English Listening Exercises for B1 – Family tensions

1. Read the sentences. What is each speaker’s attitude? Circle the correct answers.

1) ‘Quick! Shut the door, before it’s too late!’

a aggressive  b calm

c sarcastic  d urgent

2) ‘This town was wonderful when I was a boy.’

a accusing  b miserable

c nostalgic  d optimistic

3) ‘Poor you. I hope you feel better soon.’

a bitter  b grateful

c sympathetic  d urgent

4) ‘Don’t worry. Everything will be fine, I’m sure.’

a accusing  b calm

c nostalgic  d pessimistic

5) ‘I expect I’ll come last in the race. I usually do.’

a arrogant  b enthusiastic

c grateful  d pessimistic

6) ‘I can’t forgive him for how he behaved.’

a bitter  b complimentary

c optimistic  d sarcastic

7) ‘Your hair looks fantastic!’

a aggressive  b complimentary

c grateful  d urgent

8) ‘You left phone outside in the rain? That was a really clever thing to do!’

a enthusiastic  b grateful

c nostalgic  d sarcastic

Show answers

1) d   2) c   3) c   4) b   5) d   6) a   7) b   8) d

Listening Strategy

Sometimes, the words alone do not fully express the speaker’s intention. You need to pay attention to the tone of voice as well. For example, an urgent tone of voice suggests that the speaker is giving a warning.

2. Read the Listening Strategy. Then listen and circle the tone of voice the speaker uses.

1) The next train leaves in half an hour.

a calm  b urgent

2) That’s made me feel a lot better.

a grateful  b sarcastic

3) This is going to be rather painful

a aggressive  b sympathetic

4) We were too poor to even go on holiday.

a bitter  b nostalgic

Show answers

1) a   2) b   3) b   4) a


1) The next train leaves in half an hour.

2) That’s made me feel a lot better.

3) This is going to be rather painful.

4) We were too poor to even go on holidays.

3. Try reading aloud each sentence from exercise 2 using the other tone of voice.

4. Listen. Which adjective below best describes each speaker’s tone of voice? There are three extra adjectives.

arrogant      enthusiastic      grateful      nostalgic

pessimistic      sympathetic      urgent

Speaker 1 ________.

Speaker 2 ________.

Speaker 3 ________.

Speaker 4 ________.

Show answers

Speaker 1 sympathetic   Speaker 2 enthusiastic

Speaker 3 arrogant   Speaker 4 urgent


1) You’ve had a bad time, haven’t you? You poor thing. Do you want to tell me all about it? Sometimes it helps to talk to somebody.

2) It’s a wonderful place. You really should go. The food is fantastic – and there’s so much to do there! You could never get bored.

3) It’s important for me to have an expensive car, because people see it and judge me by it. And they need to know that I’m a highly successful person who deserves their respect and admiration.

4) Watch out! Don’t touch that fence, it’s an electric fence. You’ll get a shock. Stop!

5. Match the intentions (1-5) with the tone of voice you are most likely to use.

1) persuading somebody: ________

a enthusiastic

b grateful

c sarcastic

2) remembering something: ________

a arrogant

b nostalgic

c sympathetic

3) thanking somebody: ________

a accusing

b bitter

c grateful

4) praising somebody: ________

a calm

b complimentary

c optimistic

5) complaining about something: ________

a enthusiastic

b miserable

c optimistic

Show answers

1) enthusiastic   2) nostalgic   3) grateful

4) complimentary   5) miserable

6. Listen to four monologues. Decide what tone of voice each speaker is using. Choose from the adjectives in exercise 5.

Speaker 1 ________.

Speaker 2 ________.

Speaker 3 ________.

Speaker 4 ________.

Show answers

1) complimentary   2 enthusiastic   3) miserable

4) nostalgic


See exercise 7.

7. Listening again. Match speakers 1-4 with sentences A-E. There is one extra sentence. Use your answer to exercises 5 and 6 to help you.






Sentence (A-E)

a The speaker is persuading people to buy something.

b The speaker is remembering a family tradition from when he / she was younger.

c The speaker is thanking his / her guests for coming to a special family meal.

d The speaker is praising a family member for preventing a family argument.

e The speaker is complaining about a bad experience at a family reunion.

Show answers

1) D   2) A   3) E   4) B


1) To be honest, I think you did really well. We could all see that dad was about to lose his temper completely – and Lucy was pretty angry too. And then you suddenly started telling that long story about a family reunion twenty years ago ___ and everybody thought, ‘what’s he talking about?’ But it worked. You managed to change the subject, and everyone had a chance to calm down ___ so well done!

2) In this month’s edition of Family Issues, there’s a fascinating feature on how to prevent arguments in your family. It’s full of fantastic tips: how to get through a big family reunion without any tears, how to keep the whole family happy at meal times – and many more. Available now from all good newsagents, only £3.99.

3) You know, I really thought it would be nice to see everyone – especially after so many years. But I guess I was being too optimistic. As soon as we all got together, all the old arguments started again. brother fell out with dad and they almost had a fight! I just thought, I can’t stand this – so I went home. I didn’t say anything to anyone – I just left.

4) There were six of us in the family home: me, mum and dad, two brothers and grandmother. I loved getting up late on Sunday morning and smelling the roast dinner cooking in the oven. We always had roast dinner on Sunday. dad cooked the meal, but grandmother used to give him lots of advice – advice he didn’t ask for, or want. They used to argue sometimes, but it was never a bad argument. It was a happy time.