How to talk about hobbies and free time activities

Whenever the subject of hobbies comes up, most of my students promptly say they don’t have any. Obviously, I don’t believe that for a second, but I understand why such a response: it isn’t always easy to describe one’s hobby. And if the subject comes up unexpectedly in a speaking exercise, students might not even know what to talk about. In this post, I’ll offer a few tips on how you can approach this subject, and what kind of grammar structures you can use.

First off, it’s always helpful to break down this potentially very wide subject into smaller bits. Start by thinking about what you like doing in your free time. You may not even realise that some of your free-time activities are actual hobbies. How would you finish the following sentences?

  • In my free time, I like… (+ gerund, the -ing form)
  • I spend a lot of time doing / making / practising / working on…

You can also use any of the following structures – just be careful about grammar:

  • I’m (really) keen on + noun or gerund
  • I’m (really / totally) into + noun or gerund
  • I’m (very / keenly) interested in + noun or gerund
  • I have a keen interest in + noun of gerund
  • I’m enthusiastic about + noun or gerund
  • I’m passionate about + noun or gerund

To give a few personal examples: I’m really keen on country music. I’m totally into reading horror fiction. I’m keenly interested in shortwave radio. I’m enthusiastic about travelling. I have a keen interest in hiking and trekking.

Then you can continue by giving a short explanation – why you enjoy that particular activity. Assuming it is something enjoyable, there’s a number of adjectives with a positive meaning that you can use, such as: 

I like that activity, because it’s…

  • interesting 
  • relaxing
  • fun
  • creative
  • social
  • imaginative

You can also use the verb make + me + adjective or bare infinitive (infinitive without to), to say what effect that activity has on you:

It makes me happy. It makes me want to learn more. It makes me excited.

The verb keep can also be used in some cases, followed by an adjective:

It keeps me fit. It keeps me healthy. It keeps me informed.

You can use the Present Perfect Continuous tense to say how long you’ve been doing it until now (have been + -ing); use since to say when you first started doing that activity:

I’ve been listening to shortwave radio since the early 1990s. I’ve been doing yoga since 2004.

Or, if you’re talking about a past hobby, one you no longer have, one of the best structures you can use is used to + bare infinitive. It implies that it was a habit of yours, something you did a lot, but no longer do:

I used to play volleyball in high school. I used to take meditation classes. I used to write poetry.

Now, depending on what your hobby is (or was), you might need more specific vocabulary to describe any details (in case of sports, think about the words for the equipment you use; if it’s arts and crafts, which tools and materials you need, etc). 

Now I will give you a brief writing assignment. In the comments section below, post a paragraph about a hobby or a free-time activity of yours, answering the following questions: What is it? How long have you been doing it? Why do you enjoy it? 

It’s only fair that I do it first. So, here it goes:

I really enjoy listening to shortwave radio. It’s an unusual hobby and not many people do it nowadays, which is part of the fun. I’ve been doing it for many years, since the early 1990s. You do need some equipment, but it’s nothing special or very expensive: all you need is a decent shortwave radio receiver. I used to do it a lot more, but now I don’t have so much free time. I love it because listening to international radio broadcasters keeps me informed and entertained. You can learn a lot and hear programmes in many different languages. Keeping in touch with other shortwave radio enthusiasts is a lot of fun, so this can also be a very social hobby.

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