The 20 questions game is a fantastic activity that anyone can play. Not only is it a great speaking activity for ESL students, but it is also a great game to play with friends. There are many variations of the 20 questions game so some people may not be aware of the game rules. So, let’s take a look at how to play the 20 questions game, some example questions you can ask, and some popular variations of the 20 questions game.
What Is The 20 Questions Game?
The 20 questions game is a simple yet super fun guessing game. In this game, one person thinks of something and then other players ask up to 20 yes/no questions to help them figure out what thing the other person is thinking of. The 20 questions game doesn’t require any materials or preparation, which makes it a great activity to play in class.
How To Play 20 Questions
To play 20 questions, first, one person must think of a secret object and not tell anyone what it is. Then, that person should let the other players know what kind of thing it is. The secret object can be an animal, a famous person, a type of food, something you find in a classroom, or literally any other category you can think of.
Once the person has said what category the secret object belongs to, the other players can ask up to 20 questions to try and figure out what secret object the person is thinking of. These 20 questions must be ‘yes/no’ questions, also known as ‘closed questions’.
The players should use these questions to narrow down the possible answers so that they get a better chance of guessing the word correctly. For this reason, players should start out asking general questions and gradually move to more specific questions. For example, “Is it an animal?”, “Is it an animal that is kept as a pet?”, “Does it have whiskers?”, “Is it a cat?”, and so on.
Once the players who are guessing have a good idea of what the secret object is, they can go ahead and guess, even if they haven’t asked all 20 questions. To make this game a little more competitive, you can encourage students to try and guess the answer in as few questions as possible and award points accordingly. For example, one way to do this is to tell students they have 20 points to start with, and for each question they ask, they lose one point.
Ideas For The 20 Questions Game
Although playing the 20 questions game is quite easy and requires no materials, coming up with fun ideas for the 20 questions game can be challenging. Here are many fun ideas for the 20 questions game. Below you’ll find many categories for the game and many examples.
The topic of ‘animals’ is a great category for the 20 questions game, especially for kids. There are so many animals with many different characteristics. With beginner learners, you could make it easier by focusing on ‘zoo animals’ or ‘pets’. Here are some examples of animals you can use in the 20 questions game.
Food is another great category for the 20 questions game as there is such a huge variety of food to choose from. Be careful, however! This topic may make you hungry! Here are some examples of foods you could use when playing 20 questions.
- ice cream
- fish and chips
- meat pie
- baked beans
- ramen noodles
Places Around Town
Places around town is a great topic for the 20 questions game, especially if you’re teaching ESL students. Here are some examples of places around town you can use.
- train station
- swimming pool
- bus station
Another common category that is used in the 20 questions game is ‘famous people’. This can be celebrities, politicians, or other notable people from the present, or famous people from the past. This is why when asking questions about this category, people often start with “Is this person alive?”. Here are some famous people you can use when playing 20 questions.
- Barrack Obama
- Queen Elizabeth II
- Elvis Presley
- Martin Scorcese
- Kanye West
- Robert Deniro
- Genghis Khan
- J.K. Rowling
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Julius Ceaser
- Billie Eilish
- Winston Churchill
- Rosa Parks
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Thomas Edison
- Mark Twain
For those who want a challenging topic, ‘objects’ is a great category. There are so many things that are considered ‘objects’ and when using this category players should choose their questions wisely, or before they know it they will burn through all 20 questions without getting close to the answer. If you are teaching beginner ESL students, you might want to narrow down the topic to something like classroom objects, objects in the house, etc.
Here are some examples of objects you can use in this game.
- pencil case
- cell phone
- frying pan
- vacuum cleaner
- tennis racket
- light bulb
Good Example Questions To Ask
An incredibly important part of the 20 questions game is asking good questions that can help you get to the answer as quickly as possible. Good questions will help you narrow down the possible answers as much as possible. So, what are some good questions to ask? Here are 20 example questions you can try based on the categories we discussed above.
- Is this person alive?
- Can this animal fly?
- Is this object something you find in a house?
- Does this animal live on a farm?
- Is this person American?
- Is the object bigger than a watermelon?
- Does this animal eat meat?
- Can I see this object in the room now?
- Is this object expensive?
- Is this person fictional?
- Is this person a movie star?
- Is this animal bigger than a car?
- Do many people visit this place?
- Is this food a vegetable?
- Is this food sweet?
- Can I carry this object around in my pocket?
- Is this person a woman?
- Is this person over 30 years old?
- Do people keep this animal as a pet?
- Is this person a sports personality?
As was mentioned in the introduction of this article, there are many variations of the 20 questions game. Some are guessing games, and others are question games to get to know someone. Let’s look at our favorite variations of the 20 questions game and some other fun question games you can play in class.
This variation of the 20 questions game is often played at parties, but you can also play it in your classroom. The rules of the game are almost identical, but in this variation, only one person is guessing while the other people are answering the questions.
To play, one person from the group must write the names of famous people on pieces or paper or post-it notes. Then, players would choose one at random, and, without looking at it, stick it on their forehead so that everyone else can see. Once everyone has a name on their forehead, players will take turns asking yes/no questions to find out who they are.
I Spy With My Little Eye
This classic game, which is often played to pass the time, can be played in class as a fun guessing game. In this game, one player would choose an object that they can see. Then, they would give everyone a clue by telling them the first letter of that object. And then, all the other players would try to guess what word they were thinking of. For more detailed instructions on how to play this game, check out our post on How To Play I Spy.
What Am I?
‘What Am I?’ is a super fun guessing game you can play in class or with friends. To play, one person thinks of something, gives 3-5 clues that describe the object, and then asks ‘What Am I?’. Check out these ‘What Am I?’ Quiz Questions for some ideas and ready-made quizzes you can use.
The Categories Game
The Categories Game is a fun word game based on the popular Scategories board game. To play, students must come up with words from various categories that begin with a particular letter of the alphabet. For detailed instructions on how to play and a list of categories, check out our detailed guide to The Categories Game.
Thanks for reading. I hope you and your students have fun playing the 20 questions game for hours on end. Before you go, don’t forget to check out our free resources for teaching English including ESL Videos, ESL Worksheets, PPT Games, PowerPoint Lessons, and more.