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SOS English – How to ask for help in English

Benvenuti al Conversation Club di MPEC

Welcome to another exciting MPEC Conversation Club session! This week, we’re diving into a topic that many find challenging but crucial: Asking for Help in English. Especially in high-stress situations where help is needed, it’s vital to understand the idiomatic and nuanced expressions with which native English speakers ask for or respond to calls for assistance. We’ll provide you with idioms, phrasal verbs, and expressions that will make your requests for help more authentic and also (that’s important!) more effective. Are you ready to ask for help in English? SOS!!

Prepared for you by: My Personal English Coach



Idioms for Asking for Help in an Emergency 🚨

  1. Sound the alarm 🚨 – To raise awareness about an emergency.
    • Sample sentence: “When she smelled smoke, she immediately sounded the alarm.”
  2. Raise a red flag 🚩 – To indicate that something is wrong and help is needed.
    • Sample sentence: “The sudden drop in his performance raised a red flag, and we knew we had to intervene.”
  3. Cry wolf 🐺 – To give a false alarm.
    • Sample sentence: “She’s known for crying wolf, so people hesitated to help her this time.”
  4. Under the weather ☔ – Feeling ill and needing medical attention.
    • Sample sentence: “I felt really under the weather, so I called for an ambulance.”
  5. On the ropes 🥊 – In a desperate situation and in need of help.
    • Sample sentence: “He was on the ropes financially and had to call for emergency assistance.”

Phrasal Verbs for Asking for Help in an Emergency 🆘

  1. Call up 📞 – To telephone someone.
    • Sample sentence: “I was feeling dizzy, so I called up emergency services.”
  2. Check in on 👀 – To visit or call to make sure someone is okay.
    • Sample sentence: “Could you please check in on her? She seemed unwell.”
  3. Look into 🔍 – To investigate a situation.
    • Sample sentence: “The authorities promised to look into the increasing crime rates.”
  4. Hold up 🖐️ – To delay.
    • Sample sentence: “The ambulance was held up due to traffic.”
  5. Reach out 👐 – To ask for help or support.
    • Sample sentence: “If you ever find yourself in trouble, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.”

Round 1 – Let’s Warm Up

  1. Describe a situation where you felt too shy to ask for help. What held you back?
  2. Have you ever been asked for help in a way that made you want to assist more?
  3. Do you think men and women ask for help differently?
  4. What are some “bad” ways to ask for help?
  5. What’s the most unusual way you’ve ever asked for or received help?

Round 2: 911? No, 999 or 112

What number to call if you want to report an emergency whilst walking the streets of London? Yes, that’s right! You should call 999 or 112 !

In this round, you have 2 options:

A) Discuss the different emergency call systems in countries you know (Italy? The UK? The USA?) Are you familiar with any differences? Similarities? Which one is the most efficient one, in your view?

B) Role Play an Emergency Call in London following the script we prepared for you. If you have spare time, you can discuss the language we gave you and speak about you managed the call !

999 Script

Role B (Emergency Operator): Emergency services. Which service do you require: police, ambulance, or fire?

Role A (Caller): Ambulance, please.

Role B: What’s the address of the emergency?

Role A: I’m at Oxford Street, near the John Lewis store.

Role B: What’s the situation? What’s happened?

Role A: I’ve seen a person on the street who seems to be feeling unwell. They’ve collapsed and are breathing heavily.

Role B: Is the person conscious?

Role A: Yes, they are conscious but they look really unwell.

Role B: Do you know if they have any underlying medical conditions?

Role A: I’m not sure, I’m just a passerby.

Role B: Alright, we’re dispatching an ambulance to your location. Please stay on the line and guide them when they arrive. Try to keep the person calm and don’t move them unless absolutely necessary.

Role A: Alright, I’ll wait for the ambulance and guide them.

Role B: Thank you for your call. The ambulance should be there shortly. Stay on the line.

Round 3: Office Role Play

Scenario: Office Teamwork

Person A: You are a project manager struggling with a difficult client and tight deadlines. You need to ask for help from your team.

Person B: You are a team member who’s aware that the project manager is stressed but unaware of the specifics. You’re are not really willing to help, as you have been under a lot of pressure, what with Marta being on her maternity leave and Giovanni being relocated to the UK.


Remember – there is always more! Here is your Follow Up video:


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