• How-to
  • 3 min read

How to Shop in English

Did you know shop is a verb as well as a noun? But usually, in English, we say do the shopping or go shopping, although you could also shop, or go to the shop, or go to the store.


Shopping is necessary whatever language you speak, so here is some of the very best shopping vocabulary for you to use when shopping in English.

In general

When shopping, once you have selected the item you want to buy, you need to pay. You can pay in cash or by credit card, or if you are shopping online, then there may be other options such as PayPal. If you pay in cash, you may need to wait for your change. And then you get your receipt, which you need to keep in case you need to bring the item back, or exchange it in the future.

Going shopping or doing the shopping?

An important distinction to make is if you are going shopping (looking around the shops as a fun activity) or doing the shopping (buying necessary items). Whereas going shopping is a popular activity on a Saturday afternoon, for example, doing the shopping is a chore (job) that needs to be performed every week.

In the supermarket

When you need to do the shopping (get all the essential items required for the house, such as food and cleaning products), then a supermarket, or a hypermarket, is the best place to go. A smaller version is a convenience store, but it will cost a lot more money.

When you arrive at the supermarket, if you are doing a big shop, then a trolley will be required instead of a basket. Then you begin walking up and down the aisles, looking for items that you need. When you are ready to pay, you go to the checkout where the cashier can help you, unless you choose to go to the self-service checkout, which is now common.

If you choose to buy your items from individual stores, rather than all in one place at the supermarket, then you may start at the butcher’s, to buy all your meat. Then it’s off to the greengrocer’s to get all the fruit and vegetables you need. Perhaps you may go to the bakery to get bread and cakes, or the pharmacy (chemist – U.K.) to get any medicines or personal hygiene products. A cash n’ carry is a good option to buy essential items in big quantities to save money.

The liquor store (off-licence – U.K.) will stock all your alcohol requirements, while a hardware store will have all the essential items you need to do D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) jobs around the house, such as hang pictures or fix things.

A deli is a good place to go for fresh food items, and you can also pick up sandwiches and fresh salads.

Going shopping

You may choose to go shopping with friends on a Saturday afternoon. You may need to buy something, or you may just be window shopping (having a look for fun). Another word you can use in a shop is ‘browsing’, meaning having a look around:

Shop Assistant: “May I help you?”

Customer: “No thank you, I’m just browsing.”

If you are shopping for clothes, then it’s important to try on the items before you buy them, to make sure they fit you (the size is good), and that they suit you (the style and color is good for you). If you need to take back items, then make sure you keep your receipt.

A great place to pick up items at cheaper prices is a thrift store (charity shop – U.K.). You may find a bargain here (something which is great value for money).

Department stores are a good place to find lots of different items such as clothes, shoes and electrical goods. Or you could pay a visit to the mall (shopping center – U.K.) to find all the popular stores in one convenient location, as well as cafes and restaurants. You can enjoy a real day out here.

And don’t forget to wait for the sales, when many items are sold at a discount, with sometimes as much as 75% off. Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving – is a good example. 

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