Complaining and Apologizing ESL Activities, Role-Plays, Games and Worksheets

Complaining and Apologizing Language

ESL Complaining and Apologizing Worksheet - Reading Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 10 minutes

This free complaining and apologizing phrases worksheet provides students with some useful expressions to use when making and dealing with complaints. The sheet covers language and phrases for making a complaint, apologizing, giving reasons, calming someone down, asking for specifics, taking action, checking back and making promises.
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Complaint Cards

ESL Complaining and Apologizing Activity - Listening and Speaking - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 30 minutes

In this free making complaints speaking activity, students practice making complaints, apologies and requests. Each card contains a picture, a complaint and a request. In pairs, students look at each of their cards and write on the other side who they are complaining to and where they are. Students then take it in turns to hold up a card so the picture is facing them and the side they have written on is facing their partner. The student then makes a complaint. Their partner apologizes appropriately and the other student makes a request. When the students have finished, they exchange cards and repeat the process. Finally, pairs of students role-play the complaints to the class.
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How to Complain and Apologize

ESL Complaining and Apologizing Worksheet - Reading and Writing Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 20 minutes

In this complaints worksheet, students identify and practice expressions for making complaints and saying sorry. Students begin by reading two phrases and identifying which is used to make a complaint and which is used for an apology. Next, in pairs, students read two complaint dialogues. The students then write where they think each complaint occurred. After that, students read the conversations again and sort the expressions used for complaining and apologizing into two columns. In the last exercise, students use the expressions to complete complaints. Then, in pairs, the students take it in turns to read a complaint to their partner and the other student apologizes.
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Interactive Version - In this complaining and apologizing interactive worksheet, students work through a range of exercises to practice phrases for making complaints and saying sorry.

 

I can't get no satisfaction!

ESL Complaints Role-Play - Reading, Listening and Speaking Activity - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 25 minutes

In this making complaints role-play, students make and deal with complaints in various situations and score how satisfied they are with each outcome. In pairs, students take it in turns to role-play each situation with one person making the complaint and the other dealing with the complaint and deciding how to react. The person dealing with the complaint circles the 1 to 5 scale on their card, depending on how helpful they want to be, one being not at all helpful and five being very helpful. When the role-play has finished, the student making the complaint decides how satisfied they are about the outcome and circles the appropriate number at the bottom of their card. The two students then compare their numbers to see if they match or not. When the students have finished all the role-plays, they report back what happened in each situation and how satisfied the person complaining felt and why.
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Stop Complaining!

ESL Making Complaints and Apologies Lesson - Pre-intermediate (A2) - 50 minutes

In this complaining and apologizing lesson, students learn how to make common complaints, requests and apologies. First, students look at some common complaints made by parents and teenagers. The students then answer questions based on the topic and discuss their answers in pairs. Next, the students read about reasons for complaints. The students then write down four complaints and say them to their partner. Their partner then guesses if the complaints object to a negative behaviour, attitude, habit or condition. After that, students learn how to make a request following a complaint and how to use phrasal verbs to request action. The students then move on to match phrasal verbs with expressions. Afterwards, the students use the phrasal verbs to make requests that follow a complaint. Finally, the students learn how to make apologies using different structures. The students then work with a partner and write mini-dialogues where they make complaints, requests and apologies using picture prompts.
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Interactive Version - This interactive complaints and apologies lesson contains a variety of exercises to help students learn how to complain, make requests and apologize.

 

Always and Never

ESL Complaints Role-Play - Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 35 minutes

Here is a making complaints role-play activity to help students practice complaining with always and never. In pairs, students take it in turns to pick up a card that shows the subject of a complaint and two verbs. Using a dialogue from the board, the student with the card complains about something the subject is always doing and something the subject never does, e.g. 'She’s always moving things so I can’t find them and she never cleans up after herself'. The other student makes a suggestion about the complaint. Afterwards, the students swap roles. Afterwards, have the pairs role-play their dialogues in front of the class.
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Back to the Shop

ESL Shop Complaints Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 35 minutes

In this free shop complaints activity, students play a game where they role-play complaints in a shop and their classmates try to guess where they are and what product they are complaining about. Explain that the worksheets show products they brought yesterday, but there is a problem with each item and they have to return each product to the shop and make a complaint. The students then role-play shop complaints about the products on their worksheet, but they cannot say where they are or what product they are complaining about. One pair goes first. They choose an item at random from their worksheet and role-play their first complaint. One student plays the role of the customer and the other plays the role of the shop assistant. The customer makes a complaint to the shop assistant about the item they brought yesterday and tries to get an exchange or refund. The customer does this without saying what the item is or where he/she bought it, e.g. 'I’d like to make a complaint about a product I bought yesterday'. The other pair listens to the role-play and looks at a set of shop pictures. Their task is to decide which shop they are in and what product the complaint is about. When the role-play is over, the other pair gives their answers and the first pair tells them whether they are right or wrong. Pairs score one point for choosing the correct shop and two points if they guess the correct product. The pairs then swap roles. The pair with the highest score at the end of the game is the winner.
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Business Complaints

Business English Complaints Lesson - Intermediate (B1) - 60 minutes

Here is a business English complaints lesson to help students master how to deal with complaints at their company. Students start by answering questions about their own experiences of making and handling complaints. After that, students read about three steps for dealing with complaints. Next, students put a telephone complaint in the correct order. The students then write the question they think is being answered in each part of the conversation. After that, the students write down the language the speaker uses in the complaint to make polite requests. Afterwards, students match sentence halves together that use diplomatic language for dealing with complaints. The students then match each sentence with its function. In small groups, the students then discuss a set of questions that relate to complaints they receive at their company and write down their answers. Finally, students work in pairs and choose a common complaint that they receive from customers. Working together, the students write a dialogue for the complaint with one student acting as the customer and the other acting as a company representative. The students then practice the dialogue with their partner and present it to the class.
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Customer Complaints

ESL Making Complaints Activity - Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (B1) - 25 minutes

In this two-part complaining and apologizing role-play, students get to play both the role of the person complaining and the role of the person who deals with the complaint. The first role-play is based on buying a mobile phone. The students highlight the key ideas from the phone shop's advertisement. In pairs, the students then role-play a complaint about the misleading ad. When they have finished, the students swap roles and repeat the same procedure for a second complaint based on a flight. When students have completed both complaints, they present their role-plays to the class.
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Dealing with Complaints

ESL Complaints Game - Listening and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (B1) - 30 minutes

In this fast-paced making complaints game, students role-play complaints using expressions on the cards in order to score points. First, students brainstorm ten situations in which people make complaints. In pairs, students then role-play complaints for the situations on the board. The aim is to use expressions on cards as part of their role-play. In each role-play, students take it in turns to be the person complaining and the person dealing with the complaint. The students start with the first scenario on the board and spend a short time thinking about what they are going to say. Each student then takes one card. The students begin the role-play and as quickly as they can, they use the expression on the card in a complete sentence. When they have done this, and while continuing the role-play, they take another card and repeat the process. The aim is to use as many of the expressions as they can during the role-play. Students score one point for each correctly used expression. The students then shuffle the cards, swap roles, and move on to the second role-play situation. The student with the most points at the end of the activity wins.
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I'm Sorry

ESL Apologizing Game - Matching and Speaking Activity - Intermediate (A2-B1) - 25 minutes

In this engaging apologizing activity, students play a game where they practice expressions with 'sorry'. The students' task is to collect matching pairs of cards that make a statement or question and response using the word 'sorry'. One student begins by turning over one card from each set. If the statement/question and response make a logical pair, the student keeps the two cards. If not, the student turns the cards over again. Play then passes to the next student and so on. The winner is the student with the most cards at the end of the game. As an extension, one student takes all the statement/question cards and says each one in turn. The group members then race to give an appropriate response. The first student to do this wins the card. The student with the most cards at the end wins.
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Softening Complaints

ESL Softening Complaints Activity - Listening and Speaking - Intermediate (B1) - 25 minutes

In this free making complaints speaking activity, students learn how to soften complaints using 'not very' and 'rather'. Give Student A a set of strong adverb and adjective combination cards and Student B a set of positive and negative adjective cards. Student B places nine cards face up on the table in a three by three square. Student A takes the top card from their pile and makes a complaint using the vocabulary on the card, e.g. 'Excuse me, but this computer is incredibly slow'. If Student B has an adjective in their square that can be used to soften the complaint, they say the softened complaint and turn the card over. Student B softens the complaint by using 'not very + positive adjective' or 'rather + negative adjective', e.g. 'Excuse me, but this computer is not very fast'. Student A then takes another card and the process is repeated. When Student B has three cards turned over in a row, the students swap roles.
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