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.
Now something else is strange. We were talking about the future here, right?
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?
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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.

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.
But other times you just mean fairly or pretty.
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.
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.
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?
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.
OK, use it in a sentence.
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?
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.
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’.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.

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.
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.

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.


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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.


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

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. 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.
Well, we share food from it. If we share food from it, it’s a dish.
So it’s a bowl and a dish.

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.

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.

Vocabulary for talking about love – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Vocabulary for talking about love – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Is it possible to fall in love in just one conversation? In this video we ask and answer 11 English questions that can lead to love and explore the vocabulary of love and relationships along the way.
In this lesson you’ll learn vocabulary for talking about love and relationships including:
– words for describing relationships:
compatible, close, treasured
– things lovers might do as they get closer such as:
to impress, to be compatible, to get along, to be trying to hard, to share, to reveal
– euphemisms for death and distress:
to lose someone, disturbing
– adjectives for describing physical appearance:
good-looking, beautiful, pretty, handsome, hot, fit
– adjectives for describing personal qualities:
loyal, sensitive
This lesson was inspired by some real psychological research into questions that can make strangers connect, get close fast and even fall in love.
Here’s a link to the Arthur Aron et al study and a great article about it from the New York Times
If you want to try out the 36 questions with a partner, here’s a website that makes it easy to go through the questions.

Click here to see some more vocabulary videos.

Vocabulary for talking about love

Are you ready to fall in love?
It can happen really fast, in just one conversation.
We’ll show you how it can happen to you.
And you’ll learn lots of vocabulary about love and relationships along the way.
Get ready for Valentine’s Day!
Hello everyone. I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m Vicki and I’m British and this lesson was inspired by the science of love.
Some years ago a psychologist called Arthur Aron did a study on relationship building. He was looking at communication and how strangers can connect.
And a very interesting thing happened in one of his experiments. Two strangers met in his laboratory, had a conversation and fell in love.
It happened when they asked one another 36 questions and shared their answers.
So what were the questions? We’ll show you. And we’ll leave some links about the research in the details below.
Be sure to read the article from the New York Times. It’s really interesting
Do you think the questions will help our relationship too? We’re already married.
Let’s try them and see!
OK, what are we doing?

I’ve got 36 questions here. And we’re going to take it in turns to pick them up, read them and then answer them. OK? First one. If you could choose anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?
Oh that’s easy. Albert Einstein.
Oh right. OK. I don’t think I’d want anyone famous. I think I’d want to see one of my old friends who I haven’t seen for a while.

Impressing and trying too hard

How do you think that first question went?
Very well. How about you?
Hmm. So-so. You said you wanted to meet Albert Einstein.
What’s wrong with that?
Well I think you’re trying to impress me. You want me to think you’re very intelligent.
Well I do want to impress you, but I’d also like to meet Albert Einstein.
Yeah but if I didn’t know you, I’d think you were trying too hard.
Trying too hard. That’s not good!
Be cool! Calm down and just be yourself.
OK. I’ll try to be cool.
Let’s try another question.

What would be a perfect day for you?
Ah, it would be: stay in bed till late and then go out in the evening for a meal with you.
My perfect day, what I’d like to do, I’d like to get up early in the morning, go to the gym and work out, go to work, get important things done, come home and go out to dinner with you.
You’re much more active than me.


How did that question go?
I’m not sure. You said I was more active than you.
But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We’re just different. People can be compatible even if they’re different.
That’s true. We don’t have to agree about everything to get along.
And I like your energy.
Well thank you! Let’s have another question then.

If you were going to become a close friend with your partner,… Well that sounds really odd. If you’re not already close friends, why would you be partners, but..
Oh no because, no because, these are for strangers to do as well, these questions.
You mean to a business partner?
No no, just strangers. Two people sitting together.
If… If you were… If you were going to become… Oh. Oh two people sitting together like partners in class.
I see.
If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
It would be important for me to tell you that I’m very untidy.
I’d have to tell you that sometimes I snore.

To be untidy means I don’t put things away neatly.
And snoring is breathing noisily when you’re asleep.


‘Partner’ is interesting. It can be a confusing word in English.
Yes, it can mean a business partner – someone you own a business with.
Or it can be someone you do something with. Like if you work with a team mate in class, they’re you’re partner.
In British English, we describe someone we live with, but we’re not married to, as our partner.
So there’s a romantic relationship.
Yes. What would you call that in American English?
Perhaps your boyfriend or girlfriend?
But that could also be someone you don’t live with.
Yes, it could be either. But partners for us are generally two people in a gay relationship.
Before Jay and I got married we lived together in the US and I didn’t know about this vocabulary difference. So I talked about Jay to my American friends and said he was my partner. And then when my they met him they were surprised.
They expected me to be a woman. They were very nice to me, but clearly surprised.
So that’s a curious American and British English difference.
I think things are changing though and we’re adopting the British meaning of the word.
So the difference is disappearing?
Yes. Let’s have another question.

What is your most treasured memory?
Erm… Our wedding day was pretty special and I have tresured memories of that.
Erm… What is your most terrible memory?
Oh well I think… there are several of them but it’s losing people we love.
My father or my mother or Carter.
Yeah. Yeah. Me too.

A euphemism

Treasure is something valuable like gold silver or jewels, and if we treasure something we treat it like it’s very valuable.
We could treasure a friendship, or treasure a memory.
And lose?
If we lose someone we love, it means they died.
It’s a euphemism, a gentle way to say they died.
As we worked our way through the questions, they also became more personal.
We had to reveal things about our personal feelings and say how we felt about one another.

Take turns to share a positive characteristic of your partner. Share five items. Erm. I think you’re very hard working. I think you’re funny. I think you’re, erm, very loyal. I think you’re… I think you’re also very kind, and try not to hurt people’s feelings. You’re sensitive like that. And I think… Erm…
All right. Good-looking!

Personal attributes

Good-looking is another way to say attractive.
And we can say it for men and women. Some adjectives are used for females, like beautiful and pretty.
And handsome is for men. We can also say hot. That works for women and men.
We could say that in British English too, but often we say fit.
Like physically fit – strong and healthy?
No, fit is an informal word and it means hot. Sexy.
OK, loyal. If someone is loyal, they always support their friends.
You can be sure that they’ll be on your side.
Sensitive is an interesting word too because it’s a false friend in many languages.
Notice that sensitive doesn’t mean that you’re able to make good judgements. That’s sensible – so a different word.
If someone is sensitive it could mean they get upset easily, but it can also mean that they’re able to understand other people’s feelings and problems.
And then it’s a positive quality.
Have we made another video about sensible and sensitive?
Yes, I’ll put the link here.

Complete this sentence. I wish I had someone with whom I could share …
The work for Simple English Videos. So perhaps the editing or the shooting and all that. I mean there’s you. There’s you. I know that.
Thanks a lot!
I know but I wish we had someone else.
Oh someone else.
OK. What about you?
Yes, I wish we had someone else.

You said ‘with whom’ there, not ‘with who’. That was very formal.
Yes, that was because I was reading the research question aloud.
We’ve made another video on who and whom and I’ll put the link here.
But there was another useful verb there – share.
Sharing is when you’re giving something you have to another person.
We can share information and personal stories.

How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
Well together we have a very large close family. I’d like to be closer to some of them, but they’re very far away.
Erm, and do you think your childhood was happier than most other people’s. I think mine was. I was very lucky.
I suspect mine was not, but that’s OK.
That’s the problem isn’t it. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother. She was a difficult woman, wasn’t she?
Let’s skip that.

Close can mean physically close, so not far away, and also emotionally close.
Close has a lot of different meanings.
If you’re talking about love, you want a close relationship.
A close relationship is a loving relationship.
To skip is a useful verb. If we don’t want to do something, we can say, ‘let’s skip it’.
It’s like missing it. We can skip breakfast or lunch.
There was another question we wanted to skip.

Of all the people in your family – oh – this is disturbing.
OK. Of all the people in your family whose death would you find most disturbing and why? Whoo! Erm. Clearly for me, it would be you.
Right. It’s too disturbing to even think about.
Yeah and I think one of the grandchildren. Well, let’s not think about it.

It’s interesting that they wrote the word disturbing in this question.
If we disturb someone, it usually means we interrupt them and stop them from doing what they’re doing.
Usually if you disturb someone it isn’t serious. It’s a small problem. It’s not a big thing.
In this question disturbing is a euphemism again. It’s a gentle way of saying upsetting or distressing.
If you’re upset, you’re very unhappy and possibly worried. Something bad has happened.
And if you’re distressed something really bad has happened and your very upset.
It was a difficult question, because they wanted us to share sad thoughts.
I expect that’s important for the experiment.
Yes, the questions at the start of the experiment are easy, but then they get deeper.

Uh oh! Share an embarrassing moment in your life. Where do I begin? There are so many. I’ve given a presentation to a large audience and I’ve sneezed and farted at the same time.
Sorry, I’ve never been embarrassed.


Stories like that can make us feel nervous, uncomfortable and ashamed.
Thy make us vulnerable.
Yes. We’ll think ‘are you going to laugh at me?’, ‘will you think I’m stupid?’
Maybe we have to become vulnerable to fall in love. What do you think?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments. And share what you think of the experiment and the questions.
And we love it when you share our videos with your friends too.
Yes, please go and do that now!
Yeah, this video is getting very long. It’s time to stop.
We haven’t finished all the questions though.
We can look at some more another time.
OK, see you next week everyone.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Bye-bye.
Click here to see some more vocabulary videos.

sickness and illness vocabulary

Sickness and Illness Vocabulary in British and American English

Watch this English lesson to learn vocabulary for health and sickness.
We’ll also show you how some words we use to talk about illness are different in British and American English.

You’ll learn vocabulary for:
– cold and flu symptoms like fever, sore throat and blocked or runny nose
– germs and bugs
– symptoms like feeling nauseous, having diarrhea and having constipation
– different kinds of aches in English
– different ways to say vomit in English
– the different meanings of sick and ill in British and American English
And on top of all this great stuff, you’ll also see a funny parody ad for cold medication. Enjoy!

Click here to see more vocabulary videos


Funny parody ad

Do you have a fever, stuffiness, sore throat?
It’s cold season again. Have you protected yourself against this year’s germs?
Are you ready to fight against coughs and sneezes?
Nothing protects you from a cold like a big steel pan.
And when you’re all done your steel pan rinses clean.
Call or go online to get your big steel pan today.

Hi everyone I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American and today we have a vocabulary lesson.
We’re going to show you lots words and expressions we use to talk about common illnesses and sickness in English.
And there are some words that we say differently in British and American English.
We’ll tell you about them too. Where shall we begin?
Oh. Let’s start with the commercial.

Do you have a fever, stuffiness, sore throat?

I don’t want to get into another elevator with someone like you there.
Yeah, I had a bad cold, or the flu.
With a cold you feel ill for a few days. But the flu is more serious. You might need to spend a week in bed.
Flu is short for influenza. In British English we can say ‘He has the flu’ or ‘He has flu’. Both are correct and common. But notice we always say ‘a’ with ‘a cold’. He has a cold.
American English is a little different because we say ‘the’ with flu. ‘He has the flu’. But colds are the same. We use ‘a’. And we can use ‘a’ with other symptoms. He has a sore throat. He has a fever.
Your throat is a passage inside your neck. And if it’s sore it’s painful.
It can hurt to swallow if you have a sore throat.
A fever is an interesting word because we can use it in British English but I’d normally say ‘He has a temperature’.
And a temperature means a high temperature.
Yeah. When I first came to the US, the doctors would ask, ‘Do you have a fever?’ and I didn’t know what to say because I associate a fever with a very, very high temperature, like if you have malaria or something really serious.
A fever just means a body temperature of say 101° Fahrenheit or more.
He means 38°Celcius. So high, but not life threatening.
Another cold symptom is stuffiness – a stuffy nose.
It’s when your nose is blocked and you can’t breathe easily.
Congestion is the formal word, but normally we say ‘I’m stuffed up’.
And in British English we can also say ‘I’m bunged up’. It’s means my nose is blocked.
And what’s the opposite?
It’s having a runny nose.
Oh it’s the same in American English.
If it’s runny, mucus is coming out.
Mucus is the formal word. The informal word is snot.
Yeah. Snot is not a polite word
It’s not?!
But we say it.
Let’s see some more of the commercial.

It’s cold season again. Have you protected yourself against this year’s germs?

You were dangerous with all those coughs and sneezes.
Yeah, I was spreading germs there.
Germs are very small living things that can make you ill – like bacteria or viruses.
We should cover our mouth when we cough .

Jay, what are you doing wearing a face mask?
There are a lot of bugs going around. I don’t want to get sick.
And gloves too.
Yes, I don’t want to pick up any germs. Would you like some?
No thanks.

You were being very careful there.
Well, there were a lot of bugs going around.
A bug is an illness that people can catch very easily from one other.
And ‘going around’ means spreading from one person to another.
Bugs aren’t nice, but they’re not usually serious. We could say ‘I have a flu bug’, or ‘I have a stomach bug’.
If you have a stomach bug, you might feel nauseous.
You mean nauseous.
No. Nauseous.
Nauseous. OK. There’s a pronunciation difference here.
If you feel nauseous, you feel like you’re going to throw up.
To throw up is when your food comes back up. BLAH.
A more formal term is to vomit, but in everyday conversation we usually say something like throw up.
We have lots of other ways to say it.

To vomit.
To throw up.
To puke.
To barf.
To be sick.
To hurl.
To do the technicolour yawn.
To lose your lunch.

Sick and ill in British and American English

I want to test the British expression there. If I say ‘I was sick’, what does it mean to you?
Oh. It means you weren’t well. Perhaps you had a fever or a cold or something.
OK, in British English it could mean that but often it means I threw up.
That’s interesting. If I feel nauseous, I could say I’m going to be sick.
So like British English.
Well no, because I’d only say it just before it happens. Like ‘Pull the car over, I’m going to be sick’.
And then after you’re sick?
I’d say I threw up. I wouldn’t say I was sick.
And what do you call the stuff that comes out of your mouth?
I’d usually call it sick.
In American English we use sick to talk about feeling generally unwell, so not just nauseous.
We can do that too, but we use the word ill a little more than you. So often I’ll say someone is ill when Jay will say they’re sick. We mean the same thing.
For me, ill is a little more formal than sick. And if someone is ill, it’s probably more long term and serious.
OK, another symptom of a stomach bug is diarrhoea.
Are we going to talk about that?
Yeah, it’s a useful word to know. Diarrhoea is when you go to the toilet and …
You mean the bathroom
And your poo is watery.
We have a few other ways to describe that too.

I have diarrhea.
I have the runs.
I have the trots.
I have an upset stomach.
My stomach is acting up.

OK. What’s the opposite of diarrhoea? It’s constipation. Constipation is when you can’t do a poo or it’s very hard.
Enough! Can we go back to the commercial now.
Are you ready to fight against coughs and sneezes?
Nothing protects you from a cold like a big steel pan.
How’s your head?
Terrible! I’ve got a headache now.
Headache. An ache is similar to a pain.
Parts of our body can ache.
So ache can be a noun and a verb in English. We have five main aches and Jay will now demonstrate them for you.

Aches in English

I have a headache. I have backache. I have earache. I have stomach ache. I have toothache.

Good job.
Notice that we have to say ‘a’ when we’re talking about a headache. With earache, toothache and stomachache and backache it’s optional.
And there’s also another word you’ll hear for stomach ache: tummy ache. Tummy is another word for stomach and we often use it when we talk to children.
We might also say I have indigestion. Indigestion can give us stomach ache or tummy ache.
Great. Are we finished?
Nearly. But there’s one more thing that’s useful to know.
What’s that?
If someone sneezes, what do we say?
Oh yes!
It’s polite to say ‘bless you’.
It’s not a religious expression. It’s just something we say to acknowledge that someone sneezed. Atchoo!
Bless you!

Knock knock.
Who’s there.
Atch who?
Bless you!

And that’s it! Now you know how to describe lots of common illnesses in English.
If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.
Stay healthy everyone! See you all next week. Bye-bye.

Click here to see more vocabulary videos

who or whom

Who and whom – when and how to use them

Learn the difference between who and whom in this English grammar lesson.
Who is a subject pronoun and whom is an object pronoun. We’ll show you:
– how who and whom work
– a test to see if who or whom is correct
– when it’s appropriate to use whom in formal writing
– when it’s not appropriate to use whom (Whom can sound pompous)
– how we use whom in constructions with prepositions
We’ll also show you lots of examples of who and whom in action.

Click here to learn the difference between whose and who’s

Who and whom – when and how to use them

Knock knock
Whose there?
To who
No, it’s to whom.

Hi everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
We’ve had a lot of requests for a video about ‘who’ and ‘whom’.
It’s taken us a long time to make it. Why is that?
It’s because of the word ‘whom’. We don’t use it much these days. We usually say who instead when we’re speaking.
And what about written English?
That’s different. There are particular documents where we use whom.
We’ll tell you more about that later. But first we’ll show you how ‘who’ and ‘whom’ work.
Yeah, you need to know about subjects and objects.

Oh no, what happened?
I don’t know! Someone hit me!
Who hit you?
I’ve no idea.
Oh dear.
But I’ll be ready next time.

So what happened there?
Someone hit me!
So someone, we don’t know who, did the action and Jay received the action. Someone is the subject in this sentence and Jay is the object.
Yeah! But it won’t happen again.

You hit someone!
Who did you hit?
That guy over there!

So this time you hit someone else.
Yeah, I got that guy!
So in this sentence Jay’s the subject because he did the action, and the other guy’s the object because he received the action.
Vicki asked me two questions. First she asked about the subject. And then she asked about the object. She used the pronoun ‘who’ both times. When we’re speaking, we use who to ask about the subject and the object.
But according to a rule of formal grammar, I made a mistake here. The rule goes we should use ‘who’ to ask about the subject, and ‘whom’ to ask about the object. So ‘Who hit Jay?’ and ‘Whom did Jay hit’?
So that’s the difference between ‘who’ and ‘whom’.
Who is a subject pronoun and whom is an object pronoun.
We need another example.

Hey, stop that man.

Take a look at these questions. If you follow the traditional grammar rule, one question should start with ‘who’ and the other should start with ‘whom’.
Can you work out which is which? You need to think about subjects and objects.
So we’re asking a question about who did the action here – the chasing. So this question is asking about the subject of the sentence. We use ‘who’ because ‘who’ is a subject pronoun.
And this question is asking about who received the action – the object.
If you think it sounds complicated, you’re not alone. A lot of people find it hard.
Native speakers often get confused.
These days, when we’re speaking, we use ‘who’ in both questions so a lot of English speakers don’t know when to use whom.
But don’t worry. There’s a trick for working it out.
It’s the ‘he-him’ test.
We’ll show you how it works.
If you’re not sure whether to use who or whom, try answering the question with another pronoun that you already know. You probably know these. They’re all subject pronouns. And you probably know these too. They’re all object pronouns.
We can use ‘he’ and ‘him’ to test whether ‘who’ or ‘whom’ works. Notice that ‘he’ and ‘who’ are both subject pronouns and ‘him’ and ‘whom’ are both object pronouns. And also notice that ‘him’ and ‘whom’ both end with the letter M. That will help you remember that they go together.
Here’s an example. Should you say ‘who’ or ‘whom’ here? No idea? Then try answering with ‘he’ or ‘him’. He follows me on Twitter – that sounds possible. What about him? ‘Him follows me on Twitter.’ No, that sounds wrong. So ‘who’ is correct.
Here’s another example. Is the missing word who or whom? Well, let’s answer the question with ‘he’. ‘I follow he’. No, that sounds wrong. Let’s try ‘him’. ‘I follow him’. That sounds OK. So the answer here is whom.
So that’s a way to test if it’s who or whom.
But remember, we don’t normally follow this rule in spoken English. We use who as an object pronoun these days.
But some people get upset about it, if they see who instead of whom.
Yes, like Twitter has a feature called ‘who to follow’ and some people complained and wanted them to call it ‘Whom to follow’.
‘Whom to follow’– that’s technically correct.
But we’d never say it. I think it’s a silly idea.
Whom sounds very old fashioned.
And very, very formal.
Whom can sound pompous.
Exactly. ‘Whom’ creates a social distance between you and your listener.
You don’t want to sound pompous. It’s not a good thing.
Another word that’s similar to pompous is pretentious. Whom can sound pretentious.
You don’t want to seem like you’re pretending to be more sophisticated than you are.
So be careful with the word whom.
Don’t say it in questions when you’re speaking.
Yeah. But there’s another grammatical structure where we could use whom.
What’s that?
Relative clauses.
Oh let’s see some.

Now before we start the conference, there are some people whom we must thank. There’s Mr. Jones, who sent the invitations and Mrs. Smith, who organized the accommodation. And then there’s Mr. Peters, whom you will meet later when he will explain the conference schedule. And then there’s something green in your teeth.

Has it gone?
Yeah, you’re all right. Let’s see how those relative clauses work.
We use relative clauses to add information about someone we’ve just mentioned. The same rules for who and whom apply. We use who for subjects and whom for objects. And if you’re not sure, you can use the ‘he-him’ test again.
So with Mr Jones? Did ‘he’ send the invitations or did ‘him’ send the invitations? He did, so we need the subject pronoun here – who. And it’s the same with Mrs Smith. She did the action so we say who.
And some more examples. ‘We must thank some people’. We must thank ‘he’? That doesn’t sound good. We must thank ‘him’. That works so we need an object pronoun. And the last one, Mr Peters. Are we going to meet ‘he’ later or ‘him’ later? It’s him so we say ‘whom’.
You’ll only find whom used like this in very formal spoken English. Normally we’d say who in these examples.
Languages change over time and in spoken English ‘whom’ has been disappearing. In fact it’s almost gone.
And what about written English?
It’s hanging on there. We still use it, but only in formal writing.

Whom in formal writing

In emails and texts, we’ll use who instead of whom.
But some companies have a house style for formal reports where they use ‘whom’.
And whom is still the house style for the New York Times.
I did a search of my computer and I found ‘whom’ in two kinds of documents.
What were they?
Legal documents like contracts.
Ah yes. Contracts are written in a very formal style.
And academic papers. So research papers that are published in journals.
That makes sense. They’re formal too.
Oh and I also found it in a reference.
A job reference?
Yes, I’d written a reference for someone and I didn’t know the name of the person I was writing to, so I addressed it ‘To whom it may concern’.
That’s a standard phrase – I often use it when I submit job applications. And again, it’s very formal.
And it’s interesting, because a lot of the time, we can write who instead of whom these days and it’s fine and appropriate, but here we wouldn’t write who.
It would sound strange. It has to be whom. Is it because it comes after a preposition?
Yes, in formal writing it’s better to write whom in constructions with prepositions. In fact the most common way we use whom is in phrases like one of whom, some of whom, most of whom.
So we’d write whome here, not who, because it comes after ‘of’.
Yes. Whom often follows a preposition: of whom, with whom, from whom, and to whom of course. But that’s formal writing. In spoken English ‘to whom’ sounds silly.

Now settle down children. We’re going to do some grammar. To whom does this sock belong?

According to the traditional grammar rule, this question is correct.
But we would never say it. We might say who does this sock belong to – but then the question ends with a preposition.
Yeah. That’s fine.
But when I when I was in school my teachers said you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.
That rule is stupid. If you want us to make another video about silly English grammar rules, tell us in the comments.
Do you think the who-whom rule is silly?
Errr no. The word whom is disappearing, but there are still places where it’s appropriate to use it – like in formal writing.
We hope this video has been useful for the writers who we teach – whom we teach – who we teach…
It’s time to stop. 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.