Introduction:

If you are travelling abroad for more than a couple of days, you may have to or want to buy clothes. And normally in this situation you will have to speak to shop/sales assistants. This can sometimes be easy and other times hard.

In this first of two exercises on buying clothes, we will look at commonly used English vocabulary for shopping for clothes, introducing phrases and words that are essential when talking and asking about clothes. We will also look at some phrases that are used when a customer wants to buy a piece of clothing in a clothes shop/store.

Click here to see more shopping for clothes vocabulary in the second part of this exercise.


Exercise: In a clothes shop/store

Read the following conversation between two customers (Jane and Maria) and a shop/sales assistant in a clothes shop in Wales. Maria wants to buy a pair of trousers.

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.

Jane:'This is a good clothes shop. I used to buy a lot of clothes in this shop in London.'

Maria:'I need to buy some trousers and it is normally cheaper to buy them in Britain than in Spain.'

Shop Assistant:'Can I help you?'

Jane:'No thank you, we're just looking.'

Shop Assistant:'Ok. If you need anything, you ask.'

5 minutes later

Maria:'Do you think they have any trousers of the make Calvin Klein?'

Jane:'Yes, they are over there.'

Maria:'I'm a bit confused with the sizes. The clothes only have British sizes on them. Which of the trousers are a european size 38 for the waist? The part of the trousers near the stomach.'

Jane:'Let me look. I think this is a 38 for the waist. And the length? You have long legs so 39, I suppose? Here you are?'

Maria:'Where can I try them on? I don't want to buy them before wearing them?'

Jane:'I don't know, we better ask where the changing rooms are?

Excuse me, where are the changing rooms?'

Shop Assistant:'The changing rooms are over there at the back of the store.'

Jane:'Thank you.'

5 minutes later

Jane:'Do they fit you?'

Maria:'Not really, they are a little bit too tight on my waist. Maybe I need a bigger size. And they are also a little too casual, I need them for work. I'll ask the shop assistant if they have anything which is smart, something more appropriate for work.

Excuse me, do you have anything smarter, more formal in the same make and in a slightly bigger size for the waist?'

Shop Assistant:'Yes we do, try these. A lot of people buy these trousers to wear for work.'

5 minutes later

Jane:'They look very good on you. They suit you perfectly.'

Maria:'I like them, they feel comfortable. The trousers also match my shoes and my top perfectly. The colours combine perfectly.'

Shop Assistant:'How are the trousers?'

Maria:'Perfect. I'd like to take them.'

Shop Assistant:'They are beautiful. Follow me and you can buy them.'


 Link to Dictionary


Quiz: Shopping for clothes vocabulary & phrases part 1

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. 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. An adjective which describes the style/type of clothes that are worn in an office or a formal event, is called    
         

Smart:
(adjective) 'smart' means the style or type of clothes worn in an office or in a formal event (e.g. a wedding, ceremony, business meal etc...). Two examples of types of clothing that are 'smart' for men are suits and ties. For women, dresses worn at weddings are 'smart'. Another style or type of clothes is 'casual'. This is a style or type of clothing that is worn outside of the office or when not working. Two examples of types of clothing which are 'casual' are trainers/sneakers and jeans. Some types of clothes can be either 'smart' or 'casual' depending on their design, e.g. trousers, shirts, shoes etc... In Spanish: "elegante".

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Smart:

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2. The commonly used name for 'measurements' of clothes (e.g. 'large', '42'), is    
         

Sizes:
(noun) 'size' means the 'measurement' of a piece/item of clothing. It is the most important word in English to know when shopping for clothes. 'sizes' can be both words (e.g. small, medium, extra large etc...) or numbers (e.g. 32, 8 etc...). In most English-speaking countries they use the imperial system of sizes (measured in inches) instead of the metric system (measured in centimetres). In addition, the sizes between English-speaking countries are different (e.g. a British size 8 shoe is a size 8.5 in America). The label on the piece/item of clothing normally has all the different countries' 'sizes' on it. In Spanish: "tallas/números/tamaños".

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Sizes:

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3. A phrase that means that you would like to buy something, is   
         

I'd like to take them:
(phrase) This polite phrase is commonly used in shops by a customer when they are speaking to a shop/sales assistant. It basically means 'I want to buy these'. You only use this phrase when you have the things that you are wanting to buy (you are holding them in your hands or you are in front of the things you want to buy). This phrase can be used in any type of shop and is normally followed by the word 'please', e.g. 'I'd like to take this book, please'. Normally, when using the name of the object (e.g. shoes, book etc... ), you add 'this' or 'these' in front of it (e.g. 'this shirt', 'these shirts'), but you can also just use 'this' or 'these' instead, e.g. 'I'd like to take this, please'. But when a shop/sales assistant is there helping you choose the product, then you use 'it' or 'them' instead, e.g. 'the jacket looks good on you' 'yes it does. I'd like to take it, please'. In Spanish: "me llevo estas".

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I'd like to take them:

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4. A verb that means a piece/item of clothing is the perfect size for you, is    
         

Fit:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to fit'. This verb means that a piece of clothing is the right/correct size for you, e.g. 'the jeans should fit you, they are your size'. If something is 'too big' or 'too small' (isn't the right size) for you, then you use the negative of 'to fit', e.g. 'the coat doesn't fit me, it's too small'. In Spanish: "quedar perfecto/bien".

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Fit:

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5. A verb that means that a piece/item of clothing looks perfect/very good on you, is   
         

Suit:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to suit'. This is a commonly used verb when somebody wants to say that a piece/item of clothing looks very good on another person. This verb is always followed by either the name of the person (e.g. Sally) or by the pronoun (e.g. you, him, her etc...). For example, 'I think the jacket suits you'. Using the negative of the verb (doesn't/don't suit) is a polite way of telling somebody that they look bad wearing a piece/item of clothing (e.g. 'I'm afraid the dress doesn't suit Mary, she doesn't look good in green'. This verb is often confused with the noun 'suit', which is a jacket and trousers which men normally wear in an office or at a wedding. In Spanish: "irse bien / quedarse muy bien".

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Suit:

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6. When you 'wear' a piece/item of clothing in a clothes shop to see if it's your size/it fits you, is    
         

Try them on:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to try something on'. This means to 'put on'/'wear' a piece/item of clothing to see if it's your size/it fits you. Normally, people 'try clothes on' in a clothes shop/store before they buy them, e.g. 'try the shoes on'. This is a transitive phrasal verb (it has an object) that is separable, e.g. 'try it on' or 'I tried the jacket on'. In Spanish: "probarse".

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Try them on:

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7. The name of the manufacturer of a piece/item of clothing, is called the    
         

Make:
(noun) The 'make' is the name of the company/manufacturer that makes a piece/item of clothing. For example, adidas and benetton are two different 'makes' of clothing. The 'make' is also called the 'brand' and both can be used for both clothes and other types of products, e.g. cars, computers, food etc... With clothes (and only clothes), the 'make' is also commonly called the 'label', e.g. 'what label is it?' 'it's versace'. In Spanish: "marca".

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Make:

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8. The name for the 'size/measurement' of trousers that says how long they are, is called the    
         

Length:
(noun) This is the name of the 'size/measurement' for trousers or skirts which says how long they are (from the top to the bottom). The 'length' is one of two different 'sizes/measurements' used for trousers or skirts. The other 'size/measurement' which measures how wide they are at the top part of the trousers or skirt is called the 'waist' (because it measures the size at the part of the body called the 'waist'), e.g. 'I'm looking for trousers with a length of 33 and a waist of 32'. In Spanish: "largo".

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Length:

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9. A verb that means that the colour of a piece/item of clothing 'complements/is perfect to wear with' another piece/item of clothing, is    
         

Match:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to match'. In this context, the verb is used when you are comparing two pieces/items of clothing (e.g. a jacket and a skirt) and means that the colour or style of one of the pieces/items of clothing (e.g. the jacket) 'complements' or 'is perfect for' the other piece/item of clothing (e.g. the skirt) and will look good worn together. It is common for 'perfectly' to be used at the end, e.g. 'the t-shirt matches the trousers perfectly'. When you want to say the opposite, you use the negative of the verb, 'the jacket doesn't match the skirt, you should wear a different jacket'. In Spanish: "quedar bien con / conjuntar con".

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Match:

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10. A polite phrase that you use when you don't want a shop assistant to help you, is    
         

We're just looking:
(phrase) This is a polite phrase to use in any type of shop/store when a shop assistant asks you if you need any help or assistance. It's basically a polite way of saying 'no', e.g. 'do you need any help?' 'no, we're just looking'. This phrase can be used with either 'no' or 'no, thanks' in front of it. This phrase has a similar meaning to 'no, it's fine thanks', but 'no, it's fine thanks' can be used both when a shop assistant speaks to you for the first time or when they have already spoken to you before in the shop (e.g. 'we have a 15% discount on levi's jeans. I can bring you a pair?' 'no, it's fine thanks'). 'I'm just looking' can only be used once and only after the first time the shop assistant has spoken to you. In Spanish: "estamos solamente mirando".

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We're just looking:

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11. A different way to say that a piece/item of clothing is not comfortable to wear because it's 'too small', is    
         

Too tight:
(adjective phrase) 'too tight' or 'tight' is a different way of saying that a piece/item of clothing is too small to be comfortable or to move in, e.g. 'the shoes are too tight, they hurt my feet'. 'tight' (without 'too') is also used to mean a style of clothing which has been designed so there is little space between the material of the piece/item of clothing and the skin. For example, tight jeans and tight t-shirts have been popular/fashionable in the past. The opposite of 'tight' as a style is 'loose' or 'baggy'. In Spanish: "quedar apretado".

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Too tight:

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12. A style of clothing which people normally wear outside of work which isn't formal/smart, is    
         

Casual:
(adjective) This is both a style and type of clothing which is designed and worn for normal situations (in the house, on holiday, going shopping etc...) where being comfortable is more important than how you look. Two examples of types of clothing which are 'casual' are trainers/sneakers and jeans. Another style or type of clothes is 'smart'. This is clothing for formal or professional situations (weddings, in the office etc...). Two examples of types of clothing that are 'smart' for men are suits and ties. Some types of clothes can be either 'smart' or 'casual' depending on their design, e.g. trousers, shirts, shoes etc... In Spanish: "informal".

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Casual:

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13. The name for the 'size/measurement' of trousers that says how wide they are at the top, is called the    
         

Waist:
(noun) This is the name of the 'size/measurement' for trousers or skirts which says how wide the top part of them is. This 'size/measurement' is called the 'waist' because it is the name of the part of the body that it measures (the part between the hips and ribs). The 'waist' is one of two different 'sizes/measurements' used for trousers or skirts. The other 'size/measurement' which measures how long they are, is called the 'length' (from the top to the bottom), e.g. 'I'm looking for trousers with a length of 33 and a waist of 32'. In Spanish: "cintura/talle".

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Waist:

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14. The place where you try/put on clothes in a clothes shop before you buy them, is called    
         

Changing rooms:
(noun) This is the place in a clothes shop/store where you can try clothes on in the clothes shop/store. It is the place where you can undress (take your clothes off) in private to see if a piece/item of clothing fits or suits you, e.g. 'can I try these on, please?' 'of course, the changing rooms are at the back of the shop'. In America, the 'changing rooms' are called the 'fitting rooms'. In Spanish: "probadores".

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Changing rooms:

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Practice

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