Topic-based vocabulary – Cities

Cities and city life are very common topics in IELTS essays and the speaking test, so it is useful to have a range of vocabulary and ideas with which to answer questions on this subject. Here are some common themes, definitions and questions to practice:

Reasons for Urbanization

• People move to cities in search of job opportunities
• Cities offer greater employment possibilities and a higher standard of living
• People migrate to cities from the countryside
• Traditional activities like farming need fewer workers nowadays

Negatives of City Life

• Life in cities has its drawbacks
• The cost of living is higher than in rural areas
• Some people do not manage to find work
• Housing is usually much more expensive
• Homelessness and poverty are common on cities
• There is a gap between rich and poor
• Life in cities can be extremely stressful
• There are problems like traffic congestion and crime
• Cities lack a sense of community
• People do not even know their neighbour
• Cities are sometimes described as “concrete jungles”


• boarded up shops: shops that are no longer doing business
• chain stores: well-known brands with shops in multiple cities
• to close down: to stop doing business
• fashionable boutiques: fashionable clothes shops
• to get around: to travel around
• high-rise flats: multi-story apartments
• inner-city: the central part of a city where people live and where conditions are often poor
• in the suburbs: the outer area of large towns and cities where people live
• lively bars/restaurants: bars or restaurants with a good atmosphere
• local facilities: local buildings or services serving the public
• multi-story car parks: car parks on several floors
• office block: a large building that contains offices
• out of town shopping centre/retail park: large shopping centres outside of the town or city
• pavement cafe: cafes with tables outside on the pavement
• places of interest: buildings that have a particular interest for visitors
• poor housing: housing that is not in good condition
• public spaces: areas in a town or city that are open to the public
• public transport system: public vehicles such as buses and trains that operate at regular times on fixed routes
• residential area: an area where people live
• run down: old and of a poor standard
• shopping centre: an area consisting of multiple shops
• shopping malls: large indoor shopping centres
• sprawling city: a city that has grown over time and which covers a wide area
• tourist attraction: a place of interest to tourists
• traffic congestion: heavy traffic making it difficult to move around a town or city
• upmarket shops: expensive fashionable shops

Part 2 Speaking:

Tell me about a city you have visited.
You should say:
• where the city is and when you went there
• what people can see and do in that city
• why that city is special
• and explain why your visit to that city was memorable

Part 3 Speaking:

Cities and Countryside

1. Do you think that people in the cities and in the countryside have different personalities?
2. When you are older, do you think you would prefer to live in a city or in the countryside?
3. In your country, are people moving to cities or from cities?
4. Do you think sci-fi films show a realistic view of future life on earth?
5. How is life different in cities compared to rural areas?
6. How do you think life in big cities could be made easier?
7. What do you think cities will be like in 50 years time?
8. Would you say that the majority of cities in your country are overcrowded?
9. What are some problems that (can) result from crowded (or, overcrowded) living conditions in cities? How can these problems be addressed?

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