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Welcome to our four-part series on expanding your vocabulary for the IELTS exam. Don’t forget to check out the other three posts:

Today, we’ll be looking at expanding your vocabulary on the topic of transportation.

As you may already know by now, the environment is a very popular IELTS theme. It's particularly common in Speaking Part 3, where you’re expected to discuss the topic more broadly and in greater depth. Likewise, you could be asked to write about environmental issues in Writing Task 2.

Here, you might have to identify causes for specific environmental problems, suggest solutions, predict consequences and/or give your opinion on the subject in a discussion. Below are three sub-topics related to the environment, each containing words or phrases that you can use to elaborate your answers in both the Speaking and Writing modules of the test:

2. Roads & traffic


part of speech


common collocations





a bridge that carries one road over another road

freeway/highway overpass

Traffic in the area significantly improved thanks to the new overpass.

/ˈoʊ·vərˌpæs /

service road


a small road next to a busier, faster road, that you use to drive to homes and shops

on a/the service road

In my city, truck traffic is not allowed on service roads.

/ ˈsɝː.vɪs ˌroʊd/

traffic jam


a large number of vehicles on a road moving very slowly or not at all

long/severe traffic jam, be/get caught/stuck in a traffic jam, traffic jam on the (road)

I was stuck in a traffic jam on my way here.

/ ˈtræf·ɪk ˌdʒæm/

3. Transportation & the environment


part of speech


common collocations





the amount of gas, heat, light that is sent out

vehicle emissions, greenhouse gas/carbon dioxide emissions, cut/reduce/control emissions, emissions from (traffic)

In my opinion, governments are not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traffic.


noise pollution


noise, such as that from traffic, that is considered unhealthy for people

to tackle/ease/reduce noise pollution, noise pollution from (type of transport)

Noise pollution from trains passing through residential areas is a major concern in my country.

/ ˈnɔɪz pəˌluː.ʃən/



not harmful to the environment

environmentally-friendly vehicles/ transportation/ fuel/ alternative

Electric cars are a more environmentally-friendly alternative.

/ɪn.vaɪr.ənˌmen.t̬əl.i ˈ

4. Travel


part of speech


common collocations





in a foreign country

travel/go abroad, to be abroad, to move abroad

It’s much easier to travel abroad now than in the past.

/ əˈbrɔd/

business trip


a journey taken for business purposes

take/make a business trip, on a business trip

I went to New York on a business trip.

/ˈbɪz·nəs trɪp/



(or noun)

to travel regularly between work and home

daily/every day commute, to commute from/to (place)

I commute to the city by bus every day.

/ kəˈmjut/

5. The future of transportation


part of speech


common collocations



space travel


travel through outer space

human/commercial space travel, the future of space travel, achieve space travel, to space travel

There’s a lot of interest in space travel these days.

/spās ˈtravəl/

autonomous vehicle (also known as driverless car or self-driving car)


a car capable of driving itself

be driven by an autonomous vehicle

I don’t believe autonomous vehicles can keep us safe.

/ɑːˈtɑː.nə.məs ˈvi·ɪ·kəl/

high-speed rail


a high-speed passenger train

by high-speed rail, high-speed rail network/route/service, high-speed rail accident/crash/disaster

In the future, high-speed rail networks will take over traditional rail systems.

/ˈhɑɪˈspid reɪl/

When learning idioms related to transportation for your IELTS, keep in mind that many idioms in English include words related to transportation but are not necessarily used to talk about transport (for example, the idiom to throw someone under the bus means to put the blame on another person). Here we’ll look at some idioms that you can use to talk about transportation on your IELTS test:




bumper to bumper

with very little space between two cars in a line of cars

The traffic’s usually bumper to bumper all the way to work.

backseat driver

a passenger in a car who gives unwanted advice to the driver

My wife’s very much a backseat driver - she always tells me to speed up or slow down.

hit the road

to begin a trip

I like to hit the road early when going on long journeys.

hitch a lift/ride

to get a free ride in someone else’s vehicle

After the festival, we hitched a lift back to the city.

beat the traffic

to leave early to avoid travelling when the roads are crowded

I always try to leave early in the morning so I can beat the traffic on my way to school.


Don’t forget to keep your vocabulary notebook nearby when preparing for the test in order to keep extending your vocabulary sets. If you think of other possible sub-topics that you can explore during your preparation time (e.g. at the airport), write them down and make sure to include the useful details shown above for each new vocabulary item.

Stay tuned for our next IELTS vocabulary theme – the environment!