how to report an emergency in English

Emergency English – making a 911 or 211 call

This lesson’s about how to make English emergency calls such as a 911 or 112 call.
You’ll learn how to report an emergency in English and how to report your location to get help fast.
We give examples of different emergencies you might need to report like:
– Someone’s choked on some food
– I think someone’s trying to break into my home
– There’s been a car accident
– Someone’s walked into a glass window
We also look at questions response workers typically ask such as:
– Are they male or female?
– How old is he?
– Is he conscious?
– Is he breathing?
Finally we’ll show you an English emergency call so you can see some of the phrases in action.

Click here to see more vocabulary lessons.

How to report an emergency in English

Hi. I’m Vicki and you’re going to learn some words and phrases that we hope you’ll never need!
And I’m Jay and this lesson is really important. It’s vocabulary you must learn, just in case.
If there’s an emergency, what number do you dial for help?
In the US it’s 911.
And in the UK it’s 999 or 112. It’s 112 in most European countries.
Emergency numbers are generally short – usually just three numbers.
So you can remember them and dial them quickly.
They’ll connect you to the service you need, like ambulance, police or fire.

What’s your emergency?
What emergency are you reporting?
What service do you need? Ambulance, police or fire brigade?

What do we call the people who answer the phones?
Well, they have several names. They’re operators because they operate the phones.
Or responders because they answer questions and do things.
Or dispatchers because they send people to help.
My husband has choked on some food and he’s not breathing.
Help! My house is on fire.
I think someone’s trying to break into my home.
My son walked into a glass window and cut his head.
There’s a guy in Falworth Park who needs help. I think he’s having a heart attack.
There’s been a car accident on Ridge Pike.
In emergency calls, it’s crucial to state your location – to tell the dispatchers where you are.
Location is the most important thing. If they don’t know where you are, they can’t send help.

What’s your location?
What’s the address?
What’s the address of the emergency?
Where are you exactly?

Give any useful information you can about location.
You need to be exact and as helpful as possible.

It’s 4 Vandyke Street and we’re in flat 6 on the second floor.
It’s the building on the corner, with two big antennas.

You might be able to name a local landmark or nearby business.

We’re in front of the Philadelphia art museum.
We’re across the road from the Bagel Factory.

The address is really crucial, so the dispatchers will want to check they’ve got it right.

Can you repeat it to make sure I have it correctly?
So the address is 20 Vandyke Street? That’s where we’re going, right?

Once they have the address they can send help. But stay on the line so they can collect more information.
If someone is hurt or injured, they’ll ask you about the patient.

Is the patient male or female?
How old is he?

You might not know the patients’ age and that’s all right. You can make a rough guess.

She’s a young teenager.
Oh, he’s middle-aged.
She looks like she’s in her late twenties.

Two more important questions are ‘are they conscious?’ and ‘are they breathing?’
Conscious means awake and able to understand what’s happening.
And breathing means taking air into the lungs and sending it out again.

Is he conscious?
Is she awake?
Is he breathing?
Does she appear to be breathing?
Is he fully alert?

If you’re alert, you can think quickly and clearly, so you know what’s happening.
The responders may also want information about the accident and what’s happening now.

Tell me exactly what happened?
What’s happening now?
Are you with the patient right now?
Are you alone?
Is anyone helping?
Is someone giving first aid?
Is anyone giving CPR?

First aid is simple medical treatment that we give to people before a doctor comes.
CPR is the abbreviation for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s when you press on someone’s chest to keep them alive if they’ve stopped breathing or if their heart has stopped beating.
The emergency service might want you to stay and help.
And then they’ll give you instructions.

An English emergency call

My co-worker fell off a ladder and he’s bleeding.
Where are you?
We’re at the construction site at 20th and Arch.
So the address is 20th and Arch? Is that where we’re going?
Yes. The south west corner. We’re on the first floor.
The south west corner of 20th and Arch. First floor. Is that right?
Yes.
How old is your co-worker?
He’s about fifty. Please come quick.
Help is on the way. They’ll be with you shortly. Is he conscious?
No.
Is he breathing?
Is he breathing, Mike?….
Yes. he’s breathing.
Is someone with you?
Yes, my supervisor Mike is here.
He’s coming round.
He’s coming around.
So the patient is conscious?
Yes, but he needs stitches.
Is there serious bleeding?
Yes, from his head.
Is there blood spurting out or pouring out?
No.
OK. Don’t move him unless it’s absolutely necessary. Tell him to sit still and wait for help to arrive.
Tell him to sit still, Mike. Is anyone coming?
Yes, help is on the way.

Coming around means becoming conscious again.
So you’re unconscious and then you come round or come to. It means become conscious.
We saw a lot of blood there.
Blood is the red liquid that flows through your body.
If blood is spurting, it’s coming from an artery. The heart pumps blood through arteries.
And if blood is pouring, it’s probably coming from a vein, and it’s on its way back to the heart.
When you lose blood, you bleed. So bleed is the verb. Bleed, bled, bled.
He was bleeding from a wound in his head. A wound is an injury where there’s a hole in your skin.
And a stitch is a short piece of thread that doctors use to sew the edges of a wound together.

I’m going to give you some instructions to control the bleeding, so listen carefully.
OK.
Do you have a clean dry towel or cloth?
Mike does, yes.
Place it on the wound and press down firmly. Don’t lift it up to look.
Hold it down on the wound, Mike. Press it firmly. Don’t lift it up.
OK.
If he becomes less awake and vomits, quickly turn him on his side.
OK. Help is on the way?
Yes, they’ll be with you in just a minute.
Oh, I can hear them. Thank you, thank you so much.

To vomit means to be sick. To bring up your food.
We’ve made another video about that and other sickness vocabulary.
I’ll put the link here.
And another thing you heard was a siren.
Ambulances, police cars and fire engines all have sirens. [makes the noise]
No that’s a British siren. An American one goes [makes the noise]
And that’s it everyone!
Are we finished?
Yeah.
But there’s one more thing we should mention. Don’t call the emergency services unless you really need them!
Don’t make calls that waste their time.
Only call if it’s an emergency.
It’s got to be something where you need help right way.
A medical emergency or immediate danger.
We hope that never happens to you!
Now, if you think this video was useful, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and click the notification bell so you hear about our future videos.
See you next week, bye-bye.
Bye.

Click here to see more vocabulary lessons.

disagree in English

How to Disagree like a Native Speaker

Disagreeing is tricky in any language. It means you’re saying someone else is wrong or different and linguists have found it’s a dispreferred response.
In this lesson we look at some steps English native speakers often follow when they disagree:

  • Hesitating
    Asking challenging questions
    Saying ‘yes but…’ and adding their objections

We note how the phrases I agree and I don’t agree are explicit and formal and hence have limited uses in everyday conversations, namely to report other people’s opinions and to clear up misunderstandings.

Click here to see our video on 12 ways to agree in English

Disagreeing in English

Is this the design?
Uhuh.
Oh nice! You should do it in colour.
I like black and white.
No, you don’t. You’re only saying that because I suggested colour.
Well, you’re always wrong.
So whatever I say, you’re always going to disagree?
Yes.
You know, you’re absolutely right.
Really?
Yep. Black and white is perfect.
You think so?
Yeah. Don’t change a thing.
Then I’m going to make it in color.
OK.
What just happened there?

Agreeing is easy in English and we’ve made another video about that.
Disagreeing is harder because people don’t like to disagree.
It can damage relationships.
So how do we disagree in English?
In this video you’ll learn some of the things we say, and some things we don’t say too.
Let’s start with that. Look at these phrases.
I don’t agree and I disagree. They mean the same thing.
But are they common phrases in spoken English?
They’re grammatically correct.
Yes, but are they things we often say?
I’m going to guess yes.
You’re wrong!
What do you mean, I’m wrong?!
My students say them a lot, but native English speakers don’t use these phrases much in normal conversation.
How do you know?
Well, these days we have big data banks with lots of examples of spoken English so we can look at things like this.
And, we don’t say these phrases much?
Not in everyday conversation.
Then what do we say?
We need an example!

How native English speakers do it

Are you ready?
Yes.
Well let’s go. …… What’s the matter?
Are you going to wear that shirt?
Yes. It’s my Phillies championship shirt. It’s my favorite.
Yeah, but it’s ten years old.
That’s when we won the championship.
Yes, but it’s got a hole in it! Throw it away.
No way, it’s my favorite!
You look a mess.
Stop nagging.
I don’t want to be seen with you in that shirt.
Well then I’ll go on my own.

OK, so what happened there?
Well the conversation followed some steps. Linguists have found that when we disagree it often goes in steps.
What did we say?
Well first of all, I didn’t say anything.

Are you ready?
Yes.
Well let’s go. ……

You hesitated.
Yes, so first I kept quiet.
There was a pause.
And then what did I do?

Well let’s go. …. What’s the matter?
Are you going to wear that shirt?

You asked a question.
That’s very common. Instead of disagreeing we ask questions.
Challenging questions. And then what did you say?

Are you going to wear that shirt?
Yes, it’s my Phillies championship shirt. It’s my favorite.
Yeah, but it’s ten years old.
That’s when we won the championship.
Yes, but it’s got a hole in it!

You said ‘yes but…’ and raised an objection.
Yeah.
‘Yes but….’ means no!
Uhuh. ‘Yes but’ is the most common phrase we use to disagree.
And then after that, we got into a fight.
Yes, once it’s clear there’s disagreement, we say what we really think.
So there were four steps – hesitating, questioning, ‘yes but’ and then the fight.
We don’t always take every step, but it’s a typical pattern.
We start slowly and build.
Maybe you do this in your language too?

Disagreeing – a dispreferred response

Agreeing is easier. We can just say ‘You’re right’, and nobody gets upset.
Yeah.
Disagreeing is harder because we’re saying someone’s wrong or different.
Linguists call disagreeing a dispreferred response. We prefer to say ‘Yes, you’re right’.
How about if we say ‘I’m sorry but I disagree’ or ‘I’m afraid I disagree’.
So add an apology?
It softens the disagreement.
Yes, but again it’s not frequent in normal conversation. So it could sound weird. We normally say something like ‘Yes but…’ instead.

How to use I don’t agree and I disagree

So let’s go back to these phrases. Are there any situations where we do use them?
Perhaps a formal meeting. They sound formal.
‘Excuse me Ms. Chairperson. I disagree.’
Yeah, or if you’re taking part in a political discussion on a television talk show. Politicians often say them.

We can afford to make these investments. Now I know there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.
We can afford to make these investments. Now I know there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.

Notice what Obama did here. He used the verb ‘disagree’ to report other people’s opinions.
He wasn’t saying ‘I disagree with you’.
He was reporting what other people think. Here’s another example.

This is the camera we should buy.
Ooo, I see. And what does Kathy think?
She thinks we should buy this camera.
Oooo. So she doesn’t agree with you.
Yeah but Kathy doesn’t know anything about cameras.

So if we’re reporting someone else’s opinions, we’ll say they don’t agree or they disagree.
Yes, disagree is often a reporting verb. And we use it when we want to be explicit.
Being explicit means being extra clear about what we mean.
That might happen if there’s a misunderstanding.

So this camera costs $5,000.
Yes. It’s a high-end camera with all the features we need.
But this one only costs $2000.
Yeah, but it can’t shoot slow motion.
I don’t think we need that.
Exactly. We don’t need the cheaper camera.
No, I mean we don’t need slow motion. I don’t agree with you.
You think we should get the cheaper camera?
Yeah.
No!

So we misunderstood one another there.
Yes, I had to be extra clear.
And that’s why you said I don’t agree with you.
Yes. These phrases are formal and explicit, so be careful. A lot of students over use them.
Don’t use them too much.
When we disagree we normally, hesitate, question, say ‘yes but’ and add that objection.
OK. Let’s see another example of that.

There’s something wrong with that thermostat.
You know, I’ve noticed that too. The temperature keeps shooting up.
Did you say up?
Yes.
That’s weird. I thought it went down. It should be 75 degrees.
Why do you want it to be 75 degrees?
It’s a comfortable temperature.
Yes, for you. But I like it at 65.
Yes, but you can take your jacket off if you get too hot.
Why don’t you wear more clothes?
65 is freezing!

It is freezing! You agree with me, don’t you?
Feel free to disagree in the comments.
And that’s it for today everyone.
Is that all? We’re done already?
Uhuh.
But we haven’t looked at how we can prevent arguments in English.
We’ll do that another day.
So make sure you subscribe to our channel everyone.
And hit the notification bell so you don’t miss it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this video and find it useful.
If you have, please share it with a friend.
See you next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Bye.

SEVY speaking challenge awards with Vicki and Jay

The SEVY Awards 2019 with Vicki and Jay

Vicki and Jay are very proud to welcome you to the 2019 SEVY (Simple English Videos, Yay!) Award Ceremony, where you’ll meet students from many different countries who are learning English.

Speaking in English is a challenge. You’re bound to think, ‘Am I making mistakes?’ or ‘Am I saying this right?’ Now imagine you’re not just talking to one or two people, but you’re talking to the world!

A few weeks ago we set our viewers a challenge. We asked them to record a video where they’re speaking in English and we’ve been blown away by the response.

So now we’re very proud to share their work and introduce you to some of the wonderful people who watch our channel, and to learn about why they’re learning English and their goals.

Click here to see some hang out videos with Vicki and Jay.
Click here to see some more Simple English Videos.

The SEVY Awards 2019

We’re very proud to welcome you to the 2019, SEVY award ceremony.
Speaking in English is a challenge. You’re bound to think, ‘Am I making mistakes?’ or ‘Am I saying this right?’
Now imagine you’re not just talking to one or two people, but you’re talking to the world!
A few weeks ago we set our viewers a challenge. We asked them to record a video where they’re speaking, that we would share with the world.
And we’ve been blown away by the response.
And today we’re very proud to share their work and introduce you to some of the wonderful people who watch our channel.
And to learn about why they’re learning English and their goals.
Congratulations to everyone who took part! You are all winners of the Simple English Videos award for rising to this challenge.
It’s the Simple English Videos ‘Yay! You did it’ award.
Otherwise known as the SEVY.
So now it’s time to see what they said.

Hi Vicki and hi Jay, and hi everyone. My name is Wan. My name is Rian. We are English teachers from Palang Singkawang, Indonesia. I learn English because I want to study in the UK. And I learn English because I want to study in Australia. Thank you. Bye.

Well I reckon they should win the SEVY for wonderful positive energy.
And for team work. They were well rehearsed.
They must be great teachers.

My name is Mehli Khusnaliana and I’m a student. I’m Indonesian and I’m Muslim. OK. I like… I like the English language. Ok, Thank you. Simple English Videos! Yes!

I think she’s adorable.
And I think she should get the SEVY for enthusiasm.
And maybe the best giggle.

Hi there. I’m Alex and I’m from Russia. I’m studying English for several years because I need it for my work and also I want to pass an IELTS exam this year because I want to move to some warm country, um, for example, to Canada. Wait, what? Canada is not a warm country? So anyway, I’ll pick something else.

OK, he’s got to win the SEVY for the best joke.
If you can crack a joke in another language, you’re doing very well!

Hello, I’m from India. My name is Siddhant and English is my favorite subject. Love from India.

Love to you in India too, Siddhant!
That was short, sweet and very clear.
He could also get a SEVY for the cheeky grin. I was looking for something that would help me teach the phrase cheeky grin the other day. I wish I’d had this video then.

Hello Vicki and Jay. My name is Dan. And my name is Ann. We live in Russia in Novosibirsk. We are both lawyers. I am learning English because I want to watch films in English. And I’m learning English because I want to read in English. Goodbye. Bye.

Those were great goals.
They are great goals. And did you see the book she was reading?
It was Sherlock Holmes, my favorite detective!
I think you get the reading prize. And actually that is a great book for everyone to read.

Hi! My name’s Milena. I’m 15 years old. I’m from Brazil and I live in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. Next year, I finish my high school and after I want to study English in the USA. Thank you. Bye-bye.

She gets the SEVY for confidence. And I also want to give a shout out to her mum, Mariza, who also tried to make a video for us. And Mariza has gone back to university after 28 years and she’s studying to be an English teacher.
We have both gone back to university in our later years and we know what a commitment that is so good luck to you Mariza.

Hi everyone. I’m Abdurrahman Dala. I’m from Nigeria. I’m a teacher. I teach English. I’m a fan of a British accent. I love the accent. I love it. I love to pronounce words like you do, Vicki. Thank you. Bye-bye.

He gets the SEVY for best costume and best smile.
And I like the way he walked into the shot.
I liked his taste in accents. I loved your accent too.

Hi Vicki. Hi Jay. My name’s Derya. I’m from Turkey. I’m thirty four years old. I’m not working. I’m a housewife. I have three children – two daughters, one son. And my English goal is speaking like a native English person. I love speaking so much. And that’s all. I love you. Thanks for your videos.

She gets the SEVY for perseverance
Yes. This is because Derya had difficulties send us the video, and when I spoke to her, she said she’d recorded it about 50 times before she was able to make something that she felt she could send us. Well done Derya, it was great.

Hi Vicki and Jay. I’m Dicky and I’m from Bogor, Indonesia. I’m a student and I’m studying English. My English goals are to chat with my friend in English and to teach my friend who can’t speak English. Thank you. Bye-bye.

Well done!
Yeah. He must get the ‘Friendly’ SEVY because he’s learning to chat with friends, but also he’s going to help his friend learn English! Well done Dicky!

Hey, I am Kaei from the Czech Republic. I am a charity volunteer here, and English is my passion. Thank you so much for your videos.

Kaei, we’re so glad you like our videos.
And you get the SEVY for giving back to the community with your charity work.

Hi, my name is Ashish. I am from India. I was working in Samsung Electronics as a promoter. I want to learn English so I can feel confident when I am speaking with my customers and colleagues.

Ashish, you get the repeat performance SEVY.
Ashish was in our video last year and it’s great to see you back, Ashish. And we’re sorry to hear you’ve been ill and we wish you better soon and it’s great to see you’re still supporting England.

Hello Vicki and Jay. My name is Melany and I’m from Colombia. Now I live in New York and I am an English student. I have lived here for a short time and your videos have helped me a lot to learn more and improve my English. And thank you very much. I love your videos.

Wow! Melany. I grew up in New York and I know how difficult it can be in that great big city to find your way, especially when English is not your first language. Good for you.
You get the ‘Traveller SEVY’.

Hello Jay and Vicki. I’m Martin. I live in a small European country named Slovakia, and I’m a graphic design student. My goals in terms of learning English is to improve myself in fluency and vocabulary, and I’ve been to England once, however, I really would fancy to go there again.

Martin, that was really interesting. I could hear a British accent in your Slovakian accent.
Your pronunciation was great. You get the SEVY for that.
He’s in school, right?
Yes, but he’s studying graphic design.
Oh, not English.
Yeah. Really good Martin.

Hello.
Hello, I am Meg, and this is my brother. We are Georgians. Now I study icon painting and I learn… study English because I love learning languages so much. And I love you so much Vicki and Jay.

I think I saw an icon painting behind her. And Meg, you have to get the SEVY for the best big sister.
And the youngest SEVY award goes to your brother.

Hi. My name is Arthur. I’m from Brazil and I learn English after being one year in New Zealand in 2015, and my goal is to be able to communicate with people all around the world and to understand them properly. And that’s all! Thank you very much, and your channel has been very helpful. I just love your tips. Thank you.

Thank you Arthur. That was a great compliment. By the way, you spoke very clearly.
Yes, your pronunciation was good, but I’m tempted to give you the SEVY instead for set design.
Did you see all the posters behind him?
Yes, apparently he’s studying for an exam. Good luck in your exam.

Hi Vicki and Jay. I am very honored for being seen by you and I’m a little bit nervous. OK, I’m Michelle and I’m from China. I’m a pharmacist working in the hospital. I learn English just for fun and interest. I love watching YouTube videos from English teachers like you. I hope that some day I could speak fluently and confidently with native English speakers, or maybe some day I could participate in some jobs that involve English. That’s all. Hope you like my video! Bye-bye.

That was really very fluent. Thank you Michelle.
Do you know that that was the first time she’d spoken English in public!
Really?
Yeah. And she was nervous about it. Michelle you get the prize for courage. You did really well!

Hello Jay and hello Vicki. I’m Wesley. I’m from Sao Paolo, Brazil. I’m a biology student at the last year and I want to improve my English and teach my girlfriend too. I love England and Scotland. I support Liverpool. And I love you both. Bye.

Bye-bye. He’s supporting Liverpool.
Wesley, you get the SEVY for being the best boyfriend, because he’s helping his girlfriend learn English too.
Good for you!

Hello, I’m Olga. I’m Russian. I used to work in finance but these days I stay at home. I take some time out to take care of my little one. And it’s a great time for me to dive into learning English. I learn English mainly for fun but I also have a dream to become an English teacher someday, and I also hope to go to England and to the United States some day again. Thank you for your wonderful lessons and for this challenge. Bye-bye.

We heard the little one there.
Olga, you get the SEVY for vocabulary because we heard lots of great phrases there like time out, little one, dive into. Good job!
Excellent, thank you.

Hi Vicki and Jay. I’m Eduardo from Catamarca, a northern province of Argentina. Well, I’m studying English at University and my big goal is to get my degree as an English teacher. I hope to get it in a couple of years. Well, thank you so much for your work. You are doing a really great job. Thank you so much, and see ya.

Another great compliment. Thank you very much. I think he gets the SEVY for being warm and friendly.
I know. I would love to have you as my teacher. I think you’re going to be great.

Hello. This is Gala from Russia. I started learning English when I was already 46, from scratch. It was 7 years ago. I was told it was too late, but look at me now. I can speak and in a month help others. I am an aspiring pronunciation tutor for beginners. From my experience, you can communicate successfully even if your English is just basic. Sincerity and simplicity always work. And thank you Vicki and Jay. I learn from you.

Galina, you get the inspiration SEVY – the award for inspiring us all.
Yes, I’ve had lots of students who have asked me ‘Am I too old to learn a language?’ and you are a wonderful example of how you’re never to old. And I also think that your advice about being sincere and keeping things simple is very valuable too.
Thank you.
And bravo! Good job!

Hello. My name is Tahir Shafiq. I am from Pakistan. I live in Lahore which is the second most populous city in Pakistan. It’s famous for its ancient buildings and gardens. I run my own provisioning store which includes a variety of items like soaps, detergents, grocery items, beverages, etc. I have 3 objectives for learning English. Firstly, I can use my writing skills with correspondence with my suppliers. Secondly, I can use my listening skills while watching movies because I love watching movies. Lastly, I can use English when I visit other countries for tours. I love tourism. OK. Take care, Bye.

Tahir, that was so well organized.
Yes, in fact you win the SEVY for structure, because all your thoughts were clearly laid out and it meant you could convey a lot of information in a short time, and that’s an excellent skill, and a very good business skill too.
Thank you very much.
Great job!

Hello Vicki, hello Jay, hello everyone. My name is Quynh. I’m 13 years old and I’m from Vietnam. Today I am really happy to share with you my English goal. My goal is to reach a higher level of English fluency which is advanced. This includes my grammar and my vocabulary. As you see, my grammar is not so good. I always make a mistake when I’m talking. And my vocabulary is not enough to cover all of my thoughts. The only thing for me to do to reach my goal is to study more and do more exercises in English. Also, watching Simple English Videos is a good way for me to expand my vocabulary and to know more rules about grammar. Thank you so much for listening.

Well thank you for submitting that video. It was very impressive. In fact I think she gets the SEVY for being impressive.
She is, isn’t she! Fantastic job, Quyn! I mean your grammar was great, your fluency was great, your pronunciation was great. Impressive is the word, and she’s only 13!

Hi Vicki and Jay. Zdraveite! Hola! My name is Galina, and I am from Bulgaria but I’m currently in Spain. I have diverse work experience, in many fields of life. Actually, I would be glad if I can work for you guys. If you think that I can contribute in any way to Simple English Videos, I’ll be glad to help. What I want to achieve in English is to gain more self confidence, because I still freeze whenever I meet a native speaker and have to speak to him or her, no matter the topic. Well, that’s for now. Thanks for listening and watching. See you, I mean I will see you. Adios, ciao.

Well you didn’t freeze there. That was just terrific!
It was fantastic. Well done Galina! I.. yeah, what do you want to give this SEVY for?
For the best location shoot!
Because you saw the Spanish beach! I’d like to give a SEVY as well for being most helpful! We wish we could give you a job. Wow! We’ve got to work out a way to earn money Jay.

Hi Vicki and Jay. I love your channel so much. My name is Nick and I’m living in South Korea. I’m a business …. who works for a Korean commercial company. I first started learning English for practical purposes, such as joining the meeting without a translator, and getting a global career in the future. But nowadays, it became one of my pleasures in daily life. I hope that I will be able to lead meetings with international co-workers at the end of this year. I’m so excited because I can go on this journey with you guys. Let me finish the video with a sentence that I read nowadays like a mantra. The repetition of a little tiny effort will make me stronger.

The repetition of a little tiny effort makes me stronger. That’s the best mantra we’ve heard today.
It’s a very good mantra for language learning as well. Because there’s nothing very difficult about learning English if you break it down into small steps and keep repeating them.
I also liked his story. How he started learning English for his work, and then it became a pleasure in his life. Yes.
So he gets the SEVY for …
Best mantra. Well done Nick.

Hello Vicki, hello Jay. My name is Maja Terese. I’m 15 years old. I’m from Norway. I’m in my last year of secondary school and next year I’m moving on to high school, where I’m going to go the specialized studies and general line. I like the English language and I’ve learned it for 10 years now, ever since first grade. And I wish to study it and get better at it in university. When I grow up I want to become a teacher – an English teacher. I enjoy talking English. I do it all the time. And I write English with my friends. My English goal for the year is to improve my pronunciation. I always pronounce words wrongly, I feel. And I also need to settle on whether I want to speak American English or British English which I both wish to do. That was my English goal and a bit about me and I’m sorry this video is long. Goodbye.

We’re still deciding which accents to use as well!
I recommend the American accent!
By the way, you didn’t mispronounce any words in that video. It was really good. There must be a very high standard of English in Norway.
I know and you were very fluent too, and she’s only 15.
Spectacular. Thank you so much for the video.
I think you should get the SEVY for fluency.

Hi, my name is Miriam Keller. I’m from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I live in Sao Paulo. I’m a retired secretary but I still work because I have to, and English is my working tool. So, I’m always… I’m always trying to find interesting things, review things, learn more, and so on. And your videos are fantastic. I always recommend them to friends and colleagues. And I always… I always try to watch them. Well, I’m retired, but as I say, I like very much languages, and I like very much to read, and go to the movies, and so on, listen to music. So, English is very important to me. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

Miriam I know exactly what you mean about having to go back to work after you’re retired.
Yes, but you know you’re a wonderful example for us all, because you’re finding things that you like, like movies and reading, and making English fun. So I feel like Miriam should have another inspiration SEVY.
Excellent. Thank you Miriam.

I am 12 years old and I am studying in the seventh grade. About myself I can say that I am a fun, clever, industrious and friendly girl. I want to speak fluently in English – from my native language, Ukrainian. I like to draw. I have a sister. Her name is Sasha. She is studying in the pedagogical college. In the future she will be an interpreter or English teacher. She is a friendly, compassionate and clever girl. I love my sister but sometimes she takes away our notebook and it is bad because I can’t watch English cartoons! By the way, Vicki and Jay, we use your lessons in our English lessons. We like your videos and you’re like real actors. Thanks for your work.

I think we’ll have to talk to your older sister about taking away your notebook computer.
Bohdan. you get the SEVY for having a great attitude. You’re going for it. You’re using what you’ve learnt and trying it out and it’s great to see. Keep it up.
I have to say your personality came right through in that video. Thank you very much.

Hi Vicki and Jay. This is Marcelo. I always enjoy watching your videos.
I learn a lot and I have fun at the same time. And, well, I’m from Chile. I’m…I’m not a student, yeah, I’m not a student. I’m working nowadays redacting (drafting) some reports for a company. And my English goal basically is to have fun and, perhaps, English will help me in a moment for this job or another one. I don’t know. I have to say that I lived in Australia when I was a child, but I have been studying English since some years ago. But…and I’m trying to take my English back, right? So, I guess that that is another of my main goals. OK, well those were your questions. Thank you very much for this great opportunity to talk to you guys. You are really lovely. I always watch every single episode from you both. Ok thank you very much. Bye-bye.

Thank you Marcelo. You are certainly doing a good job getting your English back.
Indeed. One of the things that struck me was how clear your speech was. In fact that’s your SEVY – clarity. And then you mentioned that you’d been in Australia when you were a child, and I thought, oh that’s why. But that’s going to be a great help for listening as you’re learning English.
Thanks Marcelo, great video.
Now before we carry on I just want to mention that for some people, this challenge was extra difficult because for religious reasons or for other personal reasons they didn’t want to appear on camera. But they found a way round it and we’re going to watch some of these videos now.

Hi Vicki and Jay. I’m Farshid and I’m Iranian. I am a student of architecture. I hope to learn English in order to have better communication with people around the world.

I want to give you the linguist SEVY, Farshid.
Why?
Because of the certificate on his book shelf. Did you see?
What did it say?
Pahlavi. It was a language – an ancient Persian language.
And it’s now extinct?
Yes. But although he’s studying architecture, he’s obviously a linguist too.

Hello there Vicki and Jay! This is Steffi and I’m sending you a thousand warm hugs from Erfurt, which is right in the middle of Germany. And with this small video I want to send you a few pictures of where I love to live. Reading my comments you may have noticed that I am quite a chatterbox, and I love to connect with people from all around the world to learn more about their country and their culture and my bucket list is incredibly full with all the spots I want to travel to and that’s why I want to speak proper and fluent English. Congratulations for over 100,000 subscribers Vicki and Jay and thank you so much for being the most creative and astounding English teachers I’ve ever met. Simple English Videos Yay! And this is my hamster, Carla.

Very good Steffi, and it was a pleasure meeting Carla, too.
Steffi sounded exactly as I expected. If you look at the comments at Simple English Videos you’ll see that Steffi is often there contributing and it’s really nice that you’re a chatterbox Steffi. We appreciate it.
So what’s her SEVY.
OK. Ahhh, I don’t know, what can we give her the SEVY for?
For the cutest pet!
I’ll tell you what though. I’d like to give her an intonation SEVY, because her pronunciation was superb.

Hello. Good day to you. My name is Sarah, and I am from Germany. I’ve been studying English for a year teaching most things to myself. English is for me not only a language. For me it is what makes me – me. I love England and English more than anything really. And my goals are to live in England when I’m grown up. I’m a student and I see myself working in connection to the English language. In December, this year, I’ll be passing the exam for the language level ‘C-1’ hopefully. And after this I’d like to continue with the next and final level.

Sarah, if I didn’t know you’re from Germany, I’d have assumed you’re from London because your accent is so good!
For someone who’s self taught, it’s amazing and you get the pronunciation SEVY.
Really good. Thank you very much.
And good luck with your exam. I think you’re going to do really well.

To be or not to be photogenic, that is the question. In the age of selfies I’m afraid I’m not. That’s why I chose a picture of my parent’s kissing before my nickname “Maninima” which is how I call my mom. Yet, when you invited your followers to send a video, I thought I could take this chance to thank you, Vicki and Jay, and other teachers on YouTube. By the way, my name is Simone. I’m Italian, and I fell in love with English when my dad made me listen to his favorite music, spirituals, jazz, Gershwin, and I discovered the Beatles. I began singing those songs and I found I could express my feelings better if I didn’t use my mother tongue. Maybe because I was very shy. I started at university to learn the language more deeply. But soon I had to give up for a series of troubles. My dad got cancer. My vocal cords developed a rare disease. A guy molested me. A car accident ruined my spine, just to name a few. So, thanks a lot Vicki and Jay, Aly from “Papa Teach Me”, Tom from “Eat, Sleep, Dream English”, “Love English” with Leila and Sabrah, and many more for keeping my mind working and for making me smile with your sense of humor and kindness. Love you all.

Thank you Simone. That took a lot of courage and we really appreciate it.
And I appreciated your sharing too, and sharing the names of other great YouTube channels, so more people can find them.
By the way, you had us at Gershwin and the Beatles. We love them. Thanks again Simone.
Congratulations to everyone who took part in this challenge.
You were all amazing.
We can’t thank you enough for sharing your life and goals with us.
We loved meeting you and it’s been very motivating for us.
Yes, we need to make some more videos now.
If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.
See you next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Bye.
Click here to see some hang out videos with Vicki and Jay.
Click here to see some more Simple English Videos.

second conditional examples

The second conditional in action – English grammar

We use the English second conditional to talk about imaginary, hypothetical or unreal possibilities. In this video we’ll show you how to form the second conditional and when to use it. We look at:

First vs second conditional

First and second conditionals are similar because they’re both about present and future possibilities. The difference is the second conditional is more imaginary. We use it to talk about unlikely or unreal possibilities.

Second conditional examples

You’ll learn how to use the second conditional in conversation with a funny story. We’ll show you lots of examples in action in a story.


Click here to see our lesson on the first conditional
Click here to see our lesson on the zero conditional

The second conditional

Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the park.
You’re in a good mood.
Well, The Phillies are playing the Dodgers today and I’ve got tickets to the game. Oh, do you want to come?
Oh yes! But I thought it was an afternoon game.
It is. If we leave at 2.30, we’ll be there for the start.
But what about the office? If we left at 2.30, Kathy would go crazy.
Nah! She won’t care.
She never lets us leave early.
Kathy. Can we go to the Phillies game today?
Absolutely not! Forget it.
Told you.

Hi I’m Vicki.
And I’m Jay and this video is the third in our series on English conditionals.
We’ve looked at the zero and the first conditional, and now it’s time to look at the second.
And we have another story for you, so you can see it in action.
A funny story! I think the second conditional is my favourite, because it’s about future possibilities.
But so is the first conditional.
Yes, but these possibilities are more imaginary. We just saw an example.
Then let’s see how it works.

If we left at 2.30, Kathy would go crazy.
Nah. She won’t care.

Second conditionals have two parts – two clauses. One is the condition and one is the result. In the condition clause we use ‘if’ with the past tense, and for the result we use the modal verb, would, and then the base form of the verb.
Notice we use ‘would’ in the result clause and not the condition clause. Like other conditionals, we can reverse the order and the meaning stays the same. Just remember to use a comma if the sentence starts with ‘if’.

If we leave at 2.30, we’ll be there for the start.

So Jay used a first conditional here but I used a second. They’re similar, but in the second conditional, we use the past instead of the present. And instead of ‘will’ we use ‘would’.
OK, so when do we use a first conditional and when do we use a second?
It depends on how likely we think something is.
How certain we are that it will happen.
Yeah. First conditionals are more probable and second conditionals are more hypothetical.
I thought Kathy would let us leave at 2.30.
You thought it was possible, so you used a first conditional.
But you didn’t think she would.
No, I thought she’d stop us, so I thought it was improbable – unlikely.
So if we think something is unlikely to happen, we use the second conditional.
Exactly.
Now something else is strange. We were talking about the future here, right?
Yeah.
But you used a past tense.
Yes! This is important. The past tense doesn’t indicate past time here. It indicates a distance from reality. We often use the past tense like this in English.
I think we need some more examples.
Then let’s have the story.
And while you’re watching, see how many second conditionals you can spot.

The second conditional in action in a story

I’ve got so much work to do and my assistant is Jay. You see the problem. But if I fired Jay, I could get someone else. A smart intelligent woman. The interviews are starting now.
Thanks for coming in.
The job sounds very interesting.
Well, I’ve got some questions for you.
Of course.
OK, first one. How long does it take you to reply to a text message?
Not long usually. If you texted me, I’d probably reply in about 5 or 10 minutes.
Wow! That’s much better than Jay. I texted him at ten last night and it took him two hours to respond.
You texted him at ten last night?
Yes. I wanted him to pick up my dry cleaning. In fact, that’s my next question! If I asked you to pick up my clothes from the dry cleaners, would you complain?
Well, it’s great to meet you.
You too.
I have a lot of questions for you, but this one is important for this job: Do you like dogs?
Yes.
Great because I have four rottweilers that I’d like to bring to the office.
But if you brought them to the office, they’d need walking.
Exactly. Thank you for offering. Now, I’m working on my master’s degree at the moment and sometimes it hard for me to get all my homework done.
Well, those degrees can be a lot of work.
So if I asked you to do my homework, would you help me?
So this is the break room where we can make our coffee and tea.
It’s very nice.
Sometimes I’m so busy, I don’t have time to make my tea.
Oh!
And it’s a big health problem for me because I get dehydrated and ill, you know.
Well, if you needed a cup of tea, I guess I could make one for you.
Thank you. I like herbal tea and I like it brewed for 3 minutes and 45 seconds and I’d like one every hour please.
If you were me, who would you choose? They were all good. Hi, it’s Vicki. I was very impressed with you at your interview and I’d like to offer you the job.
Oh, err, thank you but I’ve…. had another offer.
Well, not to worry.
So what do you think?
Oh. I’ve decided I wanted to spend more time with my family.
I’m afraid it’s not a good fit. I’m… allergic to herbal teas.
Oh. What’s that?
It’s your dry cleaning.
Oh.
Would you like a cup of tea?
Oh yes please. I guess he’s not that bad.

How many examples did you spot?
There were seven. Let’s look at them again.

But if I fired Jay, I could get someone else.

This is interesting because instead of ‘would’ you said ‘could’.
It means I would have the ability to get someone else. I’m not saying I would for sure, but it’s a possibility.
Well, thanks for that! So ‘would’ isn’t the only modal verb we can use in the results clause?
Yes, they have slightly different meanings but we can say would, could, may, might, should…
OK, another example.

If you texted me, I’d probably reply in about 5 or 10 minutes.
Wow!

If I texted you, you wouldn’t reply in 10 minutes.
No, I probably wouldn’t. I’m too busy!
Notice how we form negatives. The negative of would is would not – but when we’re speaking we usually use the contraction – would not – wouldn’t
OK, another example.

If I asked you to pick my clothes up from the dry cleaners, would you complain?

We heard a question there.
Yes. Would is a modal verb, so to form the question, we reverse the word order. You would complain. Would you complain?
That’s easy!
Yeah, next example.

Because I have four rottweilers that I’d like to bring to the office.
But if you brought them to the office, they’d need walking.
Exactly! Thank you for offering.

We heard another contraction there. They would – they’d.
Yeah.
Notice how we form contractions with would. I’d… you’d… he’d… she’d… it’d… we’d… they’d…
The problem my students have with these contractions is they confuse ‘I had’ with ‘I would’.
Oh yes. I had – I’d. I would – I’d. It’s the same contraction.
You have to look at the context to work it out.
OK. Another example.

Well, those degrees can be a lot of work.
So if I asked you to do my homework, would you help me?

‘Would you help me?’ is a very common phrase and it’s half of a second conditional.
We can also say ‘Can you help me?’ But ‘Would you help me?’ sounds a little more polite.
It’s because there’s more distance from reality.
I’m not sure if you’ll help me.
And that makes it a little more polite. We heard a similar example.

I get dehydrated and ill, you know.
Well, if you needed a cup of tea, I guess I could make one for you.
Thank you.

We could also say ‘I can make you a cup of tea’. It’s another way to make an offer.
But ‘could’ sounds a little more uncertain.
Yes, a little more tentative and polite.
So that’s why ‘would’ and ‘could’ are useful for making requests and offers.
Yes. OK, we have one more example and this is very interesting.

If you were me, who would you choose?

OK, so I have a question. Is it possible for you to be me?
No, of course not.
But that’s what I’m saying here. We can use the second conditional to imagine impossible things like if I had a million dollars….
If I were the President of the United States…
If I were twenty years younger…
A common phrase we use to give advice is ‘If I were you…’. So ‘if I were you I’d watch all our videos’ or ‘I’d study English every day’. It’s impossible for me to be you, but with the second conditional we can imagine unreal things.
Notice that the grammar is a little strange here. Normally with ‘be’ in the past tense we say I was, you were, he was and so on. But in the second conditional, we say ‘were’ for all the forms of the verb ‘be’.
Why is that?
It’s called the subjunctive, if you want to look it up, but if you get it wrong and say ‘I was’ instead of ‘I were’, it’s no big deal.
We often say that too in conversation.
Yeah. But if you’re taking an exam in English, they’ll often test you on this.
And then you want to say ‘If I were you…’ not ‘If I was you’.
So are we done?
Well, not really because we’re going to look at the third conditional next, but that’s another video.
So make sure you subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
See you all next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Bye.
Click here to see our lesson on the first conditional
Click here to see our lesson on the zero conditional

quite in British and American English

The trickiest word in English – Quite!

Is the meaning of the adverb quite, very or completely? It looks like a small difference but it can lead to big misunderstandings.
Sometimes quite means the same thing in British and American English, but sometimes it’s used differently.
In this video we show you
– how to use quite to mean completely
– how to use not quite (meaning not completely) to criticize someone gently or say you disagree.
– how quite can mean very in American English, but fairly or pretty in British English
– how you can sometimes tell the meaning of quite by whether it’s used with a gradable or ungradable adjectives.
Finally we have some advice for any American guys who are going on a date with a British girl.
Don’t tell her she’s quite pretty!

Click here to see more videos on British and American English.

 

The adverb quite

Hi everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American and today we’re looking at a word that’s quite tricky.
No, it’s very tricky.
But that’s what I said!
No you didn’t!
I speak British English and Jay speaks American English and normally, we manage to communicate OK.
But there’s a word that causes us problems. Quite.
It’s such a common word. We both use it a lot.
But it’s the word that’s hardest for us to understand.
Sometimes we use it in the same way, but sometimes we use it differently.
And then we get confused.
Quite.
Quite?
Let’s look at some examples.

Have you finished the artwork yet?
No. I’m not quite ready. I need another five minutes.
Take your time. I’m quite happy to wait.
Do you want to go and get a coffee or something?
No, I’m quite all right thanks. I’ve had quite enough coffee today. That’s not quite correct.
Just go away!
What’s your problem?

Here are some of the things we said. ‘Quite’ is an adverb and it means ‘completely’ in all these examples. It means to the greatest possible degree – 100%. We can use it this way in British and American English
And you heard quite in two negative sentences too, where it means not completely – so almost, but not 100%. Again it can have this meaning in British and American English. We often use quite in the negative like this to criticize someone gently or to say we disagree with them.
So we might say ‘I don’t quite agree’ or ‘That’s not quite right’.
Yes, and we mean ‘I don’t agree 100%.’ or ‘You’re a little wrong’. Quite softens the disagreement.
It works like that in American and British English.
But there’s another way we use ‘quite’ that’s quite different.

So what did you think of my report?
It’s quite good.
Fantastic. I’ll send it to everybody now.
Hang on. It needs some changes.
But you said it was quite good.
Yes, but we need it to be VERY good.
Huh?

There was a misunderstanding there.
Yeah, I thought you liked my report.
Well, I thought it was fairly good or pretty good, but not very good.
But you said it was quite good. If I say that I mean very good. Quite is a forceful word.
It’s not forceful in British English. It just means to some degree.
So let me get this straight. Sometimes when you say ‘quite’ you mean completely, like me.
Yes.
But other times you just mean fairly or pretty.
Yes.
Then how can I tell what you mean?
Well, sometimes you can tell from the kind of adjective we use with quite – whether it’s gradable or ungradable.
We’d better explain that.

Gradable or ungradable

Some English adjectives are gradable, so they can be true to different degrees. For example good is gradable. Something can be very good, or fairly good, or just a little good. But other adjectives are ungradable, for example perfect. We don’t say something is very perfect or fairly perfect or a little perfect. It’s just perfect.
Here are some more examples of ungradable adjectives. Things are either dead or they’re not. People are either married or they’re not. There’s no in-between with these adjectives, so we don’t use them with ‘very’. The meanings of these adjectives already contain the idea of ‘very’.
So here’s what happens in British English. If we use ‘quite’ with an ungradable adjective, we probably mean completely. For example, ‘It’s quite perfect’. It’s 100% perfect. But if we use quite with a gradable adjective, we probably mean ‘fairly’ – so to some extent, but not very. For example, ‘It’s quite nice’ – it’s fairly nice.
So if you say ‘I’m quite tired’, you mean you’re fairly tired.
Yeah, and what about you?
I could mean that, but normally if I say I’m quite tired, I mean I’m very tired.
Pronunciation matters too. If we stress the word ‘quite’ the difference can get more marked.
I’m QUITE tired – that means I’m very very tired
I’m QUITE tired – that means I’m only fairly tired.
There’s another thing you do in British English.
What’s that?
I’ll say something and instead of saying ‘I agree’ you say ‘quite’.
Oh yes. It’s rather formal but to show we agree with someone or to show we’ve understood, we can say ‘quite’ or ‘quite so’. It just means ‘yes’.
It sounds very British.
Quite.
Let’s have a quiz question now.
OK. See if you can answer this everyone, and you Jay. If your American boss says ‘your work is quite good’, what does it mean? Jay?
If my American boss says my work is quite good, I should get a raise. They think my work is very good.
British English is different. If my British boss says my work is quite good, I’d have to ask what I’m doing wrong.
Because it’s only fairly good. Wow!
So the difference in meaning is subtle, but it can be very important.
If you don’t pay attention, you might miss it.
When I came to the US I had to stop and think when people said ‘quite’. ‘Do they mean fairly or do they mean ‘very’? I still have to stop and think sometimes.
And I’ve had to learn the difference too, so I can understand Vicki’s family and friends.
Yeah. Here’s a real example. My British friend was visiting us and meeting Jay for the first time and they were just getting to know one another and talking about their families.
I was telling her about my father and how he spoke six languages and I said ‘He was quite good at languages’.
So my British friend was surprised and she said, ‘Why are you saying that? You said he spoke six languages.’
‘Yeah, he was quite good at languages.’
So my friend was thinking, ‘He’s being derogatory about his father? That’s not nice! If you speak six languages you’re a very good linguist – not just fairly good.
And I was thinking, ‘We’ve only just met. Why is this woman being so argumentative?’ It was like she wanted to pick a fight with me for no reason.
It’s the sort of misunderstanding that can damage relationships.
Yes, it’s dangerous because you might not realise it’s happening.
And one last thing before we stop.
Yeah?
I have some advice for any American guys who are going on a date with a British girl.
What’s that?
Don’t tell her she’s quite pretty. It happened to one of my friends on her first date with an American guy.
What! He told her she was quite pretty?
Yes, he was lucky to get a second date! And that’s it for today everyone.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please share it with a friend and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. Bye-bye now.
See you next Friday. Bye.

Click here to see more videos on British and American English.

british english slang

British Slang Words Quiz

Play along with a British English slang quiz.

Vicki (who is British) tests Jay (who is American) with 10 British English slang words and he does very well!
You’ll learn 10 slang words and colloquial expressions including:

  • bloke, meaning dude
  • quid, not quids
  • bog and bog roll
  • a tad meaning a little
  • knackered and clapped out
  • skint meaning broke
  • hard cheese meaning hard luck – often ironic
  • peckish meaning a little hungry
  • cheeky meaning disrespectful or funny

We also look at two old-fashioned slang words that you can use as a joke:

  • spiffing meaning splendid
  • tickety-boo meaning fine and dandy

Click here to see more videos about British and American English differences.

British English slang words quiz

I have no idea what we’re doing today.
Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m going to test Jay to day on his British slang.
Uh-oh. Can they play along?
Yes!
OK.
So how good is your British slang, Jay?
Pretty good. I mean we’ve been together for more than 20 years so I think I know a lot.
I’ve got 10 different expressions here and we’re going to see how many you know.
They’re all British expressions?
Yeah, and they’re all slang, so they’re informal spoken English.
The kind of thing you’d say with your friends.
And if you get them all right, you get a prize.
What’s this?
It’s your prize.
But you can’t look at it yet.
I have to get all of them right first?
Yes. And here’s your first one.

Bloke meaning dude

Bloke. I know what a bloke is. That’s a guy. A dude.
That’s what you’d say in American.
Right.
OK, use it in a sentence.
Bloke?
Yeah.
OK, let’s see. Um. I saw this bloke riding down the street on his bicycle.
Yes, that would work. That would work.
I met a nice bloke last night.
So bloke is just an informal way of saying ‘man’. We might also say chap and fellow. OK and in American you’d say…
I saw this dude riding down the street on a bicycle!
OK, next one.

Quid meaning pound

Quid. Quid. I know this one too. Quid is slang for pound. The currency of the UK.
That’s right. What would be an American equivalent?
A buck!
Oh a buck. Of course. And, erm, what about if you have five of them? What’s the note called?
A five dollar bill? Oh you mean in quids! A five pound note. A fiver!
OK, you just said quids. You’re lucky I don’t take your point away because the plural of quid is quid. It’s an irregular plural because there’s no ‘s’. One quid, two quid, five quid. But American English is different?
Yes, we’d say five bucks, ten bucks, twenty bucks, so we add an s to make it plural.
But you were right to say a fiver. A fiver is the name we give a five pound note and a ten pound note is…
A tenner.
That’s right!
In American English we’d say a five dollar bill and a ten dollar bill. What’s next?
This one.

Bog meaning toilet or loo

Bog. B-O-G. In American English a bog is a swamp.
Yes, a sort of muddy piece of land.
Right. And it’s slang for something else?
Yes.
I have no clue.
I’ll give you another clue. Bog roll.
Is that like… what we would call toilet paper?
Yes. So it’s a toilet roll, and it’s another word for the toilet. So instead of saying I’m going to the toilet, we’d say I’m going to the bog.
In America we never say we’re going to the toilet. We say we’re going to the bathroom.
Yes. You’re very posh.
Bog is a slang way of saying toilet in British English. If you want to be more polite you can say “I’m just going to the loo”.

A tad meaning a little

Ah! A tad. Now a tad always reminds me of a tadpole.
It has nothing to do with a tadpole. A tadpole is a little baby frog.
Right, but it’s little and so that’s how I remind myself that a tad means a little bit in British English. Right?
You’re quite right. It’s a small amount.
So I could be a tad unhappy, a tad disappointed. Does tad always work with negative feelings?
No, no, not at all. You could be a tad pleased. Erm… But you could also have a tad more to eat.
Gotcha.
Or a tad more wine, please. A tad just means a little. For example, “Could I have a tad more time?” It means, ‘Could I have a little more time?”
OK, another one.

Knackered meaning exhausted or clapped out

Knackered. Knackered. I know knackered. Knackered is when you’re exhasuted and your so tired you can’t do anything. You’re knackered.
Exactly. You got that one right. So use it in a sentence.
Let see. Uh. I worked for twelve hours today and I’m completely knackered.
Excellent. Excellent.
It can also mean ‘clapped out’.
What?
So .. so old…
Clapped out?
Clapped out means…
You clapped to many times?
No. No. It means it’s too old or broken down to use any more. So your car could be clapped out or your bike could be clapped out and they can both be knackered as well.
Really? An inanimate object can be knackered?
Yeah. My bike’s knackered. I need a new one.
Hmm.
So knackered has two meanings. One is very tired and exhausted. I’ve been working all day and I’m knackered. And the other is too old and not working well. For example my bike is knackered.
Like me!
OK, another one.

Skint meaning broke

Skint. You know I really don’t know. I think it has something to do with being cheap. Is that right?
Ah. It’s to do with money, but it’s when you have no money.
Oh, so if I say I’m skint, I’m out of cash?
Exactly.
Got it.
Can you lend me some money?
I’m skint!
Yes! So we could say ‘I can’t come out with you tonight because I’m skint’. We could also say ‘I’m broke’. It means the same thing. I’m skint, I’m broke.
OK, next one…

Hard cheese meaning hard luck

Hmm. Hard cheese. Well I think this means hard luck. Too bad.
Yes. That’s right. It’s used as a way to say we’re sorry about something, but we don’t usually mean we’re sorry. So it’s a bit ironic. For example. Oh you need some help? Well, hard cheese! I’m going for my break!
OK, you’ll know this one.

Peckish meaning a little hungry

Oh, peckish.
Peckish means you’re a little hungry, right?
Exactly!
Is it from the verb ‘peck’? To peck? Like a bird pecks at its food?
Oh, maybe. Erm…but if you’re a little bit hungry. Oooo. If you only want to eat a little bit of food, you might peck at your food. That’s when you’re not terribly hungry and you’re eating it. But peckish, yes. A little bit hungry.
So we might say ‘I’m feeling peckish. What’s in the fridge?’ And if someone is only pecking at their food it means they’re only eating a little of it, perhaps because they’re not hungry or not feeling well.
OK, here’s your next one.

Cheeky meaning disrespectful or funny

Mmm. Ah. This one I know too. This is cheeky. Cheeky in American English would be wise-ass.
Ah, OK. Except that’s quite negative. We can use it in a sort of positive and negative way in British English. You could have a child who has a cheeky grin, and it’s quite a cute grin. Erm… But it’s slightly naughty. But naughty in a fun way. And erm yes, but people could also be being cheeky when they’re answering back. If children are cheeky theyre being wise-arses as youd say in American English – or wise-ass.
So cheeky can mean disrespectful in British English. So we might tell a child to stop being cheeky and do as you’re told. And it can also be used in a more positive way too. So if they do something funny we might say ‘You cheeky monkey!’

Spiffing and tickety-boo!

I think we should teach the British word ‘spiffing’.
Where did you learn this word ‘spiffing’?
One of our community members online mentioned that the wig I wore in our last video was spiffing and I had to go look it up. What does it mean?
It means marvelous or wonderful. But it’s a really old-fashioned word. It’s from the last century. You can use spiffing for a joke. He was having a joke.
It’s very British upper class, isn’t it?
Yeah. OK, and I’ve got another one that’s like that for you now.
Mmm.
Here you go. Tickety-boo. I can’t even say it without saying it in a British accent. Tickety-boo. It means that’s just perfect.
Erm, yeah. OK. I think in American English you’d say OK. Dandy, or something like that?
A hundred years, a hundred years ago we’d have said dandy. Yeah.
Fine and dandy, and it means everything’s in working order. Everything’s fine. How are things going? Oh, tickety-boo. Everything’s going very well. And it’s very old-fashioned, and today we’ll only use it if we’re joking.
So these are two old-fashioned slang expressions that you can use for a joke.
Spiffing means extremely good or pleasant. And tickety-boo means going well, with no problems.
So how did I do? Have I won the prize?
No, I’m afraid you got skint wrong and you didn’t really know bog.
But I knew bog roll and also, I knew spiffing!
OK, I could give you a bonus point for spiffing.
Great so what’s my prize? Dinner for two at the Indian restaurant. Oh wow! That’s a great prize! Thank you very much. Look at that.
OK everyone. In that case, we’ve got to go. If you’ve enjoyed this video please share it with a friend.
Any don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. See you next week everyone.
Bye-bye!

Click here to see more videos about British and American English differences.

useful english adjectives

7 useful English adjectives

Learn some adjectives while you’re shopping with us in Philadelphia. We’ll show you 7 useful English adjectives in action and also some common adjective + preposition phrases.
We look at:
– the adjective chilly and how we use it to talk about the weather and relationships
– major, meaning large and important
financial vs economic
tall vs high
vague meaning not detailed or clear
And we also look at some adjective + preposition phrases like ‘good at’, ‘excellent for’ and ‘fed up with’.

Useful English adjectives

Ladies and gentlemen. Today’s lesson is about…. useful adjectives!
So what are adjectives?
They’re words that describe people or things and give us more information about them.
Words like beautiful, big, new, black, (tugs at shirt) wooden (taps head)
And useful – useful is an adjective!
We’re looking at useful adjectives today.
And a little bit of grammar.
Let’s get going.

Hi everyone. We live in Philadelphia and we’re taking you out shopping with us today.
I’m going to lock the door. It’s a chilly day in Philadelphia.
Yes, but it doesn’t matter because we’re going somewhere warm.
And we’ll show you some sights along the way.
This is John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
It’s a major street in the financial district of Philadelphia.
And there are lots of luxury apartments here and beautiful tall glass skyscrapers.
There are shops too, but they aren’t the only place you can shop around here. There’s somewhere else that we’re going now. It’s a definitely a lot warmer.
Yes. The wind has stopped blowing. This is the part of the underground shopping area connected to Suburban Station.
We’re not exactly sure where the store we’re looking for is, but we’ll keep going.
I need to get me one of those.
But Jay’s got a vague idea, yeah?
Yeah, I think so. I think we have to turn to the south.
OK.
Hey sir, you look good together.
He said we look good together Jay.
Well we are good together.
So this is where we’re going shopping today. This is the wig store. We’ve got a wig at home, but it’s the only one we’ve got and I’m getting a bit bored with it. With all this choice, I’m never going to get fed up with wearing the same wig again.
I’m amazed at the prices. They’re very reasonable.
There are lots of other beauty products here. I’m not very good at makeup.
This one would be excellent for Halloween. So which one are you going to buy?
Thank you very much.
Thank you.

That was fun!
Shall we show them the wig we bought?
Later. First let’s look at some of the adjectives.

It’s a chilly day in Philadelphia.
Yes, but it doesn’t matter because we’re going somewhere warm.

Chilly is a great word to know because we’re always talking about the weather. Chilly means too cold to be comfortable. Like most adjectives it can go in two positions. Before a noun – so a chilly day – or after a linking verb like be, feel, seem, look….
The weather isn’t the only thing we can describe as chilly. It works for relationships too, and then it means not friendly. So we might talk about receiving a chilly welcome, a chilly reception, a chilly response. It means it wasn’t warm and friendly.

This is John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
It’s a major street in the financial district of Philadelphia.

We’ve got two adjectives here. Can you spot them? There’s major – that means very large and important.
A major street, a major city, major heart surgery.
And the second adjective is financial which means connected with money.
Financial services, financial advice, financial difficulties
My students often mix up the adjectives financial and economic.
They are very similar. They both mean ‘to do with money’ so what is the difference?
Normally it’s about scale. Individual people might have financial problems but countries might have economic problems.
And what about companies? They could have financial problems too.
Yes, in the UK, the person in charge of money in a company is usually the Finance Director or Financial Director.
And in the US, it’s the CFO – the Chief Financial Officer.
Yes, and they manage financial planning and reporting. Not the economic planning and reporting.
We usually say economic when we’re talking about the money of countries and nations.
Exactly. OK, next one.

And there are lots of luxury apartments here and beautiful tall glass skyscrapers.

Notice we said the skyscraper was tall there. Not high.
It’s because the skyscrapers are higher off the ground than they’re wide. Long thin things are usually tall, not high.
Like people.
Yes. We’ve made another video about that. I’ll put the link here.
Let’s have another one.

We’re not exactly sure where the store we’re looking for is, but we’ll keep going.
I need to get me one of those.
But Jay’s got a vague idea, yeah?
Yeah, I think so. I think we have to turn to the south.

Vague is a useful word to know.
Something that’s vague, isn’t detailed or clear in our mind.
We might have a vague memory of something that happened in the past, when we can remember it but not clearly.
Or we can have a vague feeling that something isn’t right. And then we discover we’ve left our keys in the front door or something.
People can be vague too, when they don’t give clear information.
Yes. If you’re giving instructions or directions, don’t be vague. OK, another one.

I’m amazed at the prices. They’re very reasonable.

Reasonable – reasonable prices are not too high – not too expensive.
We could also say cheap, but the problem with cheap is it can have another meaning – poor quality.
So sometimes cheap means not expensive and it’s a positive thing, but sometimes it means poor quality, and then it has a negative meaning.
If you want to be positive, say reasonable.
You used another adjective there too. You said I’m amazed at the prices.
Yes, I thought they were amazing.
Amazed, amazing. There are lots of pairs of adjectives like this in English – where they end in -ed or -ing.
Interested, interesting, Bored, boring,
The -ed adjectives describe how we feel and the -ing adjectives describe the person or thing that causes the feeling.
We’ve made another video about that too.
I’ll put the link here.
We heard an example of bored.

We’ve got a wig at home, but it’s the only one we’ve got and I’m getting a bit bored with it.

Notice I said ‘with’. I’m bored with it.
Some English adjectives are followed by prepositions, like with, for, at…
So you have to learn which prepositions go with which adjectives.
I said I was amazed AT the prices, but I could also say I was amazed BY the prices.
And it would mean much the same thing. But often only one preposition is possible.
See if you can spot some more adjectives and prepositions.

There are lots of other beauty products here. I’m not very good at makeup.
This one would be excellent for Halloween.
With all this choice, I’m never going to get fed up with wearing the same wig again.

Did you spot them? The first one was good at. We often use ‘at’ to talk about ability so we can be good at things or bad at things or slow or fast at things.
The next one was excellent for. We often use ‘for’ to talk about purpose. So this wig would be excellent for Halloween and this one would be good for our Christmas show.
And the last one was fed up with. The adjective fed up means bored or unhappy so we could get fed up with doing the same thing again and again, or fed up with constant rain. I’m fed up with Jay not emptying the dishwasher.
What me?
Yes you!
OK. Let’s show everyone the wigs we bought.
OK. This one is the one I chose. I think it’s going to be excellent for a spy story.
And here’s another one that I chose for Vicki.
I’m amazed at how good this looks. You can expect to see this is a future video.
And then there was one more. What do you think.
I think this one was probably a mistake.
I thought it looked really good on me. What do you think?
If you have any ideas for how we can use it in a video, please tell us.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.
Yes, if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it wit a friend.
See you next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Bye.

Your English Goals – Speaking Challenge 2019

Your English Goals – Speaking Challenge 2019

This is your invitation to practice speaking English with us and appear in one of our videos!
Make a short video where you’re speaking in English, and we’ll share it with the world.
Here’s how it works:
1. You make a short video of yourself speaking – just a few sentences. Tell us who you are and your English goals.
2. You send the video to us, or send us a link where we can download it.
3. We put your videos into one longer video that we publish on our channel.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING AN ENGLISH VIDEO

WHAT TO SAY
Keep your video short – just a few sentences is fine. Tell us:
1. Who you are
For example: Where are you from? Are you a student? What are you studying? Or are you working? What’s your job?
2. Your English goals:
For example: Do you have an exam you want to pass or a job where you need English? Or maybe you’re planning to travel somewhere or perhaps you’re learning English for fun?
HOW TO SEND IT
If you have a YouTube channel, post your video there as unlisted or public (not private) and send us the link. The deadline is Monday March 24th, 2019.
Please check the video for Vicki’s email address or use the contact form on this website.

Click here to see last year’s SEVY awards video.

Practice speaking in English with us

Hi! In today’s video we want to set you a speaking challenge!
Will you come and practice speaking English with us?
Last year we set our viewers a challenge. We asked them to send us a video of themselves speaking English.
We were thrilled when 13 people responded.
It was wonderful.
We met people from all over the world, doing lots of different things.
We loved it because it helped us to get to know you a little better. So we want to do it again!
It’s not easy to find ways to practice speaking in English. This is your chance!
We want you to make a very short video where you’re speaking in English, that we’re going to share with the world.
We’ll put your videos together in one video that we’ll share on our channel.
So are you up to a challenge? Here’s what we want you to do. Make a short video – just a few sentences, telling us where you’re from, what you do and something you want to be able to do in English.
We’re really excited to know more about you.
Are you students? What are you studying?
Or are you working? What’s your job?
And what are your English goals? Do you have an exam you want to pass or a job where you need English?
Or maybe you just want to chat with friends in English and you’re learning for fun?
So that’s your challenge. Tell us who you are and what your English goals are.
And video it!
It means you’ll get speaking practice and we’ll all get to know one another better.
Have we got any examples we can show everyone?
Yes. At the end of this video, I’ll put a link so you can see the videos we received last year.
Great – And if you do a good job you’ll get a SEVY award!
So what is a SEVY?
This is our version of the Oscars. It’s an award for students who rise to the speaking challenge.
The videos we received last year were so good that we created this prize! The SEVY!
SEVY stands for Simple English videos YES!
Or Simple English videos YAY!

Tips for making a video of yourself speaking

Do we have some tips for filming?
Yes. First one – keep it short and simple. Just a few sentences is fine.
And feel free to share photos if you want, but if anyone else appears in your pictures, make sure it’s OK with them first.
Yes. Because we’re going to be putting your videos on YouTube for the world to see. Oh and this is very important – no music, please. We need to make sure we’ve paid for any music we use.
Now make sure the camera is horizontal when you shoot it and not vertical
Yes, it should be landscape not portrait. And that’s it!
So your task is to tell us where you’re from, what you do and why you’re learning English – in other words, your English goals.
Are you ready for your deadline? It’s Monday March 24th.
That’s not long. Just ten days. So get your cameras out and get busy!
OK, the last thing – how to send their videos to us.
The best way to do it is to upload it to YouTube and send us the link.
You need to publish this as public or unlisted. This is important. Don’t keep it private, or we can’t see it.
Yes, and send the link to this address.
That’s me! I can’t wait to see what you send us. This is very exciting.
And if you do a good job, you might win a SEVY!
If you have any problems sending us links to your videos, or if you don’t have a YouTube channel, email me.
And now we want to show you another award.
Oh yes, this is very cool.
We’ve received a button from YouTube for having 100,000 subscribers.
Thank you everyone for clicking that subscribe button. This is the result. It’s very pretty.
Where are we going to put it?
We can hang it on the wall – see – there’s a hole here.
My office, above my exercise equipment.
I thought it could go in my office.
We need to have a private conversation about this.
My office!
See you all next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Bye!
Click here to see last year’s SEVY awards video.

can't and not c*nt

2 tricky vowel sounds in British and American English – AH and UH

We made a video a while ago on how we say can and can’t in British and American English. You can see it here.

It was very popular but many of you wrote saying you were worried about saying the right the vowel sound in the word can’t. If you get it wrong you could say can’t and not c*nt – so a rude word in English.

Some of you said you say cannot instead. That’s clear, but it will sound a little strange. Cannot is more frequent in written English than spoken.
The way to solve the problem is to work on the vowel sounds so you can say AH and UH – the ɑːand ʌ vowel sounds.

We’ll show you how to do that in this video and demonstrate some ah uh minimal pairs. We’ll also show you how we pronounce words differently in British and American English.


Click here to see our video on can and can’t.
Click here to see more of our pronunciation videos.

Hi everyone, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American and this video is long overdue. Why is it overdue?
I’ve been slow. A year ago, we made a video about how we both pronounce ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ in English.
It was nearly two years ago.
We say the negative word ‘can’t’ differently.
She means can’t.
Can’t.
Can’t.
Sometimes when Jay says it, I don’t understand him.

I don’t want you to see.
I can’t see.
Oh well let me try again.
Why? I can’t see?
Do you mean you can or you can’t see.
I can’t see.

Can’t and not c*nt

That video was very popular.
But in the comments a lot of you said you had a problem.
Yes, a lot of people didn’t want to say can’t the British way in case they say c*nt. Oh, I said a rude word.
Lots of people are worried about that. They don’t want to sound rude
Some of you told us you say ‘cannot’ instead.
That’s clear, but it sounds strange.
Cannot is more frequent in written English. We don’t say it much when we’re speaking.
It sounds stilted.
You don’t want to sound formal and strange. So what we need to do is work on the vowel sound – the AH sound.
That way you can say it confidently.
And make sure you don’t get it mixed up with UH. This is going to be useful for pronouncing lots of words, and good for your listening too.
So where should we start?
I think we should look at what’s causing the problem in the first place. Too many English vowels.

Vowel sounds in British and American English

We have five vowels in the English alphabet, but we pronounce them in different ways, so we have lots of vowel sounds. When I was learning Japanese there were just five vowel sounds. It was pretty easy. Spanish is another language that has five.
If your language has fewer vowel sounds than English, of course it’s going to be difficult to hear and say the English ones. You have to train your ear and learn to move your mouth muscles differently.
We have twelve pure vowel sounds in English and we’re going to focus on two that are very similar.
I thought it was eleven sounds.
Ah. No. In American English there are eleven, but in British English we have twelve.
Really?
Yes, there’s one you don’t say.
What’s that?
ɒ like in the word lot. We’ve made another video about that.
But we’re focusing on two other vowel sounds today: AH and UH.
So you can say can’t and not c*nt. Ah I did it again.
So let’s look at these sounds. AH… This is the sound I make when Vicki gives me a foot rub. AH.
You wish. And what about UH?
That’s when I’ve made a mistake. UH!

AH. UH.
AH. UH.
AH. UH.
AH. UH.

AH is a longer sound. AH.
And with AH there’s a little more jaw drop. AH.
And you press your tongue down a bit at the back. So when your jaw goes down your tongue goes down too.
And there’s a little tension in your tongue.
Now the other sound, UH. This is a shorter sound.
Your tongue is completely relaxed. UH.
And your jaw is a little higher. Say the sounds with us.

AH. UH.
AH. UH.

Now we need some words to practice.
This is where it gets tricky because sometimes we use these sounds in different words.
It’s an American and British English difference.
So let’s start with a different vowel sound. Aaaa.
Here are some words that we both say with Aaaa.

Can, bag, sad, man, fat.
Can, bag, sad, man, fat.

So we both said the vowel sound Aaaa there.
But there are other words where Jay says Aaaa and I say AH.

Can’t, aunt, past, laugh, class, after.
Can’t, aunt, past, laugh, class, after.

Did you hear the difference? I said AH and Jay said Aaaa.
And then there are other words where we both say AH.

Father, father, llama, llama, calm, calm, bra, bra.

I think your vowel sound was a little longer than mine.
Maybe. We both said AH, but perhaps your AH was a little shorter than mine?
What do you think? Let’s try some more.
Dark, dark, barn, barn, march, march, cart, cart.
Our vowel sounds were the same again but our R sounds were different.
Yeah. I’m from just north of London in England, and we don’t pronounce our Rs in these words. There are parts of the UK where people do, but most people don’t.
We’ve made another video about that.
OK. Now there’s another group of words where you say AH, but I don’t.

Doll, doll, fond, fond, lock, lock, hot, hot, gosh, gosh.

Did you hear the difference?
I said AH – gosh. But you didn’t.
No, I used the other extra vowel sound that we have in British English.
The twelfth vowel sound. It sounds so British!
It’s just what we say. But let’s recap so far. There are some words where I say AH and Jay doesn’t, and some words where we both say it, and some where Jay says it and I don’t.
OK. But what about the other important sound. Now we need to look at UH.
Yeah. UH is more straightforward because we both say this sound in much the same words.

Cup, cup, hut, hut, luck, luck, love, love, come, come, dull, dull.

So UH is a shorter sound and you need to keep your tongue relaxed.

ah uh minimal pairs

Let’s compare UH with AH now.
See if you can hear the difference.

Cart cut, carp cup, dark duck, barn bun, calm come.
Hot hut, lock luck, cot cut, fond fund, doll dull.

If you find it hard, you’re not alone.
Yes, it’s tricky. It’s about small movements of the tongue and the jaw.
It just takes practice, but you’ll get it.Now, do we have any sentences?
Yes. I’ve got one for you to say and one for me to say and you can try saying them with us. Your one has UH sounds.
OK. ‘Don’t be unhappy, love. Come to lunch with me and let’s have fun!’
OK, my one has AH sounds. ‘I can’t meet you after class because I’ll be in the bath.’
You mean the bath.
And that’s it for today everyone.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please give it a like and share it with a friend.
See you all next Friday. Bye
Bye-bye.

Click here to see our video on can and can’t.
Click here to see more of our pronunciation videos.

plate or dish prototype theory

Dish or plate? Prototype theory and English vocabulary

What’s the difference between a plate and a dish in English? In some languages there’s just one word.
It’s not a simple answer because the meanings of words often overlap.
In this English lesson we explain when we say dish or plate and look at the features of:
– plates, dishes, cups, mugs and bowls
– different kinds of games
We show how the meanings of words can be fuzzy at the edges and it leads us to linguistic prototype theory.
We draw on the work of two different writers:
– the philosopher Wittgenstein and his work on words that share a family resemblance
– the psychologist Eleanor Rosch and prototype theory
If you’re interested in this topic, a great book to read is ‘Words in the Mind’ by Jean Aitchison. She explores how we store words in our brain.

Click here to see more vocabulary videos.
Click here to learn about Fix It – our free checklist to help you fix common mistakes
Click these links to see more videos on common false friends: sympathetic and nice, story and history, actually and currently, sensible and sensitive.

Plate or dish?

We had a great question from a viewer called Aurum last week.
Aurum asked what’s the difference between a dish and a plate? Some languages have only one word.
A dish is a container or bowl. It’s usually pretty shallow, so not very deep.
We serve food from a dish and sometimes we cook food in it too.
But sometimes a dish is a particular type of food that’s served as part of a meal.
Like a fish dish or a pasta dish.
A plate is flat and usually round. We put our food on it and eat from it.
And in American English, a plate can also be a whole main course of a meal.
But not in British English.
No?
No. Aurum’s question looked simple, but when you go deeper, it’s quite tricky.
There are lots more words like this. Let’s look at some.

What do we call this in our house, Jay?
This is a mug.
And why do we call it a mug?
Because it has a handle and I drink coffee out of it.
OK. What’s the difference between a mug and a cup?
Well a mug doesn’t have a saucer and it’s taller.
OK. Then what’s this?
Well, this is what we call your coffee cup. Cup!
But it doesn’t have a saucer and it’s tall.
Yes, but it has curved sides and mugs have straight sides.
So we call this a cup because it has curved sides. OK, what’s this?
This is a bowl.
And what’s this?
That’s a bowl too.
So size doesn’t matter.
Well size always matters but in this case what’s important is that they have curved sides.
OK. What’s this?
That’s a bowl.
But it has straight sides.
Yeah, but it’s a bowl.
It isn’t a mug?
No. Cups and mugs have handles and bowls don’t.
OK. So this isn’t a bowl?
Yes, I’d call that a bowl because it’s bigger than a cup.
But you just said size doesn’t matter for bowls. OK. What about this?
It’s a bowl.
And not a plate, right?
No, plates are flat. Bowls are deeper like that. But it’s also a dish.
Why?
Well, we share food from it. If we share food from it, it’s a dish.
So it’s a bowl and a dish.
Yes!

Wow! That was confusing!
Yes. It’s because the meaning of words often overlap with other words. Another meaning starts before one meaning has finished.
So we call this a cup, but we could also call it a mug. It’s part cup and part mug.
Exactly. The boundaries between the words are fuzzy. There’s no clear dividing line between their meanings.
Are there more words like this?
Oh yes, lots. What about the word game? What does game mean?

Wittgenstein and words that share a family resemblance

You mean a board game like Monopoly, or a card game like poker?
Yes. Or a game like football or tennis.
Or computer games.
Or the Olympic Games. What do they all have in common?
Well there’s competition. We compete against another person or another team. If it’s a game we can win or lose.
But there’s also the game of patience.
We call that solitaire. It’s a card game you play on your own.
And what if a child throws a ball against a wall? It’s a game, but it’s not a competition.
OK. Is it that games are all amusing and fun?
Well, that’s often true, but some games are quite serious like chess, or war games.
Is it about skill? We need to learn and practice a game to play well – like chess or football? They require skill.
Skill can be important, but in some games, you can win by chance. Like roulette or bingo. You don’t need skill to win them.
So there are different features of the word ‘game’: competitive, amusing, skillful. But we don’t need all the features to call something a game.
Exactly. The meanings of words are often a group of ideas that are similar. But they don’t all have to be true for the meaning to work. They just have to have a family resemblance.
OK. Here’s a big question. What does this mean if you’re learning English?
It means words you have in your language might not match English words exactly. They could be similar in some ways but different in others.
Because the word boundaries might be different.
That’s right. And there’s some interesting research about that.

Prototype theory and English vocabulary

In the 1970s a psychologist, called Eleanor Rosch, ran some experiments on prototypes. A prototype is a typical example of something. For example, she showed people lots of dogs and asked them what’s the doggiest dog for you? A sheep dog, a bull dog, a collie, a dachshund, a Pekingese? So she wasn’t asking what dogs people liked. She was asking what kind of dog is most typical of all dogs.
She asked the same question about lots of different categories of things. For example birds, vegetables, toys, pieces of furniture. And she discovered two things. The first one was people kept ranking things in the same way. Their answers were very consistent. For example, most people thought a chair was the best example of a piece of furniture and a lamp wasn’t very good.
And the second thing Eleanor discovered was very curious. People believed the words must share some common features. So for example, they’d look at different birds and say they’re birds because they can all fly. But a penguin can’t fly and an ostrich can’t fly. Flying is a common feature of birds but it’s not a necessary feature. People kept looking for necessary features that don’t exist.

So things in her categories shared some features, but not all of them.
Yeah, and the things that shared the most features were the best prototypes.
It was like the word ‘game’. Different games have some features in common, but they don’t share all of them.
Our brains want to think that words fit neatly into categories and that there are clear boundaries where one word stops and another begins.
But that’s not how it works. The meanings of words are fuzzy at the edges.
You can’t always separate them with clear lines.
And this is something that’s true for all languages.
I have a question.
What’s that?
What’s the birdiest bird for you?
Oh it’s the robin. Definitely.
For me it’s the sparrow.
Really? But robins are such a common bird.
But in the UK, the most common bird is a sparrow.
Wow. So maybe we have different ideas of what a bird is.
And maybe you have different ideas about birds, or what dishes and plates are.
Write and tell us in the comments if you do.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
And Aurum, thank you for a great question. See you all next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Bye.

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