When thinking of EFL/ESL games, we often picture loud, energetic sessions with kids. They’re a lot of fun. But with adults, things are different. While some grown-ups like high energy activities, many prefer to take a more sophisticated approach.

Does that mean we can’t play games with adults in EFL/ESL? Absolutely not! It just means we have to choose the right games and activities to suit their needs.

Photo by RODNAE Productions: https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-people-in-blue-crew-neck-shirts-with-happy-faces-7551764/

That means you’ll probably want to avoid games like Board Races and Hot Potato. We also have the opportunity to introduce activites which require a little more thinking, that our less mature classes couldn’t handle.

What are those games and activities? Great question! Luckily, you’re in the perfect place to find the answers because I have 9 of the best classy EFL/ESL games and activities for adults.

If you’re looking for more energetic games for younger students, check out my 9 High Energy EFL/ESL Games for Boosting Vocabulary.

Let’s get to it!

  1. Spyfall
  2. Alibi
  3. Call My Bluff
  4. Role Plays
  5. Psychiatrist
  6. Countdown
  7. Coup
  8. Fortune Telling
  9. Narrative Telephone

If you’re looking for detailed instructions with adaptations for students of different ages, abilities, both online and in-person, with individuals and groups, I have a fantastic ebook with 20 EFL/ESL games. It’s completely free for subscribers to the Enchanted ESL Newsletter.

Subscribers also get access to a bunch of other exclusive resources as well as monthly role-play scenarios, games and lesson plans. Follow the link and you can get it all for free now!

1. Spyfall

Spyfall is a brilliant social deduction game that involves carefully asking and answering questions.

Estimated time: 30-60 minutes
English level:
All levels (except absolute beginners)
Materials: Spyfall board game (or print-and-play version)

I recently discovered this wonderful game and have already had great success with it. Players need to be smart when asking and answering questions so they don’t give too much away, meaning word choice is vital.

You can play this with students of all levels as long as they can handle basic questions. With advanced students, you can increase the complexity to challenge them further.

For more about how to challenge advanced students, check out my article on the subject: How to Engage and Challenge Advanced EFL/ESL Students.

The game can be played with as few as 3 players, but I’d recommend at least 4, and ideally more, up to a maximum of 8.

Watch my video to learn how to play (or read the written guidance below):

How to play

There are 30 locations, like amusement park, ocean liner and submarine.

All players get a card which they do not reveal. Everyone gets a card with the same location, except for one player who gets the “spy” card. They do not know the location.

The first player (usually the spy from the previous round) chooses another player and asks them a question. Let’s say the location is an amusement park. An example question: Ana, how do you feel about being here?

The answering player, Ana, should try to give enough information for others to know she’s not the spy, but not so much that the spy can determine the location. She might reply: I’m excited to be here.

Ana now gets to ask the next question. She can ask any other player except the one who just asked her. She asks: Josef, are there lots of people here?

Imagine Josef is the spy. He doesn’t know the location, but has to give an answer that makes him seem on the level. Saying: I’m not sure, quite a lot is suspicious. But if he says: No, it’s quiet, he’ll look even worse.

If players think they know who the spy is, they can start a vote, requiring all non-accused players to agree. If they catch the spy, they all get points. The spy wins if the players vote for someone who is not the spy.

The spy can also win if they declare they are the spy and guess the location correctly.

Of course, read the full rules for how to keep track of times in each round, and how to score points.


  • Encourage students to think about the location in general rather than focusing on what is on the picture of the card. If you play with the published board game, the pictures can be distracting.
  • Play the game yourself and introduce some new questions and phrases.
  • There’s an optional extra of role-playing a character in the location. For example, in the amusement park, each card has a different role, like drinks vendor, mechanic, or first-time visitor. I’d only do this after a few rounds of play and making sure everyone has grasped the game fully.

2. Alibi

Adults love this game. While you can certainly play it with kids, an extra level of maturity goes a long way in terms of creative, productive English. You’ll need an absolute minimum of 4 players, and it works best with 6 or more. With a class of 12 plus, consider running two games in parallel.

Estimated time: 30-40 minutes
English level:
Intermediate and Advanced
Materials: None

If you have two rooms available, that’s ideal, but you can still play it in one classroom as long as everyone respects the rules.

How to play

Part 1

Choose two students to be criminals. Tell them they’ve committed a crime (a murder in Paris, arson in Beijing… whatever you want) and are going to be questioned by the police.

The criminals go somewhere out of earshot. They have 10 minutes to agree on a false alibi for where they were and what they were doing on the day of the crime. Requirements: They spent the whole day together and went to 3 separate places.

The other students are police detectives. Split them into 2 teams. They’re going to question the criminals and find holes in their alibis by preparing and asking questions. They know the criminals went to 3 places and spent the whole day together. They spend the 10 minutes preparing questions.

Part 2

Each police team interrogates one criminal at a time. If you have a second room, put one police team in each room, so criminals can’t talk to each other while being questioned.

Detectives have 5 minutes to ask questions to the criminals. Encourage them to take notes.

Important: “I don’t know” or non-specific answers from the criminals are not allowed. They must give tangible information. They should answer promptly, and not stall for time.

After five minutes, swap the criminals around so they talk to the other police team. For another five minutes, detectives ask questions. The aim is to identify inconsistencies between the two alibis.


Police teams consolidate what they’ve learned. If they can identify 3 differences between what the criminals said, they have enough evidence to put them in prison and win the game. If they can’t find sufficient proof, the criminals get away with it!


  • Increase the number of inconsistencies required to 5 instead of 3 if criminals always get caught. Or, if the detectives are struggling, lower it to 2.
  • Be strict with time limits. If you’re short on time, reduce how long criminals have to invent their alibi.
  • Help the detectives by suggesting a few tricky questions like, “What were you both wearing?”

Alibi is one of those great games which requires no preparation or materials. For more no-prep games and activities, head to my article 9 EFL/ESL Games With No Materials or Preparation Needed.

3. Call My Bluff

Call My Bluff is a great game for adults who like being creative and can hold their nerve under a little pressure. The game comes from a classic UK television show which you can check out in this YouTube video.

Estimated time: 5 minutes per round
English level:
Upper Intermediate and Advanced
Materials: Pen and paper

You can play it with as few as 2 students, but it works best with at least six, so you have teams of three or more.

I’ve written the rules below, but I recommend you watch this video I made on how to play – it includes some great tips!

How to play

Split the class into teams of 3-5. If you have lots of students, you can have multiple teams having parallel matches. You will need an even number of teams.

Secretly, give each team an unusual word and its definition. For example, “to chortle” with the definition “to laugh in a noisy, happy way”. Choose words you’re confident students won’t know.

Teams have a few minutes to write two alternative definitions – the bluffs. For “to chortle” they might think of “to eat so fast you get sick” and “to walk with confidence”.

Now, three members from each team read the definitions (one real and two bluffs) to the other team. The other team can ask questions to those who read the definitions to get more information.

The other team gets a point if they can correctly identify the correct definition. However, if they choose a bluff, the bluffing team gets a point.


  • Check players make plausible bluffs. If there are obvious errors in the definition or they’re nonsensical, the other team will easily see them as false.
  • Ensure words aren’t similar in their native tongue, especially if they speak Germanic or Latin based languages.
  • Don’t just go for long words. In fact, English is full of short, quirky words that are often better choices. Dire, nape and sneer are some great examples.

I made a big list of words and definitions you can use in Call My Bluff. And it’s free! All you need to do is sign up to the Enchanted ESL Monthly Newsletter and you’ll get to my free resources for subscribers (it’s packed full of other fantastic games and activities, too!)

4. Role plays

If you’ve read much else on this website, you’ll know I’m always singing the praises of role-playing activities. For me, they’re the best way to improve practical English speaking. They’re also a lot of fun.

Read my article Why All EFL/ESL Teachers Should Use Role Play Activities for more on why I love them so much.

Role plays are imaginary scenarios in which participants attempt to solve a problem, have an argument, or help each other out, all while in-character. It’s not about acting. It’s about coming up with appropriate English in the moment.

Role plays can be boring if you do them wrong, though. Online, you’ll find many structured role plays which are essentially scripts and the scenarios are mundane. You can do better. Here are three ideas that go beyond the standard “order food in a restaurant” or “ask for directions”.

  • Get your business students negotiating imaginary deals from start to finish.
  • Set up a political debate about the future of the country with characters playing ministers of questionable integrity.
  • Put students on a desert island and have them work as a team to survive.

For more role-play ideas for adults, check out my 5 Engaging EFL/ESL Role Play Activities for Adults (+ tips). And if you want more details on how to get the best out of role plays with adults, click the link to see my guide: Teaching EFL/ESL to Teenagers & Adults With Role Play.

Take it up a level and introduce dice rolls to determine the outcome of their proposed actions. Roll bad, and things don’t go well. Roll fantastic, and you achieve great things! What you’ve done is create a table-top role-playing game (or TTRPG).

TTRPGs are my favourite activities of all. For adults who are willing to engage in a bit of fantasy or sci-fi, playing Dungeons and Dragons (or one of many other similar systems) lets them express themselves and also learn a whole lot of English along the way.

Check out this video for a look into how awesome TTRPGs can be.

5. Psychiatrist

A game for all ages, but reaches a different level with adults. When playing with children, there can be quite a lot of silliness, but adults will always find new ideas and push the boundaries.

Estimated time: 10 minutes per round
English level:
All levels
Materials: None

You need at least 2 students to play this game, although it’s best with more.

How to play

One student is the psychiatrist. (with big groups, consider choosing 2 or 3). They wait outside the room.

Other students are patients. They agree on a “condition” that they all have. For example, they think they are in Australia. Or, they always twist their answers into questions.

When the psychiatrist comes back into the room, they have to determine the condition. They do this by asking questions and observing the responses.

Let’s say the patients all think they’re in Australia. They answer their questions by referencing Australian things all the time, maybe saying how hot it is, and inviting the psychiatrist to a barbecue.

When the psychiatrist works out the condition, choose a new psychiatrist and play again.


  • With groups who struggle to think of conditions, give them a few ideas to start them off. They’ll soon get the hang of it.
  • Check every condition is appropriate and inoffensive.
  • If psychiatrists aren’t asking the right questions, steer them towards the target.

6. Countdown

Another classic British TV show, Countdown practices spelling. It’s a chilled activity which adults of all ages seemingly can’t get enough of.

Estimated time: 5 minutes per round
English level:
Upper Intermediate and Advanced
Materials: Paper & Pen, this website: https://incoherency.co.uk/countdown/practice/

Head to the website: https://incoherency.co.uk/countdown/practice/ to automate the game. It’s totally free.

Instructions are written below, but I recommend you watch this video, too, so you can see how it’s done.

How to play

Players have 30 seconds to make the longest word possible out of 9 letters.

Let one student pick either “consonant” or “vowel” for all 9 letters (4-5 of each usually works best). Everyone should make a note of the letters.

Start the Countdown timer. During this time, students try to make the longest word they can manage. You can’t use a letter more than once.

When time is up, players say the number of letters in their longest word, and then reveal it (shortest word first). The person with the longest word wins as many points as letters in their word. A nine-letter word (very rare) gets double – 18 points.


  • Allow 60 seconds instead of 30 to give your students a bit more time. This is an option on the website linked above.
  • You can play too. Give players extra points if they beat the teacher!
  • The “Show Answers” button reveals all possible words – some of which are common, others are very unusual.
  • Bonus: The “Conundrum” button creates an instant 9-letter anagram. See who (if anyone) figures it out first!

If you’re looking for more games and activities for practicing writing and spelling, follow the link for my 9 Exciting EFL/ESL Activities for Writing & Spelling

7. Coup

Coup is a card game with an element of bluffing and social deduction. Most people I’ve played it with get addicted after a few goes, and it gives you that feeling of “one more round”.

Estimated time: 2-3 minutes per round
English level:
All levels (except absolute beginners)
Materials: Coup (card game)

You can play the game with an individual student (you play against them) or with a group of up to 6. There’s also an expansion that lets you play with 10.

This video from No Rolls Barred shows you the rules first, then has the gang play a number of rounds.

WARNING: Adult language, not suitable for children.

The bluffing, drama, and good-natured rivalry provoke a lot of emergent English.


  • Don’t play it too much. After a while, students will have learned as much as they can from the game and will stop learning new things. Unfortunately, it’s so addictive, they won’t want to stop.
  • Take part yourself and introduce key phrases and advanced structures.
  • Get the expansion (Coup: Reformation) to play with larger groups and a revised rule set.

8. Fortune Telling

Tarot cards have always fascinated me. Personally, I don’t believe they have any magic powers, but there’s definitely something cool about them. And you can use them to teach English.

They’re great because they cover the past, the present and the future – what better way to practice the tenses!

Estimated time: 5 minutes per reading
English level:
Intermediate and Advanced
Materials: Tarot cards (or standard playing card deck)

Feel free to buy a tarot deck, but if you don’t want to do that, use a standard deck of 52 and find out what each card represents on this website: https://cafeastrology.com/fortunetellingcards.html.

You can do a simple reading of 3 cards (past, present and future) or 9 (three for each tense). See what connections you can find and imagine what it all means.

Image by Keith Gonzalez from Pixabay


  • Ensure your students know this is all a bit of fun. Some people might feel uncomfortable with it, so if it’s not going down well, ease off.
  • To avoid personal things, do a reading for an imaginary character. Come up with a story about their past and present and where they’re going in the future.

You can do a lot with a simple deck of cards. For a variety of great activities like this one, read my list of 9 Fun EFL/ESL Games & Ideas With Standard Playing Cards.

9. Narrative Telephone

This activity requires a bit of thought into the logistics of how you’re going to set it up, but the rewards are totally worth it. You can play it in class, or make it into a memorable homework activity.

For more homework inspiration, check out my list: 9 Engaging Homework Ideas for EFL/ESL: No worksheets!

Narrative Telephone is the classic Telephone (Chinese whispers) game taken to the next level. Instead of passing on a sentence, you pass on a whole story. It needs a group of at least 3, and the optimum group size is around 6.

How to play

One person is the storyteller. At first, this should you, the teacher. The storyteller comes up with a short story (about 2 minutes to read out loud).

The storyteller tells the story to one student in the class, making sure nobody else can hear. If classes are in person, go out of the room. Online, start a private chat. Between classes as homework, it works really well to record a video/audio and send it to the student.

That student can only listen to the story ONCE. They aren’t allowed to ask questions. Once they have listened to it, they retell it to the next student, trying to remember the details.

Again, the next student only has one chance to listen to it before passing it on. This continues until the last student hears the story and retells it to everyone. Enjoy hearing what stayed in the story, what was lost, and what got twisted into something totally different!

The idea comes from the team at Critical Role. Check out their first Narrative Telephone episode in the video below.


  • Include grammar/vocab/structures you’ve been studying in the story.
  • Find short stories on the internet if you’re struggling to come up with your own. Just remember to keep them 2-3 minutes read aloud.
  • After one or two games, let a student write the initial story.
  • Don’t put pressure on students to get the story right. Getting it wrong is part of the fun.
  • If you’re doing it outside of class with recorded video/audio that you send to each other, there’s a chance students will listen to the story multiple times. Make sure they know it’ll kill the fun if they do that.
  • Encourage students to add flourish and creativity to their retellings.
  • If you do the activity during a class rather than for homework, make sure students have something else to be doing while they’re not listening or retelling.
  • Don’t delete videos/audio. It’s great fun to listen to it all back. You can also pick up any strengths and weaknesses this way.

There’s another variation of this game which is written instead of spoken. For the full details of how to do that, head to my article 9 Exciting EFL/ESL Activities for Writing & Spelling.

Be creative, and unleash your students

The games and activities on this list are not an exact science. Some of them will work straight out of the box, while others require a bit of tweaking to suit your class. Feel free to adapt them to your needs.

And let your students make them their own, too. As long as they’re improving their English and engaging with the activity, the rules don’t need to be followed to the letter. Adjust, improvise, do whatever is required to make it a success.

To get access to more games, with detailed instructions and guidance for adapting them to all situations, sign up to the Enchanted ESL Newsletter and get a copy of my free ebook of 20 EFL/ESL games. You’ll also get monthly emails with role-play scenarios, lesson plans, and even more games!

If you’re looking for more games and activities, check out my other lists:
9 EFL/ESL Speaking Games & Activities Perfect for Beginners
9 EFL/ESL Games & Activities for Intermediate Learners
9 EFL/ESL Games and Activities for Advanced Learners
9 High Energy EFL/ESL Games for Boosting Vocabulary
9 Engaging Homework Ideas for EFL/ESL: No worksheets!
9 Exciting EFL/ESL Activities for Writing & Spelling
9 Fun EFL/ESL Games & Ideas With Standard Playing Cards
9 EFL/ESL Games With No Materials or Preparation Needed
9 EFL/ESL 5 Minute Games Every Teacher Needs to Know
9 Superb EFL/ESL Games & Activities Using Just Pen & Paper
9 Classy EFL/ESL Games & Activities for Adults (+ tips)
9 Confidence-Boosting EFL/ESL Speaking Games for All Levels
9 Exciting Flashcard Games for EFL/ESL Classes

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