The FCE (B2 First) Speaking Test – Things you need to know

The FCE (B2 First) Speaking Test – Things you need to know

This is the first of four videos about the B2 First speaking exam. (B2 First is often known by its former name, FCE or Cambridge First Certificate.)
When we ask our students what makes them most nervous about the exam, they often say FCE speaking, so that’s what this series is all about.
In this first video we provide an overview of the B2 First speaking exam, showing you how it works and the criteria you’ll be marked on. In our later videos we’ll go through the four parts of the exam in detail, demonstrating what to do and what NOT to do and providing tips and practice activities for each part.

Click here to see our grammar videos.
Click here to listen to Craig’s podcasts for Spanish speakers.

The B2 First Speaking Test (also known as the FCE Speaking Test)

The B2 First or FCE exam has four papers.
When we ask our students which one they’re most nervous about they often say the speaking test.
So if you feel nervous too, you’re not alone.
And we can help you. We’re going to give you the information you need to pass and get a good mark.
Hello everyone. I’m Vicki.
And I’m Craig,
And this is the first of four videos about the speaking test for the FCE exam, now called the B2 First.
We’re going to show you what happens, help you practice and give you tips so you can get a good mark.
In this first video we’ll tell you some general things about the speaking test. But let’s see how much you know already.
We have some questions for you. First one: how long does the test last?
The answer is 14 minutes.
Or 20. You take the exam with a partner and then it’s 14 minutes, but sometimes you’ll have two partners and then it’s 20 minutes.
It may sound like a long time, but after their exam, most students say the time went really quickly.
OK, one more question. How many examiners will there be in the room?
There will be two. Let’s see what happens at the start of an exam.

Good afternoon.
Good afternoon.
My name’s Craig. This is my colleague Simone. And your names are?
I’m Vicki.
Hello.
And I’m Jay.
Thank you.
Can I have your mark sheets please?
Here you are.
Thank you. Well, first of all we’d like to know something about you. Vicki, do you like cooking?

And that’s how the exam begins.
So there are two examiners, but you’ll only talk to one of them. The other one will be listening.
Now that’s important because it means you need to speak up.
Yes, sometimes students speak too softly and then the other examiner can’t hear them.
Don’t make that mistake. Speak up! OK. Next question. How will the examiners mark you?
They’ll be looking at four things so let’s go through them one by one.
They’ll be listening for the words you use. Can you use a wide range of words and different grammar structures correctly? If so you’ll score a high mark.
And they’ll be listening to whether you can connect your ideas in a way that’s easy to understand. Can you explain your thoughts logically.
What’s your pronunciation like. Is it clear and easy to understand? Having an accent is fine, as long as your pronunciation is easy to understand.
And finally, how well can you interact with other people? Can you keep conversations going and respond without hesitating a lot?
And that’s it. Those are the four criteria the examiners use to mark you.
Great, so the next thing you need to know is the structure of the test. It has four different parts.
Part one is a Q and A – question and answer. The examiner will ask you questions that you’ll answer.
Part two is a picture question where you’ll compare and talk about two pictures.
In Part three, you’ll do a task with your partner and make a decision about something.
And in Part four, you’ll answer some questions from your examiner.
So every part is different and in this series of videos we’re going to go through them one by one. We’ll explain what you need to do, and some of the things you shouldn’t do.
And we’ll give you some tips and practice activities for each part.
Well prepared candidates do best in this exam, so it’s great that you’ve found us. Stay tuned for our next videos and don’t forget to subscribe to this channel.
And if you like these videos, why not share them with a friend?
Bye now.
Bye.
Click here to see our grammar videos.
Click here to listen to Craig’s podcasts for Spanish speakers.

The Present Perfect Tense in British and American English

The Present Perfect Tense in British and American English

There aren’t many British and American grammar differences but a notable one is how we use the present perfect and simple past.
In this video we’re joined by Jennifer ESL of English with Jennifer and together we explore how we use the words just, yet and already on each side of the Atlantic.
You’ll learn how to use the present perfect to talk about recent actions and give news and you’ll also learn about some interesting differences in how we use the present perfect and simple past tense in the UK and US.
Click here to learn about lots more British and American differences.
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British and American grammar differences – present perfect vs. simple past

Hello everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And today we’re looking at the present perfect and how we use it a little differently.
And we’ve got some help.
Yes. Our good friend Jennifer from English with Jennifer is going to join us.
Jennifer’s American, like me.
And she knows lots about the way Americans use this verb tense so this is going to be really useful.
And fun!
The first thing to know is British and American English speakers both use the present perfect in very similar ways. Americans just use it a little less often.
In this video we’re going to look at some situations where this frequency difference is most noticeable.

I’ve lost twenty dollars.
Oh that’s funny, I’ve just found twenty dollars.
Well then it’s mine.
What was the serial number?
What?

In American and British English, we often use the present perfect to talk about past actions that have relevance in the present. So there’s an important connection between the past and the present.

I’ve lost twenty dollars.
I’ve found twenty dollars.

These past actions have effects in the present. That’s why Jay and Vicki both use the present perfect here.
Sometimes past actions are very important in the present because they happened very recently.

OK then. Bye. Oh. Your mother’s just called.
Oh what did she want?
She says you never call her.

‘Just’ indicates that Jay’s mother called very recently.
We can use ‘just’ with the present perfect in American and British English, but there’s another possibility.

Hello.
Hi Jay, did you just call me?
Ah sorry, I just sat on my phone and it dialed your number.
Not to worry. Bye.
Bye-bye.

In American and British English, we can also use ‘just’ with the simple past to talk about recent events. So what’s the difference about the way American and British people use ‘just’?
When we’re giving news in British English we generally use the present perfect.

Oh, your mother’s just called.
Oh, what did she want?

When we’re giving news in American English, we often use the simple past.

Your sister just called.
Oh really? What did she want?

So both these sentences are possible in both varieties.
It’s just that we use the present perfect more frequently in British English.

Thirty-two, ninety, sixteen, fifty-one, eleven and the bonus ball, forty-eight.
I just won the lottery!
Really?
Yeah.
Oh. I think that’s my ticket. I’ve just won the lottery!

OK, so that’s how we use ‘just’. Let’s look at how we use the present perfect with ‘yet’ and ‘already’.

Oh hi.
Have you eaten yet?
Err, yes. I’ve already eaten.
OK. I’ll make something for myself.

The words ‘yet’ and ‘already’ indicate a time up to now or until now. That relation to the present time means we commonly use them with the present perfect. That’s true in both British and American English.
In American English, especially spoken English, you’ll often hear us use these words with the simple past, too.

I’m going outside to practice soccer.
Wait a sec. Did you do your homework yet?
Yeah, I already did it.
OK.

In British English, these sentences would be unusual. With ‘yet’ and ‘already’ we usually use the present perfect, not the simple past.
So when do Americans use the present perfect and when do they use the simple past?
In written English and when we’re speaking carefully, we often use the present perfect with ‘yet’ and ‘already’. But when we’re speaking informally, we often use the simple past. ‘Did you do it yet?’ sounds a little more informal than ‘Have you done it yet?’, especially if we use the less careful pronunciation ‘Didja do it yet?.
And there’s something else. My theory is ‘Did you do it yet?’ can sound just a little more urgent in American English than ‘Have you done it yet?’
I agree with that, Vicki. Let’s share one more example.

Did you do it yet?
What?
You know.
What? Oh I forgot!
You didn’t pay the electric bill!
Sorry.

And that’s it. Now you know how we both use the present perfect with ‘just’, ‘yet’ and ‘already’.
If you enjoyed this video why not share it with a friend? And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel
And to Jennifer’s too, so you don’t miss any of her great videos.
Bye now.
Bye.
Click here to learn about lots more British and American differences.
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10 British words and phrases that Americans don’t use

10 British words and phrases that Americans don’t use

Here are 10 British words and phrases that I rarely hear in the US, or if I do, they have rather different meanings. For example, my British ground floor is an American first floor, and my first floor becomes a second floor. Cheers is another one. It can also mean thank you and goodbye in the UK. And then there are words like shirty, plonker and taking the mickey.
See 10 British words and phrases in action in a comedy sketch and get explanations here.

Click here to learn more British and American differences
Click here to see how to say cheers in some other languages

British words and phrases

Well, it’s a lovely conference hotel, isn’t it?
Yes, isn’t it great?
I hope Jay hasn’t overslept again. We never hear the alarms on our phones.
No, he’s up. I saw him at breakfast.
Oh good.
Ah Jay. You’re late.
Sorry. I thought this meeting was on the first floor.
Yeah?
Well, this is the second floor.
No, it isn’t.
Never mind. Have you got the artwork, Jay, for our presentation?
Yes, it was quite a challenge. I couldn’t find all the images you wanted so I had to take the photos myself.
Oh cheers, Jay.
Yeah, cheers.
Ah. Cheers. Cheers.
Show us the pictures.
Sure. Here’s the first one.
I don’t understand.
Yeah. Which picture is this?
Hmmm. Man delivering the post.
This isn’t what we had in mind.
Where are the letters?
You didn’t say anything about letters.
But we wanted a postman.
Let’s move on. Jay, show us the next one.
OK. Well this photo was very hard to take.
I don’t get it.
Me neither.
Well, you said you wanted a suitcase in a boot. Now I couldn’t find a boot big enough for a whole suitcase but I did my best.
Are you taking the mickey?
The mi… What do you mean?
We need to see a suitcase in the back of a car.
Well then why didn’t you say so?
I thought we did.
You did not.
Don’t get shirty.
Sh… What?
What’s the next one?
OK. I put a lot of effort into this one and it’s exactly what you asked for.
It’s a school boy holding a rubber. What’s wrong now?
It’s pants, Jay.
No it’s not. Its a condom.
Vicki, you’re going to have to make all these images again.
Yeah. You’re such a plonker Jay. What time is our presentation tomorrow?
8.30 in the morning. Do you want me to stop by your room and knock you up?
Oh, that would be great. Thanks Craig. What?
Hello everyone, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And last week we showed you that story and asked you to spot the British expressions.
There were ten of them and you did really well!
Well done!
We were very impressed, and this week we’re going to explain them.
Yeah, let’s get cracking
That means let’s start and we say that in American English too.
But you don’t say ground floor when you’re talking about buildings.
We can but the ground floor of a building is the first floor. And in the UK?
It varies but usually we have a ground floor and then the NEXT floor is the first floor.
So it’s the second floor. In the US we’re logical. We start at floor one and go up.
Well we have a different logic. We start at zero. OK, what’s next?
Cheers. We say cheers when we’re making toast in American English. So when we’re lifting our glasses to drink.
We do too but cheers has some other meanings as well. It’s an informal way to say good bye.
Oh, like cheerio?
Yeah, ‘Cheers, bye!’ And it’s also an informal way to say thank you.
OK, next one. Post. That’s a piece of wood or metal that’s set in the ground.
That’s the same in British English but the post is also the mail – so letters and parcels. And a postman or postwoman is someone who delivers the post.
We’d call them a mail carrier. A mailman if it’s a man.
OK. Next?
A boot. This is a big strong shoe.
Same in the UK, but it also means the space in the back of a car where you put your bags and cases.
We call that the trunk. Taking the mickey.
Yes. This is an informal expression and it’s when you make someone look silly.
Is it unkind to take the mickey?
Not really. It means teasing and making fun of someone, but usually in a gentle way.
OK. Shirty. What does that mean?
That means cross or a little angry.
So when you’re shirty, you’re bad tempered.
Exactly. Shirty is when you’re rude because you’re annoyed.
OK, the next one. Rubber. This is an informal way of saying condom on the US – so a rubber is a contraceptive.
We just call them condoms in the UK. And we use rubbers to remove pencil marks from paper.
That’s an eraser.
Yeah, we could say eraser but it’s a bit formal. We normally say rubber.
Plonker. This is an insult right?
Yes. It’s slang. If someone is stupid we might say they’re a plonker.
It means they’re an idiot?
Yeah, or we might say they’re a wally – that’s another informal word. If someone does something stupid we might say ‘Oh, you wally’. It means stupid too.
Pants.
Ah yes.
Now pants are a piece of clothing that cover our legs in American English but I know that’s different in British English.
Yeah, we call them trousers. And for us, pants are what you wear under your trousers next to your skin.
We call that underwear.
But pants can also be an adjective in British English. It’s informal and we use it to say something was rubbish. So ‘How was the film?’ ‘Oh it was pants.’
Oh so pants means very bad.
Yeah.
And now the last one. Knock someone up
This is informal again and it has a couple of meanings in British English.
In American English it’s slang and it means to make a girl pregnant.
We have that meaning too. But very often it means to wake someone up by knocking on their door.
That’s not what I think of when I hear it.
He must have a dirty mind. So are we done?
Yes. That was fun.
We want to say a big thank you to Craig for appearing in the comedy sketch with us.
We’ll put links to his websites below. They’re great for Spanish speakers who are learning English.
And if you enjoyed this video please share it with a friend.
And subscribe to our channel.
See you all next week everyone. Bye.
Bye-bye.
Click here to learn more British and American differences
Click here to see how to say cheers in some other languages

Test your British slang and colloquial expressions

Test your British slang and colloquial expressions

Do you know what boot and ground floor mean in British English and can you understand British slang and colloquial phrases like pants, cheers and knock up? Test yourself in this British quiz video. Watch two Brits talking with an American in a meeting and see if you can spot ten British expressions that cause confusion.

Click here to watch more videos on British and American English.
Click here to watch more vocabulary videos.
To see more of Craig’s materials visit his website at mansioningles.com  and his podcast at inglespodcast.com

British quiz

Hallo. We have something special for you today, but first I’d like you to meet our friend Craig.
Hello everyone.
Craig is British but he lives in Spain.
That’s right and I’m visiting Vicki and Jay in the US this week.
So we’ve made a special video together with Craig for you.
It’s a story about British and American English.
Yeah. There are some words that Craig and I say in British English that most Americans don’t say.
Which sometimes confuses Jay.
So what we’ve done is we’ve made a little story. It shows some things that we say that Jay doesn’t.
So your task is to identify the words and phrases that are causing confusion for Jay.
Yes. So while you’re watching see if you can spot them. Are you ready?

Well, it’s a lovely conference hotel, isn’t it?
Yes, isn’t it great?
I hope Jay hasn’t overslept again. We never hear the alarms on our phones.
No, he’s up. I saw him at breakfast.
Good.
Ah Jay. You’re late.
Sorry. I thought this meeting was on the first floor.
Yeah?
Well, this is the second floor.
No, it isn’t.
Never mind. Have you got the artwork, Jay, for our presentation?
Yes, it was quite a challenge. I couldn’t find all the images you wanted so I had to take the photos myself.
Oh cheers, Jay.
Yeah, cheers.
Ah. Cheers. Cheers.
Show us the pictures.
Sure. Here’s the first one.
I don’t understand.
Yeah. Which picture is this?
Hmmm. Man delivering the post.
This isn’t what we had in mind.
Where are the letters?
You didn’t say anything about letters.
But we wanted a postman.
Let’s move on. Jay, show us the next one.
OK. Well this photo was very hard to take.
I don’t get it.
Me neither.
Well, you said you wanted a suitcase in a boot. Now I couldn’t find a boot big enough for a whole suitcase but I did my best.
Are you taking the mickey?
The mi… What do you mean?
We need to see the suitcase in the back of a car.
Well then why didn’t you say so?
I thought we did.
You did not.
Don’t get shirty.
Sh… What?
What’s the next one?
OK. I put a lot of effort into this one and it’s exactly what you asked for.
It’s a school boy holding a rubber. What’s wrong now?
It’s pants Jay.
No it’s not. Its a condom.
Vicki, you’re going to have to make all these images again.
Yeah. You’re such a plonker Jay. What time is our presentation tomorrow?
8.30 in the morning. Do you want me to stop by your room and knock you up?
Oh, that would be great. Thanks Craig. What?

So did you like the story and did you spot the words that caused confusion?
If you did, tell us in the comments. There were ten of them.
In our next video Jay and I will explain what they were and what they mean.
And do you know any other British and American English differences? Tell us about them too.
Before we stop Craig, can you tell everyone a little about what you do in Spain?
Yes. I help Spanish speakers improve their English and our website and podcasts are a great way to take your English to the next level.
They’re excellent. Where can people find them?
You’ll find our podcasts at inglespodcast.com and our free courses and much much more at mansioningles.com.
I’ll put details in the comments. Make sure you check them out.
Goodbye everybody.
Bye now.

Click here to watch more videos on British and American English.
Click here to watch more vocabulary videos.
To see more of Craig’s materials visit his website at mansioningles.com  and his podcast at inglespodcast.com

The British short vowel ‘ɒ’ & other English vowel sounds

The British short vowel ‘ɒ’ & other English vowel sounds

There’s a short vowel that we use in British English that doesn’t occur in American. You’ll find it in words like ‘lot’, ‘rock’ and ‘bomb’. In this vowel pronunciation video, we compare it with two other vowel sounds that Americans commonly use instead.
Working on English vowels is a great way to improve your accent. Whether you want to sound British or American, this video will help.

Click here to see some more pronunciation videos.
Click here to see more videos on British and American differences.

The short vowel ‘ɒ’ and other English vowel sounds

There’s a vowel that I say in British English that Jay doesn’t say in American.
Really?
Yes, I say it a lot.
A lot?
No, a lot.
Lot?
Exactly. You see we say that lot vowel differently.
Today we’re looking at the vowel sound ‘O’. I’m British but I live in the US and this is a vowel sound that I don’t hear here. ‘O’ ‘O’. So in this video we’ll look at what I say and what Jay says instead.
And I’m American so I’m going to show you how to say things properly.
You mean properly.
Properly.
OK, let’s get started and compare how we say some words. See if you can hear the difference.

Hot. Hot.
Hop. Hop.
Rock. Rock.
Job. Job.
Box. Box.
Jog. Jog.
Stop. Stop.
Clock. Clock.
Proper. Proper.
Bomb. Bomb.

Did you hear the difference? I said O.
And I said AH.
So when Jay says bomb, it sounds like balm to me.
Bomb.
OK, balm is a cream that you can put on your skin and it smells nice. Say balm.
Balm.
And a bomb is a weapon that explodes. Say bomb.
Bomb.
They both sound the same in American.
Yes. Bomb. Balm.
OK, let’s look at how I say O.
O is a short vowel sound. I pull my tongue back in my mouth and I round my lips. O. O. It might feel like it pulls your cheeks in a little. Try it. O. O. Bomb. So I said o but what about Jay?
Bomb.
So he says AH, like in the word father, or heart. To say AH you have to drop your jaw and press your tongue down at the back of your mouth. AH. And notice the mouth is very relaxed. You don’t round your lips. AH. AH.
But there are regional variations with how Americans say these words.
They can vary in the UK too.
In some parts of the US, instead of AH, you’ll hear another sound that’s very similar, but a little different.
Let’s hear it Jay.

Sorry. Sorry.
Lost. Lost.
Horrible. Horrible.
Strong. Strong.

So this time you made an AW sound.
AH, AW, they’re very similar.
Yes, with AH, your mouth is relaxed. AH. With AW, your tongue moves back just a little, but the big difference is your lips come forward and round a little.
AH. AW. AH. AW.
I think the AW sound is pretty similar to the British O sound.
Oh, maybe that’s why we understand one another.
Yes.
AH. AW. O. AH. AW. O.
Sometimes we have to check we’ve understood but normally my O sound isn’t a problem.
Unless Tom is staying.
Ah yes. My son’s name is Tom. It’s short for Thomas. So to me, he’s Tom. But what about in American English?
Tom.
Tom?
Yes.
So when Tom’s American friends call to speak to him they say ‘Is Tom in? And I think there’s no Tom here.
She thinks they’ve dialled the wrong phone number.
Yeah. And then I realize they mean Tom.
So if Americans want to make the British sound, what should they do?
OK, AW is a good place to start.
AW, like in the word ‘law’.
Yes. Then pull your tongue up and back a little and round your lips.
AW. O. AW. O.
Yes, and keep your jaw up. There’s generally less jaw drop in British English.
Proper British English.
And proper American English.
We try to teach you both varieties at Simple English Videos.
Yes, and please share this video with a friend if you’ve enjoyed it.
And we’ll see you all next week everyone. Bye.
Bye.
If you liked this video on vowel sounds, click here to see some more pronunciation videos.
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How to use ‘There is’ and ‘It is’

How to use ‘There is’ and ‘It is’

‘There is’ and ‘it is’ are really common and useful phrases. In some languages, you can translate both these phrases with just one phrase, so they can be confusing. We show you how to use them in this video lesson and you’ll also learn how to use it and there as dummy subjects in lots of common English expressions.

Click here to see more grammar videos.
Click here to learn when to use an apostrophe with it’s and its.

It is and There is

Argh! Waiter, waiter. There’s a fly in my soup.
Shh. Don’t tell everyone. They’ll want one too.

Today we’re looking at how we use two really common and useful phrases – ‘there is’ and ‘it is’. In some languages, you can translate both these phrases with just one phrase, so they can be confusing. Also, we can use ‘there’ and ‘it’ as dummy subjects in English, so we’ll look at that too.
Let’s start with there is.

Oh no! There’s a hole in my sock!
Waiter. There’s a fly in my soup.

We use ‘there is’ to say something exists and if more than one thing exists, we say ‘there are’.

You know, there are three types of people in the world.
Oh yes?
There are people who can count…
Mmhmm.
And there are people who can’t.
Mmhmm. And?
And what?

So ‘there is’ is singular, and ‘there are’ is plural.

Waiter.
Yes madam.
There’s no soup on the menu today.
That’s right madam. I cleaned all the menus this morning.

When we want to say things don’t exist, we use a negative form. Now of course the word ‘there’ can have another meaning.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup. What’s it doing there?
Ooo. It looks like the backstroke.

The backstroke is a style of swimming where you lie on your back, but notice this other ‘there’. It has a different meaning. It tells us the location of the fly. When ‘there’ means a location, it usually comes at the end of a sentence.

So where do you want to eat?
Well, there’s a MacDonald’s over there, or a pub over there.
Let’s make it the pub.
OK.

So ‘there’ can tell us where something is, but that’s not the meaning we’re looking at today. We’re looking at this one, where ‘there’ tell us something exists.
Most English sentences, start with a subject – the person or thing that does the action. For example, I complained to the waiter. ‘I’ am the subject and I do the action. The verb is complain and then we say who or what received the action. That’s a normal way of making an English sentence.
But it’s not the pattern we follow to say something exists. We don’t say ‘A hole is in my sock’ or ‘A fly is in my soup’. We could but it’s not natural. To say something exists, we say ‘there’. So there is a kind of dummy subject here. Dummy means it’s not real. It’s just a copy of a subject.
OK, that’s enough grammar. Let’s look at ‘it is’ now. We use ‘it is’ to refer to something that we already know about.

There’s someone at the door. It… It’s Jay!

This is a typical pattern. We use ‘there is’ the first time we mention something to introduce it, and after that we say ‘it is’. Another example.

OK,great, thank you. Bye. There’s a meeting tomorrow. It starts at two.
Good.

So there and it refer to the same thing – the meeting. There refers forward and it refers back. The same thing happens with plurals, except we say ‘there’ and ‘they’.

Waiter. Waiter. There are two flies in my wine.
Don’t worry madam. They’re very small so I don’t think they drank much.

‘There’ refers forward. ‘They’ refers back. So here’s the thing to remember. ‘There’ introduces a topic. And then ‘it’ or ‘they’ refer back. Easy huh?
OK, now let’s move up a level. Do you remember how ‘there’ works as a kind of dummy subject? It’s the same with ‘it’. ‘It’ is the subject in lots of common expressions. Let’s watch some examples and see if you spot it?

It’s a terrible day, but it’ll be nice by the weekend.
It’s really hot and sunny today. I think it’s 90 degrees

We use ‘it’ as a dummy subject to talk about the weather. So, it’s hot. It’s sunny. It’s raining. And temperatures – so it’s 90 degrees. OK, now some other situations.

Ah.
What’s the matter?
It’s Monday again. I hate Mondays.
Let’s see. It’s the 14th today so let’s meet on the 17th.
What’s the time?
It’s 5 ‘clock. Oh, I can go home!

We use ‘it’ to talk about days, dates and times of the clock.
OK, here are your last examples. See if you can see a pattern here.

Jason, it’s lovely to see you again.
It’s great to be here.
They’re digging up our street. It’s hard to concentrate with all the noise.
It’s very cold in here. Can we put the heating up?
Why? It’s very comfortable.
It’s awful eating here. The waiter’s terrible!
It’s a pity you have to go.
I’ll be back soon.
Bye Jason.
Bye-bye.

So it’s lovely, it’s great, it’s hard, it’s cold, it’s comfortable, it’s awful, it’s a pity. We can use it’s to give our opinion and comment on a situation or place. So you can use ‘it’ as a dummy subject to say what you think about a situation that you’re in.
And that’s it. Oh, that’s another expression with ‘it’. When I say ‘that’s it’, I mean we’ve finished. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend. And make sure you subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss our future videos. It’s great to have your support! Bye.

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The R sound in British and American English

The R sound in British and American English

Learn how to pronounce the R sound in British and American English. Jay has a rhotic accent and Vicki has a non-rhotic accent. You’ll hear how that affects our pronunciation of R before consonants and at the end of words. We’ll help you recognize the pronunciation differences and also share some tips for making perfect R sounds in both British and American English.

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The R sound in British and American English

Hey Jay. Have you seen my keys anywhere?
Yes. Where were they…? Ah. Yes. Here they are.
Thank you. You know Jay, you make rhotic R sounds.
Really? Erotic R sounds?
No. Rhotic R sounds. It means you pronounce your Rs strongly.
Oh.

We received a request from someone called S.
They said ‘Can you do a pronunciation video on the British and American pronunciations of ‘ear’. Also, maybe include ‘air’ in that video too.
What a good idea! Thank you S.
Yes. Vicki’s British and I’m American, so we can do this.
That’s right. It’s one of the big differences in our accents. We say our R sounds differently.
Yeah.
So listen to how Jay and I say the words.

Ear.
Ear.
Air.
Air.

Did you hear the difference at the end of the words? Jay pronounced the r sound more strongly.

Ear.
Ear.
Air.
Air.

Linguists sometimes divide accents and dialects into 2 types: rhotic and non-rhotic accents. Rhotic is when people pronounce the R sounds strongly, like Jay.

Ear, air.

And in non-rhotic accents like mine, we sometimes drop the R sound or say it very weakly.

Ear, air.

There’s a lot of regional variation though.
Yes. There are parts of the UK where people have rhotic accents like Jay. For example, Scotland and Ireland and in the south west of England too
And there are parts of the US where they say the R sound like Vicki, like New England and parts of the south.
But generally speaking, accents in the UK are non-rhotic and accents in the US are rhotic.
So my accent is rhotic, and Vicki’s is non-rhotic.
Now, this doesn’t mean I never pronounce r sounds. I do. I say them clearly when they come in front of a vowel, much like Jay.

Red.
Red.
Kilogram.
Kilogram.
Carry.
Carry.

So we sound pretty similar there. But if the R sound is followed by a consonant, or if it’s at the end of a word, I’ll say it VERY gently. Let’s have some examples.

Heard
Heard
Work.
Work.
Turn.
Turn.
World.
World.
Hard.
Hard.
Large.
Large.
Nearly.
Nearly.
North.
North.
Hurt.
Hurt.
Park.
Park.

Did you hear the difference? Jay’s R sounds were stronger. Let’s see what happens when the R is at the end of the word now.

Farmer.
Farmer.
Here.
Here.
Brother.
Brother.
Were.
Were.
Where.
Where.
Door.
Door.
Measure.
Measure.
Weather.
Weather.
Clever.
Clever.

So in British English, it sounds like you don’t pronounce the r sound in the middle and at the end of words?
Hmmm. Yes, but my feeling is, we do pronounce it. It’s just very weak and gentle.
The R sound is one of the big differences in our accents.
We live in the US and when I speak, people normally understand me just fine, but sometimes I have to change my R sounds to try to sound American. Like, we live on a street called Arch Street. How do you say that Jay?
Arch Street.
Arch Street.
Arch Street.
You see his R sound is stronger. So if I get in a taxi, I try to copy him and I say Arrrch Street.
Oh that’s good!
Yes, well I want to be sure the taxi driver knows where to take me.
Oh. Tell everyone your refrigerator story.
OK. We needed to buy a fridge so called a department store and it had an automated voice recognition system, so I was talking to a machine not a human being. And it said ‘What department do you want?’ so I said ‘fridges’ and it said, ‘We don’t recognize that request’. So I concentrated very hard and I said Rrrefrridgeratorrrs, and it put me straight through.
Ha! So if you want to sound American, make sure you pronounce your R sounds.
Yes. We should talk about that because the R sound is one of the most difficult English sounds for my students to make.
The first thing to understand is your tongue is a very flexible instrument. You can push it out and make it pointy, or you can pull it in. For an R you need to pull it in and back so it gets fatter and thicker. The sides of your tongue might touch the inside of your teeth at the back. Rrrrr. The most common mistake my students make is they let the tip of their tongue touch the top of their mouth. Don’t do that. Your tongue can curl up and get close, but it must not touch. Rrrrr.

Rrrr.

You can hold out this sound. Try it. Rrrrr. You don’t want to drop your jaw.

Rrrun – run.
Rrrun – run.
Rrran – ran.
Rrran – ran.

In American English the lips round a little when R is at the start of a word. There’s less rounding of the lips in British English.

Red.
Red.
Wrote.
Wrote.

When R is at the end of words, there’s not much rounding in British or American.

Great. So is that it?
Yes. And I need to go now. Where did you park the car, Jay?
You mean where did I park the car? In the garage.
The garage. Bye-bye everyone.
Bye-bye.

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Some and Any – Three rules you need to know

Some and Any – Three rules you need to know

Some and Any – do you know how to use these words with countable and uncountable nouns? In this video you’ll learn three important grammar rules that will help you get them right.
You’ll also learn how we make lentil soup!

Click here to see our video on much , many, a lot of and lots of.
Click here to learn how we use the uncountable noun ‘travel’.
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Some and Any – countable and uncountable nouns

In this lesson we’re looking at how we use some and any in English.
And you’re also going to see how we make lentil soup.
We’ve had a lot of requests for this one.
What? Lentil soup?
No! Some and any.
Before we start, here’s a quick reminder about countable and uncountable nouns. In English some nouns are countable.

One, two. Two onions
Three carrots.

And some English nouns are uncountable. We can’t count them.

Salt.
Soup.

Countable nouns can be singular or plural. We use a singular verb form with singular nouns and a plural verb form with plural nouns. Uncountable nouns always take a singular verb form.
Great! So now we’re ready for some work with some and any.
We use both these words with countable AND uncountable nouns. So let’s get cooking and see them in action.

We’re making lentil soup today. It’s great for vegetarians and vegans.
Jay went vegan about six months ago. So he doesn’t eat any meat or any fish.
And no dairy products. So no cow’s milk or cheese.
Or eggs.
That’s right. I don’t eat any food that had a face or a mother.
OK. Here are some of our ingredients. We have some lentils, some celery and an onion.
An old onion. And a hot pepper.
Can you get some carrots out of the fridge?
How many?
About three or four.
OK.
And do we have any tomatoes?
No.
It doesn’t matter. And is there any stock?
Erm. There’s some.
Oh good. I’ve got some here.
How old is it?
It smells OK.
Stock is a liquid we use in soup.
It’s made by cooking meat or bones in water.
But this wasn’t made with meat?
No, this was made with vegetables.
Great. I’ll cut up the onion and you can cut up the celery.
OK.
So I was surprised when Jay went vegan because you used to love meat and fish. Why did you go vegan?
It was for health reasons. It’s good for my heart and I’ve lost weight. About seventeen pounds so far.
Excellent. So if you want to lose some weight, go vegan.
It’s good for the environment and for animals, of course.
Finished?
Yes.
OK. This soup is very simple. We just put the vegetables in the pot. Add some stock and cook it.
Shall I add all the lentils?
Um, just some.
OK.
Let’s try it.
OK. We need a spoon.
Oh, there aren’t any in the drawer.
Look in the dishwasher.
Sure. This one?
Yes. Any spoon will do. You try it.
Sure. Hmm. It’s a bit tasteless.
Mmm. Can you get me some salt?
Sure. Do you want some pepper too?
Yes.
Oh. And we forgot the hot pepper.
Oh. Let’s put some in.
Vicki said ‘some’. But I think I’ll put it all in.
We’re going to try it again. [Panting noises.]

So what do these words mean and when do we use them? We’ll start with ‘some’. We use some to talk about a limited number or quantity.

Shall I add all the lentils?
Um, just some.
OK.
Vicki said ‘some’. But I think I’ll put it all in.

So some means a limited amount. Not all. And we use it with PLURAL countable nouns and uncountable nouns. But not singular countable nouns. With singular countables, we say ‘a’ or ‘one’.

How can everyone tell if a noun is countable or uncountable?
Good question. You just have to learn them one by one, but we’ll make another video about that later.
It’s interesting because salt and rice are uncountable, but lentils are countable.
Yes. Lentils are countable.
One lentil, two lentils, three lentils, four lentils, five lentils, six lentils, seven lentils.…
Pwww!

We use some when we don’t know or we don’t want to say an exact number or quantity.

906, 907, 908, 909…
Jay, let’s just say there are some lentils.
There are some lentils.

So ‘some’ is vague. It means a number bigger than one, but it’s indefinite.

Can you get some carrots out of the fridge?
How many?
About three or four.
OK.
And is there any stock?
Erm. There’s some.
Oh good.

Now, what about ‘any’? Any is similar. Again it’s an indefinite number or quantity and again, we use it with plural countable and uncountable nouns. But any also has a negative meaning. Any can mean none.

Jay went vegan about six months ago. So he doesn’t eat any meat or any fish.
And no dairy products. So no cow’s milk or cheese.
Or eggs.
That’s right. I don’t eat any food that had a face or a mother.

So Jay doesn’t eat any meat, any fish, any eggs. It means he eats none of them.
So now you know the meanings of some and any and it’s time to lean some grammar rules.
Here’s a useful basic rule. Use some in positive sentences. Use any in negative sentences and questions. This rule doesn’t work all the time but it’s a great starting point. If I have elementary students, I teach them this rule.

We have some lentils, some celery and an onion.
We need a spoon.
Oh, there aren’t any in the drawer.
Do we have any tomatoes?
Ermm, no.

So this is the basic rule you want to follow in positive sentences, negatives and questions. Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course! An important one is requests and offers. They’re special.

Can you get me some salt?
Sure. Do you want some pepper too?

So here’s rule two. In questions where we’re asking for things, or offering things, we say some. So in normal questions you’d say any, but if the questions are requests or offers, say some. Got it?
Good, because now we’re going to shift up a level for rule three. Are you ready?
We use ‘any’ in positive sentences when we mean ‘it doesn’t matter which one’.

Look in the dishwasher.
Sure. This one?
Yes. Any spoon will do.

There are lots of spoons in the dishwasher. It doesn’t matter which one you choose because they’re all OK. Another example.

I’m hungry.
Well there’s soup in the fridge.
Oh really? What’s this?
Tomato soup. And there’s pea soup and also lentil soup.
Which one can I have?
Any one you like. They’re all vegan.

So any can mean it’s all the same. It doesn’t matter which one. As your English goes up in level, you’re going to find this useful. So make sure you’ve subscribed to our channel, so we can tell you more about it.
And in the meantime these are the key rules you need to know about some and any.
If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
Yes. See you all next week, everyone.
Bye.
Bye-bye.
Click here to see our video on much , many, a lot of and lots of.
Click here to learn how we use the uncountable noun ‘travel’.
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i before e except after c – a useful English spelling rule

i before e except after c – a useful English spelling rule

English spelling is tricky because sometimes words look nothing like they sound. But here’s a rule that can help: i before e except after c.
Join Vicki and Jay at a spelling bee, or spelling competition as we call them in the UK. You’ll learn when it’s useful to apply the rule and when it isn’t. You’ll also meet our friend Claire from English at Home and learn about some British and American English differences.

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i before e except after c – an English spelling bee

Let’s face it. English spelling is crazy. The way we write words is often nothing like they sound. But maybe there are some rules we follow.
We’ve collaborated on this video with our good friend Clare from English at Home.
Clare is British like me, and she has a YouTube channel too.
Make sure you subscribe to her channel so you can see all her great lessons.
Yeah. In this lesson we’re going to take you to a spelling competition.
Or a spelling bee as we call them in American English.
While you watch, try to work out what spelling rule we’re following.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Tiddly on Thames spelling competition. Let’s meet our two finalists: Jay and Vicki.
OK. The first word is for Vicki. Chief. For example, global warming is one of the chief problems we face today. Chief.
CHIEF.
Correct. Now Jay, your word is believe. For example: I don’t believe in ghosts.
Don’t you? I do.
Please spell the word, Jay.
BELIEVE.
Correct. Vicki, your next word is brief. For example, there was a brief pause in the conversation.
BRIEF.
Excellent. OK, Jay your next word is receive. For example: They posted the letter but we didn’t receive it.
So they mailed it but we didn’t get it?
Just spell the word ‘receive’, please Jay.
RECEIVE.
Correct.

Do you know the spelling rule? It’s i before e except after c. So if you’ve got an i and an e together, the i comes first.
Chief, believe and brief follow this pattern and so do lots more words:
achieve, niece, diesel, hygiene, piece, thief.
But if you have an i and an e after c, the e comes first. So receive follows this pattern and there are others.
Deceive, deceit, receipt, ceiling, conceive.
So this is the rule, but do we always follow it? Let’s go back to the competition and see.

OK, Jay, your next word is leisure. For example, when people work shorter hours, they have more leisure time.
Oh, you mean leisure.
I mean leisure. Please spell the word.
LEISURE.
Correct. Vicki, your next word is foreign: For example: Jay is American. He isn’t British. He’s foreign.
Oh yeah, foreign. FOREIGN.
Correct. The score is three points to Vicki and three points to Jay. This is the final round. Jay, your word is scientist. For example, the British scientist Charles Babbage invented the computer.
I thought it was invented by American scientists.
Just spell the word please.
SCIENTIST.
Correct. Vicki, please spell the word efficient. For example, the British National Health Service is very efficient.
Is it?
Yes, it’s excellent. EFFICIENT.
Correct.

OK, so there we saw some examples where the rule doesn’t work. The i didn’t come before the e. And there are more words where the rule doesn’t work.
Some are common words, like their, and the number eight. And there are some measurement words – weigh, weight and height. And then there’s weird.
Weird means strange or peculiar. Perhaps you can remember how to spell it because the spelling of weird is weird.
And we don’t always follow the other part rule – the except after c. So after c it should be e then i, but look at the words science and efficient. It’s i then e. We also have words like ancient, glacier and conscience.
So is it worth learning this rule if we break it? Before you answer we want to show you something.
Here are more some words that follow the rule. Notice their pronunciation. They all have an eee sound. Beleeeve, cheeeef, acheeeve, eee.
And here are some words with a c. They all follow the rule too! Again there’s an eee sound. Receeeive. Ceeeiling, deceeeive,
So if we change the rule a little, it works. We just have to add a bit that says, ‘if the word has an eee sound’.
Lets go back to the competition and see who wins.

Our competitors are tied, so we will now go to a sudden death round. You will both spell the same word. But if one person makes a mistake, the other person will win. Vicki, please put your headphones on so you can’t hear Jay’s answer.
Jay, the word is neighbour. For example, our neighbour complained about the noise from the party. Neighbour.
NEIGHBOR.
Thank you Jay. Vicki, please take off your head phones and spell the word neighbour.
NEIGHBOUR
That is the correct answer. Congratulations Vicki! Jay, I’m afraid you spelt it wrongly.
But… but my answer was right. That’s how we spell it in American English.
American spelling is weird.
Hard luck Jay and well done Vicki.

And that’s it for this week.
Make sure you subscribe to our channel to see more of our videos.
And be sure to subscribe to Clare’s channel, English at Home, too. See you next Friday everyone! Bye-bye.
Click here to watch more ‘how to’ videos.
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Top tip for international communication

Top tip for international communication

Do you want to communicate with people from other cultures? Then this video is for you.
Back in the 1980s computer scientists were creating the world wide web and looking for ways to connect computers that spoke different languages. The Dutch scientist, Jon Postel, came up with a computer protocol that’s helpful and relevant for international and intercultural communication today.

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Top tip for communicating across cultures

I want to share my number one, top tip for English learners. It might surprise you, but I think it’s really useful for anyone who wants to communicate with people from other countries and cultures.
OK, Vicki, what’s your top tip for communicating in English?
Well, before I tell you, we need to travel back in time. Are you ready?
So where are we?
In the 1980s.
Hey, this was a great decade. Oh, I like your outfit.
Thank you. Big hair. Big earrings.
And big shoulders.
Oh yes, I’m wearing shoulder pads. And you look pretty cute as well.
Thank you. I think we called this the preppie look.
Very nice.
So what’s going on around here? Who is in power?
Well… in the United Kingdom, it’s Margaret Thatcher. She’s the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative Party.
So in America it’s Ronald Reagan. He’s the Republican President, and he’s a conservative too.
When we’re talking about politics, conservative describes politicians who don’t like sudden social change.
They like traditional ways of doing things.
And liberal politicians like new ideas and they support people having a lot of political or economic freedom. But I think you use this word a little differently in America.
Yes. Liberal can mean the same thing, but in American English liberal also means left wing. So in America liberals look to the government to solve social problems.
That’s different in British English. We’d say politicians like that are left wing, but they’re not necessarily liberal.
OK, that’s enough politics. Are you going to tell us your top tip now?
Ooo yes. My top tip for communicating in English comes from a nineteen eighties invention.
Which one? There were lots of new inventions in the 1980s.
Oh yes.
There were computer games like Donkey Kong. I loved that game!
And the game boy! That was a lot of fun.
Compact disks were invented in the nineteen eighties
And disposable contact lenses. Disposable means you can throw them away.
Disposable cameras were invented in the 1980s too.
There was the first Apple Macintosh computer. I had one like this.
And Microsoft Windows. That was a huge thing and of course we still use it today.
But what was the biggest invention?
Let me think.
It changed our lives. It changed everyone’s lives
I’ve got it!
DNA. Genetic fingerprinting.
Good guess. But no. I’m talking about the internet – or more specifically, the world wide web.
Duh! Of course!
Back in the 1980s computer scientists were building a worldwide network of computers. It wasn’t easy because the computers spoke different languages. Getting them to communicate was a problem – a big challenge they had to overcome.
Somehow they had to make the computers connect and talk to one another – and be understood clearly. So they came up with protocols– protocols are rules and behaviours that computers have to follow.
One of the fathers of the internet was a Dutch computer scientist called Jon Postel and he wrote a protocol that went: be conservative in what you do and be liberal in what you accept from others. It became famous.
So be conservative and be liberal. But Jon Postel wasn’t talking about politics.
No. He was using conservative and liberal with a different meaning. It’s a similar meaning but it’s different.
Remember these computers were speaking different languages. As I understand it, when Jon Postel said conservative he meant the computers should try to send clear messages – written in traditional ways that other computers expected –so nothing surprising. But when the computers received messages they had to be liberal – they had to be open to new or different ways of saying things.
It helped them to communicate and understand one other.
So is this your top tip for communicating?
Yes! Well, it’s not MY top tip because it’s Jon Postel’s, but I think it’s very valuable.
People and computers face challenges when they’re communicating internationally. There are language differences and there are also different ways of thinking – cultural stuff – so you have to be extra clear when you’re speaking or writing. But when you’re reading or listening, you want to be very flexible and open to new ideas so you can accept different ways of thinking and saying things.
So be conservative when you’re speaking and liberal when you’re listening. Actually that sounds like a good code for life in general.
I think you’re right. I think when Jon Postel wrote this, he was acknowledging that there would be communication mistakes with the computers.
It’s the same when we’re speaking or writing in another language. We’re going to make mistakes.
Exactly. But that shouldn’t stop us trying. We just have to be as clear as we can.
And keep trying.
Exactly.
I wonder what our viewers think about this. Do you think that this is a useful tip? Write and tell us in the comments.
And let us know what your top tip is for communicating in English.
We love hearing from you.
So keep watching and subscribe.
Oh, Vicki. One last question.
What’s that?
How are we going to get back to the twenty first century?
I think I’ve found something that might help there.
Hey, is that a DeLorean?
Yep.
With a flux capacitator?
Yep.
Then it’s back to the future, baby!
Yay!

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