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What did we do pre-COVID? Have we learned how to pivot? Are we in isolation again, or even lockdown?

We are all experiencing life in a COVID-19 world and are all well aware of how this pandemic is impacting our lives. One positive outcome is that we are adding dozens of new words to our vocabulary, in other words, we've learned how to communicate using 'pandemic' language.

When we prepare for the IELTS test, we learn vocabulary related to our everyday life, so we can describe what we do or what we like as well as discussing other general topics. Being able to understand and use pandemic language will mean that you can communicate your ideas and feelings correctly as well as understanding what you hear and read in the news and on social media.

This blog will look at some of the language that we hear and see regularly so that you can use it confidently and accurately.

COVID communication

The way we communicate has changed in the last few months as we avoid face-to-face communication and need to rely on digital communication instead. We have all become experts in using a range of video conferencing tools relying on social media platforms and the internet to communicate for business and personal purposes.



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COVID times

In recent months you may have heard the term 'unprecedented times'. This adjective is used to describe a situation or event that we have never experienced before. This pandemic is a situation that we have never lived through before, so it is referred to as unprecedented.

When we talk about our life before COVID-19 and speculate about what we might do in the future, we can use the following words and phrases as specific time markers to describe our life before, during and hopefully after the pandemic.

The following table will list the terms we use now and an example of how we use them.

Word (part of speech)



unprecedented times (adj)

Something we have never experienced

'We must pull together in these unprecedented times.'

pre-COVID (adv)

Before COVID-19

'Well, pre-COVID, my plan was to go to Australia.'

post-COVID (adv)

After COVID-19

'I can't wait till post-COVID to travel.'

lockdown (n)

Staying within your home/prison cell

'We can't go out, we are still in lockdown.'

quarantine (n/v)

A period of time in isolation

'I had to quarantine when I returned from overseas.'

isolation (n)

To be on your own

'I'm in isolation for the next 2 weeks!'

self-isolate (v)

Self imposed isolation

'I will self-isolate so I don't infect anyone.'

COVID lingo

When we listen to the news, we hear some new terms that we have not heard before and they are rapidly becoming a part of our everyday language. I am sure when you see updates on the pandemic situation in your country, you see presenters bumping elbows and wearing face masks. People avoid normal greetings and stand away from each other to make sure they are socially distancing.

Here are some words and phrases that have been added to our vocabulary.

Word (part of speech)



elbow-bump (v)

Greeting by bumping your elbows

'The politicians elbow bumped before starting the meeting.'

PPE (abbr.)

Personal Protective Equipment

'In some countries there is a shortage of PPE.'

Social distancing (v/n)

To stand a certain distance from a person

'They are not social distancing.'

hand sanitiser (n)

Chemical hand cleaner

'There was no hand sanitiser in the office.'

hoard (v)

Buying a lot of one item

'People are hoarding toilet paper.'

panic shopping (n)

Buying extra items when not needed

'Everyone is panic shopping.'

moratorium (n)

Banks put bills on hold

'Our bank has a moratorium so we don't have to pay our mortgage payments.'

pivot (v/n)

A rapid change in direction or focus

'We have all learned to pivot in our jobs.'

recession (n)

A period of economic decline

'COVID-19 will force countries into a recession.'

bankrupt (adj/v/n)

A person or business that cannot pay debts

'So many small businesses are becoming bankrupt.

cluster (n/v)

A group of COVID positive cases that occur together

'There are a number of clusters near where I live.'

COVID health

We are also aware of health-related language that is used every day to describe the pandemic in our countries. It is important that we understand these terms to make sure we adhere to the guidelines that health officials give us to ensure we limit the spread of the virus. When you enter shops or offices your temperature may be tested, and you will be asked if you have had any flu symptoms like a cough or a fever. So, for some of us, it is a matter of life and death that we understand this language, particularly if we live in an English-speaking country.

Learn the following words related to the corona-virus pandemic.

Word (part of speech)



outbreak (n)

A sudden occurrence

'The COVID-19 outbreak took us all by surprise.'

spread (v/n)

To cover a large area

'We have to deal with the spread of infection quickly.'

confirm (v)

A positive COVID test

'It's confirmed, I have COVID!'

symptom (n)

A sign that you are sick

'The symptoms were quite noticeable. She was coughing and had a fever.'

case (n)

An instance of COVID infection

'There were 60 more cases today.'

community transfer (n)

Infection from people in the community

'Most cases are from community transfer.'

asymptomatic (adj)

A person who is COVID positive who has no symptoms

'He was asymptomatic, so we didn't know he had it.'


When we chat to other people, we talk about what is happening in the world around us, so COVID-19 and the global impact it is having, is forefront in our mind.

In the IELTS Speaking test, you may be asked about something you like to do in your leisure time, this may be something you loved doing pre-COVID, or maybe it's something you learned to do when you were in quarantine. You might have to discuss the topic of tourism and when doing so, you will probably mention that because borders are closed because of social distancing, this is having a negative impact on the tourism industry. You may even mention when discussing the environment that our world is probably a cleaner place, because we are not driving or travelling as much, so our pollution levels are decreasing. If you have to discuss health and well being you will be able to comment on how important communication and education is to schools and communities in understanding disease and preventing infection. You might also be asked to speculate about the future in Part 3 of the Speaking test, so again, you could mention the negative impacts that COVID-19 will have on the global economy.

Being aware of the language we use every day and the topics that people speak about will mean that you will be constantly learning new language. Our changing world delivers new challenges, however, by learning the language related to it we will be able to communicate with others about it and understand what is happening around us.