Where would we be without construction workers?
We’d have no homes to live in. No roads to drive on. No offices to work in.
If you work in construction, or are planning to enter this industry, you’ve chosen a popular profession.
But without good communication it’s challenging—if not completely impossible—to get anything built.
Whether you’re talking with fellow construction workers, your own construction employees, a manger or a client, you need to be able to communicate clearly and professionally.
And English is perhaps the best language to know in the industry.
With this guide you’ll brush up on essential terms and expand your knowledge of English for construction workers, so that you can communicate like a pro during your next project!
Build Your English for Construction Resource Library
There are dozens of resources available to help you improve your English for work. Here are some easy-to-use books and courses that can help you achieve confidence and success for the next time you have to speak English on the construction site!
If you want to do some self-studying, check out these books:
- “Oxford Picture Dictionary:” This is a great reference book that offers an entire section on vocabulary for construction workers. It includes pictures to help illustrate the words.
- “English for Construction 1” and “English for Construction 2:” This series is specifically designed for ESL students in the construction industry. Each book comes with a CD for listening and pronunciation practice.
Want something a little more engaging? FluentU transforms authentic English videos—like workplace dialogues, movie clips, news reports and more—into personalized language learning tools.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. You can click any unfamiliar word for an instant definition, grammar info and memorable picture. That way you learn new words naturally while also absorbing native-level English.
After you’re done watching, there are flashcards and fun quizzes built in to make sure you remember everything you learned.
For example, in this interview with a “tiny house” designer, you’ll hear lots of important words for residential construction. It’s a great way to learn English the way native speaking construction professionals really use it. Try a free FluentU trial to watch with all the learning features and explore the entire video library.
If you’re looking for a traditional learning environment, there are several courses you might benefit from:
- The White Apple Company: This company provides live online lessons for groups of students. The instructors are British and the curriculum focuses on English for various construction professionals, such as architects, contractors and building engineers.
- New College Group: Another nice option is the English Language for Construction Program offered by the New College Group. This 10-week course takes places in Manchester, England and helps students prepare to enter the U.K. construction industry.
- Language for Professionals: This training course for construction workers covers everything from basic tool and material terms to safety vocabulary.
38 English for Construction Workers Terms to Keep Your Projects Running Smoothly
Here are some of the most common and useful words to familiarize yourself with if you plan to work in the construction industry.
Building, Updating, Destroying
To construct or create something from nothing.
He’s planning to build a new house.
To build again, often after a structure has been damaged.
Next week we’ll begin to reconstruct the old church.
To change the inner structure of a building (or part of a building) in order to change its appearance.
They want to remodel the master bedroom to create more closet space.
Similar but slightly different from “remodel.” This term refers to updating or repairing a building (or part of a building) so that it looks new again.
The kitchen is 20 years old and they want to renovate it.
The act of destroying something or taking it down.
The demolition of the empty warehouse downtown is scheduled for next week.
Sites and Spaces
You probably know the general English term “property,” referring to someone’s belongings. In construction, a property is a specific piece of land—often including the building or buildings on that land.
He owns several properties in the downtown area.
A commercial property is a property that’s intended for non-residential buildings. In other words, it should be used for a business, not for living.
The contract is for a commercial property and the building will be for offices.
Construction site/Building site
The place where a structure is being built.
We’ll need to bring the equipment to 5th street. That’s where the construction site is located.
This is a temporary structure next to a building that workers can stand on to work on a building. It’s usually made out of wood planks and metal poles.
He fell from the scaffolding onto the sidewalk, but didn’t have any serious injuries.
This word describes something that’s dangerous.
The weather conditions are too hazardous for work on the construction site today.
Describing Buildings and Building Materials
The design or drawing that shows the plan for a building or other structure, such as a house.
We got the blueprints today and everything looks perfect. When can we start to build?
A hard block, usually made out of clay, that’s used to build structures.
What are the walls made out of? We used brick.
This is the hard, grey material used to create floors and walls, among other things. It’s poured out in liquid form and then hardens.
We’ll pour the concrete foundation today.
This is a board usually made from plaster that’s used to create the interior walls of a structure.
He ordered the drywall last month, but it hasn’t arrived yet, so we’re behind schedule.
A piece of wood, steel or other material that runs across the structure of a building to hold weight.
We discovered cracks in this beam, which we need to address as soon as possible.
A supportive beam of wood or metal in a building. Usually it runs parallel to the ceiling or floor.
We’ll finish putting in the joists today and start on laying the floor tomorrow.
The up-to-down or top-to-bottom direction.
How many vertical beams are there on each floor of the building?
The left-to-right or side-to-side direction.
The floor and ceiling are both horizontal.
The tall machine that helps to lift heavy objects and materials to the upper floors of a building.
Adam is operating the crane today.
This is a tool used to pick up dirt, sand, gravel and snow.
Give me the shovel so I can clear off the sidewalk.
A machine with a large shovel attached that helps to dig holes and remove rocks from the ground.
We’ll need the bulldozer to dig the foundation.
This is a large truck that has an open back, which can be filled with trash and debris.
The dump truck is full and needs to be emptied.
A ladder has steps or bars to allow people to climb up and down.
I use a ladder to reach the light to change the lightbulb.
A device used to move material such as rocks or soil from one place to another. It has one wheel on the front, so people can easily push it around.
She put the rocks from the garden into the wheelbarrow and took them to the other side of her house.
The protective hat construction workers wear on a construction site.
You must wear a hard hat to protect your head while on the construction site.
Construction Job Titles and Positions
The person who creates or draws the design for the building, house or structure.
Rachel was the lead architect for the museum downtown.
A person who investigates land to see if it’s possible to build there.
The surveyor just sent us his report and we’re all set to start building.
A contractor is a person or company who provides services for a specific job.
For the indoor pool, we’ll need to hire a contractor who has experience with this type of project.
The person or company responsible for everyday work of all members on a construction site.
A good general contractor anticipates problems on job sites before they happen.
A person or company that does work for a contractor or larger project.
Let’s get a subcontractor for the plumbing.
A person who does manual labor and often reports to a contractor or other manager at a construction site.
How many workmen do you have on site?
A person who builds walls, structures and pathways with bricks.
The bricklayers finished today and the walls look great!
A person who installs the electric wires of a building or structure.
It’s safer to hire a professional electrician. They’ll know what safety equipment to install around the wires.
A person who installs the pipes and plumbing fixtures in a building or structure.
If you don’t know how to fix your plumbing, call your local plumber.
This person is responsible for building the roof of a building or structure.
The roofers won’t come today because it’s raining.
A person who climbs tall structures and buildings to clean them and make repairs.
We need a steeplejack to get up there and fix the chimney.
A person who builds and works with stone.
Do we really need a mason? I thought we’d decided to use brick and concrete.
A person who builds and repairs buildings, structures and other items out of wood.
Let’s ask the carpenter to build bookshelves into this wall.
Take some time to review and learn these words, and good luck as you continue to learn more about English for construction workers. You’ll sound more professional and informed in no time and will be ready for your next construction site!
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