, go to a park, do something that allows you to enjoy being outdoors.

Now to finish today, I absolutely want to hear from you and I would love for you to practice some of the language that you got in this lesson.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to practice and get more comfortable with some of the questions and sentences you might need when you’re shopping in English. So here are two questions for you.

  1. I want to know what you plan to do on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday , Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday. Are you someone who loves shopping and you’re so excited for all those big discounts and you get a lot of energy from being at those shopping malls with everyone else? Are you waiting for some special deals on Cyber Monday or are you hoping to support a local business on Small Business Saturday ? I would love to hear what your plans are.
  2. What is your favorite vocabulary or new sentence from this lesson that you’re excited to try using the next time you go shopping in English?

As always, you can share with me in the comments just below. And if you found this lesson useful, I would love to know.

You can definitely give this video a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to this channel so you never miss a lesson. You can also share on Facebook with friends and family or email it to a friend who loves to shop and definitely could use some help with shopping in English.

Thank you so much for joining me. Have a fantastic week and I’ll see you next time for your Confident English lesson.

~ Annemarie

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