Keith Kelly looks at examples of language used in delivering questions and explanations from the area of geography, covering wh- question words, statements as questions, asking for explanations, possibility and uncertainty, explaining a process and conjunction phrases.

To download the accompanying lesson plan, please click on the link to the right of the screen.

Wh- question words

question wordexample
how many How many people in the world had access to proper sanitation in 1970?
what What is the main difference between traffic flow in the morning rush hour and in the evening rush hour?
what happens What happens to the useful industrial outputs that leave the system?
when When did the population of the world reach a thousand million?
where Where are the convection currents located?
which Which is the coldest month and what is its mean temperature?
who Who gains the most from the sale of bananas?
why Why do you think processing steel in one large factory is more profitable than in several small plants?

Statements as questions

agree / disagree Write four sentences on each statement clearly explaining why you agree or disagree with each one.
choose Choose a site for the development and give reasons why this site is suited to this type
of development.
decide Using your atlas, decide whether plates separate, collide or slide against each other at the Andes mountain range.
define Define the expressions ‘the North’ and ‘the South’.
describe Describe the effects of acid rain on forest land, agricultural land, water, tourism and the quality of life.
explain Explain what you think is the best use for this land and give three reasons.
identify Identify the coastal features A and C and explain the processes involved in their formation.
illustrate Discuss how the photographs labelled 1, 2 and 3 illustrate the effects of tourism on transport facilities in Nice.
prove Use evidence on the map to prove people have lived in this region for a long time.
show Show that the statement is true, with reference to the photograph and map.


detail Describe the photograph in as much detail as possible.
Give at least three pieces of relevant detail in each point.
evidence Use evidence from the graph to support your answers.
example After each feature listed, name one American example of the feature.
reasons Give three reasons why this town is a planned new town.

Asking for explanations

There are a number of phrases which can be placed in front of many of the examples given above in order to form the kind of spoken question you might hear in the classroom.

I don’t understand … (how the photos illustrate the effects of tourism on the region).
I don’t see … .
Can / Could you explain … ?
Can / Could you tell me why … ?
Does this mean that … ?
What does it mean when … ?
Why is it that … ?

I don’t know how to … .
Please explain how … x … is done.

Possibility and uncertainty

For suggesting future possibility

… would make …: The level land would make it easier to develop the site.
… could be used to …: The nearby railway station could be used to transport raw materials to the plant.
… would provide / add / help …: The town would provide workers for the new factory.

Where the answer is not clear

… could have been prevented …: The spread of disease and millions of deaths could have been prevented with simple medicines and vaccinations which these poor countries cannot afford.
… might occur: The junction at the end of the high street shown on the map is one location where traffic congestion might occur.
… may have been used as / caused by : The landslide may have been caused by ongoing deforestation on the hillsides near the town.
… one possible explanation is that it was used as / caused by …: One possible explanation is that it was caused by diggers undercutting a bank in the hillside and weakening the soil and cover.

From the perspective of another person

It is thought / believed that … x … could have caused …: It is thought that the heavy rains could have caused the soil above the road to become waterlogged and unstable.
… people tend to think / believe that it is / was caused by …: People tend to believe that ringworm is caused by worms, as the name suggests.

Explaining a process

Step 1 … / First …: Step 1: Give the sub-zone letter.
Next … / Then… / After that … / Subsequently …: Then, as water seeps downwards, it washes plant nutrients down beyond the reach of many plant roots.
Finally …: Finally, the lake fills with acidic water and becomes a dead water environment.
so that: Lay a straight edge of paper so that it touches the end point of sections A and B.
If … x …, do … y …: If any spot touches the straight edge, mark its position and height.

Refer to Your CLIL: Process: Geography for further sequencing phrases to explain a process or how to do something.

Conjunction phrases

that is why That is why it is called a Mediterranean climate.
for this reason For this reason many foreign multinational companies set up in an EU member state and gain access to the EU’s large market.
because Interaction varies from place to place because climate, vegetation and people’s activities vary from place to place.
as As melted rock is lighter than solid rock, it melts upwards to the surface through buckled and folded rock layers above it.
since Since many people in Hong Kong prefer living near their place of work, this has helped accommodate the large population on a small area of land.

Refer to Your CLIL: Cause and Effect: Geography for more language used for giving reasons.

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Explanations: Geography: Lesson plan.


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