Learn shopping vocabulary and phrases in English for ESL

A Complete ESL Guide to Shopping Vocabulary in English

Every year lots and lots of people travel to Miami, in southern Florida, to go shopping. The city is known for its huge outlet malls, luxury stores, and boutiques. Shopping in Miami is an experience many people dream of having, but you may find that there is specific vocabulary about shopping that you are not that familiar with. Today we will go over some words and shopping phrases in English that can be useful whenever you go shopping. Ready to get some new clothes and shoes? Let us lead the way! 

English vocabulary for the places to shop

There are several phrases and vocabulary terms used in English to describe where to go shopping. A word of caution though, don’t use the word shopping to refer to a place. Shopping is an activity, not a destination. Let’s start with the differences among malls, shopping centers, and outlet malls.  

Learn shopping vocabulary and phrases in English for ESL

A mall or a shopping mall is a collection of stores that are connected by interior hallways. Malls usually have a food court, which is the place where you can grab a bite to eat, and a parking garage with multiple levels. In British English though, a little different. The term for this place is a shopping center. If you use this term in the United States though, a shopping center is a development with several medium or large stores that shares a parking lot, which is a single level of parking outside. It is not really a mall because you cannot easily walk between stores in the same way. This place is more convenient if you want to visit a big-box store, like Walmart or Best Buy.

Learn shopping vocabulary and phrases in English for ESL
This shopping center has a lot of parking available for customers.

On the other hand, an outlet mall is a large group of stores that sell products for a reduced price. You can find all kinds of retail options at these shopping destinations, everything from luxury goods to basic appliances. Outlets may be interior or exterior. They are usually found outside of a big city, in a nearby suburb where the rent prices for retail space are cheaper.

Other shopping options include department stores, which are large stores that have usually carry clothing for men, women, and children, plus home goods, electronics, jewelry, accessories, and even toys. The opposite of this is a boutique, which is a small store that specializes in one type of item. These are usually small businesses that are very unique in their product selection.

Shopping as a sport

For some people, shopping is just a necessity and they only do it when absolutely necessary. Others treat shopping like a sport. It is an activity that you can be good at, something that can go on all day, and sometimes people don’t even buy things when they go shopping. They just like to look. This activity is called window shopping, because people used to look in the windows of stores instead of actually entering.

Remember, we never use the word shopping by itself to refer to a collection of stores. Shopping is the gerund of the verb to shop and it is often used along with the verb go. Here are some different ways to use shopping

  • She likes to go shopping on Sundays. 
  • They want to do some shopping for baby clothes. 
  • My friend and I are shopping today.

Shopping can also be used as an adjective in sentences like these ones: 

  • I am so excited about the shopping trip with my friends. 
  • Can you get a shopping cart for us at the entrance? 
  • Miami is famous for its shopping options

If you plan a day out to do some shopping, you may need to know these terms to help you.

cartan open vehicle on four wheels that can carry many things
basketa container used to hold or carry things (usually hand-held)
aislea passage between shelves of goods in a supermarket or other store
shelfa flat board that displays products
price taga label on an item for sale
loyalty programa program for frequent shoppers that gives rewards for money spent at the establishment
bargaina thing bought or offered for sale more cheaply than is usual or expected

Talking about shopping

Whenever you walk into a store, it is very likely that a salesperson will approach you and start a conversation. It’s their job! Are you ready to do some talking about shopping? Read this next section to learn about some of the ways to talk about shopping. Here is some shopping vocabulary in English:

These are two of the most common questions a sales associate will ask you. 

  • Can I help you find anything? 
  • Are you finding everything okay? 
Learn shopping vocabulary and phrases in English for ESL

Now, how would you answer these questions? Here are a few options of phrases you can use in this situation: 

Questions asked by store employeesPossible answers from customers
Can I help you find anything?No, I’m just browsing.
No, I’m just looking around.
Yes, actually, I’m looking for a …
Are you finding everything okay?Yes, thank you (I don’t need any help).
Hm, actually I’m looking for… Where can I find that? 

If you have any problems telling the employee what you want, you can always use a translate app to check the name in English.

Asking for a different size or color in English

Now, another common situation when shopping is not being able to find something in your size. How do you ask the salesperson for a different size? Here are some ways to ask this question: 

  • Excuse me. Do you have this in a medium? 

In terms of clothing sizes, here are the most common ones in the United States: 

XXS extra extra small 
XS extra small 
XL extra large 
XXL extra extra large 

Asking to try something on 

After you have chosen a few items, you will want to try them on. This is how you may ask the salesperson to try something on: 

  • Can I try this on? 
  • Where are the fitting rooms? 
  • Where can I find the changing rooms? 

You can use both fitting rooms and changing rooms to refer to the place where you can try clothes on.  Learn more about expressing preferences.

Learn shopping vocabulary and phrases in English for ESL

At the check out 

After trying everything on, you may have decided to buy some items. You will go to the checkout area and wait in line for the cashier. This is the person who will process the transaction for you. Other customers may ask you if you are waiting. These are the two questions you may hear: 

  • Are you in line? 
  • Are you in the queue? 

Both the words line and queue are common. When the cashier says I can help whoever is next it means you can approach the register, which is the payment machine. The cashier will then ring up your items and tell you how much the total is. It’s a good idea to keep your receipt with the information about the sale so that you can return the items for cash or exchange the items for credit if necessary. 

We hope this guide with shopping phrases in English and shopping vocabulary in English helps you have a better shopping experience! Happy shopping!