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Helping you Speak English at the Doctor's Office
April 21, 2009

The Learn English Newsletter

Speaking English at the Doctor's Office


Have you ever been to see a doctor? You probably have, and so you know how important it is to effectively describe your symptoms and how you feel .

This can be very difficult when you need to do it in a different language.

I went to the doctor yesterday and I realized how important it is to be able to communicate well with your doctor.

I have gathered some common expressions and questions that you might encounter when you are speaking with your doctor.

Common Questions Your Doctor
Might Ask You

  • What seems to be the problem?

  • How can I help you today?

  • What can I do for you?

  • How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?
  • Are you in pain?

  • Can you describe the pain?

  • Does the pain get worse when you do something?

  • Are you taking any medication for the pain?

  • What prescription drugs are you taking?

  • Do you have any allergies?

  • Are you pregnant? (if you are a woman)

  • Is that uncomfortable?

  • Does that hurt?

    Common Directions or Instructions
    During an Examination

  • Lay down on the examination table/bed.

  • Squeeze my hands.

  • Relax your leg/arm.

  • Tell me when it hurts.

  • Stand and face the mirror.

  • Breath in (inhale), breath out (exhale).

  • Take off your pants/shirt/sweater etc.

    These are just some of the many questions or directions that your doctor might ask or say to you during a consultation. They will vary depending on why you are visiting. (Back pain, heart problems or stomach pains...)

    Preparing for Your Appointment

    My best advice is to write down and describe your symptoms
    before you go to the doctor.

    Sit down with a good dictionary or use an online version to find the correct words to describe how you feel.

    For example, do you know how to effectively describe pain? In English, as in other languages, there are many different forms of pain.

  • Dull pain

  • Sharp pain

  • throbbing pain

  • slight pain

  • tingling or numbness (sensation)

  • burning pain

  • itchy

  • cramps

    Try to be as specific as possible, so that your doctor can assess you accurately.

    For more useful vocabulary regarding illnesses, visit my free learning guide on illnesses.

    Phrasal Verbs at the Doctor's Office

    Here are some common phrasal verbs that you might hear while at the doctors office.

  • Please lay down on the examination table.

  • I'd like you to look up and then look down as I shine this light in your eyes.

  • You need to cut down on the amount of sugar you eat.

  • You can put on your shirt now.

  • Sit down here, while I write you a prescription.

  • You need to take better care of yourself.

  • How many times a week do you work out?

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    I hope this information is useful and that it helps you during your next doctor's appointment with an English speaking doctor.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Diana Tower

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