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Solving tricky problems

Conversation prompts

Solving tricky problems

A speaking or writing exercise to propose solutions to tricky problems. This uses both modal verbs (could, should, would), and conditional sentences, so is better for intermediate classes and above.

What would you do in these situations?

1. An unpaid bill

You are on a business trip by yourself, and in a country and city where you have no friends or family. You have gone to dinner by yourself, and had a lovely meal at a restaurant.

When you are finished your meal, you discover that you have left your wallet / purse somewhere, possibly at the office or in your hotel. Both of which are at least 20 minutes away.

To make matters worse, you discover your cellphone’s battery is flat, and you can’t remember any phone numbers. You also don’t have any written contact details for any of your friends, family or colleagues. You always thought, “Who needs them – my smart phone is my brain!”

Of course, the restaurant wants to be paid, and they have threatened to call the police.

What do you do?

2. Family or best friend?

A family member, who normally lives overseas, is in town for only one day. You have made arrangements to take them out to dinner.

On the day that you were meant to go out, you suddenly remember, you promised to go to your best friend’s birthday party. And you had promised to bring her favourite cake.

It is a big party for a special birthday, and it means a lot to your best friend (it’s their 21st, 50th or 80th birthday, depending on your age!)

What do you do?

Ultra rich chocolate bundt cake
(Rich chocolate bundt recipe)

3. Free long term storage?

You agreed to store your daughter’s furniture and possessions after she sold her house and was looking for a new one. Your garage, backyard and home office/spare room is full – you can’t use these areas.

Unfortunately, there was a big fight between you, and she stopped talking to you. She doesn’t answer the telephone or respond to text messages or emails. Even other family members can’t contact her!

Several months ago, you find out through friends of friends that she has found a new place. But no one knows the address or the new telephone number. She isn’t listed in the directories.

You need to be able to use the spare room as you have guests from overseas arriving in a couple of months.

What do you do?

Moving house - too many boxes!]

4. Booked out!

You are on a holiday in Japan, by yourself, and are waiting at the train station to take you to your next destination. You are looking forward to visiting this next town, as it has many old temples, craft workshops and samurai houses.

Fallen statue in Fukushima, after the earthquakeSuddenly the station shakes and people around you scream. It’s a strong earthquake.

The vending machines and lights rock wildly for about 2 minutes. It’s your first earthquake, and you think that it wasn’t too bad – nothing broke at the station.

You wait. And wait.

But your train doesn’t come. The railway employees are too busy to try to talk to you in English, and you don’t know any Japanese. Eventually, someone tells you that the trains have been cancelled. You don’t know when they will run again.

So you try to catch a bus, and wait in line. For two hours.

When you get to the front, you discover that the buses are also not running. You are stuck here for at least one night.

Phone lines are all blocked due to too many people using it. You can’t make calls on both public phones or your cellphone.

You walk to all the hotels that you can see around the main station area, but they are all booked out. You also need to cancel your hotel booking in the next town, or they will charge your credit card.

What do you do?

After the earthquake in Fukushima]

5. Predicting the worst

  • What could go wrong on an overseas trip? How would you deal with the problems?
  • Make a vocabulary list of problems, then explain how you would manage 5-10 of them.

Writing or speaking is okay, but try to use full sentences!

Have you been in any tricky situations?

Think of your own difficult situation – it could be true or imaginary.

Let me know your solutions to the problems above and/or your tricky situation in the comments below!

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More difficult situations on Patreon

A handout for group discussions to solve even more tricky situations is available to Chatters and Questioners on Patreon.

Resolving difficult situations

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Categories | PROMPTS
Tags | language learning, teaching
20 Jun 2013