English comparative adjectives

Funny things about England – comparative adjectives

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

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

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

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

It’s far out man! Way out there!

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

 

hard words to pronounce

Hard words to pronounce in British and American English

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

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

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

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

IELTS speaking test part two - dos and don'ts

IELTS Speaking Test Part Two – Dos and Don’ts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IELTS speaking test part one tips

Great tips for the IELTS Speaking Test Part One

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

IELTS speaking test part one tips

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

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

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

What’s your favourite room in your home?
My bedroom.
And why’s that?
I like it.
And is it a large room?
No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s how part one of the IELTS exam works!
Make sure you’ve subscribed to both our channels so you don’t miss our videos on parts two and three.
And please share this video with a friend if you’ve liked it, and give it a thumbs up.

We’ve made this video in collaboration with our friend Keith from IELTS Speaking Success and you can check out his website here.

And on this website you’ll find hundreds of videos on our channel to help you with your listening, speaking, grammar and vocabulary before your exam. Check some out here.

difficult words to pronounce in English

Difficult words to say in British and American English

We’re looking at more words that English learners find tricky to pronounce and comparing how we say them in British and American English.
We’ll show you how we pronounce:
• island
• squirrel
• priority
• Leicester
• schedule
• vulnerable
• width
• peculiarly
And along the way we talk about silent letters in English, word stress, How R sounds are different in British and American English, and the tricky English th sound.

You’ve told us some of the words you find hard to say.
And we’re going to show you how we pronounce them.
In British English.
And American English.
Before we start, we need to explain something.
Everyone you’ll see in this video is a non-native English speaker.
Apart from us. I’m British and Jay’s American.
But everyone else speaks English as a second language.
Or third or fourth language. They’re all very smart.
And also very nice, because they let us film them. Let’s see them in action.

How to pronounce island

Island.
Island.
Island.
Island.

Oh no they’re all wrong.
It’s hard because the spelling is so different from the pronunciation.
Island.
Island.
There are two things to remember with this word.
The first vowel sound isn’t eee. It’s eye.
And the other thing is the ‘s’. It’s a silent letter. Island.
But some of our learners got it right. Say it with them.

Island.
Island.
Island.
Island.

How to pronounce squirrel

OK, next word.

Squirrel.
Squirrel.
Squirrel.
Well done.
But it’s like kind of difficult to say, like skw and then the -rrel. Like squirrel. Yeah.

He did a good job. It starts with a ‘skw’ sound.
Yeah. And we say this word a little differently in British and American English.
Squirrel.
Squirrel.
In a lot of words I pronounce R sounds less strongly than Jay.
Or you don’t pronounce them at all.
True. But in this word you can hear my R sound – squirrel. -rel. It’s clear. It’s still different to your R sound though.
Squirrel, squirrel
Your R is so strong and powerful that it replaces the vowel sounds! It sounds like skwrrl.
Squirrel. Squirrel.
Our learners did a good job with this word though.
Say it with them.

Squirrel.
Squirrel.
Squirrel.
Squirrel.
Squirrel.
Squirrel.

Vicki doesn’t pronounce her R sounds properly because she’s British.
I beg your pardon!
We’ve made another video about that.
I’ll put a link here. What’s next?

How to pronounce priority

Priority.
Priority.
Priority.

OK, we just need to make a little change here.
Is it pri(ee)ority or priority?
Priority.
Priority.
So we both say pry – priority.
And I say priority – with a clear t sound, and you say…
Prioridy.
He flaps the t so it sounds a little like a fast d sound.
Well of course. Good pronunciation is my priority!
Say it with our learners.

Priority.
Priority.
Priority.
Priority.

How to pronounce Leicester

OK, next word.

Leicester.
Leicester.
Leicester.

That was a hard one!
I know. The spelling’s so weird.
Leicester.
Leicester.
Leicester’s is the name of a city in England. It’s in the Midlands.
And in the US, there are towns called Leicester in Massachusetts and New York state.
I didn’t think any students would get it right because the spelling is so strange, but some did.

Leicester.
Leicester.
Yes!
I have the English Monopoly, so I know it.
Ah!

So it’s a place on your Monopoly board?
Yes, Leicester Square. It’s a theatre district in London. Say it with us.
Leicester Square.
Leicester Square.
OK. We had a lot of requests for the next word.

How to pronounce schedule

Schedule.
Erm, schedule.
Schedule.
Schedule.
Schedule.

They’re all correct! Good job!
But there’s another way of saying it too.

Schedule.
Schedule.

They’re correct too for me! Jay and I say this word in different ways.
Schedule.
Schedule.
So in British English, you say sh – Schedule.
Yeah. Schedule.
So you don’t say sk- schedule?
Well, here’s the thing. These days a lot of British people do. American English has influenced how we speak.
So you’ll hear some people in the UK say schedule these days.
Uh huh.
Say it with us.
Schedule.
Schedule or schedule.
And I thought of something else. What’s this?
It’s a train schedule.
Uhuh. And I’d say it’s a train timetable. So another thing that happens is we often say timetable where you’ll say schedule.
OK, what’s the next word?

How to pronounce vulnerable

Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.

Not quite, but they’re almost there!
Yes, the main stress needs to be on VUL. Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
What does it mean?
If someone is vulnerable then they’re weak.
It’s easy to hurt them, physically or emotionally.
An army could be vulnerable to attack.
And children who aren’t vaccinated are vulnerable to the measles.
How many syllables does vulnerable have?
Good question. Vuln-e-ra-ble, 4, but this second syllable is just a schwa and sometimes it practically disappears.

Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
Yes!

They were good.
Yes, say the word with us.
Vulnerable.
Vulnerable.
You know there’s a lot of regional variation with how we say some of these words in the UK.
That’s true in the US too. If you say words differently, write and tell us in the comments.
OK, what’s next?

How to pronounce width

Width.
Width.

Perfect! They said it very well!
Yeah.
Next word then.
No! We need to look at how they did it.
OK. So what does width mean?
How wide something is, is its width – so the distance from one side to the other.
So wide is the adjective and width is the noun.
Width.
Width.
Some people think this is one of the hardest words to say in English.
I think it’s because with the /d/ sound you have to stop the airflow, ‘wid’ but then you have to start it again to make the ‘th’ sound. Wid-th.
Is there a way to make it easier?
Well, you could try saying ‘with’, without the /d/ sound. Some of our learners did that.

With.
With.
With. With. Something like that.

I’d understand them, I think.
Oh yes, me too. So that’s a cheat you can use if you find this hard. But ‘width’ is better of course.
Try saying it with us.
Width.
Width.
OK, the next one’s a long word.

How to pronounce peculiarly

Erm. Peculiarly. Something like that.
Peculiarly.

How many syllables does this word have?
Peculiarly. Five.
Peculiarly.
OK, that’s the right number of syllables, but where’s the main stress?
Peculiarly– cue – the second syllable.

Peculiarly.
Peculiarly.

They did well!
I agree because it’s a ‘peculiarly’ difficult word!
Peculiarly.
Peculiarly.
There’s a really cool technique for pronouncing long words like this.
Yeah. Often they’re easier if you backchain them, so start at the back and work forward.
ly.
ar-ly.
li-ar-ly.
cu-li-ar-ly.
Pe-cu-li-ar-ly.
Try it with me.
ly.
ar-ly.
li-ar-ly.
cu-li-ar-ly.
Pe-cu-li-ar-ly.
Could you say it?
And now we want to say a big thank you to all the English learners who appeared in this video.
They were such good sports.
If you’ve enjoyed it, check out our other videos about words that are hard to pronounce.
We have a series now. I’ll put a link at the end of this video.
And why not share this video with a friend. They might enjoy it too.
Have a great weekend everyone and see you soon.
Bye-bye.
Bye.
They did well.
I agree because it’s a pecu-. Peculiarly.
They did well.
I agree because it’s a peculiarly difficult word.
Because it’s a peculiarly difficult word.
One more time. I’m going to make you do it again.
Oh no.
Peculiarly. Oh I got it right!

ielts speaking exam

IELTS speaking test: things you need to know

Well prepared students do best in the IELTS speaking exam and we can help.

This is the first in a series of videos about the different parts of the exam where you’ll find answers to these questions:
How long is the IELTS speaking exam? (11-14 minutes)
How many parts does the IELTS speaking test have? (Three)
What are the three parts?
– a Q&A on familiar topics
– a long turn (talk)
– a Q&A on abstract topics
You’ll see what happens when an IELTS exam starts and learn how IELTS examiners score.
You’ll also see what happens at the very start when the IELTS examiner turns on their recorder.

The IELTS exam tests students at all levels of English and IELTS publish descriptions of the different band levels which you can find here.

We have hundreds of videos on our channel to help you with your listening, speaking, grammar and vocabulary before your exam. Make sure you check them out.

IELTS Speaking Exam

Hello everyone. I’m Keith.
And I’m Vicki and we have lots of tips and tricks for you about the IELTS speaking exam
The IELTS exam tests four skills. When we ask our students which one they feel most nervous about they often say speaking. So if you feel nervous too, you’re not alone.
And we can help. We’re going to show you what happens, and give you tips so you can get a good score. In this first video we’ll tell you some general things about the speaking test. But first, let’s see how much you know already.
We have a quiz for you and here’s the first question: how long does the test last? What do you think?
The answer is 11-14 minutes. It may sound like a long time, but after the exam, most students say it went really quickly.
OK, another question. How many parts does the speaking test have?
There are three parts to the test. Part one is a Q&A, so the examiner will ask you questions that you’ll answer. They’re all questions about you and your life.
In part two the examiner will give you a topic to talk about and you’ll speak for one to two minutes.
And the final part is another Q & A, but this time the examiner will ask questions about more abstract topics.
So every part is different and in this series of videos we’ll go through them one by one. And we’ll show you what to do and what not to do, so you can get your best score.
Another thing you should know is IELTS speaking tests are always recorded.
In some places the examiner will start the recording before you enter the exam room. In other places they will start the recording while you’re there.

Hi, take a seat. This is the speaking test of the International English Language Testing System, taking place on July 20th at 6800 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. Centre number AS555. The candidate is Ksenia Shor and the candidate number is 89352. The examiner is Vicki Hollett, examiner number 968254.
Good morning. My name is Vicki Hollett. Can you please tell me your full name?
Ksenia Shor.
And what should I call you?
You can call me Ksenia, or Kate if you like.
And can I see your identification please, Ksenia?
Of course, here you are.
Thank you.

And that’s how the exam begins. It’s hard not to feel nervous, but most examiners are friendly and they’re on your side. They’ll want you to do well.

Can you tell me your full name, please?
My full name is Jason Arthur Sebastian Robertson the third. I was named after my grandfather …
And what should I call you?
Well, I have several nicknames. Some people call me Morse because I know the international Morse code and some people call me ‘Cuckoo’. I’m not sure why. And some people call me…

Jay shouldn’t give a long answer here. The examiner just wants to check his name on her list. So just state your name briefly.

You can call me Ksenia, or Kate if you like.

The examiners record the exam so they can listen back later if they want to check your score and, also, so that IELTS can make sure that all candidates are graded correctly and in the same way.

How IELTS examiners score

And speaking of grades, here’s one last question. The examiner will grade you on different things. Which of these things are important? Are there any that don’t matter?
These are the four criteria they’ll use to score you. The examiner doesn’t care about your appearance, so don’t worry about wearing a suit or tie. They’re just interested in the quality of your English.
The examiner will give you a score from one to nine for each of these criteria and they’re all equally important for your overall score. So let’s take a look at what they all mean.
Fluency is about speaking easily, without a lot of hesitation. And coherence is about how well you can connect your ideas so they’re easy to understand. So can you explain your thoughts logically and without too much repetition?
Lexical resource is about vocabulary. Do you know enough words to talk about a variety of topics? Do you know common idioms and which words collocate – so which words commonly go together?
The next one’s grammar so how accurate is your English and how many mistakes do you make? But notice the examiner also wants to hear your range. So can you use different tenses and sentences with different clauses? More complex grammar will get you a higher score.
And finally, what’s your pronunciation like? Is it clear and easy to understand? Having an accent is fine, so long as your pronunciation is easy to understand. The examiner will be listening for how well you connect your speech, your word and sentence stress, and your intonation. And, can you maintain good pronunciation across phrases and longer sentences?
So those are the four criteria they’ll use to score you. The exam tests students at all levels of English and IELTS publish descriptions of the different band levels. We’ll put a link to their descriptors below and you should check them out.
Well prepared candidates do best in this exam, so it’s great that you’ve found us. Stay tuned for our next videos where we’ll have lots of tips. And don’t forget. Subscribe to both our channels!
And if you liked this video, why not share it with a friend? See you soon everyone. Bye!

We have hundreds of videos on our channel to help you with your listening, speaking, grammar and vocabulary before your exam. Make sure you check them out.
We’ve made this video in collaboration with our friend Keith from IELTS Speaking Success.

test your English and avoid common mistakes

How good is your English? Quiz 3

Are you ready to test your English?
We’ll ask you to identify 6 English mistakes and choose your answer before the clock stops ticking.
We’ll then explain what’s wrong and show you examples of the correct English in action so you can avoid common mistakes. We’ll also direct you to videos if you want more help with grammar and vocabulary.
In this video we look at:
– what does it mean?
– used to vs. in former times
– used to do vs. be used to doing and get used to doing
– good at
– actually vs. currently
– stop to do vs. stop doing

Click here and here to see more quiz videos.
Click here to see a video on stop to do and stop doing.
Click here to see a video on actually.
Click here to see a video on used to do and be used to doing.

Test your English and avoid common mistakes

Hello everyone. I’m Vicki.
And I’m Jay and we’re back with some more tricky English questions.
We’re going to test how good your English is, and we’ll also fix some common mistakes!
We have six questions for you today.
And you have to answer them before the clock stops ticking. Are you ready?
Let’s start with an easy one. This is a very common mistake.
Imagine you’re having an English lesson and your teacher is using the word ‘collocations’.
You don’t understand what the word means so what do you say?
What means ‘collocations’?
What does ‘collocations’ mean?
Do you know what ‘collocations’ means? Collocations are words that we generally use together.
We’ll look at one later, but first look at this useful question. ‘Mean’ is the main verb here and it’s a normal verb. So to form the question you need an auxiliary verb.
‘Do’ is the auxiliary verb, or help verb. Students often forget to use it so make sure you don’t.

Kathy, do you have a moment?
Yeah?
I just received this message and I don’t understand it. What does IDK mean?
The letters IDK?
Yes.
I don’t know.
Hmm. I’ll ask Vicki. Vicki, what does IDK mean?
I don’t know.
I don’t know either. People are so hard to understand. I’ll go ask Louise.

OK. What’s the next question?
This one’s about me. I’m British, but I don’t live in England anymore.
She lives in the US with me.
So what could you say about me?
In former times Vicki lived in England.
Vicki used to live in England.
Vicki’s used to living in England.
‘In former times’ is grammatically correct, but it sounds wrong.
Yes, it’s a direct translation from some other languages, but it doesn’t work in English.
It’s much too formal. We just don’t say it.
Say ‘used to’ instead. We use ‘used to’ to talk about things that were true in the past, but are not true now.
So things that we’ve stopped doing. We often use ‘used to’ to talk about past habits.

Jay, try some of this.
What is it?
Marmite.
We used to eat it all the time when I was growing up in England.

Never try Marmite. It’s horrible stuff!
Don’t listen to him. It’s really good!
And what about the other sentence?
Ah, now this is grammatically correct too, but it doesn’t work here because it’s not true.
Vicki’s used to living in the US, not England.
Exactly. The meaning’s different. When we are used to something, we’re accustomed to it.
And we can also get used to something’ – that means grow accustomed to it.

Where are the tomatoes?
You mean the tomatoes.
He’s still getting used to my accent.

These two structures look very similar but they have different meanings.
‘Used to’ is for describing past habits, and ‘be or get used to’ means accustomed to.
It’s very tricky. We should have another question about this.
OK, here’s another one. In the US, everyone drives on the right side of the road, but in England people drive …
On the wrong side.
People drive on the left side in England. I live in the US now so which sentence or sentences are correct here.
I used to drive on the right side of the road.
I’m used to drive on the right side of the road.
I’m used to driving on the right side of the road.
‘Used to’ is wrong here because Vicki drives on the right side now. It’s not a past habit.
And it’s wrong to say ‘I’m used to drive’ too. That’s because after ‘be used to’ we need a noun.
‘Used to’ is followed by a verb. But ‘be used to’ is followed by a noun.
If you want to use a verb after ‘be used to’, you have to use a gerund, a noun form of the verb. So we say driving not drive.
But you know, I think this sentence is wrong too.
Really?
Yeah, it’s grammatically correct but it’s not true. Sometimes you forget which side we drive on here, and you get in the car on the wrong side.
I think this should say you’re getting used to driving on the right side.
If you’d like to see more examples, follow this link.
What’s the next question?
It’s a quick one. Imagine you have a friend who speaks 6 languages.
What could you say about her?
She’s very good in languages.
She’s very good at languages.
When we’re talking about skills, we say ‘at’ – so good at, clever at, bad at, terrible at …
‘Good at’ is a collocation because we often use the words ‘good’ and ‘at’ together.
You know you’re so good at making coffee Jay.
Oh, thank you!
Could you make me another cup?
Let’s have the next question.
OK. This one’s about a word that’s a false friend in many languages.
A customer calls you on the phone and asks to speak to your boss. But your boss is on the phone at the moment, talking to someone else.
What will you tell your caller?
I’m afraid she’s actually assisting another customer.
I’m afraid she’s currently assisting another customer.
The word ‘actually’ might look similar to a word in your language.
But it probably has a different meaning in English.
Actually doesn’t mean ‘currently’ or ‘at the moment’ in English. It means ‘really’ or ‘in fact’.
So we often use actually when we’re saying something that’s surprising.
If you want to describe what’s happening now, actually is the wrong word. Say things like currently or at the moment instead.
And we also often use ‘actually’ when we want to correct someone, but in a gentle way.

You’ve written thirteen dollars, but actually it’s thirty.
Oh, is it?
Actually, that’s my coffee. That’s yours.
Oh.

Lots of students make mistakes with actually, so we’ve made a video with more examples.
I’ll put the link here.
OK, next question.
Right. You have a friend who you used to see on Facebook. But you haven’t seen any posts from him for a while.
One day you bump into him in the street and ask why. What does he say?
I stopped using Facebook.
I stopped to use Facebook.
Stop is a special verb because we can follow it with a gerund, so an -ing form of a verb, or we can follow it with an infinitive, a ‘to do’ form of a verb. Both are possible.
But the meanings are different. When we stop doing something we don’t do it anymore. And when we stop to do something we stop in order to do something else.

Can you two stop playing that game and come and help us with a delivery?
Yeah.
I got forty points.

So there are two actions in both these sentences, but the timing of the actions is different. In the first sentence ‘playing the game’ was the first thing that happened and ‘stopping’ was the second.
And in the second sentence ‘stopping’ was the first action to happen and ‘helping with a delivery’ came second.

Hmm. I’ve got a question. I’ll skype Jamie. Jamie. Jamie.
Hey Vicki, I can’t stop dancing.
I can see. I’ve just got a quick question. Just a quick one? Not to worry. I’ll ask Mr Marcus.
Hello. Ah. Hey Vicki. I can’t stop to talk to you now. These knives are sharp.
Oh, be careful. Be careful.
Don’t worry. I’ll google it instead.

So are we done?
Yes.
How did you do? Did you get all the questions right?
And was this quiz useful?
If you enjoyed it, give us a thumbs up and why not share it with a friend?
I’ll put the links in the description below to other videos that we’ve mentioned today.
And we’ll be back soon with a new video, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.
And click that notification bell so you know when our next video comes out. Bye everyone.
Bye-bye.

Click here and here to see more quiz videos.
Click here to see a video on stop to do and stop doing.
Click here to see a video on actually.
Click here to see a video on used to do and be used to doing.

actual actually false friends

Actual & Actually: How to use these false friends in English

The English words ‘actual’ and ‘actually’ are false friends in many languages. You think they mean one thing but in fact they mean another.
In this video you’ll learn how to use these words to make your English more polite when you’re speaking.
You’ll see lots of examples in action and learn how to use them correctly.

Actual and Actually – false friends

These are very useful words in English. Use them correctly and they’ll help you to sound more natural and polite. But be careful. If you use them wrongly and you could confuse everyone.
Lots of languages have words that look and sound like these words, but mean something different, They’re false friends. You think you know what they mean, but actually they mean something different so they cause misunderstandings. In English actual and actually mean real and really.

The tap in our bathroom stopped working.
So we bought a new one. It cost $100.
And then we had to pay for shipping, so the actual cost was higher.
Yes, we actually spent $120.

So we use actual and actually to say things are really true. They mean something like ‘in fact’. We don’t use them to say things are happening now or existing now. Some languages have similar words with that meaning, but in English they don’t mean currently or at present.
We currently have five sales offices in Asia and we don’t expect that to change. We have no present plans to expand.
So could you change these words and say actually and actual here? If you did, you would change the meaning. If you want to say something is happening at the current time, you need to use expressions like these.
So that’s very important. Actually means in fact or really, not currently. Another example.

Jay. What are our sales like?
Fantastic! We’re doing really well.
Can I see the actual figures?
Sure. I have them right here… Actually, they’re not as good as I thought.So when I say ‘the actual figures’ do I mean the current figures, the up-to-date ones? No! I mean the real figures. I want to know the exact sales numbers.
Now notice how Jay says actually here. He’s telling me he’s surprised by the figures.

It must be really cold outside.
Actually it’s quite warm.
Oh, I’m surprised.

If we think information is going to be a surprise, we often introduce it with actually.

It looks expensive, but actually it’s quite cheap.
Really? How much is it?
I think it’s about 50 bucks.
Really?

So you can use actually to contrast what’s really true with what someone thinks is true. Let’s look at another example and this time, try to work out why I say actually.

Would you like some more coffee?
Oh, actually I’m going to leave in a minute, so no thanks.
Oh, OK.

So why do I say actually here? It’s because I think Jay is expecting a different answer and my answer will be a surprise. Another example. What’s happening here?

Have you got time to talk?
Actually, I’m pretty busy at the moment.
OK. I’ll come back later.

So why does Jay say actually? Same reason as before. He thinks his answer will be a surprise. But something else is happening here too. Jay thinks I might not like his answer. When you’re saying no to a request or giving an answer the other person doesn’t want, you can say actually to soften it. It’s a polite way of giving unpleasant information.

Actually, I’m pretty busy at the moment.
OK. I’ll come back later.

Now there’s one other very common way we use this word. When we say something wrong and we want to correct ourselves, we can say actually.

Do you have some scissors I can borrow?
No, sorry.
OK.
Oh wait a minute. Actually I have one here.
Oh, thank you very much.
You’re very welcome.

So actually shows I’ve changed my mind. You can use it to take back what you said before.

And how long have you been doing karate?
For two and a… For two years.
Uhuh.
Actually one and a half.
Uhuh.

So we use actually to correct ourselves if we say something wrong, and it’s also useful for correcting other people.

We have new rules for cell phones in our office.
Yes, well actually we have one new rule. We have to turn them off in meetings.
Our boss goes crazy when they ring.
Well actually it is annoying for everyone.
Well, actually it rang eight times. I think she was very nice about it, considering.

So actually is a gentle way to correct someone. OK, are you ready for a quiz?
I’ve got three questions for you. First one. Have a look at this sentence. What the missing word here? Is it currently or actually? Let see.

May I speak to Kathy, please?
I’m afraid she’s currently assisting another customer. Can I help?
No, that’s all right. I’ll call back later.

The missing word is currently. When we’re talking about things that are happening now we say currently or at present. Next one. What’s the missing word here? Let’s see.

It was a thriller about love and revenge.
It was based an actual event where a wife killed her husband.
It was very scary.

So the answer is actual. It means the event happened in real life. OK, last question. What’s the missing word here? Well, it could be either, but the meanings would be different. If we’re talking about an up-to-date, present amount, it could be currently. But if we’re talking about a mistake and this is a correction, then the missing word is actually. Let’s see.

You’ve written thirteen dollars, but actually it’s thirty.
Oh, is it?
Actually, that’s my coffee. That’s yours.
Oh.

It was actually. We can use actually to correct what someone says in a gentle way when we want to be polite.
Great – so now you know what these words mean and how we use them in English. Are they false friends in your language? And do you have other false friends? Write and tell us in the comments. Hey, maybe we can make a video about them.
Please make sure you subscribe to this channel so you catch our future videos and see you next Friday! Bye now.

Present Perfect in English 3 uses

The Present Perfect in English – 3 uses

The present perfect connects the present and the past. In this English lesson we’ll show you how to form the present perfect and when use it.

You’ll learn about the three uses of the present perfect:
1. Unfinished actions that started in the past and are still continuing
2. Life experiences that happened at an indefinite time
3. Past actions that are important now because they are news or because their results matter in the present.

And best of all you’ll see lots of examples of the present perfect in action in a comedy sketch about a performance review.  This story is fun for everyone and especially for business English students.

Click here to learn about British and American uses of the present perfect.
Click here to see more grammar videos.
Click here to see more business English videos.

The 3 uses of the present perfect

The present perfect indicates that something happened before now.
Notice we have two different times here. Before – that’s the past – and now – that’s the present.
The present perfect connects the present and the past.
We’ve had a lot of requests for this video.
We’ll show you how to form it and when to use it.
And also when not to use it. You’re going to learn how it’s different from the past.
And we have a story for you, to help you remember it. We’re going to show you how to use it in action.

Hey, I’ve got a meeting with management in five minutes.
Uhuh.
It’s my performance review.
Oh yeah.
Have you had yours yet?
Yeah, I had mine yesterday.
I want to do really well. Do you have any tips?
Well yes.
What are they going to ask me?
Well, the first question is always ‘Have you achieved your goals this year?’
Oh great. I think I have. I’ve done really well this year.

We form the present perfect with the verb ‘have’ and the past participle of the main verb. So the main verb here is ‘achieve’ and ‘have’ is an auxiliary or help verb. It helps us form the sentence. ‘Achieve’ is regular but notice what happens if we have an irregular verb. Do, did, done – we use the third part of the verb. So if the main verb is ‘have’ we say ‘have had’!
We form questions by changing the word order. So ‘I have achieved my goals’ becomes ‘Have you achieved your goals?’ To form negatives, add ‘not’. And to form short answers, use ‘have’. When we’re speaking, we don’t normally stress ‘have’ because it’s not the main verb. So we generally contract it and we say I’ve, you’ve, he’s, she’s, and so on.
Perhaps your language has a tense with ‘have’ and the past participle too! If so, you might be thinking, oh this looks the same.
Don’t be fooled! The we way we use the present perfect in English is different.
Yes, so let’s see how it works.

How long have you worked here, Jay?
For a year. I love it.
And have you ever had a performance review before?
No, never.
Excellent. You’re going to do great. So what were your goals this year?
Well one goal was to arrive on time and be punctual.
And have you ever been late?
No. Only when the traffic was bad. And when I lost my car keys.
And when you overslept. Are you sure you want to talk about punctuality?
Maybe not. Oh! But I’ve been taking a course about customer service. I can tell them about that.
Oh. How long have you been doing that?
Since Christmas.
But you haven’t finished it yet?
No.
Oh, well then, you can’t talk about that. That’s no good.
Oh. OK, here’s a good one. I’ve met all my sales targets. In fact, I’ve just won the top sales person award.
Hmmm.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, you’ve got to be careful. You don’t want to appear too big-headed.
Big headed?
Yes, you don’t want to sound like you’re boastful or conceited. That’s very bad.
Then what can I do?
Tell them your co-workers have helped you achieve your sales targets.
Really?
Yes, it shows you’re a team player.
Oh I get it. Praise the team.
Exactly. Say you couldn’t have done it without them. Management will love that.

I think you’re going to get me in trouble again.
Keep watching and you’ll find out what happens. But let’s look at the present perfect first. There are basically three ways we use the present perfect in English.
They all connect the present and the past, but in slightly different ways and we’ll go through them one by one.
Here’s the first way. We use the present perfect for actions that started in the past that are still continuing now. So we often use it to talk about how long something has continued. We use it like this with the words ;’How long’, ‘for’ and ‘since’.
In many languages, you’d use the present tense to express this idea, but not in English. The present tense would be wrong here. Use the present perfect and it’ll indicate the action is still going on. And if we use the past form instead, it means the action is finished.

How long have you worked here?
For a year. Before this I worked for a software company.
And how long did you work there?
For 5 years.

Notice we can use ‘How long’ to ask about actions that are continuing, or actions that are finished.
‘How long have you…?’ means the action is still continuing. ‘How long did you …?’ means the action is finished.
And we could also use the continuous form of the present perfect here. That works too.
In this context, these questions mean the same thing. In other contexts there’s sometimes a difference and we’ll make another video about that.
So subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it.
OK let’s look at the second use now. It’s different to the first and it’s very common.
We use the present perfect to talk about our experiences – so things that did or didn’t happen to us. We’re not talking about actions that are still continuing here. They’re finished actions that happened in the past, but we use the present perfect because we can still feel the effects of these actions in the present. Notice the time these things happened is vague. We just mean ‘at some time in the past’.
If I ask you ‘Have you ever had a performance review?’ I mean at some time in your life, but it’s not important when. The time is indefinite. You can use the adverbs ever, never, or before here. They all work. Or you can use no adverb. That works too. It’s up to you.
Notice that if the time is definite, we use the past tense, not the present perfect. So what often happens is we use the present perfect to introduce a topic, and then we switch to the past when we start talking about a specific time.
OK, so that was the second use. Let’s see the third one now.
OK. It’s similar to the second one. You’ll see an example in the story.

And then the next question you’ll get is ‘What are your goals for the future?
Well that’s exciting. I’ve just bought a book about time management to help me improve my productivity.
By how much? They’ll want a figure.
OK, I’m going to improve my productivity by 20%!
Ooooo.
That’s not good?
Well, the thing is, if you set your goals too high, you might not achieve them.
Good point. Then 10% perhaps?
Mmmm. You’ve got to be realistic.
5%?
This office is so busy. Perhaps you should say you’ll maintain your productivity. Keep it at the same level. Do you think you can maintain it?
Sure.
Well that’s great then. OK, the final thing they’ll ask you is for feedback about your managers.
Oh well. Everyone’s been very nice to me and Kathy’s very supportive.
Tut tut tut.
What’s wrong?
Well, they want to know the truth so they can improve.
But that is the truth.
Yeah, but they want you to think of things they’ve done wrong.
I can’t think of anything.
Ooo. That’s a problem. No creativity.

Oh I see. Creativity is important. Should I make things up?
Has Kathy ever done something you didn’t like?
Well, once I wanted to fly business class and she said it was too expensive.
Well, tell them about that and say you’re upset about it.
But I’m not upset.
They can’t improve if you don’t give them ideas.
Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
You’re giving me such bad advice!
I know.
This story’s not going to end well for me.
We’ll look at the end in a minute, but first let’s look at the last way we use the present perfect.
Here’s the final use for the present perfect. We use it to talk about past actions that have results in the present. So these are finished actions again. But we use the present perfect because they’re important now. It could be because the results of the action are important or it could be because it’s news. In this use, the actions generally happened pretty recently – so not a long time ago – more recently.
Here are the adverbs that you’ll sometimes hear with this use: just, yet and already. And notice that the time is indefinite again. With definite times we use the past tense, not the present perfect. So again, what often happens is we use the present perfect to introduce a topic, and then we switch to the past when we start talking about a specific event.
With this third use, there are some differences in the way Vicki and I use the present perfect.
American and British English differences.
We’ve made another video about them.
I’ll put the link here so you can check it out.
And now it’s time to finish the story.
Before we do, if you’ve enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up.
And share it with a friend!

So are you ready for your performance review now.
Yes, I know exactly what I’m going to tell management.
Excellent. Well, let’s hear it then?
I’m going to tell them I haven’t achieved any of my goals this year, and that the only reason I’ve gotten anything done is because of my co-workers. That I’m not going to improve my productivity and that I’m very upset because I can’t fly business class.
That’s perfect! Well done! Now what’s the time? Do you need to get going?
Oh yes. Thank you very much. Vicki. You’ve been really helpful.
Oh no problem. Good luck!

Click here to learn about British and American uses of the present perfect.
Click here to see more grammar videos.
Click here to see more business English videos.

ielts speaking test

IELTS speaking test video link – see Vicki as a candidate

We don’t have a new video for you today, but we’ll be publishing a new video next Friday.

In the meantime, check out this link to a video made by a friend of ours, where Vicki takes on the role of a candidate in an IELTS speaking test.

Keith has a great website for student’s who are preparing for the IELTS speaking test which you can find here:
https://ieltsspeakingsuccess.com/

And here’s the video he made with Vicki as a the candidate: