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Tipping. Speaking exercise

Tipping customs

Tipping customs

In this lesson we will be talking about tipping in English, and looking at some useful phrasal verbs.


"If a guy treats me respectfully and the waiter demeaningly, I'm turned off".
— Moran Atias

Although tipping is not very common in some countries such as Spain, in others tips are expected. In the UK tips are usually given in restaurants to express gratitude for good quality service, whereas in the USA a minimum of 15% is given in bars and restaurants, with 20% of the bill being a more normal amount to leave.

Before we get started, here is a list of vocabulary that will help you talk about tipping with your native English-speaking teacher in your conversation classes via Skype.


Tipping vocabulary in English

Tipping vocabulary in English

English vocabulary related to tipping

Appreciated valued and welcomed
Awkward uncomfortable (used for situations)
Cab taxi
Bill (UK) / Check (USA) amount owed at a restaurant
Customary usual, habitual
Deserve to merit
Etiquette socially acceptable behaviour
Industry type of commerce
Insult to offend
Percentage Proportion from 100
Pub bar selling alcohol
Service help, assistance



Grammar to use in your online English conversation class

Here are 10 phrasal verbs related to eating and drinking.

  • Eat out = eat in a restaurant
    E.g. I don't want to cook this evening. Shall we eat out?

  • Pig out = eat an excessive amount of food (informal / used negatively)
    E.g. We did a lot of exercise during the day but we pigged out afterwards.

  • Wolf down = eat a lot, and quickly, usually because you are very hungry (informal) 
    E.g. Wow, you're wolfing that pizza down as if you haven't eaten in months!!

  • Knock back = drink a lot, and quickly (usually used for alcoholic drinks)
    E.g. I'm not surprised she was drunk. She was knocking back that wine as if it was water!

  • Eat up / drink up = finish your food / drink
    E.g. We're leaving as soon as the kids have eaten up.
    E.g. Come on, drink up! You've been drinking that beer for about an hour!

  • Heat up / Warm up = make food hot again, so that it can be eaten (e.g. in a microwave)
    E.g. We can take the rest of the pizza home and heat it up for dinner.
    E.g. Can you warm this baby formula up for me, please?

  • Take away = buy prepared food in a restaurant, and take it home (or somewhere else) to eat
    E.g. Do you want to eat that here? Or is it to take away?

  • Top up = put more drink in someone’s glass
    E.g. It looks like you've almost finished your wine. Would you like me to top your glass up



Useful verb forms:

  • eat - ate - eaten
  • drink - drank - drunk
  • leave  left - left



Common mistakes:

     X Waiters don’t win a lot of money
     √ Waiters don’t EARN a lot of money

     X I leave a 15%
     √ I leave 15%  (without ‘a’)



Common pronunciation problems:

  • Euro  /‘jʊərəʊ/
  • Percentage /pə'sentɪdʒ/



How much do you tip taxi drivers?

How much do you tip taxi drivers?

Questions we will discuss in your online English conversation class:

  • How would you define a ‘tip’?

  • Do you tip in restaurants? Bars? Taxis? Pizza delivery services? 

  • What is the average tip to leave in restaurants in your country?

  • Should tips be based on the quality of the service you receive?

  • Which types of workers deserve tips?

  • Do you think you deserve to receive tips in your job?

  • Have you ever been to a country where tipping is customary? 

  • Should we always follow the local customs regarding tipping? Do you?

  • Describe a situation where you have received poor service in a restaurant.

  • What alternatives to tipping could you offer if you didn't have any cash?

  • Would you like to work in an industry where you relied on your tips for income?

  • Should workers have to pay income tax on their tips? 

  • Who are the best / worst tippers?



Practice reading and listening before speaking with your native English-speaking teacher:

Many foreign tourists are shocked at how much Americans tip, and often refuse to leave as much when visiting the USA. This article explains why is it so natural for Americans to leave generous tips, and also gives a comprehensive guide of how much we are expected to tip when visiting the States on our holidays:

“There are few social customs in the US more confusing to travellers than tipping. To most Americans, gratuities are normal, like adding sales tax at the register. To foreign visitors, though, the very idea can induce anxiety or panic.” Read more…



And this short video gives tipping advice for foreigners visiting the USA: who to tip, and how much to tip them?

Do listening exercise on this video!



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Speaking practice:

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Gregory Stephen Pioli

Owner of OLA Online Language Academy

★Degree in French (University of Kent at Canterbury)
★DELE Superior (Spanish) (Instituto Cervantes, Leeds)
★TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) (

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