In IELTS speaking, we are often asked to talk about the topic of friendship because it is common to all people in all cultures. It is something that everyone can say something about, so we often encounter it in this part of the exam.

Today, I am going to show you how to talk about a best friend. I’ll give you some advice on vocabulary, grammar, and some tips about how to answer questions effectively.

Best Friend for IELTS Speaking

When it comes to the issue of friendship, this could arise in any part of the IELTS speaking test. In part one, you might be asked an easy and general question like:

How often do you see your friends?

In part two, you could be given a cue card that says something like:

Describe your best friend.

In part three, the question would be a little more complicated, requiring more consideration in order to answer it fully:

Is it better to have friends that always agree with you or should people look for friends with different opinions?

As you can see, these require quite different types of answer. We’ll look at sample answers later on, but first let’s explore some useful vocabulary.

Best Friend Vocabulary

As always, when it comes to IELTS it is important to use vocabulary accurately and that means don’t just find ridiculously obscure words from the dictionary. Use words that are appropriate to the topic and to your chosen answer.

If you look up “best friend” in a thesaurus, for example, you might find expressions like “soul mate” that do not actually have the same meaning. The phrase “bosom buddy” is also a little weird and outdated, too.

ielts best friend synonyms

Instead, choose language that is relevant, important, and modern. Since this is the speaking test, you can be a little informal. People often say “besties” or “BFFs” now. I have a whole article on vocabulary about friendship vocabulary here.

Remember that you need to be able to talk about the nature of friendship and why people became best friends. You might want to use some of these expressions:

Shared interestsTo be interested in the same thingsWe have a lot of shared interests, so we tend to get along well.
A shoulder to cry onSomeone who is emotionally supportive or the act of providing that supportA best friend is always there for you and will offer a shoulder to cry on.
A stand-up guySomeone reliable and generally decentI knew when I first met him that he was a stand-up guy.
InseparableTo be almost impossible to split upAs kids, we were inseparable.
Have (someone’s) backTo be willing to defend or support a personI always knew she had my back.
Get alongEnjoying each other’s companyWe didn’t get along well when we first met but after a while we became good friends.

Grammar about Friendship

People always seem to love learning vocabulary, but actually it is incredibly important to learn about grammar, too. If you don’t get the grammar right, the vocabulary won’t necessarily make sense.

When it comes to friendship, grammar can actually be very important because it is necessary to understand when something happened. Let’s take a few examples of different tenses to show how significant the change in meaning can be:

ExampleVerb TenseMeaning
He was my best friend.Past simple.He is no longer this person’s best friend – ie they fell out or he died.
He had been my best friend…Past perfect.He was this person’s best friend prior to some event that presumably ended their friendship.
He is my best friend.Present simple.This is a statement of fact. These people are best friends now.
He has been my best friend…Present perfect.They are friends now and have been for some period of time. This needs some statement of time added in order to make it logical.
He will be my best friend.Future simple.He will be this person’s friend in the future. (This is a rare and strange sentence!)
He will have been my best friend…Future perfect.They will be friends and then they will stop being friends. (This is even stranger and less likely.)

Of course, it is not just the statement of friendship that you need to think about when talking about a best friend. You could talk about many things, such as first meeting that person, doing things together, going through life experiences, describing their personality, and so on. All of this requires careful consideration of verb tense.

Here’s an example paragraph. Note the verb tenses used:

I first met Suzie in 1998, when we were both about twelve years old. We immediately got along well with one another and started hanging out. Of course, it’s tough being that age and so it really helped to have such a close friend as we went through those awkward teenage years together. Later, we went to different unis and then got jobs in different cities, so we weren’t so close, but we still chatted on the phone and over the internet, and we meet up regularly even now. I’d still call her my best friend even though we don’t see each other that much and I expect she will be my bestie even twenty years from now.

Note the range of verb tenses here. In the beginning, it was mostly past simple (I first met; we were both, etc) but later it switched to the present simple (we meet up; we don’t see, etc). I have even managed to incorporate the future by saying “I expect she will be…”

Sample Answers

Let’s look at some possible answers to the questions I posed above.

How often do you see your friends?

I guess I see them about three times a week on average. We play football once a week and have beers together maybe twice a week. Of course, it depends on things like work and family. At this age, you don’t see people as much as you’d want, but generally I’m pretty lucky.

Describe your best friend.

I have answered this cue card here and you can find a video recording of it below:

Is it better to have friends that always agree with you or should people look for friends with different opinions?

Well, it is certainly more tempting to have friends that always agree with you because then you’re unlikely to fall out with them over silly arguments. However, I do think it’s important to be friends with people that challenge your preconceptions and offer the possibility of personal growth. Even if someone is just willing to play devil’s advocate, it’s quite good to be able to have those in-depth conversations that encourage debate and allow us to learn something new. So I don’t know which is better, exactly, but probably the latter of the two options.

Note that answers for part three should be more developed than those for part one. You don’t need to talk for ages, but you should explain yourself thoroughly.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the IELTS topic of best friends, you really should be prepared to discuss yours and even to talk about the topic in general. This doesn’t require any particularly difficult or technical vocabulary, but you should have some topic-specific words and phrases and you should be familiar with English verb tenses so that you can give good answers. I would strongly recommend that you practise describing some of your friends in advance so that you are familiar with the sort of specific language needed to talk about those particular people. You’ll soon find that each person requires different vocabulary because of their different personalities and lifestyles.