English for Construction Workers: 55 Key Words and Phrases [With Audio]
In the fast-paced world of construction, effective communication is key to ensuring that projects get completed safely and efficiently.
And if you’re an English learner working in the construction industry, you’re going to need to know the lingo.
In this article, you’ll learn 55 important words and phrases used on construction sites.
From reading blueprints to talking to your co-workers and bosses or clients, we’ve got you covered.
- Building, Updating, Destroying
- Sites and Spaces
- Describing Buildings and Building Materials
- Construction Tools
- Construction Vehicles
- Construction Job Titles and Positions
- Resources for Learning English for Construction
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.
This is the process of digging and removing soil or rock from the ground to create a hole or trench. It is often done to prepare the ground for construction projects, such as building foundations or underground utilities.
The construction crew started the excavation to prepare the site for the new building’s foundation.
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.
Rebar (short for “reinforcing bar”) is a strong steel bar or mesh used in concrete to make it stronger and prevent cracks in buildings and structures.
The construction workers placed rebar into the concrete foundation to reinforce the building’s structure.
This is a strong and durable metal used in constructing high-rise buildings, bridges and other structures where strength is essential.
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.
In construction, insulation refers to a material used to prevent heat, sound or electricity from escaping or entering a building. It helps maintain a comfortable indoor temperature and reduces energy consumption.
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. While beams are the main load-bearing structural elements of a roof and transfer the building’s weight to vertical supports, joists are smaller supports that distribute the load to the beams or walls.
We’ll finish putting in the joists today and start 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.
This tool is used for hitting nails and other objects into surfaces.
He used a hammer to drive the nails into the wooden plank.
This is a tool used for turning screws and bolts (metal fasteners) to fasten things together.
A long, flexible ruler used to measure the length or size of objects.
Please measure the width of the door with the tape measure.
This is a tool used to check if something is straight and even, like a wall or shelf.
We need a level to make sure the picture frame is straight.
Handheld tools with two arms and a pivot used for gripping and bending wires or small objects.
You can use the pliers to twist the wires together.
A tool used to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts.
She had to borrow a wrench from her neighbor to loosen the nuts on her bicycle tire.
A tool that drills holes or drives screws into materials using electricity.
With a power drill we can quickly make holes in the wall to hang the shelves.
A tool with a sharp blade used for cutting wood or other materials. There are various types of saws such as circular saws and hand saws.
Peter used a saw to cut the tree into small pieces of wood for the fireplace.
A small knife with a retractable blade used for cutting various materials.
Lisa used a utility knife to open the package.
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.
This is a tool used to pick up dirt, sand, gravel and snow.
Give me the shovel so I can clear off the sidewalk.
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.
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.
This is a heavy machine with a bucket on the front for digging and moving earth and debris.
The construction crew used an excavator to dig a deep trench for laying the foundation of the new building.
The tall machine that helps to lift heavy objects and materials to the upper floors of a building.
Adam is operating the crane today.
Concrete Mixer Truck
This is a vehicle with a rotating drum, used to transport and mix concrete on-site.
A machine with a long blade used for leveling and smoothing surfaces, especially roads.
A machine used for laying asphalt or concrete on roads and other surfaces.
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 that 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 the 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 stonemason? 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.
Resources for Learning English for Construction
There are many great resources available that can help you feel more confident the next time you have to speak English on a 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, with pictures to illustrate each word.
- “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.
You can also use a language learning program like FluentU, which uses video clips from real English media—including movie clips, news reports and more—to teach the language in an immersive way.
FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos including content about the construction industry. You’ll find construction vocabulary, informational clips about the engineering and construction of famous landmarks and more.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles with in-context definitions, images and example sentences for each word. Just hover over or click on an unfamiliar to get more information. You’re further supported with active learning tools like multimedia flashcards and quizzes that change as you get to know words better.
If you’re looking for a traditional learning environment, you might benefit from a course like “Language for Professionals.” This training course for construction workers covers everything from basic tool and material terms to safety vocabulary.
Take some time to review these words, and see if you can memorize a few every day.
You’ll sound more professional and informed in no time and will be ready for your next construction site!