How to Communicate With a Doctor in English?

Elly Kimreviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process8 min
Created: Mar 2, 2023Last updated: Jan 21, 2024
Communicate With a Doctor

Effective communication with a doctor is essential for receiving appropriate medical care, but it can be particularly challenging for non-native English speakers. Misunderstandings or miscommunications can have serious consequences, so it’s necessary to be prepared and confident when speaking with a doctor in English. This article will provide useful phrases and vocabulary, tips, and general rules to help you communicate effectively and confidently during your next visit to the doctor.

Tips for Talking With a Doctor in English

Of course, we wish you to always be healthy and visit the doctor only for prevention. And before learning English grammar tips for hospital conversations, let’s look at the list of essential information that will help you effectively speak with doctors in any language:

  • Be clear about your symptoms. When describing your symptoms, be as specific as possible. Use simple language and avoid medical jargon unless you know what you say.
  • Bring a list of your medications. If you take any medications, bring the list to your appointment. Make sure to include the name of the drug, the dosage, and how often you take it.
  • Take notes. Take notes on what they say during your appointment and talk to a doctor. It will help you remember important details and follow-up instructions.
  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand something the doctor says, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. It’s essential to understand your diagnosis and treatment plan fully.
  • Practice beforehand. If you’re nervous about speaking English with your doctor, practice in advance with a friend or family member. It can help you feel more confident and prepared.

These simple tips will help you make every doctor appointment valuable and straightforward at the same time. If you don’t know how to translate your symptoms, you can use an online medical dictionary to be more specific about things that are bothering (or not bothering) you. 

How to Talk to Your Doctor: Useful Phrases and Vocabulary

Now that you are equipped with some general tips, it is time to become more prepared for your next doctor’s appointment. To help you with this, we provided a list of helpful phrases for different situations. So, let’s look at the most common expressions you can hear or say at doctor appointments in English.

Greetings and Introductions

Let’s start from the beginning. The first thing you say when entering a hospital is “hello.” But it is not the only option. Here is the list of greetings and introductions you can use next time before starting to talk with a doctor. 

  • Hello, I have an appointment with Dr. X at 5. 

This phrase is the best way to introduce yourself at the hospital’s reception, especially if you have never been there. For example:

Q: Hi, how can I help you?

A: Hello! I have an appointment with Dr. Black. 

  • Good morning, Dr. X. My name is Y. I am a new patient here. 

It is another polite way to introduce yourself at the hospital. Unlike the previous phrase, this one is suitable for a conversation with a doctor at their office. For example: 

Q: Hello. How can I help you? 

A: Good morning, Dr. Johns. My name is Kate. I am a new patient here. 

  • Thank you for seeing me today.

This sentence is a great way to end your appointment with the doctor. You show your gratitude and appreciation for their work by saying it. For example:

Q: And that will be all for today. Don’t forget to take your meds tomorrow after breakfast. 

A: I’ll do my best to remember it. Thank you for seeing me today, doctor. 

Describing Symptoms and Medical History

After introducing yourself, you must explain your symptoms and provide the doctor with additional information about your medical history. Here are the most suitable phrases and sentences to use in such situations. 

  • I’ve been experiencing a /symptom/ for a /length of time/.

Of course, after introducing yourself, you need to talk with the doctor about the reasons for your appointment. In this case, this phrase is a perfect choice. For example:

Q: So why are you here today, Jane?

A: I’ve been experiencing a terrible headache for over a week. 

  • The pain is located /location of pain/.

Here is another phrase you can use to describe your illness. If you experience physical pain, you can tell the doctor about its location using this phrase. For example:

Q: Can you tell me where it hurts?

A: The pain is located in the temporal area of my head. 

  • It feels /sharp, dull, or throbbing/.

To provide a doctor with more details, you need to describe the character of your pain. This phrase is an excellent way to do so. For example: 

Q: How can you describe your pain?

A: It feels sharp. 

  • I have a history of /illness/.

A doctor needs to know your background before prescribing any medication. So if you have any medical history, use this phrase to describe it. For example:

Q: Do you have any medical history?

A: Yes, I have a history of chronic insomnia. 

  • I am currently taking /medication and dosage/.

Your doctor also has to know if you take any medications. If you do, tell them about it using this phrase. For example:

Q: Do you take any pills now?

A: Yes, I am currently taking sleeping medication twice a day.

  • I have allergies to…

Once again, your doctor should know everything about you. Use this phrase to tell your doctor about your allergies. For example:

Q: Do you have any allergies?

A: Yes, I have allergies to antibiotics.

Asking Questions and Providing Feedback

Finally, when the appointment is almost over, it is time to ask your questions if you don’t understand something. Also, if it is not your first doctor visit, you can give them some feedback about medicine or results. Here are some phrases that can help you with it. 

  • Could you please explain [medical term or procedure] to me?
  • What are the possible causes of my symptoms?
  • Are there any side effects or risks associated with this treatment?
  • How long will it take to see improvement with this treatment?
  • This treatment is helping/improving my symptoms.
  • I’m still experiencing [signs]. What else can we do?
  • I have concerns about [aspects of treatment or medication].

Congratulations! Now you are ready for the next doctor appointment in English. You now know how to introduce yourself, describe symptoms, and ask questions to clarify things. And now, it is time to look at the most general medical terms to be even more prepared.


Common Medical Terminology and Abbreviations to Practice Talking to a Doctor

Learning medical terminology and abbreviations can be helpful for English learners who work or plan to work in the healthcare industry or need to communicate with medical professionals. Here are some popular terms you can hear at the hospital.

  1. BP – Blood pressure. A measurement of the force of blood against the walls of arteries.
  2. CBC – Complete blood count. A blood test that measures the number and types of cells in the blood.
  3. EKG/ECG – Electrocardiogram. A test that records the electrical activity of the heart.
  4. MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging. A medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body’s internal structures.
  5. CT – Computed tomography. A medical imaging technique that uses X-rays to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the body.
  6. ICU – Intensive care unit. A specialized hospital unit that provides care for critically ill patients.
  7. ED – Emergency department. A hospital unit that provides emergency medical care.
  8. Rx – Prescription. A written order for medication.
  9. SOB – Shortness of breath. A feeling of being unable to breathe fully or easily.
  10. NPO – Nothing by mouth. A medical order prohibits a patient from eating or drinking anything by mouth.

These terms are widespread, and you can face them at every doctor’s appointment. But there is another benefit of learning them! Next time you hear a doctor speaking to a patient in your favorite TV show like Grey’s Anatomy or House, you will understand more of their conversations. And once again, we wish you always to be healthy and face all these medical expressions only in good circumstances.

Make Your Visits to English-Speaking Doctors Easier With Promova

Talking to a doctor is not a very pleasant experience. But it can be even more stressful if you are not confident speaking English. So if you want to prepare in advance, you should find a place to practice. That is why we are happy to invite you to Promova – a modern language-learning platform available to students worldwide. 

You can choose from many available options depending on your studying goals. Our team of professional tutors is always ready to help you master your skills in personal or group lessons. And if you want to practice only speaking skills, you can join our free Conversation Club and discuss dozens of fascinating topics. 

Finally, the Promova app is available on Google Play and the App Store for those who prefer to study on the go. And, of course, don’t forget about our blog! Here you can find many valuable articles helpful in your studying process. As you can see, there are many options to choose from. Hence, don’t waste your precious time! Instead, go to the official website and find the one that suits you best. 


In conclusion, communicating with a doctor in English may initially seem challenging, especially if English is not your first language. However, with the proper preparation, vocabulary, and communication skills, you can effectively convey your symptoms, concerns, and questions to your healthcare provider. We hope this article will be helpful since you now know how to talk to a doctor. We wish you to stay healthy and strong, and we will see you soon in the following article!


What should I do if I don’t understand a medical term or procedure my doctor explains to me in English?

First, if you are not fluent in English, you need to tell your doctor about it at the beginning of your appointment. It will help you to avoid misunderstandings. And if you still don’t get some words or procedures, don’t hesitate to ask. Your doctor will explain it to you in simple terms.

How to talk to a doctor if English is not my first language?

Again, the first thing you must do is warn your doctor that you might have difficulties with English during your appointment. Also, try to prepare in advance – translate your symptoms and practice saying them aloud. Finally, you can use online dictionaries at the doctor’s office to avoid misunderstandings.


What are some common mistakes to avoid when communicating with a doctor in English?

There are two main mistakes non-English speakers make when visiting doctors. The first is using medical jargon and terms, especially if they are not confident in the meanings. The second mistake is common to all (not only English) appointments. And this one is hiding crucial medical information from your doctor, including medical history, medication, allergies, etc. 

Can a friend or family member accompany me to a doctor’s appointment to help with translation?

Of course, they can! Moreover, it is an excellent practice for those who are not fluent in English. If you have someone to help you during your doctor’s appointment, you can ask them to accompany you to the hospital. By doing it, you will avoid any misunderstandings and receive all the help you need. 


PromovaJan 25th, 2024
Useful phrases for describing symptoms and medical history include: - "I’ve been experiencing a /symptom/ for a /length of time/." - "The pain is located /location of pain/." - "It feels /sharp, dull, or throbbing/." - "I have a history of /illness/."
Briley from Australia Jan 25th, 2024
How can you describe symptoms and medical history to a doctor using appropriate phrases?
Keria Jan 9th, 2024
Have a great day
Alodie AstonAug 1st, 2023
As a non-native english speaker, I appreciate the clear guidance and examples in this article. It builds my confidence in discussing health concerns with english-speaking doctors.
AnithaJun 29th, 2023