Speaking, Part 2: Describe An Old Object

Describe an old object which your family has kept for a long time. 

You should say:

  • what the object is
  • where it came from
  • how long it has been in your family

and explain why your family has kept it.

How old is old? How long is a long time? It’s a matter of opinion, perhaps!

You could think of an antique (older than 100 years) or a family heirloom, if you have one. Maybe you inherited an item from a grandparent – a watch, earrings, or a piece of jewellery for example.   

Sample answer:

I’m going to talk about an antique vase that has pride of place in my parents’ living room.

As far as I know it’s been in our family for generations – my father inherited it from his grandmother. She was born and raised in Hong Kong and I believe that she acquired it while she was living there – it might even have been a wedding gift when she married my great-grandfather. Apart from that I know very little else about its origins.

It’s a floor vase, and is about 1 metre tall. It’s ceramic, I guess porcelain, and is quite fragile though it’s actually quite heavy. It must have been really carefully wrapped up when they shipped it back to the UK – it arrived safely in one piece anyway. When I was young we were never allowed to play in that room just in case we damaged it and even now Dad gets nervous when guests get too close – I sometimes think he should keep it locked in a cabinet.

I think it looks quite traditional and the colours are very simple – white and vivid cobalt-blue. It has a design that is quite striking with a fearsome dragon that winds itself around the vase. I remember being both fascinated by it and scared of it at the same time – my imagination used to run wild and I remember telling my mum I’d see it moving.

I’ve seen some similar pieces in the East Asia gallery at the National Museum and I have often wondered how much it’s worth. Actually, the Antiques Roadshow TV programme was recently filming in our city, and I wanted to take it along to get valued by an expert but my father point blank refused to let it leave the house. He’s always said he doesn’t care, it’s more about sentimental value, but I know he’s had it insured so he must have an idea!

Useful vocabulary

  • antique – an old object, often rare and beautiful – antique furniture, an antique vase 
  • vintage – high quality and lasting value – a vintage dress, vintage clothing
  • retro – copying styles from the past – retro music, retro clothing
  • collectable – any object that people want to collect
  • heirloom – a valuable object, given from older family members to younger family members – This was is a family heirloom
  • inherit – to receive something from someone after they have died – I inherited it from my grandmother 
  • will – a legal document containing instructions of what should be done with property, possessions after death – My grandmother left it to me in her will
  • passed down – to give something to someone who will be alive after you have died – It has been passed down the generations
  • sentimental value – the value something has because of personal or emotional connection rather than monetary value
  • nostalgia – sentimental longing for the past


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