Guess the [Noun]!

Posted March 21, 2018 by dove-author in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments


So… I teach English conversation to adults at the moment and… Well, I needed a party game to play for variation and fun diversionary tactics. Certain party games easily lead to a lot of chatter between participants and others… really don’t. 20 Questions, for example, isn’t great if you want to practice vocabulary. One of the participants can only answer yes or no.

But, also, these are adults and, I’ll be honest, a lot of conversation-based games aren’t designed with teaching adults in mind and they either focus on the wrong topics or the level isn’t right or they’re just not enjoyable for them for other reasons. You’d think you could just pick any game and go, but it’s not quite that simple in my (admittedly limited) experience.

Also the really well-documented games all require things that I don’t have, can’t easily reproduce quickly, or don’t offer the level of chattiness that I and my students want.

So I made up my own! And I thought “Why not share it with you all?” because some people may find it fun or useful. I’m sure other people have had this exact idea or had a similar one with (slightly) different rules, but this version I came up with.

Also, it’s the day I celebrate my birthday today, so surprise! I present to you a gift! I can’t gift you any actual cake or anything, so this is the next best thing. 😀 Happy another-year-older, me! 😀 May you all have a lovely year!

Onto the game! (Also, um, I’ve never tried to explain a game before, so I hope it’s all clear.)

Guess The [Noun]!

This is a game inspired by games like “Who am I?” where you ask the other person questions and try to guess who you are. In my case, I stuck with “famous people”, but you can pretty much take any topic that makes sense in the context.

However! The goal of Guess the [Noun] isn’t to guess who you are. It’s to keep others from guessing who you are.

What You Need

– Time. A five player game can take about 15-30 minutes, but it’s very dependent on how well people know the topic.

– Several pieces of paper containing a [noun], a few keywords associated with that noun and, if desired, a brief description to help the player figure out what/who you’re talking about.

– Blank paper to write down notes or customised tracking cards.

And that’s pretty much it!

Because I’m sure that’s confusing, though, here’s an example of what one of my player cards might look like. We’ll assume that the topic is Greek Gods. So this is what my very basic card might look like:


– Archer
– Twins
– Hunting
– Virgin
– Deer

Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt. She is often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto and was Apollo’s twin. Deers were her sacred animal and she was a virgin. She killed Adonis, supposedly because he boasted that he was a better hunter. She is usually depicted with a bow.

You get the idea. You can dress it up however fancily you like and you can use the flavour text to explain the keywords if you deem it necessary or to add additional information players who aren’t familiar with a topic can use or to make sure that every card has the same typeof information. (So yes if you wanted to you could use cards from edutainment variants of Happy Families/Go Fish type card games.)

The score cards can either be entirely blank or customised to change the difficulty level. For younger players or beginning learners you could create score cards that list all the cards you made with set characteristics to help them find the right answer.

So for Greek Mythology a very basic score card may look like this (multiplied by how many players you expect).

Options: Zeus – Hera – Artemis – Apollo – Ares – Demeter

God of:
Important item:
Sacred animal:
Other important names:
Other randomly useful stuff:

How Do You Play?

Mix up the cards and have every player pick one card. Give them a chance to read it over and, if you’re doing this as a language learning exercise, give them a chance to ask questions or look some things up. The goal is to get people talking!

After everyone has prepared, each players gets to ask one question in turn. These can be yes/no answers, but players are encouraged to ask open questions. (If you’re doing this for language learning purposes, this offers players a variant way of trying to describe things. It’s a little counter-intuitive because they’re trying to be obscure instead of clear, but it can be a refreshing change of pace.)

Note! Some players will very happily try to ask multiple questions, so you may need to be strict! Personally, I’m fine with players asking confirmation for questions already asked because my goal is to get people talking.

Who Wins?

There are several possible ways to decide the winner, depending on either the size of the group or the length of time you can play this in. And possibly more variants I haven’t thought of! So here are some suggestions:

Last Person Standing: The winner is whoever manages to hide their [noun] from the others the longest.

Points For The Win: The winner is whoever guesses the most answers.

If you’re opting for a points-based system (which is my recommendation), you can have everyone guess throughout the game/during their turn or save it for a later point. Personally I find that letting people guess in the middle of the game doesn’t make for a particularly fun experience if someone is really good at guessing the answers or if someone doesn’t want to wait for their turn. So another option is to have everyone write down their guesses and check them together at the end, awarding, for example, 2 points for each correct answer and 1 point for “I clearly know the answer, but I don’t know the actual word”.

The latter option is particularly good if you’re working with a time limit, because it’ll help people stay focused and it gives you a clear indication of when the game is over: when the time limit is met. (Plus, it offers players a set time where they can ask additional questions or make additional comments like “Oh, I didn’t know that [Famous Person] worked as a [job title]!” and discuss those!)


This game, in this variant, only works if people already know the topics they’re talking about well enough to reliably use the word or the names. I’m sure smarter people can adapt it to encourage players to learn about new things more effectively and even to tie it into specific grammatical structures to practice.

Me, I just wanted a quick fun way to get people talking to one another at the end of a lesson for a bit of variation, so I’m perfectly content to let the players temporarily drift away into a discussion about, say, the time they visited the Parthenon.

The End

Yep. I think that about covers it. I didn’t have quite the amount of time I’d wanted to set this up before needing it (which sadly showed) and this is still more of a rough draft that needs refinement to really work, but I hope someone will find some use for it at some point!

Despite not being the most refined idea (yet), I canvouch for the fact that this game is fun to play with one another. My students certainly liked it enough that we’re playing it again next time. But this time they get to pick their own famous person and make their own cards and I’ll have a better handle on the rules that will actually work well with this particular group.

If you decide to play it, I hope you’ll all have fun! 😀

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