make do rules

Make or do – The rules we follow

Make or do? Do you ever wonder which verb to use? We have some good news and some bad news. The good news is there are some rules we follow and you can learn them in this video. You’ll see how we use do for non-specific activities and work and how we use make with creative tasks. The bad news is there’s still more work to do because we use these verbs in lots of common expressions that you’ll need to learn one by one. But not to worry. We have another video with some of the common ones here.

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Make or Do? The rules we follow

Can you do this for me?
No problem.
Thank you! That was Jason. He does a lot of work for me. That was Jay. He makes a lot of work for me.

Make and do. Do you ever wonder which verb to use in English? I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good news. There are some rules we follow and you can learn them in this video. These rules will help you get them right. Let’s start with do.

Do you want to come shopping with me?
Oh yes. Oh, but I need to do my hair first.
Oh. How long will that take?

Doing your hair is a non-specific activity. It might mean washing it, or straightening it, or maybe just brushing it. Do is a general purpose verb we use for unspecified activities.

Oh, we’d love to see you. OK. Half an hour. Bye.
They’re coming in half an hour?
Yeah.
You do the kitchen and I’ll do the living room. OK.

These are non-specific actions. Doing might mean cleaning, putting things away, or hoovering or vacuuming as they say in American English.
So here’s the rule. With non-specific activities, use ‘do’. We use it when we don’t say exactly what action we’re talking about. It’s just something.

Do you need a hand?
Ah, no thanks. I think I’ve done everything.
Ah, great.
Jay, why didn’t you wake me?
It’s Sunday.
Oh! We’re not doing anything today.
Ah!
What’s the matter?
I’m bored. I have nothing to do.
Argh! Argh! Argh! Help! Do something!

So if you’re talking about everything, anything, nothing, or something, say ‘do’. Do is non-specific.
OK, next one. We also use ‘do’ when we’re talking about work. So we do homework. We do housework and chores, those small jobs around the house that we all have to do.
Ah!

What’s the matter? I’m bored.
I have nothing to do.
Well, you could do the laundry.

We do jobs like the shopping, and our taxes.

You need to do your taxes.
Ooo, don’t remind me. I don’t want to think about it.

So here’s another rule. We often use do when we’re talking about jobs and work.
Now let’s look at ‘make’. We use ‘make’ to talk about creative activities, when we bring something new into existence.

Are you making something?
Yes, it’s a light for my hat, so I can see where I’m walking in the dark.
It might need a little more work.

Cooking is a creative activity and we often use make to talk about food we prepare. So we can make salads and pasta and cakes and lots of other meals and snacks.

So make yourself at home, Jason.
Thanks.
Yeah, make yourself a snack.
Great.
You could make a sandwich, and we’ve got beer.
If you’re making a sandwich, make one for me too.

Great. So let’s review. Do is the most common verb and we use it for non-specific activities, when we don’t say exactly what action we’re talking about. And we also use do when we’re talking about work and jobs we have to do.
Then make. We generally use make when we’re talking about creating or producing something.
And that’s it. Those are the key rules we follow.
Now, do you remember said there was some bad news. The bad news is there’s still more work to do.
We use these verbs in lots of common expressions which you need to learn one by one. But it’s not all bad news because we can help you. Subscribe to our channel and we’ll show you lots of examples. We publish new videos every Friday with conversations and stories, so you can see English in action. In fact, let’s have one more example now, before we stop.

What are you making.
Oh. A paper aeroplane.
Oh cool! Do you want to make one too?
Yes.
Here.
Oh thank you.
Well, that’s true. But you know it took…. Who did that?

Click here to see another video about make and do.
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too not enough time

Too and enough – how to use these useful English words

We hope you have enough time to watch this video!
Too and enough are really useful words that you can use with nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
In this video you’ll learn how enough means sufficient and not enough means needing more. Too many and too much mean more than sufficient or more than is necessary.
You’ll also learn about word order. We use too before adjectives and adverbs and enough after them.

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Click here to learn how to use the words hard and hardly.

Too and enough

You’re not getting enough sleep.
Yes, I think I’m working too hard.
I think you go to bed too late.

These are two very common and very useful words. Let’s start with enough.

Oh good. You got some bottled water.
Is it enough?
Yes, plenty.
Good.

We use ‘enough’ to say we have as much or as many as we need or want, so a sufficient quantity.

Oh, I’m almost out of gas.
Do you have enough to get to a petrol station?
A petrol station?
A gas station.

If we don’t have enough, we don’t have the amount we need.

Do you want to come for lunch?
I can’t. I don’t have enough time.
Ah, too busy, eh?
Yeah.

So enough means having the necessary amount of something. Now, what about too?

Spaghetti.
Oh, that’s too much.
Let’s have some chocolates.
Ooo yes. But not too many.
You can never have too many chocolates.

We use ‘too’ to say more than sufficient, more than necessary, or more than is good.

This bag’s too big for carry on.
Well, yes.
You’re not getting enough sleep.
Yes. I think I’m working too hard.
I think you go to bed too late.

Notice the word position. We use ‘too’ before adjectives and adverbs but we use ‘enough’ after them.
So too comes before.
Enough comes after.

This lid is too tight. I’m not strong enough.
This knife’s too blunt. It’s not sharp enough.
This lid is too tight. I’m not strong enough.
This knife’s too blunt. It’s not sharp enough. Try this.

So that’s how to use too and enough. I hope this lesson wasn’t too difficult. Was it easy enough?
If you’ve enjoyed it, please share this video with a friend. At Simple English Videos we believe you can learn faster if you can see English in action, so we have lots of conversations, that show you what people say in the real world. We publish a new video every Friday, so subscribe to our channel for more! Bye now!

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Click here to learn how to use the words hard and hardly.

hope wish saying something nice

How to wish someone something nice in English – wish or hope?

Learn how to use the verbs wish and hope to give good wishes and say nice things to someone in English.
We use the verbs wish and hope differently. Wish is more formal so when someone is wishing someone something it’s more likely to be written English. When we’re talking about future possibilities we generally use ‘hope’. It’s the verb we commonly use to give good wishes.
In this video you’ll see lots of examples and learn some other common ways to wish people nice things, like ‘Have a nice day‘ and ‘Have a great weekend‘.


Click here to learn how to use the verbs wait, hope, expect and look forward to
Click here to learn more useful everyday English expressions.

How to give good wishes: wish or hope?

There’s a mistake English students often make when they want to give good wishes to someone. They muddle up wish and hope. Today we’re going to fix that and we’ll also show you some other ways to say nice things to people in English.

I’m off
Oh, where are you going?
To the dentist’s. Wish me luck.

‘Wish me luck’. Notice that structure. To wish somebody something.
We might write this message for a bride and groom when they get married. Or maybe a colleague is retiring from work. We might write this in their card. They’re nice things to write.
But they’re for written English and they’re quite formal. Someone might say them in an official speech at an important occasion. But if we want to wish someone something, we usually say ‘hope’ instead. So, ‘We hope you have a great life and lots of fun together’, or ‘I hope you have a wonderful retirement’.

I’m off
Oh, where are you going?
To the dentist’s. Wish me luck.
Have you got a problem then?
Yes, I’ve got a toothache.
I hope it’s nothing serious.
Thanks.

Jay said ‘Wish me luck’ and I said ‘I hope it’s nothing serious.’ I didn’t say ‘wish’. That would sound funny.
So if we’re making a wish, we don’t say wish. We say hope. Wow, sometimes English is weird. What’s going on?
Wishes are magical things. The idea is that if we think of or imagine something enough, it will come true. But we all know magic isn’t real. When we want to talk about things that are real possibilities, we use hope instead of wish.
This means that we say wish when we’re talking about the action of wishing. But if we’re actually doing the action and giving good wishes to someone, it’s different. We don’t normally say wish when we’re talking about real possibilities.
It’s tricky so let’s look at some more situations. Imagine you’re saying goodbye to someone at an airport. What will you say to them?
These sentences are both grammatically correct, but I wish you a nice flight is very formal. We don’t normally say it. We say ‘I hope you have a nice flight’, or just ‘Have a nice flight.’ We often use the verb ‘have’ when we’re wishing people things.

  • Have a nice day.
    Have a great vacation.
    Have a nice trip.
    Have a great weekend.

OK, another situation. Your friend is sick. You call them and what do you say?
You say ‘I hope’, of course. When we’re doing the action of wishing we use hope not wish. And often we just say ‘Get well soon.’
OK. Another situation. Someone calls to wish your friend a happy birthday. But your friend is out so you take a message. What do you say to your friend when they return?
Which one? Let’s see it in action.

Thanks for calling. Yeah, I’ll tell him. OK. Bye now. Oh.
Who was that?
Kathy.
Uh oh. What did she want this time?
She called to wish you a happy birthday.
Oh that was nice of her.
And she wants you to work late tonight.
Oh.

So which sentence did I say? I said wish. I was talking about a wish, not doing the action and making the wish.
If I wanted to make the wish, I’d do it like this.

Hey Jay, happy birthday.
Oh thank you.
I hope you like them.
Oh I’m sure I will. It’s hair curlers?
Yes. Can I borrow them some time?
Errr. Sure.
Thank you!

So to make the wish, I just said ‘happy birthday.’ And did you notice what I said about the hair curlers?
We can say ‘I hope you like them’ or ‘I hope that you like them’. Both are correct. We often we skip ‘that’ when we’re speaking.
Great. So now you know how we use ‘hope’ to give good wishes, and you also know about this structure and when to use it.
But this structure is just the start. There are other structures we use with ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ so we’re making more videos about them.
Make sure you’ve subscribed to our channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss them. And maybe your friends would like to learn about hope and wish too. Why not share this video with them? See you next Friday.
Click here to learn more useful everyday English expressions.
Click here to learn how to use the verbs wait, hope, expect and look forward to

Speak English Challenge

Speaking English Challenge. Who are you?

Please join us for our first ever speaking challenge. Make a video of yourself speaking in English and tell us:

  • who you are
  • where you’re from
  • what you do

Upload your video to YouTube and send us the link and we will compile all your videos into one big video that we’ll post on our channel.
Make sure your video is published as ‘public’ or ‘unlisted’ (not private) and send the link to us.
The deadline is Monday March 12th, 2018.
We can’t wait to see your videos and get to know you better.


Click here to see some pronunciation videos.
Click here to see some videos with everyday conversations.

Speaking English Challenge

Hello everyone. In today’s video we want to set you a challenge!
Are you ready to practice speaking English with us?
At the start of this year we made some videos about setting goals and making plans to learn English – tips for learning faster.
A lot of people responded in the comments and we loved reading what you wrote and learning more about you.
Motivation is REALLY important when you’re learning English, but your comments kept us motivated too, to make more videos.
And they helped us to get to know you better as well.
I feel like I’m starting to know some of you from the comments you write every week, but I wish I could know you better.
A lot of people mentioned that one of the biggest challenges they face is finding ways to practice speaking in English.
It’s not easy.
So this week we want to try something different and we have a challenge for you.
We want you to make a 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.
It means you’ll get speaking practice and we’ll all get to know one another better.
So are you up to a challenge? Here’s what we want you to do. Make a short video – just two or three sentences – telling us who you are, where you’re from and what you do.
I’m really excited to know what you all do for a living. Are you students? What are you studying? Are you working? What’s your job?
So that’s your challenge. Tell us who you are in a two or three sentences.
And video it! We need some examples, Jay.
Yes. Here are some examples to help you.

Hi, I’m Vicki and I come from Cambridge in the UK. But now I live in Philadelphia in the United States. I’m an English teacher and I make videos.

I’m Jay and I’m American. I’m Vicki’s husband and I’m an instructional designer so I make computer-based training programs.

So your video should be like that – short and simple.
Just a few sentences introducing yourself.
Something to note. Before jobs and professions we say ‘a’ and ‘an’. For example, a student, a teacher, an English teacher.
Oh 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. And no music, please. We need to make sure we’ve paid for any music we use.
Make sure the camera is horizontal when you shoot it.
Yes, it should be landscape not portrait.
So the task is to tell us who you are, where you’re from and what you do. Are you ready for your deadline? It’s Monday March 12th.
That’s not long. It’s just ten days.
So get your cameras out and get busy!
OK, the last thing. We need to tell everyone how to send their videos to us.
Right. The best way to do it is to upload it to YouTube and send us the link.
You need to publish it as public or unlisted. This is important. Don’t publish it as 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 me. This is very exciting.
We’ve never done anything like this before and we’re really looking forward to meeting more of you and getting to know more about you.
If you have any problems sending us links to your videos or if you don’t have a YouTube channel, email me.
See all of you next week everyone!
Bye!
Bye-bye.
Click here to see some pronunciation videos
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thanks God Thanks God

Thank God or Thanks God?

Do we say Thank God or Thanks God? In this short video we show you how we use these phrases and fix a common (and funny) English mistake.

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Click here to fix more vocabulary mistakes.

Thank God or Thanks God?

We’re going to fix a very common and funny mistake today and it won’t take long. Do we say ‘Thank God’ or ‘Thanks God’?
Let’s jump straight in and see these phrases in action.

God, I’m late and I can’t find my cell phone! Oh God!
Did you call me?
Who are you?
I’m God.
Really? But I thought God was, you know, a guy.
No, I’m definitely female. What did you want?
I’ve lost my cell phone.
Well, when did you last have it?
I can’t remember.
Hmmm. I’ll call it
Ha! Thanks God.
You’re welcome. Bye.
Thank God she could help.

If we’re thanking people directly, so talking to them in person, we say ‘Thanks’ or ‘Thank you’.

Here’s your coffee.
Oh thanks, Jay.

But if we want to say we’re pleased about something we say ‘Thank God’, with no s on thank. If you say ‘Thanks God’, it sounds funny because it sounds like you’re talking to God directly.

Thanks God!
You’re welcome.

So if you’re very pleased about something, make sure you say thank without the s.

Thank God I’ve found my phone.

And that’s it. Make sure you subscribe and see you next Friday everyone. Bye.

Click here to see more videos with every day English.
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English connectors & conjuctions

English Connectors & Conjunctions: And, Or, So, Because, Although and Though

And, or, so, because, although – these English connectors or conjunctions will help you signal how your thoughts are connected when you’re speaking. Watch a funny conversation and check you’re using them correctly in this video lesson.


Click here to see more grammar videos.
Hi everyone. Today we’re looking at some very common connectors that we use in spoken English. They’re words that will help you link your ideas and signal your thoughts when you’re speaking.
We’re going to look at these connectors and check some that my students sometimes muddle up.
The technical term for these words is conjunctions. Conjunctions signal how our ideas meet so other people will understand us better. So let’s jump straight in and see them in action.

Kathy said you’ve got my next assignment.
Ah yes.
What is it?
Decisions, decisions! I want you to write a report on the Boston project.
Uhuh.
I thought about asking Andrew to do this, or Jenny, or Sam, but then I thought, no. You’re the right person for this job. I think.
Well, it looks great.
Err. Here’s the report we did on the Chicago project.
Uhuh.
You can use the same format, but this time the structure needs to be completely different.
The same format but a different structure?
Yes, And your report needs to be longer – although it should be more concise, so keep it short.
So longer but shorter?
That’s right. Don’t get too detailed, but you need to go deeper than just the surface? And you can use pictures if you want. Well maybe not, because it needs to be serious… or funny. Funny’s good too.
This sounds hard.
Yes and Kathy wants you to get it right and do a good job, so take your time. But she needs it on her desk in half an hour, because we’re all waiting for it.
What?!
So anyway, I’m going to go get a cup of coffee… or maybe tea.

Jay was very indecisive there. If someone is decisive, they can make decisions quickly and with confidence. The opposite is indecisive.
And Jay used lots of connectors to link his ideas. Let’s start with an easy one: And. It’s really common and we use it to join words or phrases that are related.

Get it right and do a good job.

We use and to add information, and when we’re speaking, we use it to introduce new or extra ideas.

And Kathy wants you to do a good job. And your report needs to be longer. And you can use pictures if you want… or maybe not

You heard our next connector there: ‘or’. We use ‘or’ to introduce possibilities.

It needs to be serious… or funny. Funny’s good too.

Or signals an alternative – A different option.

I thought about asking Andrew to do this, or Jenny, or Sam, but then I thought, no. You’re the right person for this job.

And you heard another connector there: but. We use but to contrast ideas. It means – hey, here’s some different information.

You can use the same format, but this time the structure needs to be completely different.
The same format but a different structure?

The format of a document is its general design or plan. And its structure is how its parts are organized and arranged. So Jay was contradicting himself there. When he told me he wanted a different structure, it was a surprise. But signals surprising information – unexpected information.

Take your time. But she needs it on her desk in half an hour.
What?!

Now, there’s another connector that signals the unexpected: although. Did you spot it?

And your report needs to be longer, although it should be more concise, so keep it short.

Again Jay was contradicting himself. Concise means short and clear – giving only the information that’s necessary. So concise implies short
Now ,is there a difference between although and though? When they’re connectors, no. They mean the same thing.

Your report needs to be longer – though it should also be more concise, if that’s possible.

OK. Now we’re going to look at two connectors that my students sometimes confuse: because and so.
So has several different meanings in English. We’ll have to make another video about its other uses, but here we’ll look at how we use so as a connector – a conjunction. Let’s compare it with because.

Keep it short because it should be more concise.
It should be more concise so keep it short.

These sentences have the same meaning – but notice the different structures.
In the first one the instruction comes first and the reason comes second.
In the second one, the reason comes first and the instruction comes second
So what’s happening?
We’ll start with because. Because answers the question why.

Why should it be short?
Because it should be more concise.
Oh, OK.

It should be more concise is the reason here. After because we put a reason.
So is different. It comes in front of results, and it’s about something that follows logically.

We’ve got a problem with this report.
What’s that?
It’s not concise enough.
So it needs to be shorter?
Yes.

Needing to be shorter is the logical result. It’s a consequence of the problem.
Another example.

Don’t include pictures.
Why not?
Because it needs to be serious.
OK.

Because answers the question ‘why?’ The reason here is it needs to be serious.
Now compare that with this.
So tells us the result – the consequence. The report needs to be serious and as a result we can’t include pictures.
OK, now it’s your turn. I’ll show you some sentences and you pick the right word.
First one. Does ‘because’ or ‘so’ go here? Let’s see.

You need to get it right so take all the time you need.

Getting it right is important and consequently you should take your time. Now what about this one?

Take all the time you need because you need to get it right.

Because comes before a reason.
Next one? What’s missing? ‘So’ or ‘because’?

Don’t get too detailed because it needs to be short.

Why shouldn’t I get too detailed? The reason is it needs to be short. OK, one more. This is the last one. What do you think? ‘So’ or ‘because’?

We want everyone to read it so make sure it’s funny.

So it follows logically that it needs be funny.
Great. That’s it for this week. But speaking of funny, at Simple English Videos we like it when things are funny because we think learning should be fun. We also believe you can learn a lot faster if you see English in action, so we create conversations and stories to help you.
We publish videos every Friday, so if you’ve enjoyed this video, make sure you subscribe. Bye now!
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halloween english

Halloween English. Learn 21 spooky and creepy words

Halloween English! Come shopping with us at the Halloween store and learn 21 words you need to talk about this American celebration. You’ll find words about costumes, decorations, scary creatures and more.
You’ll hear three English words we use to talk about our fears. Scary , which means frightening. Spooky , which means strange and frightening. Spooky things can make us think of ghosts. And creepy . If something is creepy it makes us a little nervous and frightened. It’s not a pleasant feeling. A good way to learn their meanings is to see the words in use in the video. Enjoy!



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Halloween English video script

Hello everyone. You’re coming shopping with us today!
Yeah, we’re going to the Halloween store.
Halloween’s great in America. People buy costumes – clothes that make them look like somebody else. You can be anyone you want.
Do you want to be a pirate?
Or Michael Jackson?
Or Elvis Presley? The King.
If you want, you can be a superhero.
Superman!
When you buy your costume, don’t forget to buy your accessories. They’re the extra things that make your costume great.
If you’re going to be a chef, you’ll need a big chopping knife.
And if you’re going to be a pirate, you’ll need a sword.
You might want a mask that covers your face, or maybe a wig to cover your hair.
And if you’re a policeman, you’ll need hand cuffs.
At Halloween people decorate their homes with pumpkins. They’re like big orange vegetables.
We cut holes in them to make a face and put a candle inside. Then they become jack o’ lanterns. They can look pretty evil.
And people decorate their homes with other things too.
Yes, spooky things. Spooky means strange and frightening. Skeletons. Yes, we decorate our homes with skeletons – they’re spooky.
This Halloween store is pretty spooky.

Is it cold in here?
Yes. You don’t think there are any ghosts here, do you? Like spirits of dead people?
No, of course not. Ghosts don’t exist.
Oh good because that would be creepy. If something’s creepy it makes you a little nervous and frightened.
I’ll tell you what’s creepy. I feel like we’re being watched.
Yes, like there’s a evil eye or something.

Spiders are creepy. We associate them with Halloween.
Yes. And bugs! They’re creepy too!
And another Halloween creature is bats. Bats! They’re creepy.
They’re scary too. Scary means frightening!

When I was a kid, I read scary stories about witches. You know, women who ride around on brooms and they have magic powers .
But witches don’t really exist. Everyone knows that.
Well I know that now. What’s in that box?
Hmmm.
It’s a Werewolf. A person who becomes a wolf when the moon is full.
Can I see?
Jay, I saw a grave and a grave stone and then a big hand came up.
Oh that was a zombie – someone who’s half alive and half dead.
A zombie!
And there are vampires here too – creatures who drink your blood. But don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe.

Hey. I enjoyed that.
Yeah. If you liked this video, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.
Have a great Halloween everyone.
Bye. Bye-bye.

Do you think the wig suited Vicki? Click here to see a video about the verbs fit and suit.
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21 Halloween English words

Could you remember the 21 words? They were costumes, accessories, mask, wig, pumpkins, jack o’lanterns, spooky, skeletons, ghosts, creepy, spiders, bugs, bats, scary, witches, brooms, werewolf, grave, gravestone, zombie and vampires.

copper coffee pot

A proper copper coffee pot – an English tongue twister song

Can you say a proper copper coffee pot three times fast? This tongue twister song is for English learners who want to improve their speaking and pronunciation. ‘All I want is a proper cup of coffee’ will get your mouths moving, improve your diction and best of all, it’s a whole lot of fun.


Proper Copper Coffee Pot Lyrics

All I want is a proper cup of coffee.
Made in a proper copper coffee pot.
You can believe it or not.
But I want a cup of coffee from a proper copper pot.
Tin coffee pots or iron coffee pots, they’re not good to me.
If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll just have tea.
All I want is a proper cup of coffee.
Made in a proper copper coffee pot.
You can believe it or not.
But I want a cup of coffee from a proper copper pot.
Click here to see some students trying this tongue twister.

clothes

British and American words for clothes – they’re different!

I had to learn some new words when I went shopping for clothes in the US. I’m British and I had some puzzled looks from shop assistants when I used my English words. Here’s a short video that goes through some of the different words we have for clothing in British and American English.

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

Closet.
Wardrobe.
Pants.
Trousers.
Pants.
Underwear.
Knickers.
Panties.
Vest.
Undershirt.
Vest.
Waistcoat.
Suspenders.
Braces.
Suspenders.
Cuffs.
Turn ups.
Cuffs.
Cuffs.
Galoshes.
Wellies. It’s short for wellington boots.
Sneakers.
Trainers.
Jumper.
Sweater.
Diaper.
Nappy.
Fanny pack.
Bum bag.
Bath robe.
Dressing gown.
Bathing suit.
Bathing suit.
Swimming costume.
Derby.
Bowler hat.

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

How to use Can, Could and May to ask for permission

How to use Can, Could and May to ask for permission

Can, could and may are all modal verbs and we use them all to ask if it’s OK to do something. So how are they different and how do we respond when we want to agree to a permission request, and also to refuse? In this video you’ll find out.

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Click here to learn how we pronounce can’t differently in British and American English.
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Can Could May Permission Video

How are these questions different? And how do we answer them? In this lesson we’ll find out.
We use all these phrases to ask if it’s OK to do something. Let’s look at three examples.

Can I park here, officer?
No, it’s not allowed.

Could I borrow your toothbrush?
What’s wrong with yours?
I lost it.

Oh, Vicki. I’ve got a yoga class this evening and I don’t want to be late. May I leave work early?
Yeah, OK. Maybe I’ll come with you.
That would be great.

‘Can I…’, ‘Could I…’ and ‘May I…’ They all mean the same thing here. Look, we can change them round and the meanings stay the same.
We use all these phrases to ask for permission to do something.

You can’t park here. You don’t have permission.

So is there a difference? Well yes, it’s about the situation we’re in and how careful we want to be about being correct and polite.
‘May’ is the most formal. ‘Can’ is the most informal. And ‘could’ is a little more formal than ‘can’.
When I was a child, my mum told me I should use ‘May I’ to ask for permission. It was a common rule back then and the old grammar books said ‘May I’ was more polite.
But the way we speak has changed over time and these days ‘Can I’ is much more frequent. In fact English speakers are now ten times more likely to say ‘Can I’ than ‘May I’. Yeah, ten times!
So do you need to learn ‘May I’ or can you forget it? You ned it because there are particular situations where we still use it. Maybe if someone’s giving a talk or speech to a group of people.

May I begin by thanking you all for being with us today?

Or perhaps they’re providing a service to a customer.

This is Rachel speaking. Sorry to keep you waiting. How may I help you?

Or perhaps they’re in a business meeting, and they want to make a suggestion.

I don’t think so.
Why not?
It’s not a good idea.
Yes it is.
May I suggest we come back to this later if we have time?

So ‘may I’, ‘could I’, ‘can I’ – they’re all useful when you need to ask for permission. But most of the time you’re going to say ‘Can I’ or ‘Could I’.
Now next thing. How should you respond if someone asks these questions?
Let’s look at some more examples, but this time pay attention to the answers. You’re going to hear six different replies. Are you ready?

Vicki, can I have a word?
Sure.

May I come in?
Mr Hale! Why, certainly.
Congratulations.
Thank you very much.

My battery’s flat. Can I use your phone?
Yes, of course.
Thank you.
You’re welcome.

Could I borrow these?
Yeah, OK.
May I serve tea now Miss Angorda?
Yes, please do, Warner.

Oh pizza. Can I have some?
Sure.
May I have some too?
Yes, help yourself.

Here are the replies you heard. They all mean ‘yes’ and they’re all polite. But which two are most formal? What do you think?
It’s these two: ‘Why certainly’ and ‘Please do’ are a little more formal. Also, notice ’Help yourself’. It’s a little different. We say this when we want someone to serve themselves or to take something.

Oh pizza. Can I have some?
Sure.
May I have some too?
Yes, help yourself.

OK, now that’s how we say yes, but what if we want to say no? Well, sometimes we apologise.

Can I borrow these?
Oh no. I’m afraid I need them.
That’s OK.

I’m afraid. It means ‘I’m sorry’ here so it’s a gentle, polite no. Of course we can also give a firm or definite no.

Oh Kathy!
How are you?
Fine.
Do you have a moment?
Can we speak with you about the Boston project?
What about it?
It’s the deadline. We’re a little behind.
Could we have another week?
No way. You need to finish by Friday?
Well, then can we hire an assistant?
Not on your life.
You don’t like the idea then?
In a word, no.

These phrases are all definite no’s and the last one means you won’t even discuss it.
Great! So that’s it. Now you know how we use ‘can’, ‘could’ and ‘may’ to ask for permission in English. And you also know some different ways to reply.
If you enjoyed this video, can I make a suggestion? Why not subscribe to our channel? And could I suggest you share this video with a friend? Perhaps they’ll enjoy it too. See you all next week! Bye now!
Click here to see more everyday English conversation videos.
Click here to learn how we pronounce can’t differently in British and American English.
Click here to learn about the modal verbs can and could and the verb be able to.