storytelling past continuous dog rescue stories

Storytelling, the past continuous and dog rescue stories

Watch 4 true dog rescue stories about puppies found on the streets of Manila and learn how their lives turned around. You’ll see sick little puppies transform into happy healthy dogs and learn how to tell a great story in English at the same time.

To tell a good story you’re going to need the past simple and the past continuous. The past simple is great for describing the main events in a story but the past continuous adds extra information that can bring a story to life.
It’s useful for setting the scene and describing the background, so it’s great for giving reasons, and explaining why things happened. And it can also explain the timing of events.
You can use it to describe:
– when actions happened – so actions that were going on around a point in time.
– things that were happening at the same time – simultaneous actions
– actions that got interrupted – long actions that were stopped by another shorter action
In short, the past continuous helps make stories better!

Everyone likes listening to a good story, but can you tell a good story?
Story telling is a really useful skill.
It gets you invited to lots of dinner parties.
And it’s useful at work too. Sometimes stories are a good way to explain why you want to do something.
So today we’re looking at a grammar structure that will help you tell a good story.The past continuous.
Also known as the past progressive.
And we have some great stories for you as well.
We have four special stories today.
They’re all about dogs and puppies, and they’re all set in Manila in the Philippines.
And they’re all true stories.
And very heart warming.
Let’s jump straight in and hear the first one.
See if you can spot examples of the past continuous.

Meet June. Today he’s a very happy dog, but his life used to be very different. Two years ago, when he was just a puppy, he was living on the streets of Manilla. He had wounds all over his body and he was drinking water from the ground.
People scared him and he didn’t like it when a dog catcher picked him up. But that was when his life turned around. He spent a month at the vet’s getting better and then he went home with Hazel, his new owner. Now he’s probably the most fashionable dog in Manila.

Past simple vs past continuous

Did you spot the past continuous?
I was just looking at the dog. He was so cute.
I know it’s hard to think about grammar when you’re focused on a story, but let’s see what happened.
Most of the time when we’re talking about things that happened in the past, we use the past simple.
It’s pretty straight forward. You add -ed to the main verb, you form the negative with didn’t and irregular verbs have special forms.
But we heard another past tense form too: the past continuous. We can use it to talk about actions that were in progress at a specific time in the past, so here it’s 2 years ago.
We form the past continuous with the past form of the verb be – so was or were – and then the -ing form of the main verb.
I have a question for you. Why do we say had here and not was having?
It’s because the verb have describes a state here, not an action. State verbs don’t normally have continuous forms. We’ve made another video about that if you’re interested.
I have another question.
Why do we use the past continuous when we’re telling stories? Why not use the past simple all the time?
Great question. The past simple works well when we want to list things that happened. But stories get more interesting when we use the past continuous too, so the past simple AND continuous.
Why’s that?
The past continuous brings stories alive. It adds extra information and helps us paint pictures in our mind. Let’s hear some more examples.

It was a busy day in Manila. The sun was shining and everyone was hurrying to work. Michael decided to take a different route to college, and something caught his eye.
A young puppy was limping along the road. He looked very sick and he was starving.
Michael found him some food and water, but he couldn’t afford to adopt him because he was supporting both himself and his younger brother through school.
So he turned to his friends for help. He posted a message on Facebook with a map of the dog’s location and asked everyone to share it.
The message made its way to the US where Geri picked it up. She contacted her friends in the Philippines and found someone to take Jay to the vet.
Jay was suffering from mange, a skin disease that made him lose his fur. He was always scratching because his skin was itchy, but not any more. Jay was adopted by Ninfa and just look at him now. What a bundle of lovely white fur and what a happy dog!

Hey that dog has the same name as me!
Yes, they called him Jay because apparently, in Chinese culture, the letter J is lucky.
He was a very lucky dog.
Indeed. But let’s look at how the we used the two past forms.

Storytelling and the past continuous

Notice how the story started. The sun was shining, everyone was hurrying to work. We often use the past continuous like this at the start of stories to set the scene. We use it to give the background and context for the story, and then when the action starts, we switch. For the events in the story we use the past simple.
But when we’re describing a scene, we use the past continuous, like this. The past continuous paints a picture of what things were like, so it’s very effective at the start of stories.
And another thing. Sometimes we want to give reasons and explain why something happened or didn’t happen. The past continuous is useful for that too. We use it to give context, so here we learn why Michael couldn’t adopt Jay. He was he was supporting himself and his brother through school.
Michael couldn’t afford to adopt Jay because he was supporting both himself and his younger brother through school.
Another example. Why did Jay lose his fur? It was because he was suffering from mange. So ‘he lost his fur’ is an event but we use the past continuous to give the background and explain why.
So the past continuous sets the scene and gives context to a story.
That’s a good way of thinking about it. Past simple for the events. Past continuous for the context and background.
And the past continuous can tell you about the timing of events.
What do you mean?
Well, let’s watch another example.

Erika was a stray dog that visited the parking lot outside Fernando’s office. She was super friendly and loved to be petted.
Every day, when Fernando was going into work, Erika was sitting outside, waiting to greet him. And when he was leaving at night she was there again, waiting to follow him to his car and watch him drive away.
Then one day, Erika showed up with a friend, Chance. Chance was very thin and he was suffering from mange. Fernando was worried about how sick he was. He knew he wouldn’t survive long on the streets, so he decided to take them both to the vet.
It was easy to persuade Erika to get into the car. She trusted him, but Chance was frightened. But by the end of the day, he’d relaxed. He seemed to know he was safe.
Fernando adopted both of them and today Chance is a very happy dog and a lot fatter. Sadly Erika passed away last year, but Chance still lives with Fernando and some of other stray dogs that Fernando has rescued.

So Erica has died.
Yeah. She had a special place in Fernando’s heart.
We know how he feels.
It’s tough when a dog dies. I still think of Carter all the time.
Carter was a dog we had that died.
Notice we have two actions happening at the same time here. We can use the past continuous for both actions and it shows they were happening simultaneously. That can be useful when you’re telling a story.
When we use the continuous form of a verb, it can express duration and repetition. So it indicates an action continued for a length of time, and possibly that it happened again and again. And that’s what we’re seeing here. Two actions happened simultaneously and also repeatedly. Fernando kept going to work and leaving and Erika was always there.
You could switch the word ‘when’ for ‘while’ in this sentence and it would mean the same thing. And you could also change the order of the two clauses and it would mean the same thing as well. These are two long actions that were happening at the same time.
So the past continuous adds information about timing. It shows an action had length and duration.
We’ll often use the past continuous for long actions and the past simple for short ones.
And that can be very useful for telling stories.
How come?
Sometimes long actions get interrupted or stopped by short ones.
We need another example. Let’s have our last story.

Nobody knows what happened to Bella. She was probably hit by a car while she was crossing the street.
When Lance and Anzhelika found her she was lying at the side of the road and she couldn’t move.
They took her to the vet but the news was bad. Bella had a spine injury and the vet said she would never walk again. So Lance and Anzhelika found a solution. Bella is mobile again and look at that smile!

What a great story!
She’s amazing.
It started so badly but then it had a happy ending.
And we had some great examples of the past continuous.
The long action here is ‘Bella was crossing the street’. And it was interrupted and stopped by a short action. She was hit by a car.
Notice we use the past continuous for the long action and the past simple for the short one.
This is another sentence where you could reverse the two clauses and the meaning would stay the same.
And also, you could change ‘while’ for ‘when’ here. But notice that you couldn’t say ‘while she was hit by a car’.
We can use ‘when’ with the short action or long action. But we only use ‘while’ with long actions.
Another example. The long action here was ‘lying’. When they found Bella they picked her up and took her to the vet, so the long action was interrupted or stopped by the short one. Past continuous – past simple.
I think we need a quick summary.
That sounds good.
OK, to tell a good story you’re going to need the past simple AND the past continuous. The past simple is great for telling the main events in a story but the past continuous adds extra information that can bring a story to life.
It’s useful for setting the scene and describing the background. So it’s great for giving reasons, and explaining why things happened.
And it also describes the timing of events.
You can use it to describe when actions happened – so actions that were going on around a point in time.
And to describe things that were happening at the same time – simultaneous actions
And to describe actions that got interrupted – long actions that were stopped by another shorter action
In short, the past continuous makes stories better!
We want to say thank you to all the lovely dog rescuers who have let us share their stories in today’s videos.
They were so inspiring.
If you’ve enjoyed them, please give this video thumbs up and share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss our future videos.
Bye everyone.

British and American word differences

25 more British and American English word differences

Here’s the last in our series with Super Agent Awesome on British and American English word differences.

In this video we look at differences like takeout-takeaway and cookies-biscuits and say what we’d call them in British and American English.

Some of the other words we explore in this video include marquee and suspenders, movie theater and cinema, and garbage bins, rubbish bins, candy apples and toffee apples, math and maths, catapult and slingshot.

When you buy your food for the night, you get…
Oh, I get takeout.
OK and I’d call it a takeaway.
A takeaway. Isn’t like takeaway like somebody taking away your stuff? Like stealing?
Hello everyone, today’s lesson’s about British and American words. And luckily, I have Super Agent Awesome to help me.
Thank you so much Vicki. I am so glad to have you here.
And are you British, or are you American?
I am American.
And I’m British, so together we should be quite good.
Now, where is this baby sleeping?
In the crib.
And I’d call it, in British English, a cot.
That’s a crib.
This is what we’d call a crib.
Now, what’s this baby wearing?
It’s wearing a onesie.
And I’d say it’s wearing a babygro.
That’s a rowboat.
And I’d say a rowing boat.
A jump rope.
We’d call that a skipping rope.
This is a slingshot.
Ah, and I’d call it a catapult.
Huh. Rowboat.
Rowing boat.
Jump rope.
Skipping rope.
And, what are they?
Oh yeah, they’re cookies.
And I’d call them biscuits.
She’s using the stove.
Uhuh, and I’d say she was cooking on a cooker.
That sounds like a tongue twister. A cook, cooking on a cooker.
So, what building is this?
I would call this a movie theater.
And I’d call it a cinema.
On the top, what’s that thing outside?
A marquee?
We might call that an awning in British English. For me, this is a marquee. It’s an outside tent.
It’s a tent to have parties in.
A movie theater.
Party tent.
What’s this guy wearing?
He’s wearing a watch.
And what else is he wearing.
He’s also wearing suspenders.
He’s not wearing suspenders in British English. He’s wearing braces.
Braces? Aren’t these the metal things that go on your teeth?
Ah, we do call those braces as well. And so do you. Let me show you what suspenders are in British English. See the red things. They’re suspenders.
Oh, we got garbage bins.
OK, I’d call them dustbins. So, what’s their job?
Trash collectors.
And I’d say they’re dustmen.
A trash can.
And I’d call it the rubbish bin.
Trash or garbage bins.
Trash collectors.
Trash can.
Rubbish bin.
My favorite. Candy apples.
And we’d call them toffee apples.
Candy apples.
Toffee apples.
Ok, and I say it in a similar way but I say it with an S a the end.
Yes. What are those blue marks?
Oh, they’re call the check marks.
We’d call them ticks.
Check marks.
We call that beets.
They’re beet roots.
They’re called herbs.
And we’d call them herbs with a “h” at the start.
And this one we call oreGAno.
Oh, we call this oREGano.
They’re called sneakers.
Normally we call them trainers. And I don’t know if you have these, but in schools in England a lot of kids do their gym practice in these shoes.
They’re called plimsolls.
You’ve got an American one and a British one.
Oh, wow. I call that a mailbox.
In British English it’s a post box. At the bottom of a letter there are some numbers. What are they?
We call them a zip code.
We have post codes.
Mail box.
Post box.
zip code.
Post code.
Ok so, we finished. That’s it.
Bye, Oh, Whoa. Wait, Vicki. We forgot to tell them to subscribe.
Oh, OK.
If you really like our videos and you really want to stay informed on this channel then hit the subscribe button below this video. It’s the red button. That it for the video. Super Agent Awesome here, signing out. Peace!!!

We have other kinds of videos that compare British and American English that you might enjoy. Click here to see a playlist on YouTube
And here’s one of our favourites:

27 more UK US word differences.

27 more UK US word differences.

Super Agent Awesome is back with 27 more British and American English word differences.
Do you say lift or elevator? In this video we look at differences like ladybug/ladybird and flashlight/torch and say what we’d call them in British and American English.
Some of the other words we explore in this video include counterclockwise and anti-clockwise, Popsicle and lolly, pants, trousers, underwear, panties, knickers, diapers and nappies.

What’s that?
Aww, a ladybug. Make a wish!
I’d say ladybird.
But it’s not a bird, it’s a bug.
What is up? Super Agent Awesome here, back with another video. And I’m so glad to have you here, Vicki.
Thank you.
We are gonna learn about British and American words and how they are different.
Which way is that going round?
Yeah, and what about the other one?
You mean anti-clockwise.
Wait. What?
A flashlight.
Uh huh, I’d say a torch.
I thought a torch was like a firey stick.
Yes, I know what you mean. We call them torches as well.
Ok, what is that?
It’s called a popsicle.
And I’d call it a lolly.
Isn’t it like a lollipop?
Oh, we do call it a lollipop, as well.
Who’s that guy?
A crossing guard.
And I’d call him a lollipop man.
Crossing Guard.
Lollipop man.
And what are these?
Um, it’s underwear?
And I’d call them pants.
These are ladies ones.
Oh, panties.
Knickers in British English.
And what are they?
They’re pants.
These are trousers.
Cotton candy.
And we’d call it candyfloss.
Cotton candy.
It makes we want to have cotton candy. Oh, it’s a highway, expressway, or freeway.
We’d probably call it a motorway.
And when you have roads that go over another road?
It’s an overpass.
We’d call them a flyover.
They fly? Highway, expressway or freeway.
A can of beans.
And I’d say a tin of beans.
That’s aluminum foil.
We’d call it tin foil or aluminium foil. Notice that I said aluminium.
Huh. Can of beans.
Tin of beans.
Aluminum foil.
Tin foil or aluminium foil.
Here’s another one, this is…
It’s called an eggplant.
And I’d call that an aubergine. I think it’s a French word. Here’s another one.
A zucchini?
We call it a courgette.
Another French word?
Another French word.
We can call them elevators too, but often we say lifts.
OK, we can call them escalators too, but when I was growing up we always called them moving stairs.
Moving stairs.
That’s too literal.
Moving stairs.
What do you put inside your car?
We put petrol in our cars. One of these pedals makes it go faster.
It’s a gas pedal.
We’d call it the accelerator.
Gas pedal.
It’s a kiddie pool.
And I’d call it a paddling pool. And what’s he wearing?
He’s wearing a diaper.
And I’d call it a nappy.
A nappy? Isn’t like… Nappies are like … A nap is a short sleep.
Kiddie pool.
Paddling pool.
So what are these things?
These are washcloths.
And I’d call them flannels. And what’s that.
An outlet.
We’d call it a socket.
Oh, it’s an eraser.
I’d call it a rubber.
What? Wash cloths.
Can you look at this part of the picture where the people can walk.
It’s a sidewalk.
To me it’s a pavement. And what’s this?
A crosswalk.
And I’d call it a zebra crossing.
Psst, she means a ze(zee)bra.
Zebra crossing.
And that’s it. That’s the end of the video. We’re about to say goodbye. Bye…
Wait, hold on. We forgot about something.
Oh, what’s that?
We forgot to tell everyone about the subscribe button.
Oh, could you do that?
Sure thing. Hi ladies and gentlemen. Super Agent Awesome here. Now, if you want to stay informed, if you really like our channel, and if you really want to be a member of Simple English Videos then hit the subscribe button down below the video. You have 10 seconds. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Did you hit it yet? I hope you did. Super Agent Awesome signing off. PEACE!!!

mayor pneumonia pronunciation

9 English words that are hard to say in British and American English

Does it drive you crazy that English words are pronounced differently from the way they’re spelt? Don’t worry, we can help.
We’re looking at more words that English learners find tricky to pronounce and comparing how we say them in British and American English.

In this video we look at how we pronounce:
• jostle
• temperature
• mayor
• manoeuvre/maneuver
• despicable
• pneumonia
• pathetic
• tsunami
• ubiquitous

We talk about:
• silent letters
• the tricky English th sound
• syllable and word stress
• British and American differences
and lots, lots more.

To see our other videos on how to pronounce difficult words, click here.

We’re back with some more words that are difficult to pronounce in British English.
And in American English.
Are you ready to try them?
I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And all the people you’ll meet in this video come from lots of other countries.
English is their second, or third or even fourth language and we’re going to ask them to pronounce some tricky words.
So let’s get started!

Jostle pronunciation

Jos – jostle – so difficult!

There are two things to remember here. The word starts with ‘j’ – jostle.
So it’s a /d/ and ‘zh’ sound together- ‘j’, ‘j’.
And the letter t is silent. We write it but we don’t pronounce it.
So what does jostle mean?
If you push roughly against someone in a crowd, you jostle them.
You push or knock them.
When I get on the train in rush hour I get jostled.
Say it with our learners


OK, next word.

Temperature pronunciation


Ah nearly.
How many syllables does it have?


So it has three syllables. Temp-p(e)ra-ture
And temperature is the measurement in degrees of how hot or cold something is. For example, the temperature is about 80 degrees today.
He means it’s about 27 Celcius. In the US they still use Fahrenheit to measure temperature.
Yeah, I’m always really hot!
Say it with our learners.

Er, temperature.

What’s next?
OK, the next word is complicated.

Mayor pronunciation


That’s nearly right but it has a different vowel sound.


That’s better. We pronounce this word in different ways in the US. Some people say may-or with two syllables. And I say mayor, with one.
What is a mayor?
It’s a public official – the head of a city or town.
Like the Mayor of London.
May-or or mayor
You don’t pronounce the r sound at the end.
Yeah. Unless the next word starts with a vowel, there’s no R sound for me. Mare. Say it with our learners.

Erm, Mayor.

OK, next one.

Manoeuvre pronunciation

Manoeurvre. That one is French!
Manoeurvre. It’s a French word so…
Manoeurvre. French. Whatever.

They’re right, of course. It’s a French word we use in English but we say it differently.
We met one French learner who knew the pronunciation would be different and he had a guess at how we might say it in English.

Manovee? Manovee?

Great guess but he’s completely wrong!
You know, I think it’s easier to say this word if you’re NOT French.


They were good.
What does maneuver mean?
It’s a skillful or careful movement that we make.
For example, I’m very good at maneuvering our car into tight parking spots.
That’s true! He is!
Say it with us.
What’s next?

Despicable pronunciation


They’re almost right.
They just need to change the vowel sound in the middle. Despicable.


What does it mean?
Something that’s really bad and not moral is despicable.
A despicable crime.
A despicable person.
Say the word with us.
The next word’s hard. The spelling is misleading again.

Pneumonia pronunciation

Have a guess.
Er, pneumonia.
Pneumonia. Although I don’t know what’s that.
Pneum.. pneumonia.
Pneumon.. pneumonia.
Pnu..Pnue… Uh! Pneumonia.

Oh no, they’re all wrong.
It’s hard because the spelling is so different from the pronunciation.
The letter p should be silent.

Ah! Pneumonia.

They got it!
What is pneumonia?
It’s a serious illness that affects your lungs.
It makes it difficult to breathe. You know we say this word a little differently.
I say nju – there’s a little y sound. Pneumonia.
And I say nuu. Pneumonia.
Say it with our learners.

Pneumonia. Cool!

Next word.

Pathetic pronunciation

Pathetic. Pathetic.

The tricky thing here is the ‘th’ sound.
Yes, it’s not a /t/ sound. It’s ‘th’.


How far should your tongue stick out to make a th sound?
That’s a good question. You don’t want it going out too far – that’s silly – and you don’t want it back too far either or you’ll make a /t/ sound.
This is a good measure. Just touch your finger lightly with your tongue.
My tongue is down in the middle and I can feel its sides between the sides of my teeth. And I’m blowing air out. ‘th’, ‘th’. That does it! Say the word with our learners.


OK, next word.
Our learners were pretty good at this one.

Tsunami pronunciation


So is it ‘tsunaaami’ or ‘tsunahhhmi’?
It’s ‘tsunahhhmi’.
An ‘ah’ sound.
What’s a tsunami? It’s a huge wave in the sea caused by an earthquake.
It’s a Japanese word and it starts with a Japanese sound – tsu.
So a t sound quickly followed by s. tsu. tsu.
Then ‘nah’ then ‘me’. Say it with us.
Let’s have a really hard one now.

Ubiquitous pronunciation

Wow! Ubiquitous.
Ubiqui – ubiquitous.

It’s very hard!


They came very close!
What does ubiquitous mean?
If something seems to be everywhere, we say it’s ubiquitous.
For example, in Philadelphia there are lots of stores where you can buy donuts.
Yeah, Dunkin’ Donuts are ubiquitous.
And places where you can buy cheesesteaks are very common.
Yeah, they’re ubiquitous too. Cheesesteaks are a Philly dish.
So it starts with a /j/ sound.
And it has four syllables. U-bi-quit-ous.
What’s that trick for saying long words?
With a long word it often helps to start at the back and work forward. Try it with me.
-quit – tous.
So that’s it.
But we’ve made lots of other videos about words that are hard to pronounce.
I’ll put a link to the playlist at the end of this video.
We want to say a big thank you to all the learners who helped us teach these words.
They were terrific and it was lovely to meet them all.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please give it a thumbs up and share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe and click that notification bell!

zip zipper British and American words

27 British and American Word Differences

Is it zip or zipper? Buggy or stroller? You loved our last video on British and American word differences so Super Agent Awesome made another one with us.
In this video look at differences like hood/bonnet and trunk/boot and say what we’d call them in British and American English.
Some of the other words we explore in this video include bangs and fringe, vest and waistcoat, shopping cart and trolley, and checkers and draughts.

We have other kinds of videos that compare British and American English that you might enjoy. Click here to see more.

Tell me about that lady’s hair.
She has bangs.
And I’d say she has a fringe.
English is a strange language.
You liked our last video about British and American words so Super Agent Awesome is back with me again….
… to make another one.
Now, here’s a car and what’s this bit at the front?
Oh, it’s called a hood.
And I’d call it a bonnet. Bonnet is also a word for a fancy ladies hat. And in the back of the car…
Oh it’s … we call it a trunk.
And I’d call it a boot.
Where do you put cars while you’re going shopping?
Ah, you put it in the parking lot.
And I would put it in a car park. And where do you store them at home?
Uh, at the garage.
And I’d say garage.
Parking lot.
Car park.
What’s this?
And we’d call them zips.
She’s wearing a red sweater.
We often say jumper.
That’s a baked potato.
And we’d call it a jacket potato.
Mmhmm. And what’s that?
That’s a jacket.
This kind of jacket we often call an anorak.
Baked potato
Jacket potato.
This is called an undershirt.
Ok, and I’d call it a vest.
What do you call that?
I call that a vest.
OK, and I’d call it a waistcoat.
How crazy!
What’s that?
That’s a trailer.
And in the UK we’d call it a caravan.
Ooh, a truck.
This is a lorry.
It’s a shopping cart.
And we’d say trolley.
That rhymed.
Shopping cart.
Shopping trolley.
And I’d call it noughts and crosses.
Chutes and ladders.
Ok, and in the UK we’d call it snakes and ladders.
Uh, I think that is checkers.
We’d call it draughts.
Noughts and crosses.
Chutes and ladders.
Snakes and ladders.
This is a gymnast, and do you know what equipment she’s working on.
Uh, she’s using the uneven bars.
And we’d call them the asymmetric bars.
What’s asymmetric?
It means that it’s not symmetrical.
Uneven bars.
Asymmetric bars.
That’s a vacuum bottle.
And we’d call it a vacuum flask.
Oh, um.
Would you call it…
…a closet.
And we’d probably call that a wardrobe.
Vacuum bottle.
Vacuum flask.
And what’s he playing?
He’s playing soccer.
And I’d say he’s playing football.
Hold on. Isn’t there already a game of football?
That’s American football.
That’s different.
American football.
It’s a baby carriage.
And we’d call it a pram.
Pram? A stroller.
We’d probably call that a buggy or a push chair. What’s in this baby’s mouth?
Oh, a binky or a pacifier.
It’s dummy.
Baby carriage.
Pushchair or buggy.
Binky or a pacifier.
What are these signs pointing to?
The restrooms.
And I’d say they’re pointing to the toilets.
Ooh, um, the toilet? A toilet is a toilet. A restroom is a… I don’t know.
Signs to the restrooms.
Signs to the toilets.
The restroom.
The toilet.
OK, so that’s it. We’ve finished.
Bye, whoa. We forgot to tell them to subscribe to this channel.
Can you do that then?
Sure, if you really like our videos and you want to stay informed you can hit the subscribe button down below. That means you can be one of us. So after you subscribe to this channel you can see this little bell icon next to the subscribe button. If you hit it and click OK, you can stay informed every time we release a video. I know, it’s magic!
OK everyone. See you all soon. Bye-bye now.

We have other kinds of videos that compare British and American English that you might enjoy. Click here to see more.

English comparative adjectives

Funny things about England – comparative adjectives

Learn how to form English comparative adjectives:
One syllable: add -er
Two syllables: add -er or put ‘more’ in front
Three syllables or more: put ‘more’ in front
You’ll also learn:
– spelling rules for comparative adjectives
– how to add emphasis with ‘much’
– irregular forms of adjectives
– how to use double comparatives to describe changes
– common mistakes with comparatives
We’ll show lots of examples of comparative adjectives and you’ll learn some funny things about England as well.

Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
We live in Philadelphia in the US and we’re just back from a holiday in England.
England is a strange country and I’m going to show you some of the surprising things I saw.
And you’ll learn how we both use comparative adjectives along the way, and some common mistakes to avoid.
So what surprises you about England?
Well first, the size of things. A lot of things are smaller. The cars, the refrigerators, the food packages in the supermarket….
It’s a smaller country than the US. We have less space so we’re more crowded.
The streets are narrower and I had to be more careful when I was crossing the street because you drive on the wrong side.
Not the wrong side. We just drive on the left-hand side of the road.
So the cars are coming at you from the right. If you look left before crossing a street, you could get hurt.
I had to make Jay hold my hand like a child to get him across the road.
It’s dangerous!
OK. What else surprised you?
The age of some of the buildings. We stayed in a hotel that dated back to the 16th century – that’s older than anywhere I’ve stayed before.
It was an old coaching inn, so in the past, coaches with horses stopped there to rest. But these days it’s a pub.
And it’s also a hotel but it’s not like the Holiday Inn or Hilton. It didn’t even have a front desk.
When we arrived we just went to the bar to say ‘hey, we’re here’ and it was nice because they gave me a big glass of wine.
That was because they were looking for our reservation. They didn’t seem to know who we were. And that was after I’d made the made the reservation twice!
I think they lost it the first time. But our room was very pretty.
It was more chaotic than a Holiday Inn – less organized.
But it was more fun than a Holiday Inn. The people were very nice.
The service was great – polite but very personal and friendly.
Would you stay there again?
Oh yeah, I loved it.
OK, let’s look at some grammar.
We use comparative adjectives to compare two things and we form them in two different ways. With one syllable adjectives we normally add -er. So small becomes smaller. Old becomes older and so on. An exception is the word fun. When we use ‘fun’ as an adjective we say ‘more fun.’
With adjectives with three syllables or more, we make comparatives differently. We don’t add -er. We put ‘more’ in front instead. So chaotic becomes ‘more chaotic’. Notice we can also use the word ‘less’ in a similar way. It means the opposite of ‘more’.
So one syllable adjectives – add -er, and three syllable adjectives use ‘more’ or ‘less’. But what about two syllable adjectives? That’s more complicated.
With a lot of two syllable adjectives we use ‘more’. So careful, more careful, crowded, more crowded.
But there are some two syllable adjectives where we normally add -er. For example, narrow. We often say narrower.
And with many two syllable adjectives we can use ‘-er’ OR ‘more’. You’ll hear us say both forms. Friendlier or more friendly. Both forms work.
Here’s another funny thing about the UK. Every home has an electric kettle.
Of course! One of the first things I bought when I moved to the US was an electric kettle, but it was a mistake because it takes ages to boil the water here. Electric kettles are really slow in the US.
Well, our electricity is 120 volts.
It’s 240 volts in the UK so it’s quicker.
But you have a strange relationship with electricity in England. When you go into a bathroom, there’s no light switch.
There is a switch but it’s outside the room, or the switch hangs from the ceiling and you pull a chord to turn the light on.
So you have to grope around in the dark to find the switch.
But it’s safer because you could have wet hands. And you don’t want to mix water with electricity.
And there are no electric sockets in the bathroom so you have to go to a different room to use your hair drier.
It’s safer that way!
Also, English sockets have switches on them. So you plug something into an outlet and it doesn’t work and then you discover you need to turn the switch on.
I think our plugs are better than American ones. They’re bigger and they always have three pins.
Our pins are thinner and sometimes there are just two.
And sometimes your pins bend. English plugs are sturdier.
OK, but what is it with English faucets?
You mean our taps.
They have two controls.
Yeah, one for hot water and one for cold.
So you can’t just turn one handle. You have to turn two. American faucets are easier to operate.
I think there’s a good reason for that, but I don’t know what it is. Maybe one of you can tell me.
There was something I really liked though.
What was that?
The heated towel rail.
They’re lovely. They’re electric and they dry the towels, heat the bathroom and it’s nicer to dry yourself with a warm towel.
I agree.
There are some spelling rules for comparative adjectives that you need to know. If a one syllable adjective ends in e, we just add r. So not -er, just r.
Also there are some one syllable adjectives that end with one vowel and one consonant. With those you have to double the consonant. So for example, it doesn’t happen in the words sweeter or longer.
Another one. With two syllable adjectives that end in the letter -y, we always add -er. But we change the y to an i.
And one more thing that’s very important. There are some irregular adjectives. The most common ones are good and bad. For good we say better. So it’s not gooder. It’s better. And for bad, it’s not badder. We say worse. Far is another one. We say farther or further.
Another thing that was very interesting was the elevators.
So the confusing thing is I want to go to the first floor, but there’s also a ground floor, and that doesn’t exist in America. This should be two, right?
We have a different system for numbering the floors in a building.
It should be very easy. The ground floor is the first floor and the next floor is the second floor.
But for us, the next floor can be the first floor.
We’re much more logical in the US.
We’re logical too, but the ground floor can be zero. It’s a different logic.
And speaking of elevators, which you call lifts…?
Yeah, lifts or elevators.
Another thing that surprised me was elevators in the London subways.
He means the Underground – or Tube.
The Tube was like the New York or Philadelphia subway, but a lot cleaner and quieter, and the escalators were really long.
The trains are far deeper underground than in the States.
Way deeper. When we were at Covent Garden, we had a choice, the stairs or the elevator.
But then we heard there were 193 steps
That’s about 16 stories! We chose the elevator!
Sometimes you’ll want to add emphasis when you’re making comparisons. With a normal adjective you could say ‘very’ – very easy, very interesting.
But with comparative adjectives it’s different. We use the word much, so much easier, much more interesting. We can also say ‘far’, ’a lot’, and if you’re speaking informally, ‘way’. And if you want to minimize the difference, you can say ‘a little’.
I love the signs in England. It’s funny to see signs saying ‘toilets’ everywhere.
So if you wanted to find a toilet what would you say?
‘Where’s the restroom?’ or ‘Where’s the men’s room?’
I’d say ‘Where’s the toilet’?
You’re more direct than me.
It’s just what we say.
And we went to the theater and our seats were in the ‘stalls’.
Yeah, we sat downstairs in front of the stage – the stalls.
We call that part of the theater the orchestra.
We have an orchestra pit in English theatres and but it’s literally where the orchestra sits. The audience sits in front in the stalls.
For me stalls are the partitions in a restroom that separate the toilets.
Stalls has that meaning for us too. But now you’ve learnt a new meaning of the word.
My English is getting better and better. But stalls don’t sound like good theater seats to me.
Your favourite sign was at Heathrow Airport.
Oh yeah.

If your flight is departing from B or C gates, please board the next available train from either platform. The first stop will be for all B gates and the second stop will be for all C gates.

The tech is getting more and more advanced.
Her eyes seemed to follow me as I moved around. But the funniest signs were in the subways – the exit signs that tell you how to get out.
You loved them.
Yeah. They made me think of hippies in the 1960s. When something was cool they’d say it was ‘far out’ or ‘way out’.

It’s far out man! Way out there!

Here’s a cool structure you can use to make comparisons. You double up and use two comparatives in one sentence. We often do this to say things are changing.
Let’s finish with the most common mistakes students make with comparatives.
We use the word ‘than’ after the comparative adjective when we want to show what we’re comparing something with. Sometimes students say ‘as’ here. But that’s wrong.
Also, notice the word ‘me’ in this sentence. We don’t say I. We use the object form of the personal pronoun so – than me, than him, than her, than us, than them
And the other common mistake is to use -er when you should say more and vice versa. Remember short adjectives: add -er. Long ones: use more. And finally, sometimes students use both -er and more and that doesn’t work either.
And that’s it for comparatives! I just have one final question. Did you like England Jay?
Oh yeah, the more I go there, the more I like it.
We also went to Spain on holiday and we’re going to make another video about that.
So make sure you subscribe to our channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss it. Bye-bye everyone.


hard words to pronounce

Hard words to pronounce in British and American English

We’re looking at more words that English learners find tricky to pronounce and comparing how we say them in British and American English.

In this video we look at how we pronounce these tricky words in English:
• colonel
• youths
• gauge (and gouge)
• oesophagus
• debut
• rural
• disease
• anemone

We talk about:
• syllables
• the tricky English th sound
• confusing vowel sounds
• British and American differences
• different R sounds
and lots, lots more.

We’re back with some more tricky words.
They’re words our viewers have told us they find hard to say.
So get ready to test your English pronunciation.
I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m Vicki and I’m British.
But everyone else you’ll see speaks English as a second language.
Or third or fourth language. They’re all very smart.
But English spellings are crazy.
So here’s the first word.
Colonel, no, colonel. Ah, I don’t know.
Erm, colonel.
This word’s really tricky!
It looks like it has three syllables but there are only two.
They were good.
So what is a colonel?
It’s someone with a high rank in the army.
Or in the US airforce or marines.
Say it with our learners.
OK, next one.
Youth…sss, Youth-s. Yous. Ah, it’s kind of difficult this one.
Yeah, it IS difficult.
What does it mean?
A youth is a young person and the plural is youths.
We often say youths when we disapprove, so we might complain about a gang of youths who started a fight or something.
Oh my god. Youths.
They pronounced it very well.
This word is like work out for your mouth. It gets your face muscles moving.
You start with ‘you’ and then ‘th’ but then you have to move your tongue back quickly to say ‘z’. youths.
Practice saying it slowly first and then speed up.
Is there a way to cheat at this?
Well you could try saying yous, without the ‘th’.
I’d understand that.
Yes, it’s better than saying two syllables. Youth-is – that doesn’t work. It needs to be just one syllable.
Say it with us.
The next word’s interesting.
Gouge – gauge.
So is it a gauge or a gouge?
And what does it mean?
We say ‘gauge’ and it’s an instrument for measuring something.
Like a temperature gauge, or a pressure gauge.
Or a petrol gauge
She means a gas gauge.
But there’s another word that looks similar: gouge.
Gauge – gouge – notice the vowel sound is different
Gouge means something completely different. It’s when you cut into something.
So it’s often a violent act. The lion’s claw gouged into the man’s skin.
Say the two words with us.
Gauge. Gouge.
Gauge. Gouge.
OK, next word.
This one is a medical term.
Oesophagus. Oh my god.
It’s very hard.
Oh. Oesophagus.
They’re not quite right, but they’re close.
Did you show them the British or American spelling?
The British spelling.
The American spelling is easier.
But some learners managed to work it out.
They got it! Good job!
So what does it oesophagus mean?
It’s a tube in our bodies which our food goes down.
The oesphagus goes from our mouth to our stomach.
So the main stress is on the second syllable. OeSOphagus.
Say it with us.
What’s next?
This was another request from our viewers.
Debut, debut.
They’re sensible guesses, but they’re all wrong!
The t is silent – debut.
Jay and I say this word a little differently. I can say it two ways in British English.
Debut or debut.
Did you hear the difference? I stressed the first syllable.
And I stressed the second.
That sometimes happens with words that come from French. You stress the first syllable and I stress the second one.
Yes, like I say BAllet.
And I say ballET.
And GArage.
To me it sounds like your trying to sound posh and say things the French way.
Well, I am posh.
OK, what does ‘debut’ mean?
You mean debut.
If someone makes their first public appearance then they make their debut.
An actor can make their debut on Broadway.
Or a bands first album is their debut album. Say it with us:
Debut or debut.
Next word.
Err, rural.
Good job!
They did well.
Yeah. I think this word is hard because of American English.
Oh, so it’s my fault?
You pronounce your R sounds so strongly.
Did you hear the difference? Jay’s R sounds were very strong.
In some words, Vicki doesn’t pronounce R sounds at all.
But I do in this word. Rural. R – They’re very clear. For me, American English isn’t clear.
What do you mean?
It seems like the strong R sounds make the vowel sounds disappear: rural.
Now what about Asian languages?
Oh yes.
For Asian learners this word is extra difficult because of the R and L sounds.
With the L sound your tongue is going to press the back of your top teeth. /l/, /l/. But with the R sounds, your tongue doesn’t touch anything. It’s your lips that will move. /r/, /r/. So let’s start at the back of the word and go forward. /l/ /ral/ /rural/ – /l/ /ral/ /rural/
/l/ /ral/ /rural/
Great. Try saying this with our learners.
Good job.
There are regional differences in the UK with how we say this.
And in the US too.
Write and tell us what you say in the comments.
And if you say other words differently too.
OK, Next word.
Ah, no. This word has two vowel sounds that a lot of students find hard.
Disease. /ɪ/ and /i:/.
It’s a good word for practicing these sounds.
The first vowel sound is /ɪ/ – and it’s a short sound. /ɪ/
And the second vowel is /i:/. You pull your mouth wider so there’s more tension at the corners- /ɪ/ – /i:/ and /i:/ is a longer sound.
So what’s a disease?
It’s an illness. You could have heart disease.
Or a blood disease.
Say it with our learners.
Let’s have a really hard one now.
OK. Here’s one that lots of our learners didn’t know.
Oh my. Anemone.
Wow, anemone.
Ah dear! They’re all wrong!
English spelling is so confusing!
We say anemone – and it’s a kind of flower.
So the main stress is on the second syllable.
And it has four syllables. aNEMone.
Say it with us.
It’s time to say a big thank you to all the English learners who let us video them.
They were so nice to stop and let us record them.
And they were such good fun.
If you’ve enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up and share it with a friend.
And we have more videos with other tricky words for you to check out.
I’ll put the link at the end of the video, and make sure you subscribe to our channel.

IELTS speaking test part two - dos and don'ts

IELTS Speaking Test Part Two – Dos and Don’ts

Get tips and tricks for the IELTS speaking test part two and learn how to improve your score.

We’ll show you how part two of the IELTS exam works:
– the instructions the examiner will give
– how you can practise ahead of time
– how to plan your talk
– the value of the bullet points
– how to use complex structures to improve your score

We’ll also show you mistakes students sometimes make and what NOT to do:
– failure to plan
– using memorised talks.
And best of all, you’ll see candidates in action and learn from their good and bad model answers.

Click here to see our overview of the IELTS speaking test.
Click here to see our video on part one of the IELTS speaking test.

Hello, I’m Keith.
And I’m Vicki and welcome to the third video in our series about the IELTS speaking test.
Today we’re looking at part two of the exam, which is called the ‘long turn’. What that basically means is it’s a talk. Your examiner will give you a topic and you’ll talk about it for one to two-minutes.
Part two is your opportunity to give a long answer and produce a flow of English.
One of the things students find the hardest is thinking of things to say.

Now I’m going to give you a topic and I’d like you to talk about it for one to two minutes. You have one minute to plan what you’re going to say and you can make notes if you wish. Do you understand?
OK. Here’s your pencil and paper and here’s your topic. I’d like you to describe a water sport you’d like to try in the future
Nah, I’m ready. I would like to try deep sea diving. Deep sea diving is great.

Jay made a mistake here. It’s hard to talk continuously for one to two minutes and he should have used the minute to think of ideas.
You’ll need lots of ideas to talk for one to two minutes, so take advantage of the ‘one minute’ and make notes.

You have one minute to plan what you’re going to say and you can make notes if you wish. Do you understand?
Here’s a pencil and paper. And here’s your topic. So I’d like you to talk about a special meal you had with your friends or family.

Some students worry that anything they write will be marked and graded, but that doesn’t happen.
This is the speaking test not the writing test, so only the things you say matter. Nobody will look at your notes and the note paper will be destroyed at the end of the test.
The examiner will give you a cue card like this that has your instructions, and bullet points with ideas for you to talk about. The bullet points are designed to help you structure your talk.
You don’t have to use the bullet points and you can make up your own ideas if you want. But they’re usually very helpful.
Here’s another example. I sometimes prepare sample answers to these questions to show my students, and I often find my answers follow the bullet points on the cue card. They provide a natural structure.
You’ll be able to keep the cue card with you to refer to throughout the talk.

OK. Remember you have one to two minutes for this so don’t worry if I stop you. I’ll tell you when the time is up. Could you start speaking now, please?
OK. I went to a Greek restaurant for dinner with some school friends about a month ago to celebrate the end of our exams. There were five of us and we’re all studying animal sciences….

It’s hard to know how much you can say in a minute or two, so it’s really important to prepare for this part of the exam ahead of time. You need to get a feel for how much to say so you can keep going for two minutes. You can find example cue cards on different topics on my website.
Use a stopwatch and record your answers so you can listen back to them. Your goal is to talk for at least one minute. That’s the minimum. But if you can talk for one and a half, or two minutes it’s much better. You’ll have more opportunity to show off your English and get a higher score.
Some candidates prepare topics for part two that they have learnt by heart. This is a bad idea because you can’t predict what topic you’ll receive. Examiners are trained to spot memorised answers and they’ll know if you’ve memorized an answer.

Could you start speaking now, please?
Yes. A water sport I’d like to try is scuba diving. There was a famous movie called Thunderball where James Bond went scuba diving. The movie was made in 1965 and it starred Sean Connery. In the movie James Bond had to recover two atomic bombs that were stolen by a secret organization called Spectre. It was very successful. The movie earned more than a hundred and forty million dollars worldwide. In the movie, James Bond…

The topic on Jay’s cue card is a water sport he’d like to try, but he’s talking about a movie. The examiner will consider this ‘off topic’ and will l have to ignore the language he’s used. This will seriously affect Jay’s score.
It’s good to memorize words and phrases, but memorizing whole sentences is probably not good, and certainly not a whole talk.

I’m sure we’ll be friends for many years to come because we have so much in common. The time flew by and we suddenly realized it was midnight and my friends had to get up early…
Thank you. Can I have your question card and your paper and pencil, please? Thank you.

Don’t worry if the examiner interrupts you. They’ll interrupt you after you have spoken for two minutes, so that’s a good thing!
One last tip. Sometimes when you’re giving your talk, you might be able to express a regret. So you can say how you wish things were different now, or had been different in the past. If you can, it’s a great way to show off your grammatical range. Let’s see some examples.

I wish I could swim. If I knew how to swim, I could enjoy water sports.
If we’d known the restaurant was noisy, we’d have gone somewhere else.

Do you see what they did there? They used complex conditional sentences to express regret. You can’t always do this because it’s not possible with all topics. But sometimes you can and using complex structures can show off your grammatical range.
So now you know how part two of the speaking exam works. Make sure you’ve subscribed to both our channels so you don’t miss our videos on part three.
And if you’ve found this lesson useful, give it a thumbs up and share it with your friends. Bye for now.

Click here to see our overview of the IELTS speaking test.
Click here to see our video on part one of the IELTS speaking test.
We’ve made this video in collaboration with our friend Keith from IELTS Speaking Success and you can check out his YouTube channel here

british and american word differences

26 British and American English word differences

British and American word differences are curious things. Super Agent Awesome stopped by to explore some with us.

We looked at differences with words like crisps/chips and chips/French fries and compared what we’d call things in British and American English. Words we explore in this video include swimming costume and bathing suit, spanners and wrenches, hundreds and thousands and sprinkles, and lots, lots more.

We have lots of other kinds of videos that compare British and American English that you might enjoy. Click here see some more.

Here’s your first word. What is it?
Potato chips.
OK, I call them crisps.
OK, what’s this?
French fries.
No, no, no. They’re chips.
Wh… what?

Chips. Crisps. French fries. Chips.

Hi everybody. I’m here today with Super Agent Awesome. Thank you for coming.
And we’re looking at British and American English words today. What’s this?
A cell phone.
OK, and I’d call it a mobile.
A faucet.
OK, and I’d say it’s a tap. What’s that?
An airplane.
I say aeroplane.

Cell phone. Mobile. Faucet. Tap. Airplane. Aeroplane.

We got candy. Oooh, nice.
And I’d call them sweets.
We got sprinkles.
We call these hundreds and thousands.
Wow. A pretty big name for a really little dot.
And what’s this stuff.
And I’d say jelly.

Candy. Sweets. Sprinkles. Hundreds and thousands. Jello. Jelly.

And what are these people wearing?
OK, we’d say they’re in fancy dress.
I wear costumes for Halloween.
And if you dress up very smartly, you might wear this.
We will wear a tux.
And we’d call it a dinner jacket.

Costumes. Fancy Dress. Tux or tuxedo. Dinner Jacket.

What’s this thing on the back of the car?
That’s a license plate.
And I’d call it a number plate. This bit of glass in the front of a car.
It’s a windshield.
A windscreen.

A license plate. Number plate. Windshield. Windscreen.

Oh, these are fish sticks.
We call them fish fingers.
Fish fingers.
Like fish have fingers.
Fish sticks. Fish fingers.
He’s doing push-ups. He wants to be fit.
And I’d say he’s doing press-ups. And, what are these people doing?
Waiting in line.
And I’d say they’re waiting in a queue.

Push-ups. Press-ups. Waiting in line. Waiting in the queue.

He’s holding a wrench.
That’s a spanner. And, do you know what that’s called?
Uh, I think that’s an Allen wrench.
We’d call that an Allen key.
Wrench. Spanner. Allen Wrench. Allen key.
We’re looking at thumb tacks.
And I’d call them drawing pins.
Oh, they’re clothes pins.
And we’d call them pegs.
A vacuum cleaner.
We’d often call it a hoover.
Why would you call it a hoover?
It’s named after the American firm, Hoover.
That makes sense. Thumbtacks.

Drawing pins. Clothes pins. Clothes pegs. Vacuum cleaner. Hoover.

We got the laundromat.
And I’d call it a laundrette. And what kind of shop do you think this is?
Uh… a pharmacy.
We’d normally call it a chemists. Do you also call it a drug store?
In British English a drug store sounds funny, because it sounds like a place where you can buy drugs.

Laundromat. Laundrette. Drug store or pharmacy. Chemists.

Uh, that’s a merry-go-round.
Usually, we’d say roundabout. We call this a roundabout too.
Oh, it’s a traffic circle.
We have a lot of these in the UK.

Merry-go-round. Roundabout. Traffic circle. Roundabout.

A woman… a ladies’ swimsuit.
Yes, and we could call it that too. Um, would you ever call it a swimming costume?
Err no, why would we ever say that? It’s not for halloween.
We would call it a swimming costume. Would you call it a bathing suit?
Yeah, we would.
OK, that for us is a bathing suit. It’s really old fashioned for us.
That’s a bathing suit?

Swimsuit or bathing suit. Swimsuit or swimming costume. Bathing suit.

OK everyone. We’ve finished. So that’s it. Bye now.
Bye, oh wait! We almost forgot something really important.
The subscribe button.
Oh, could you tell them about that?
Yes. Hi ladies and gentlemen. Super Agent Awesome here. If you really like our videos and you want to stay informed on this channel, then hit the subscribe button below this video. It’s the red button. Do it in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two one. Did you hit it yet? Congratulations. You just subscribed and you’re a new member of Simple English Videos. And that’s the end of the video. We are about to say goodbye. Super Agent Awesome signing off. Peace!

IELTS speaking test part one tips

Great tips for the IELTS Speaking Test Part One

Get tips and tricks for the IELTS speaking test part one.
– how part one of the IELTS speaking test works
– the kinds of questions the examiner will ask
– how you can predict the first topic
– how long your answers should be
– how to extend them with reasons and examples
– what to do if you don’t understand
And best of all, see candidates in action and learn from their good and bad model answers.

IELTS speaking test part one tips

Hi I’m Keith.
And I’m Vicki and in this video we have some great tips for part one of the IELTS speaking test.
Part one of the test lasts four or five minutes and it’s a Q & A – question and answer.

In the first part of the test I’m going to ask you some questions about yourself.

The examiner will usually ask questions about three different topics – familiar topics
So what are familiar topics? They’re questions that are related to you and your day-to-day life.
These are just some of the different things examiners can ask about. They’ll often ask questions about your experiences and things you like and dislike. And sometimes they’ll ask about people in your country or town, or about your culture.
But normally the questions are about you and your experiences. There are many different topics so they’re hard to predict.
But here’s some good news. You CAN predict the first topic. It’ll be about one of two things: where you live or what you do. The first topic is always about one of these things.
If it’s where you live, they will ask about your hometown or about your home.

What’s your favourite room in your home?
My bedroom.
And why’s that?
I like it.
And is it a large room?

Jay’s answers are too short here. One way to extend your answers is to give reasons.

I like my bedroom because it’s where I keep my pet spider.

That’s better. Jay gave a reason and explained why he liked the room.

Where are you from?
Sviyazhsk in Russia. It’s on the Volga and Sviyaga Rivers.
And is it a good place for children to live?
Yes, because it’s a tightly-knit community so everybody knows one another. And also, it has a lot of parks where they can play.

Ksenia’s answers were a good length. She added extra detail about her hometown and gave two good reasons why it’s a good place for children to live.
Now where you live is one possible first topic. The other one is what you do.

So let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?
I’m a student.
Do you work or study?
I work.

A short answer is fine for this question. The examiner just wants to know so they can choose the best follow up questions. If you say you’re a student they’ll ask questions about your studies. If you say you work, they’ll ask about your job.
Do you work or study?

I work for a large telecommunications company. It has 100,000 employees in 60 countries. Our revenue’s been declining for the last four years so I think they’re about to cut back. We restructured a couple of years ago and I have a new boss. I don’t think she likes me. She says I have to listen more …
Thank you. Now I’d like to talk about recycling.

This time, Jay’s answer was too long. Think about it like this. Part one lasts 4 to 5 minutes and the examiner wants to ask about 10 questions. That’s just under half a minute per question. So you need to extend your answers a little, but not too much.

Do you work or are you a student?
I’m a student.
And what are you studying at the moment?
Animal sciences. I’m taking a three-year course at the community college. I started last September.
Uhuh. And why did you choose this course?
I’ve loved animals ever since I was a child and one day I hope to become a vet.

Ksenia’s answers were a good length and she added the right amount of information – a little, but not too much.
After one or two minutes on the first topic, the examiner will move on to another one, but you can’t predict what it will be.

Now I’d like to talk about recycling. What kinds of things do you recycle?
Recycling. Recycling is important because waste has a negative impact on the natural environment. Recycling conserves raw materials and saves energy.

Jay’s English is correct here, but he sounds formal and academic. And he’s not answering the question. The examiner asked what HE recycles, and he talked about recycling in general.

Do you often recycle?
Yes, I separate my rubbish at home into plastics and paper, and oh yes, I also use recycled paper for writing whenever possible.

This is better. Ksenia is answering the question directly and she sounds more natural and conversational. The examiner isn’t going to ask about abstract theories or concepts in this part of the test, so stick to your experiences.
Now let’s look at another topic.

When did you start to learn maths?
I think it was in primary school. Like most children we had to learn addition, subtraction and the times tables at school.

Another good answer. Ksenia added detail and shows she knows some good vocabulary about maths.

Did you enjoy learning maths at school?
No, I hated it. I didn’t like my teacher because she didn’t explain things very well.

Jay said ‘no’ here and that’s fine, because he extended his answer and gave a reason. The examiner will score the quality of his English, not his opinions.

Is maths important?
Yes, because we use it in our daily lives.

This isn’t a bad answer, but it would be so much better with an example.

Is maths important?
Yes, because we use it a lot in our daily lives. For instance, when we go shopping, we need to know addition, so we can check the receipt and make sure we get the right change.

Ksenia extended her answer with an example. Giving reasons is one way to extend your answer. Giving examples is another.
Another thing to understand is this part of the exam is more like an interview than a real conversation. The examiner is following a script and each topic is separate from the last.

Is maths difficult for you to learn?
Oh no, not at all. Math is beautiful. Numbers are much easier to understand than people.
Now let’s talk about the sky. Do you like the sky?
The sky? You want to talk about the sky?

Most of the time the examiner’s questions will flow naturally, but sometimes, when they change topic, they may seem strange. If you listen to the examiner, you’ll hear signals like this.

Let’s talk about fruit and vegetables….
Now I’d like to talk about smiling…
Let’s move on and talk about music…

It’s OK to ask the examiner to repeat a question. In part one, they won’t explain words, but they will repeat the question.

Sorry, could you say that again?
Could you repeat that?

And that’s how part one of the IELTS exam works!
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