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ESL Medium Quiz

It's Too Hard! - Complaining

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about “It’s Too Hard!” but no doubt your teachers will talk about the “Complaining”! If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

Complaining can sometimes feel too hard to do.

Sometimes in life, things happen that are difficult or uncomfortable for us - and we need to tell someone. This quiz will help you confirm how to complain in a controlled and polite way when there is a problem.

Complaining 'It's too hard?’... Surely not!

  1. You are buying a t-shirt, and try one on (perhaps not sure of the British system of size labels) ~ only to find that it does not fit. What do you say to the shop assistant?
    You could say any, or all, of these things ~ but only Answer 3 suggests a positive way forward, so that is clearly the best answer.
  2. You are now in a cafe, where you order a drink and a snack (something fairly small to eat: like a sandwich, or a piece of cake or tart). The waiter / waitress forgets to bring you a fork for eating this. What do you say?
    Answer 2 is polite (not all these Answers were!) and suggests, rightly, that this was only a minor mistake ~ such as anyone could make, and is easily corrected. Most of the other suggested ways of dealing with this are unnecessarily brusque and/or rude and critical.
  3. You are staying in a small, perhaps quite cheap hotel. The water supply in the bathroom is weak and slow, and the 'hot' tap is barely warm. You can't have a proper bath or shower like this, and feel it is not fair.
    What do you go and say to 'them' at Reception?
    Answers 2 to 4 may express what you are feeling and thinking; but if you say such things, it will not help to 'get the staff on your side' so that they'll want to help you. As always, if you can be polite and clear and positive (and perhaps say 'less, rather than more'), you are more likely to achieve the result you want and need (and deserve).
  4. Out one day in a British town, you are surprised (perhaps only slightly surprised!) when it begins to rain rather hard. You go into a shop and buy a cheap umbrella. You then continue your walk and you find that the umbrella has a defect: one of the metal parts is broken, and has already torn a small hole in the fabric. You go back to the shop to complain. What do you say?
    Answer 2 is clear, relevant and polite. Even if you are disappointed or angry, you are less likely to get a positive outcome if you say such things as any of the other Answers. Anyone can make an accidental mistake; it's better not to accuse too much!
  5. You are in a cafe again, this time for a pot of tea with a friend. There is enough tea (and water) for you to have at least two cups each, but they have also brought you a tiny milk-jug. What do you say to the waiter / waitress?
    Answer 2 is clear and polite.
    As a matter of fact and experience, it's not unusual for milk to be served in such a very small jug. Don't be surprised if it happens to you!
  6. You see a picture (or print) that you like in an art shop; you go in and ask about it, and decide that ~ if you can afford it ~ you would be keen to buy it. The 'asking price' is £575, which is rather higher than you expected. What do you say?
    Answer 1 is almost embarrassingly honest, even if it's true.
    You would need to be quite confident of your fluency in English, and your negotiating skills, to start with Answer 3.
    Answer 4 is 'defeatist': have you given up without really trying?
  7. Some British friends offer to take you on a trip in their car to look at the local sights. You are genuinely glad and grateful, but after about 30 minutes in the car you begin to feel sick. What can you say, that is polite but clear?
    Answer 1 is good; Answer 3 is also possible, but it doesn't explain what the problem is.
    Answer 2 is very abrupt (even if it's true; surely you felt this was coming, and could have given a longer warning?), and Answer 4 seems to be criticising everybody, even if you are feeling uncomfortable.
  8. You have left something at a shop, to be worked on for a day or two (e.g. printing your photographs, or dry-cleaning a piece of clothing); and when you come back, the work has not been done or finished. You are due to travel home to your own country in two more days' time. What do you say to the shop assistant?
    Answer 2 explains a bit of the circumstances and offers a possible 'way forward'. All the others are rude and/or confrontational, which is unlikely to help the situation.
  9. At another cafe you order two 'black' coffees (i.e. without milk). After a few minutes, the waiter/waitress brings you just one cup of coffee, 'white' (i.e. with milk already in it).
    What do you say?
    As ever, the clear polite answer is best. All the others (2,3,4) are rude or even sarcastic, and criticise the waiter/waitress instead of just accepting that s/he was busy and made a simple error.
  10. Your friends take you to a sports match or performance: this is quite special for them, with fairly expensive tickets. The weather is not very good, you are tired, and you find it hard to 'follow' (= understand, make sense of) a lot of the event, however hard you try. The event itself also seems to be very long.
    On the way home, your friends are keen to hear what you thought of the event. What do you say?
    Answer 1 sounds positive and may, technically, be true; you don't mention your own problems.
    Answer 2 may sound fair but they will probably find it rather disappointing.
    Answer 3 may be kind, but doesn't answer the question that they asked you!
    Answer 4 seems very 'flat' after all the effort they have put into taking you to the event. If you had a guest who said this in your country, wouldn't you feel disappointed?

Author: Ian Miles

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