Top Tips for IELTS

Talking about habits in part 1 speaking

Talking about habits is one of the most common question types you’ll get in part 1 speaking. This lesson gives you some guidelines on how to deal with these questions. I t show you:

the tenses you can use

useful time phrases

ways to extend your answer

Identify the questions

These are questions that normally use the present tense and a question word mostly referring to time or place.

When do you watch television?

How often do you play sport?

How long do you read for?

Where do you like to walk?

You may also get questions about your past habits

How did you go to your primary school?

Tips for answering habit questions

There are two main tips here.

Listen to the tense in the question to get the grammar right
Think about how often you do something or perhaps why you do it to help you say more

Tenses for habits

The general guideline for answering questions in part 1 is that you should start off your answer by using the same tense as in the question. I give you some examples of how to do that below and then show you ways you can use more tenses to show off your grammatical range.

Present simple

For most habit questions you are going to use the present simple:

What do you do in the evenings?

I normally cook a meal and then watch tv for couple of hours before going to bed.

Present continuous + always or constantly

Note this  use of the the present continuous that you can also use to talk about habits when something is surprising or shocking in a negative way and you want to emphasise that it is always happening. You should note that it’s better to use as you extend your answer after you have already used the present simple:

When do you watch television?

I normally watch television in the evening when I get home from work till late at night. I’m constantly waking up at midnight to find I’ve fallen asleep in front of the tv.

Past simple and variations

If you are asked about habits in the past you have more options. One is to use the past simple

Where did you go to primary school?

I went to a primary school quite near our house – it was only 15 minutes walk away

Another option is to use used to 

What games did you play as a child?

I used to play all sorts of games. My favourite games were probably board games.

Another less common option is would – but be careful as you can’t use this with states only actions

How did you go to your primary school?

I would walk to school in the summer but my mother would drive me in winter if it was snowy.

You can also use the past continuous + always (was/were -ing) to emphasise past habits that were surprising and you want to be emphatic

How often did you ride a bicycle as a child?

I never did learn to ride a bicycle I’m afraid. I was always falling off.

Useful time phrases to help you say more

When you are asked about your habits you should think about how consistent that habit is. This normally gives you more to say. If you say you do something sometimes, then you can say what you do other times. If you say you do something always, then you can explain why.

absolutely always


quite often or fairly often

from time to time





 on a regular basis


every week/Monday


 most days a week



once in blue moon (idiom meaning very rarely)

Other phrases for habits

If you want to avoid the more normal time phrases you could try some of these:

My routine is

I don’t have fixed routine

On a typical day I

My habits vary

I like to keep things varied

Ideas for extending your answers when talking about habits


Think about how often you do something and explain what you do the rest of the time or explain why you do it so often

I don’t have a fixed routine really. Sometimes I go for a walk before I go to bed. It’s also quite usual for me just to sit and read a book for an hour or so.

Exceptions and examples

This is a similar idea. Even if you do have a regular habit then there may be times when you break that habit – this is an exception. You can also go on to give an example of that exception

I almost always go for a walk before I go to bed but there are exceptions I suppose.Lat week for instance I was feeling really sick and didn’t feel like going out so I just stayed in to watch tv.


Think why you have that habit

I generally play football in the afternoon because that is when I have more free time and it makes a nice break after studying in the morning.


Think about what happens as a result of that habit

I very seldom ride a bicycle nowadays so I’m not nearly as fit as I used to be when I did ride every day.


Compare your habits now with the past

I fairly often watch the news on tv – it’s about every other evening I guess. But this is quite a new development I would never watch the news on tv when I was younger.

Connected lessons

Extend your answers in part 1 speaking

You’ll find more detailed advice on how to say more in part 1 here:

How to extend your answers in part 1

Talking about likes and dislikes


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One Response to Talking about habits in part 1 speaking

  1. Anonymous October 4, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    I were asked habit questions im my previous speaking test.but I couldn’t answer properly.after reading this I came to know what mistakes I have done.I really find it useful.thanku so much

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