Introduction:

Most people at some point during a year will be ill. Although when you are in pain you can still go to work, there will be times when you can't go to work because the symptoms (e.g. a high temperature, a pain in the head, tiredness etc...) of the illness (e.g. diabetes, allergy etc..) are very painful. And if you can't go to work or go to a client meeting, you will have to call in sick and describe how you feel?

In this online exercise, we will look at the English vocabulary used for describing the symptoms of a few of the most common illnesses that affect the health of most people during a normal year.


Exercise: I can't come to work today

Read the following phone call where an employee (John) informs his manager at the company (Sally) that he is feeling ill and can't go to work.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

John:'Hi Sally, it's John. I'm afraid that I won't be able to come into work today.'

Sally:'Why? Are you feeling OK?'

John:'No, I am not. I'm feeling really ill. I've got a terrible headache, my throat is very sore and my nose is blocked. I was coughing all night, so my wife hasn't slept because of the noise.'

Sally:'You looked tired yesterday.'

John:'I didn't feel well yesterday. I was sweating in the office. I thought I was sweating because of the heating being high. But that wasn't the reason.'

Sally:'It sounds like a cold. Three other people in the office already have this illness at the moment.'

John:'I don't think I have a cold.'

Sally:'Have you checked your temperature? Do you have a fever?'

John:'No I don't have a high temperature, So I don't think I have flu, which is also a common illness at this time of year. It got a lot worse last night, at first I had a bad stomach ache and a headache. So I thought that it was something that I had eaten, that I had food poisoning. But, my stomach is OK now and I haven't been sick or had diarrhoea.

When I woke up this morning, my head hurt like somebody had hit me over the head with a stick. And all my muscles are aching. A continuous soft pain. I also feel a bit confused and dizzy, the room seems to be moving around when I stand up.'

Sally:'You don't sound well at all. You need to stay in bed and rest.'

John:'I think I will. But I'm going to the doctor's later.'

Sally:'Don't worry, let me know how you are tomorrow. Take care of yourself.'



Quiz: English vocabulary for describing an illness & symptoms

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. Another way to say that somebody has a 'very high temperature', is    

         

Fever:
(noun) A 'fever' is when somebody has a 'very high temperature'. A 'fever' is also called a 'temperature' or 'burning up', e.g. 'he's burning up'. A 'fever' is normally a symptom of flu or something more serious (e.g. a very bad infection, malaria etc...). 'fever' is used with the verb 'to have' and 'a', e.g. 'he has a fever'. In Spanish: "fiebre".

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Fever:

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2. When a person finds it difficult to breathe through the nose, their nose is    

         

Blocked:
(adjective) A 'blocked' nose means that it is more difficult than normal to breathe through the nose. It is also called a 'stuffy' nose. A 'blocked' nose is normally a symptom of a cold, flu or an allergic reaction to something. 'blocked' in this context can be used in two ways, 'I have a blocked nose' or 'my nose is blocked'. In Spanish: "tapada".

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Blocked:

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3. A verb that means a 'soft' or 'mild' pain that normally affects the muscles, is    

         

Aching:
(verb) 'to ache' is a continuous soft, mild or dull type of pain. It is normally used to describe pain in the muscles, e.g. 'my back aches'. 'to ache' has a similar meaning to the verb 'to hurt', but 'to hurt' is more commonly used to describe a type of pain that is more intense/sharp. For example, if you cut your hand with a knife, you would describe the pain with the verb 'to hurt' rather than 'to ache'. 'ache ' is also used as a noun, e.g. 'stomach ache' or 'toothache'. In Spanish: "doler".

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Aching:

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4. When you have pain inside of your head, you have a    

         

Headache:
(noun) A 'headache' is when your brain hurts (in the inside of your head). It is normally caused by inflammation. A 'headache' is a symptom of a cold, flu, food poisoning, allergies etc... 'headache' always follows the verb 'to have' and 'a', e.g. 'I have a headache'. In Spanish: "dolor de cabeza".

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Headache:

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5. When you feel confused and everything seems to be moving, you are    

         

Dizzy:
(adjective) When somebody feels 'dizzy' they are confused, have problems to stand up and feel that everything around them is moving. It can be a symptom of flu, food poisoning or something more serious. Although 'dizzy' normally follows the verb 'to feel' (e.g. 'I feel dizzy, I need to sit down'), it can also be used with the same meaning with 'to be' (e.g. 'I'm dizzy, I need to sit down'). In Spanish: "mareado".

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Dizzy:

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6. A loud noise that comes from the mouth. It is something that smokers often do, is    

         

Coughing:
(verb) 'to cough' is a noise made when somebody has a problem with their throat or with their lungs (e.g. a cold, flu, a chest infection etc...). People who smoke often 'cough' a lot because of the damage that tobacco does to the lungs. It is also used as a noun with the verb 'to have' and 'a', e.g. 'I have a cough'. In Spanish: "toser".

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Coughing:

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7. Another way to say 'vomit' something you have eaten, is    

         

Sick:
(adjective) 'sick' in this context means to 'vomit' food or liquids from the stomach. People are 'sick' if they have eaten something bad (food poisoning) or have a virus that affects the stomach, e.g. 'after I ate the prawns I was sick four-times'. 'sick' can be used with both the verbs 'to feel' and 'to be' with a small difference in meaning. When somebody 'feels sick', it means that they believe that they are going to 'vomit', but haven't actually 'vomited' yet. With 'to be sick' it can mean two things. The first is to have actually 'vomited', e.g. 'Peter is being sick in the toilet at the moment'. The second meaning is that the person is ill/unwell, e.g. 'Simon is sick at the moment, he won't be at work until Friday'. When using 'to be sick', you have to make sure that the context is correct for which of the two meanings you want to say. In Spanish: "vomitar/tener ganas de vomitar".

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Sick:

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8. An illness that begins with the letter 'c', is    

         

Cold:
(noun) A 'cold' in this context is a common type of illness that most people get one or more times each year. It is a virus that is contagious and is passed between people. It's like 'flu' (another virus), but is less painful. The common symptoms of a 'cold' are coughing, a headache, a blocked nose and a sore throat. The noun 'cold' is used with the verb 'to have' and 'a', e.g. 'he has a cold'. When 'cold' is used with the verb 'to be', it has a different meaning. It means the opposite of 'hot', e.g. 'wear a coat if you are cold'. In Spanish: "resfriado".

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Cold:

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9. An illness caused when somebody has eaten something which is bad, is called    

         

Food poisoning:
(noun) 'food poisoning' is the commonly used name for health problems that are caused by eating food which is 'bad' or 'off'. One of the most common causes of 'food poisoning' is eating shellfish (e.g. prawns, mussels etc...) that are old. The common symptoms of 'food poisoning' are a stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhoea, a headache and a fever. 'food poisoning' is used with the verb 'to have', e.g. 'I had food poisoning after eating the curry'. In Spanish: "intoxicación por alimentos".

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Food poisoning:

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10. When water leaves the body through the skin, is    

         

Sweating:
(verb) 'to sweat' is when water from the body leaves it through the skin. People normally 'sweat' after doing physical exercise, when it is hot or when they have a fever. A common phrase that is used to mean that somebody is sweating a lot, is 'I'm sweating like a pig'. In Spanish: "sudar".

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Sweating:

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11. A common symptom of eating something bad, that begins with the letter 'd', is    

         

Diarrhoea:
(noun) 'diarrhoea' is when somebody poos (goes to the toilet to remove food that they have eaten from the their bottom) and the poo is like a liquid rather than a solid and they poo a lot of times. 'diarrhoea' is a common symptom of 'food poisoning'. 'diarrhoea' is spelt 'diarrhea' in the United States. It is used with the verb 'to have', e.g. 'I have diarrhoea'. In Spanish: "diarrea".

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Diarrhoea:

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12. An illness that begins with the letter 'f', is    

         

Flu:
(noun) 'flu' is the commonly used name for 'influenza'. It is a common type of illness that most people get once each year. It is a virus that is contagious and is passed between people. It's like a 'cold' (another virus), but is a lot more painful. The common symptoms of 'flu' are tiredness, a headache, dizziness and muscular pain. 'flu' is used with the verb 'to have', e.g. 'he has flu, he feels terrible'. In Spanish: "gripe".

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Flu:

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13. A phrase that has a similar meaning to 'I was ill', is    

         

I didn't feel well:
(phrase) 'to not feel well' has a similar meaning to 'to be ill/sick'. 'to not feel well' is often used by people when they start with the symptoms of an illness like flu, food poisoning etc... or they don't feel 100% (e.g. after drinking a lot of alcohol the previous night). If the illness or symptoms get worse, then it is more common to say 'I feel terrible' or 'I am ill'. There is a difference in meaning between 'to feel good' and 'to feel well'. 'to feel good' means that somebody is happy. In Spanish: "no encontrarse bien".

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I didn't feel well:

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14. A verb that is used to describe a sharp/intense pain, is    

         

Hurt:
(verb) 'to hurt' is used to describe an intense and sharp type of pain. For example, if you cut your hand with a knife, you would say 'my hand hurts'. 'to hurt' has a similar meaning to the verb 'to ache', but 'to ache' is used to describe a continuous soft, mild or dull type of pain, like people have in their back or muscles. In Spanish: "doler".

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Hurt:

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15. When you have a pain in your stomach, it is called    

         

Stomach ache:
(noun) A 'stomach ache' is the commonly used name for pain in the stomach. A 'stomach ache' can be caused by many things but is often caused by either food poisoning or by a virus. 'stomach ache' is used with the verb 'to have' and can be used both with or without 'a', e.g. 'I have stomach ache'. It is also possible to use 'my stomach hurts' with the same meaning. In Spanish: "dolor de estómago/barriga".

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Stomach ache:

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16. When somebody has a pain in their throat, it is    

         

Sore:
(adjective) 'sore' is used with throat to mean that the throat is 'inflamed' and 'painful'. 'sore' is used after the verb 'to have' with 'a' and before 'throat', e.g. 'I have a sore throat'. A 'sore throat' is a symptom of a cold or flu. 'sore' is also used when other parts of the body are 'inflamed' and 'painful', e.g. 'my finger is sore'. In Spanish: "me duele la garganta".

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Sore:

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.