Author: British Council | Published on 1 February 2023


Dialogues and role play can help learners use more intonation in their speech. 

Intonation is important to communication in English. It shows how the speakers feel, for example if they are interested in something or not. When we are interested, we use varied intonation. When we are not interested, we use flat intonation


Listen to these dialogues: 

[play audio] 

[In dialogues 1 and 2, speaker B should use varied intonation/sound interested; in dialogues 3 and 4, speaker B should use flat intonation/sound uninterested]

1. A: I watched a good film at the weekend.

    B: Oh, what was it?

2. A: My cousins are coming to visit us at the weekend.

    B: Oh great! Where do they live?

3. A: Do you want to come with me to the café?

    B: Yes, OK.

4. A: I’m reading a very interesting book!

    B: What’s it about?

Notice how the speakers in dialogues 1 and 2 use varied intonation to show interest, and how in dialogues 3 and 4 the flat intonation shows the listeners are not interested – and are a little unfriendly!


Say: ‘Listen to the 4 dialogues. Is the listener interested or not interested?’

Perform the 4 dialogues for your learners. (Take both roles A and B but turn to face the other way when you are B and use a different voice. Or, invite another teacher or learner to take A’s role – they will need to practise first!)

Take feedback. 


Write two of the dialogues on the board. Say: ‘Practise the dialogues with your partner. Take turns to be A and B.’

Monitor correct use of intonation

Role play

Ask learners to write 2 new short dialogues (in one, speaker B will sound ‘interested’; in the other ‘uninterested’). They then perform these in groups of 6. The others listen and say if the listener is interested or not.


Dialogue: A talk between two people.

Flat: Level and smooth.

Intonation: The way the pitch of a speaker's voice goes up or down as they speak. Intonation can be rising, falling or flat and is used to communicate how a speaker feels.

Varied: Different, changing between different types.