American Slang

More American slang expressions that Brits don’t use

How good is your American English? Play along and find out.

In this American English slang lesson you’ll learn 6 American English colloquial expressions that Brits don’t use, and one (or maybe two) that both Brits and Americans use.
They include:
— riding shotgun
— pork
— bet the farm/ranch
— bought the farm
— the buck stops here
— rain check
— lemon

To see our other American slang video, click here:

To see our baseball idioms videos, click here:
To see our videos on British slang, click here:

We’re back with some more slang expressions today.
I have some American slang words and colloquial expressions here and I’m going to test Vicki with them.
And you can play along with me.
I’m Vicki and I’m British
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And we’re going to see if I know what some American expressions mean.
You did very well last time, but I think that’s because you’ve lived with me for more than twenty years.
Is this my prize?
Stop. You’ll have to get them right before see the prize.
Let’s get started then.
Oh yes, this is one my kids always used.
Riding shot gun. OK, if you have a car, there’s the driver of the car and then sitting next to them is the passenger.
In Britain.
All right, sitting next to them is the passenger.
In America.
And that seat… the person riding in that seat is riding shot gun. Is that right?
That’s exactly right. When a family would get into a car, one of the kids would shout out “I call shot gun’. That means they want to sit in that front passenger seat. Now this comes from the old west.
Oh right.
When the stage coaches took money and people and parcels all across the country. To protect whatever was in the stage coach, sitting next to the driver was a guy with a shot gun. He was riding shot gun.
To ride shot gun means to ride in the front passenger seat of a car or truck.
Oh, here’s one that’s fun.
Ooo. Pork. Well, of course literally pork is the meat that we get from a pig. But in American English, it has another meaning in American politics. It’s like.. um… it’s like a bribe that you add to a bill to get politicians to vote for it.
Very good. What happens is a legislator in the senate or the house of representatives, or one of our state legislatures is asked to vote for a specific bill to become law. And the legislator might say, ‘What’s in it for my district, for the people I represent?’ And so something will get added to the bill which costs more.
So the bill gets more and more expensive because of the pork.
And sometimes people won’t vote for it because it has too much pork.
Yes, and it benefits just a few instead of everybody.
Pork is a bad thing in American politics. What happens is legislators, those are the people who have the power to make laws, increase the money that’s spent on projects in their districts. They usually do it to get more votes but it means that government money isn’t shared fairly.
Here you go.
Bought the farm. I’m not sure if I know what this means. Erm. I know the expression ‘bet the farm’. And if you bet the farm then you bet everything you own. Usually on a very risky venture – a very risky bet. So you quite probably lose everything. Um. So does the farm represent all the belongings of a family or something?
Well, your explanation for ‘bet the farm’ is exactly correct, but ‘bought the farm’ means something very different.
What’s that?
Well, this expression was developed by American pilots in the second world war. When an aircraft would sadly crash in the ground they would say the pilot bought the farm.
The piece of ground where the pilot landed was the burial plot that he bought.
Now this followed from British pilots, also in the second world war, who said that when an aircraft crashed that the pilot ‘bought it’.
And we still say that in British English – ‘He bought it” and it’s an informal euphemism for ‘He died’.
If you bet the farm on something, you make a risky bet. For example, the company bet the farm on the new product and lost. But if someone ‘bought the farm’, it means they were killed. For example, his plane went down and he bought the farm.’
In British English, we might say ‘He bought it’ and it also means he was killed.
Oh, here’s a fun one.
Ooo. ‘Pass the buck’. Well, first of all, a buck is a dollar in American English. But that’s not what it is here, is it? No, if you pass the buck, then you avoid accepting responsibility that you should accept. So perhaps there’s a decision that was made, and someone has to accept the blame or say ‘I’m responsible’, but if you pass the buck you say “oh, they’re responsible. It had nothing to do with me.”
Right, no have you head the expression, ‘The buck stops here.’
Yes. I think it was said by an American President. Roosevelt?
Close. His successor, Harry Truman, the President from April 1945 to January of 1953, famously said, ‘The buck stops here’, meaning ‘I take full responsibility’.
If you pass the buck, you don’t accept full responsibility for something. For example, ‘It’s your fault so don’t try to pass the buck’. If someone says ‘The buck stops here’ it means they accept full responsibility. For example, ‘It’s my job to make this decision. The buck stops here’.
We should have more politicians who don’t pass the buck these days. It would be very good.
I agree.
And next… Oh this is one of my favorites.
A rain check. Erm. It’s a baseball idiom and we’ve made some other videos about American baseball idioms. I’ll put the link there. If there’s a baseball game and it rains during the game so they have to stop play, then you get a rain check, which is like a ticket to another game.
Well, that’s very close. The rain check is actually part of the ticket, so if the game goes on, when people leave the stadium, they still have the raincheck because they still have their original ticket. When I was a kid, I would collect rainchecks from people who were leaving the stadium. All the kids did. And at the end of the summer, we would trade them to see who could collect the most complete set of rainchecks.
But most of the time, you don’t use it like this now. It has another meaning in American English. If I ask you do to something, like ‘Do you want to come to the movies?” and you say, ‘Oh, I’d love to but I’m busy tonight. Can I take a raincheck?’, it would mean, can we do it again at a later date? Yeah?
Yes, and it also is used in advertising and in stores. If a product is advertised at a sale price and you go to the store to get it and they’re sold out, you can get a rain check.
So what does that mean?
It means you can come back later to the store, when it’s back in stock, and buy it for the original sale price.
So you get the lower price.
Good deal.
A rain check has several meanings in American English. It can be a ticket that will get you into another baseball game if the first game is cancelled. It can be a promise to sell something at a low sale price. And we also use raincheck to refuse an invitation, but say we might accept it later. For example, ‘Do you want to come out tonight?’ ‘I can’t tonight, but can I have a raincheck?’
This is very interesting.
A lemon. Erm. Well, of course a lemon is a citrus fruit, a yellow fruit. Erm, but that’s not its only meaning in American English. If something is not working well, if it’s not fit to do the job it was supposed to do, then it’s a lemon.
If a product is badly made and doesn’t work the way it should, it’s a lemon. For example, ‘This car you sold me is a lemon! Give me my money back.’
And in fact, in almost every state in America, there is now a lemon law that allows you to return a car within a few days after you bought it if it’s not working very well.
I think we might use this phrase in British English now too. I’m not sure. So have I won a prize again?
Yes, I suppose so.
Why ‘I suppose so’? I did really well.
Pretty well.
A chocolate brownie.
A vegan chocolate brownie. You’ll love it.
It’s a good prize!
Hey, if you liked this video, please share it with a friend and give it a thumbs up.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. See you soon! Bye!

Practice Speaking English

Speaking English Challenge – Be in a YouTube Video

This is your invitation to practice speaking English with us and appear in one of our videos!

Make a short video where you’re speaking in English, and we’ll share it with the world.

Here’s how it works:
1. You make a short video of yourself speaking – just a few sentences. Tell us who you are and what you love doing.
2. You upload the video and send us a link where we can download it.
3. We put your videos into one longer video that we publish on our channel.


Keep your video short – just a few sentences is fine. Tell us:
1. Who you are:
What’s your name? Where are you from?
2. What you love doing:
Maybe you love your job. Or perhaps you

If you have a YouTube channel, post your video there as unlisted or public (not private) and send us the link. The deadline is Monday March 9th, 2020.
Please check the video for Vicki’s email address or use the contact form on our website:

Here are links to some videos our viewers sent us in previous years:

It’s not easy to find ways to practice speaking in English and this is your chance! We can’t wait to see your videos! Thank you so much!

Are you feeling brave?
We hope so because we have a speaking challenge for you.
We’re going to make another SEVY awards video.
A SEVY is our version of the Oscars. They’re awards for students who rise to a speaking challenge.
SEVY stands for Simple English Videos YES!
Or Simple English Videos YAY!
Here’s how it works. You record a short video of yourself speaking English and send us the link.
Then we download them and put them together in one long video that we publish on our channel.
And share for the world to see.
It’s a great way for you to practice speaking English.
And to get to know other people in the Simple English Videos family.
We love seeing you and learning more about you.
OK, so are you ready for this year’s topic?
We want you to answer this question:
What do you love doing?
Maybe you love your job?
Or perhaps there’s a sport you like playing.
Or a hobby you enjoy.
Maybe it’s something you do with your family or a friend?
Whatever it is, tell us about it in a few sentences.
Perhaps we need some examples.
Hi I’m Vicki and I’m British and this is my kitchen. I love cooking! I think I’ll make some onion soup today.
Hi I’m Jay from Philadelphia and I’m an amateur radio operator, sometimes called a ham radio operator. And I love talking to people all around the world. This is WA2UAR. Listening.
If you want some more inspiration, I’ll put links to previous SEVY award videos in the description below.
You can watch videos that other people have sent us in the past. They’re really good!
And if you want to put a picture or two in your video, that’s awesome.
We can’t wait to learn what you love doing.
OK, some filming tips. Remember to make sure the camera is horizontal when you shoot, and not vertical.
It should be landscape, not portrait.
And this is important. No music please.
We need to make sure we have copyright permissions for any music we use.
And if any other people appear in your video, make sure you have their permission too.
OK. The next thing is how to get it to us. If you have a YouTube channel, upload your video there.
Make sure to post it as an unlisted or public video, not a private video.
If it’s private, we can’t see it!
Then send the link to this address.
This is me! I’ll email you back to confirm I’ve received it.
And if you don’t have a YouTube channel, it’s no problem.
Just write to me and we’ll work out another way for you to send it.
OK, are you ready for your deadline?
It’s Monday, March 9th.
That’s not long.
It’s just 10 days.
So get your cameras out and get busy!
Remember. Keep the video short and simple. Just a few sentences is fine.
And if it’s good, you might win a SEVY.
We can’t wait to see your videos. Have fun everyone, and see you soon!

The passive voice in English

8 Things We Love about Spain – Passive Voice

Learn 8 things we love about Spain while we quiz you about the passive voice in English.

We’ll show you how we use the passive voice in spoken English and answer questions like:
– How do we form passive structures?
– When do we use passives?
– Are passives more common in written English?
– What verbs are often used in the passive form?
– How can passives sound more elegant?
– Is ‘be’ the only verb we use in passive structures?
– What does ‘have something done’ mean?

And along the way you’ll see some of the fun things we loved about Spain like the sugar packets, the orange crushers and the wonderful child friendly culture.

To see our video on ‘have something done, click here.

The passive voice in English

Here are 8 things we love about Spain.
Can you guess what they are?
We’ll tell you all about them in this video.
And we’re also going to quiz you about the passive voice in English.
Most English sentences are organized like this one. They start with the person or thing that does the action.
So ‘we’ is the subject and it comes first. Sentences like this are active voice.
But it’s not the only way to organize sentences. Sometimes the thing that receives the action can be the subject. And then we use the passive voice.
Here’s your first task. We’re going to tell you about our trip to Spain and you have to spot the passive form.

The first thing we love about Spain is the breakfasts.
The weather is lovely so we often go out and have a tostada.
That’s a piece of toast with jam.
Or ham and cheese, or tuna. Whatever you want.
And the coffee’s good too. And the sugar!
Some of the packets are printed with famous sayings and quotations.
We liked trying to work out what they meant in English and practicing our Spanish.

Did you spot this sentence? The verb is passive.
The active version would look like this.
But we’re not interested in who printed the packets, so the passive voice is very natural here.
That’s the important thing about passives. We use them when we don’t know who does something, or if they’re not important.
The focus is on the action.
Yeah, the action – not who did it.
But we can say who did it if we want. Let’s see an example.

Another thing we love about Spain is Almeria. That’s the city we visited last fall.
It’s on the southeast coast and it has a port, a beach and a castle.
The castle was built in the 10th century by the Moors.
The city has a beautiful old town with lots of historic buildings, but there aren’t many tourists.
Most people work in agriculture and farming. A lot of Europe’s fruit and vegetables are grown here.

We had a special reason for going to Almeria though. My grandson is there.
In fact he was born there.
You’ll see him later. But first some grammar.
With passives, if we need to say who did an action, we use the word ‘by’.
So this castle was built by the Moors.
A question. Do most passive sentences contain the word ‘by’? No. Only about 20% do. That’s because the focus is on what happened – not who did it.
Two more examples.
Notice the form. We use the verb ‘be’ and the past participle of the main verb.
These two sentences are present tense.
To switch to a different tense, we change the tense of the verb ‘be’.
Forming passives is normally straightforward.
Knowing when to use them can be tricky though.
But you know some already. For example, which sentence is correct here? It’s this one.
‘Was born’ is the passive form of the verb ‘bear’.
The active would be ‘His mother bore him’, which sounds really weird.
And there are other verbs that you hear a lot in the passive form.
See if you can spot one.

Here’s something I didn’t expect to find in Spain. There are a lot of Chinese convenience stores.
They sell all kinds of things and they seem to be open all hours of the day.
Most of the things they sell are made in China and they’re really cheap.
There were some things we’d forgotten to pack.
Like the plug adaptors for our toothbrushes.
We found them here.

Did you spot the passive form? It was the verb ‘make’.
You’ll often hear it in questions too.
And I have another verb.
Let’s see it.

There’s a Spanish vegetable soup that we love.
It’s called Gazpacho and it’s served cold.
Very cold.
But you can buy it America.
Yeah, but in the US they add sugar.
It’s much nicer in Spain.

‘Call’ is another verb you’ll often hear in the passive form.
If you don’t know the name of something you can say ‘What’s this called?’ It’s a useful question when you’re learning English.
Some very common phrases contain passives.
And sometimes the passive voice just sounds better.
What do you mean?
Let’s see some examples.

Another thing I love about Spain is the tapas.
Tapas are small plates – small dishes of food.
They’re served in bars so when you order a drink, it comes with one or two dishes.
Tapas are sold all over Spain but in Almeria they’re special because there are big menus to choose from.
What about those menus though? Could you find things you liked?
Ummm, sometimes, but they had a lot of meat and fish and that was difficult for me because I’m vegan.
Luckily I’m NOT vegan so I loved the tapas!
I thought the wine was wonderful, though.
Ah! That’s the next one!
We both love red wine and one of our favourite grapes is tempranillo.
It’s used to make Ribera and Rioja wines.
Our local market had big barrels of it.
And even better, we could try it first to see if we liked it.

Tapas is the subject of the first sentence here, and the second.
If we made the second sentence active, we’d have to change the subject and that would sound awkward.
Another example. We start with a passive verb here and continue with an active one. Sometimes mixing active and passive verbs let’s us keep the same subject, so it sounds better.
One more example. First we have the active voice, then the passive.
It wouldn’t sound so good if we just used the active voice.
With a passive verb, we can carry on talking about tempranillo.
So sometimes the passive voice sounds more elegant.
It can sound more formal though.
It’s more common in written English and you’ll often find it in technical writing and legal documents.
OK, I have another question. We form passives with the verb ‘be’, but are there any other verbs we use? Yes!
See if you can spot one.

My favourite thing about Spain is the child-friendly culture. It’s a lovely place to bring up children. Whenever we went out with my grandson, we were stopped by strangers in the street.
They all wanted to talk to him and tell us how wonderful he was.
And when we went into shops, he got given little gifts, like stickers or sweets.
He was given lots of candy.
And the funny thing is, he’s only one so he doesn’t actually know what sweets are. His Mum and Dad don’t let him eat sugar.
So what happens to the candy. Do they it throw it away?
Oh no! I think it all gets eaten. His dad likes sweets.

Did you spot the verb ‘get’? ‘Be’ is the standard verb we use, but in spoken English, we often use ‘get’ instead. These sentences mean the same thing, but the first one is more likely to be spoken.
You heard another example. Notice that we need a passive here because we don’t actually know who eats the candy. We have our suspicions though. We’re watching you Tom!
OK, I have another question. Are ‘be’ and ‘get’ the only verbs we use in passive structures?
No, they aren’t.
There’s another verb with passive characteristics.

Jay found a new toy to play with in Spain.
Yeah! A lot of Spanish supermarkets have machines like this.
The oranges get crushed by the machine and the juice comes out at the bottom.
So you don’t have to squeeze your oranges yourself. You can have them squeezed for you. It’s so cool.

We heard another example of the verb get. We often use passive forms to describe technical processes like this.
But what about this example. We could have bought the oranges, taken them home and squeezed them ourselves, but we didn’t. We had them squeezed for us.
The verb ‘have’ has a special meaning here. We use it to talk about a service that’s performed, and again it emphasizes the process and not who does it.
We’ve made another video about ‘have something done’.
I’ll put the link here and you can check it out.
Why not watch it next?
Yes, because it’s time for us to say good-bye.
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.

top comedy sketches

2019 Rewind – top comedy sketches

Come and join us on a trip down memory lane. Join us on a trip down memory lane and review some of our top comedy sketches from 2019. You can laugh and learn English at the same time.

We’ll also plan the videos we want to make in 2020 and you can let us know your thoughts too. What would you like to see?

This video is longer than normal because we’ll look back at our favorite English comedy sketches. Play along with Jay and see if you can name them. (You might beat Jay!)

We’re publishing this video as a premiere, so if you’re watching at 1 pm New York Time on December 31st, Jay and Vicki will both be live in the chat, responding to questions and comments. The great thing about a premiere is we can chat in real time!

Hello everyone. I’m Vicki
And I’m Jay.
And welcome to our 2019 review video.
We’re publishing a little early this week, because we wanted to catch the end of the year.
And wish you all a very happy 2020.
Every year we look back on what we’ve done, and look ahead to the next year.
And make plans.
So come and join us because you can help.
Thank you all so much for your support in 2019.
And a big welcome to all our new subscribers.
A warning before we begin. This is going to be a much longer video than normal, so you might want to get a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable.
We’re going to be looking at lots of the comedy sketches we made this year.
And we’re going to play a game.
Yes, I’m going to show you a clip and you have to name the video it came from. What language point were we talking about?
Well this sounds like fun. You can play along too.
OK, Let’s roll the first clip.

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

I don’t know what we were teaching but I remember we had a lot of fun shooting it!
It was a parody of a cold medication commercial.
A parody is when you copy the style of something for comic effect.
And you don’t know what language point we were teaching?
Something about steel pans?
No. It was vocabulary for talking about illnesses and sickness.
There has to be a better way to cure a cold than that steel pan.
How’s your headache?
I’ve recovered. OK, give us another clip.

Do we have a meeting with Kathy, today?
Yes, this afternoon.
Oh, what time is it? I can’t be late again.
Oh yes. She was furious last time.
When is it?
Let’s see. Three fifteen.
Three fifty. I’ll set an alarm for 3.40 so I won’t be late. What?
Oh nothing. See you there!
See you there.

You’re so mean to me!
Yes. The meeting was at 3.15, but when I said 3.50, you didn’t correct me!
I must have misheard you.
Right. I know what the language point was though.
It was about the pronunciation of numbers that people often confuse, like fifteen and fifty.
Correct! OK, let’s see if you get the next one.

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

I have no idea what we were teaching but I recognize the argument.
We have different opinions about the temperature in our house.
65 degrees is good. I’m right, aren’t I?
And you don’t know what we were teaching?
I’ll give you another clue. This clip came from the same video.

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

I’m the victim of reverse psychology – and I still don’t know the language point.
It was the video we made about how we disagree.
Then how would I know. We never disagree!
That’s true because I’m always right.
Give me an easy one now.
OK, this is really easy.

Now settle down children. We’re going to do some grammar. Who threw this sock?
Jay did.
Vicki did.
Whose sock is this?
It belongs to him. miss.

Who, whose and who’s. I knew that one!
Well I should hope so. The words were on the screen.
I liked your wig. You should wear it more often.
Thank you.
It covers your face.
Speaking of wigs, I have another one for you.

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

Do you know what we were teaching?
I’m not sure.
We were looking at adjectives.
I was going to say that, because we said reasonable, excellent, amazed…
‘Amazed’ is interesting because we have amazed and amazing and they’re both adjectives.
Some adjectives can end with -ing OR -ED.
I have another clip for you about that.

Imagine you’ve found a great book. It’s so good you can’t stop reading it.
You can’t put it down. What would you say about it.
I’m very interested in this book.
I’m very interesting in this book.
We use interested to say how we feel. We use interesting to describe the person or thing that causes the feeling.
This is a very interesting book.
And I’m very interesting in this book.
This is a book about me.

That was about the adjectives interesting and interested
Saying ‘I’m very interesting’ is a very common mistake and it sounds funny in English.
But we shot that scene in bed when we were much younger.
We made a series of three videos this year called ‘how good is your English’, and they were all quizzes about common mistakes.
And sometimes we used clips from old videos.
Yes. That series was very popular.
I think we should make some more quizzes like that next year.
I’ll put it on our list. I’m actually thinking of writing a book about common mistakes.
Hey, what about your book? Tell everyone how it’s going.
Mmm. Not well. I’m afraid I’ve been slow!
I think you were overambitious.
I started out wanting to tackle English grammar – which is an enormous topic.
You were trying to do too much
Yeah, I just need to rethink and work on smaller segments.
But you’re still going to write a book?
Oh yes. So please stay tuned everyone.
And we’ve had a lot of other things happening this year so we’ve been busy. Like we decorated the house and we went on vacation.
Speaking of which, I have another clip.

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.

I know this one. It was about funny things about England. England’s a very strange country.
But what grammar point were we looking at?
I don’t know. I’m the video guy. Not the language guy.
It was comparative adjectives.
And we went to Spain and shot some video there too.
That video’s in the works. First I thought it should be about adverbs but then I thought it should be about passives.
What would you like most?
Tell us in the comments.
So what’s next?
It’s very short, so pay attention.

Oh, do you need a hand?
Well it’s quite heavy.
Oh, all right.

I know this. It was the ‘quite’ video and how we use the word differently.
You’re right.
I’m American so for me quite means ‘very’, but for you…?
It can mean ‘very’ in British English, but often it means fairly.

What did you think of my report?
It’s quite good.
Did you want to make some changes then?
No, it’s quite good. You can send it to everybody now.
But it needs to be VERY good.
It is. It’s good to go.

Quite is the trickiest word for me to understand in America.
We used to misunderstand one another a lot with this word.
Well, words are very interesting things.

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

I don’t know what video that was but I’m really confused now.
It was about prototype theory and how we grade words in categories.
Oh yes. Words don’t have clear boundaries.
Yes. OK, see if you can guess this one.

Help! Help!
Super Agent Awesome!
That is me. You mess with the lady, you mess with me.
Oh no!
Oh yeah!
Thank you Super Agent Awesome. If it hadn’t been for you, he’d have gotten away.
If I’d been faster, he wouldn’t have caught me.
If I hadn’t stopped him, he would have escaped.

I know this one – the third conditional.
And you saw Super Agent Awesome and his Dad.
A lot of you asked if Super Agent Awesome is our grandson.
And he is.
He’s been in a lot of our videos recently, because we made a series about British and American words.
We published a lot of them in the last two months because of COPPA – that’s the Child Online Privacy Protection Act.
It’s a law and its goals are really good.
Under COPPA, you can’t track children online. In fact you can’t collect any data about them without their parents agreeing first.
It had big implications for YouTube. Officially you can’t sign up to YouTube and watch videos unless you’re 13, but in practice, a lot of kids did.
And YouTube tracked what they watched, so it could deliver more videos they’d like, and also deliver advertising that targeted them.
So then the FTC got involved.
The FTC is the Federal Trade Commission. It’s a government agency that protects consumers
They said hey YouTube, you can’t track kids. That’s illegal and YouTube agreed to pay a penalty of $170 million.
And then, for 2020, YouTube changed its rules. For each video that’s uploaded, you now have to say if it’s directed at children.
At first we thought, this isn’t relevant for us, because we make videos for adults, not children. But when we read the first guidelines, we were confused.
They had a list of things that could appeal to kids. For example, music.
We love music.
And play acting.
We act out a lot of comedy sketches so you can learn English grammar and vocabulary in context.
And child actors.
Usually we have adults on screen but sometimes Super Agent Awesome appears.
And they also listed games.
We love games too.
It was worrying. It seemed that if we said a video was for adults but the FTC said it appeals to kids, we could get fined $42,500.
$42,500 per video!
We just couldn’t risk that!
So we thought, crikey. We should stop making videos until we understand what this means.
But then, just before Christmas, the FTC gave clearer guidelines.
It doesn’t matter if some children watch our videos as long as they are designed for adults. So we can carry on using music and acting out scenes and playing games – just like before.
It was like an early Christmas present because it meant we could carry on making videos.
Yeah. So are you ready for another clip?
Do you remember this?

Kerfuffle. I… I heard this years ago from Vicki and it really confused me. It means something that’s very, very difficult. So, if
something is very complicated, it’s a kerfuffle to do.
Ah, nice try. No. No, it’s when there’s when there’s a lot of noise and activity and commotion and for no good purpose. It, it’s…
There’s lot of disturbance and making a fuss and getting excited about things. So like when Jay’s cooking a meal in the kitchen,
there’s often a lot of kerfuffle. There’s a lot of activity and commotion but nothing much gets done.
I always thought it was because I had so many things happening at once. I had rice here, I had water here, I had pasta here. That’s a
kerfuffle, right?
That is a kind of kerfuffle when you’re in charge. A kerfuffle is when there’s a lot of noise and activity and excitement. And it’s an
unnecessary fuss. We might ask, ‘what’s all the kerfuffle about?’ And it’s like asking ‘what’s all the fuss about?’

I know that one. It was about British English and you tested me on slang expressions.
You’re right.
My British English was quite good.
He means quite in the British sense.
I was just kerfuffling along.
You can’t use kerfuffle like that. It’s not a verb.
Hmm. Now didn’t I test you on American slang?
Yeah, we made two videos on British slang and one on American.
Then we need to make another American one next year.
Write it down!
Here’s your next one.

Oh, this is a good one. Um, John Hancock. And it means, I think, your signature. So you might put your John Hancock on a document.
Exactly. But do you know who John Hancock was?
Oh, I think so. I think he was the first person to sign the declaration of independence. So he was the first traitor in America.
Well actually, he was president of the continental congress right here in Philadelphia in 1776. And when the declaration was first printed, he signed his name so large, the legend goes, so that King George III could see it without his spectacles.
So he was the first traitor to commit treason and betray his country.
He was a great American patriot.

We have a different view of American history.
Yes, I think they taught some of the stories a little differently in English schools.
We live in Philadelphia and it’s an important place in American history.
I think we should make some videos about it because we can show you some of the sights.
And it could help people who are taking the US citizenship exam.
And it’s interesting too.
Then put it on your list with a question mark and let us know what you think.
OK. Next one.

I need to know about my job interview. What questions are they going to ask me?
Oh this is interesting. Well I never!
Is it good news?
Yes. Do you have shares in Acme Corp?
Well buy some.
I can’t. I just gave you all my money.
That’s a shame. They’re going up tomorrow. Well, that’s it then.
But you haven’t told me about my job interview.
Just let make a note of that. Buy Acme Corp ….

I remember. We had fun shooting that one!
Yeah, but what grammar point was it?
And you were a fraud. You didn’t answer any of my questions.
I wasn’t a fraud.
You took my money.
My crystal ball may have been faulty. The video was about going to, will and the present continuous.
So how to talk about the future.
OK, let’s have another clip.

What’s your favourite room in your home?
My bedroom.
And why’s that?
I like it.
And is it a large room?
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.

You were a terrible candidate
That came from a series we made about the IELTS exam.
We made it with Keith from IELTS Speaking Success.
Have we finished the series?
We’ve done part one and part two but Keith and I would like to make another couple of videos about part three.
We should do that. A lot of you have written to us and told us they’ve been very helpful.
It’s on my list.
English exams can be very stressful.
And we love it when we can help.
There’s a shot at the start of those videos where it looks like you and Keith are in the same room, but in fact he was in Spain and you were here in Philadelphia.
We used a green screen, so I could put me in his shot. It worked fine.
Green screens are terrific
We use our green screen a lot because then we can put different backgrounds behind us.
It’s quite big, but it just about fits in our living room.
You know another funny thing happened to us this year. A local television station made a video about us.
Oh yeah. We live on Arch Street in Philadelphia in a little row home.
That’s a little terraced house in British English.
And channel 10 moved in just up the street, into a big new skyscraper, so I welcomed them to our street.
He was very cheeky. He sent them an email saying welcome to the new kids on the block from the old video production studio on Arch Street.
I was playing around because Simple English Videos is tiny. It’s just Vicki and me, and Channel 10 is enormous.
It’s owned by the Comcast empire. But they watched some of our videos and then brought their news cameras along to make a news story about us.

In a world filled with millennials making money by posting videos online (Hi. Hi.) You can consider them above average. (Hello everybody. I’m Vicki and I’m British. And I’m Jay and I’m American.) A couple who spent decades carving out their own careers found a new way of showcasing their wealth of knowledge. And now they’ve got a worldwide reach. (Oh no, what happened?) And now in their sixties and seventies, Jay Silber and his wife Vicki Hollett are senior YouTubers and they teach people how to speak English properly on their channel called Simple English Videos. (So I said two nice things here.) For now they’re just happy helping new English speakers sound their best.
People tell us how we’ve changed their lives, how we’ve helped them, and in fact there’s a long queue, to borrow a British English term, developing now of people who want us to be their grandparents.
Of course. You’re lovable.
How awesome is that?
Well Jay has a career creating instructional videos and even reported for NBC 10 many years ago. Vicki has a background in English speaker training and writing textbooks, so you see people of all backgrounds are getting in on YouTube.

They took up the angle of us being old, but young at heart.
Yeah, I like the young at heart, but I’m not sure how I feel about the old bit, but it was fun to have them here.
I liked the boxing clip they used. I didn’t have to go to the gym that day because I worked out on the set.
That came from this video.
Now before we start the conference, there are some people whom we must thank. There’s Mr. Jones, who sent the invitations and Mrs. Smith, who organized the accommodation. And then there’s Mr. Peters, whom you will meet later when he will explain the conference schedule. And then there’s something green in your teeth.
Did I get that green thing out?
And I know the language point too. It was about when we use who and whom.
If you find who and whom hard you’re not alone.
Lots of native speakers find it difficult too.
I’ll put a link here.
OK, next clip.
You’ll know this one.

I can’t come home yet. I’m literally up to my ears in work.
It was so funny, we literally died laughing.
I’m leaving.
No wait. It’ll literally only take me two seconds to get to you. See! Literally two seconds.

OK that one was about how we use the word literally.
And possibly overuse it.
But it’s very common these days.
We had some really interesting comments on that video.
We get lots of really interesting comments on our channel. And thank you so much to everyone who writes to us. It’s really motivating.
Someone wrote a comment last week saying we should also make a video about the word basically.
Oh that’s interesting, because that’s another word that some people think is overused.
We try to respond to all the comments we get, but it’s become harder this year because there are a lot of them.
But we read them all and we really appreciate them.
And we love it when you give us ideas.
I’ll put the word basically on our list and research it.
So basically we’ll try to make a video about that!
And please keep sending us ideas. It means a lot to us.
And telling us what you like helps us to plan.
Yes. Some of our most popular videos this year were these.

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.
They pronounced it very well.
This word is like work out for your mouth. It gets your face muscles moving.

Have we made a video about that ‘th’ sound yet?
No, but it’s on my list. We know you want it and we’ll try to make it.
The YouTube algorithm seems to love videos like that and it recommends them to lots of people.
And we love it when you recommend tricky words. We’ve had such good suggestions in the comments.
People sometimes wonder how we make those videos.
What happens is we go to a place that’s popular with foreign tourists.
We’re lucky because people from all over the world come to Philadelphia.
We set up our camera in front of the Art Museum.
That’s a popular tourist destination because the Rocky statue is nearby.
Then we put up a sign that says if you’re a non-native English speaker, please stop and talk to us.
Then we explain what we’re doing and the fun begins.
But sometimes we wait for ages and nobody talks to us.
But if we get one person to stop then other people see that we’re having fun and then they stop too.
Yeah, it’s very unpredictable, but we’ll try to make more of these videos.
It has to be a nice sunny day with good weather. Not too hot but not too cold. The summer is best.
And we’ve met such nice people.
Thank you to everyone who has stopped and talked to us. We really appreciate it.
OK, Next clip.

Hey, it’s looking good in here.
Yes, I’ve been getting the room ready for Kathy’s seminar.
You got all the chairs out.
Yes, I had to find eighteen of them.
And what’s this? Slides?
Yeah, I made a PowerPoint presentation for Kathy.
You’ve been working very hard.
You must be tired. Have you had lunch yet?
No, I’ve got to tell Kathy the room’s ready.
I can do that for you. Why don’t you go and take a break? You deserve it.
Well, thank you very much. That’s very nice of you.
You’re welcome.

What were we teaching?
Was it how to thank people?
And what happens next? I can’t remember, but I’m sure something bad happens to me.
I’ll show you.

How did Kathy’s presentation go?
Oh very well. How was your lunch?
Oh Kathy, how did you like the PowerPoint slides?
They were excellent.
Oh good.
Thanks for making them, Vicki.
I’m so glad you liked them.
And thanks for getting the room ready. It was great.
My pleasure.
It’s nice to work with someone who’s so helpful and supportive. I really appreciate it.
But I made the PowerPoint slides and I got the room ready.
Yeah, thanks for doing that.

You got me again! You’re always getting me into trouble or putting me down!
Some of you have asked me when I am going to get Vicki back for all the trouble she gets me in and I’m working on it.
It’s never going to happen. Dream on! OK, next clip.

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

I love that sketch but I’ve no idea what language point we were teaching.
It was the second conditional.
Of course. If we left at 2:30, Kathy would go crazy.
That’s it – the imaginary situation. There was another funny sketch in that video, so I’ll put a link to all our conditional videos where you can watch it.
We’ve done the zero, first, second and third conditionals now. Are we finished?
Officially yes, but I’m wondering about adding another video about mixed conditionals.
They’re tricky. Let us know in the comments if you’d like to see a video about them next year.
Yeah. OK, we’re near the end now and I’ve been saving my favourite sketch for last
Your favourite?
Uhuh. It’s very long, so I’m just going to show you part of it.

Hey, I have a meeting with management in five minutes.
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.

Oh no. I know what’s going to happen now. You’re going to give me such bad advice.
But what was the grammar point? It was a really useful one.
I can’t remember.
I’ll give you another clue.

I’ve met all my sales targets. In fact, I’ve just won the top sales person award.
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.
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.

You’re going to get me in trouble again, but I know the grammar point now. It’s the present perfect.
You’re right. Good job. When we’re making videos, Jay’s focused on the video production and I’m focused on the English so that’s why he doesn’t remember a lot of these. But you did well there.
It was a funny video.
You were very gullible.
I believed everything you said. I should never trust you, but next year, perhaps I’ll get my own back.
So keep watching folks.
So 2019 has come to an end. Thank you so much for all your support and we hope you’ll stick with us in 2020.
We wish you all a very happy new year and we want to help you take your English to new and wonderful heights.
We have a list of ideas to start us off, but please add your ideas for videos you’d like to see in the comments.
Now, how should we finish this video.
We need Super Agent Awesome.
He’s so amazing at sign off messages.
Yeah, when I’m working with him. I never know what he’s going to say, but he’s always so funny.
Then let’s let him sign us off today. Bye everyone.

Bye now.
Bye…wait! We almost forgot something really important.
The subscribe button.
Oh. Could you tell them about that?
Yes. Hi ladies and gentlemen. Super Agent Awesome here. If you really like our videos and you want to stay informed on this channel, then hit the subscribe button below this video. It’s the red button. Do it in Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Did you hit it yet? Congratulations. You just subscribed and you’re a new member of Simple English Videos. And that’s the end of the video. We are about to say goodbye. Super Agent Awesome signing off. PEACE!

words that are hard to say

Words that are hard to say in American and British English

We’re looking at 9 words that are hard to say in British and American English.
• epitome
• vitamin
• pharaoh
• logically
• twelfth
• literally
• Connecticut
• phlegm
• guarantee

We talk about:
• silent letters
• the tricky English th sound
• syllable and word stress
• British and American differences
• /g/ and /w/ sounds
and lots, lots more.

To see our other videos on how to pronounce difficult words, click here:

What words do you find hard to pronounce in English?
Today we’re looking at some words our viewers have found difficult.
I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And helping us today are English students who come from other countries around the world.
English is their second language, or even their third or fourth language.
So we’re going to challenge them today.
We’ll ask them to pronounce some words our viewers sent us.
Let’s get cracking!
That one was really hard.
Yeah they’re all wrong!
The spelling is misleading.
Epitome has four syllables. Epitome.
She got it right!
What does epitome mean?
If something is the epitome of something, it means it’s a perfect example.
It’s quite a formal word.
For example, I am the epitome of a fashionable man. My clothes are the epitome of good taste.
Well, they’re the epitome of 1990’s fashion.
Humph! Say the word with us.
OK, next word.
They were all correct. Pronounce this word like them.
No they weren’t! They said vitamin. I say vitamin.
It’s a British and American difference.
Vitamin… vitamin.
Vitamins are substances in food that keep you healthy.
No, vitamins keep you healthy.
Say it with us.
Next word.
OK, lots of people found this hard.
Pharaoh, pharaoh.
The spelling is very confusing.
What is a Pharaoh?
It’s an ancient Egyptian ruler. The word has two syllables and the stress is on the first syllable.
Say it with our learners.
What’s next?
This was another request from our viewers.
Logical – ly.
OK, there are two things to know about this word. The first one is how to make that g sound. We say ‘dzh’.
Logic – logically.
It’s actually a d and a zh sound together. ‘dzh’.
And what’s the second thing to know?
How many syllables does it have? 3 or 4?
It has three syllables, not four.
Log-ic-all-ly – that’s wrong. Log-ic-ally – three syllables.
Say it with us.
OK, this next one is going to get your mouths moving.
It’s good exercise for your mouth muscles.
The thing is, there’s the cardinal number, twelve, and then there’s the ordinal number twelfth.
Twelfth is much more difficult to say.
Oh, what’s that? Twelfth.
It’s very hard.
So you’re going to make a L. /l/. Then you bring your bottom lip up to touch your top teeth /lf/ . And then you have to bring your tongue forward to make a th sound. Elfth – twelfth
Wow, they did really well!
Really well, because they did it fast and clearly. But when you’re practising, it’s best to do it slowly first so you can think about it.
Is there any way to make this easier?
Yes! There are a couple of ways to cheat. The first one is to drop the /f /and just say th.
We often say it like that when we’re speaking fast.
And what’s the other way to cheat?
In British English, you can drop the th and just say the f sound instead.
In parts of the UK, particularly around London, quite a few people say /f/ instead of /th/ these days.
He sounded great to me!
OK, next word.
They’re NEARLY right.
Yeah, they just need to change the word stress.
The main stress goes on ‘lit’.
We said this word a little differently. Did you notice?
For me it has four syllables. Li-te-ra-lly.
And for me it has three. Lite-ral-ly.
Our learners said it both ways.
Literally is a useful word and we’ve made another video about it.
I’ll put the link here.
Say it with our learners.
There’s a lot of regional variation in how we say some of these words in the UK.
That’s true in the US too.
Write and tell us what you say in the comments.
So what’s next?
This one is the name of an American state.
Ah, good guess, but that second C is silent.
They got it right!
It has four syllables. Conn-ect-i-cut
And in American English we flap the t sound in the middle, so it sounds like a fast d sound.
Say it with us.
Where is Connecticut?
It’s in New England, north of New York. And the state song is Yankee Doodle Dandy.
OK, what’s next?
This one’s funny.
Good guesses but wrong!
The spelling of this word is confusing.
Yeah. ‘ph’ of often pronounced /f/ in English.
Like the word photo, pharmacy, phone…
And the ‘g’ is silent here. But some of our learners got it.
Ph… phlegm.
They sounded unsure but they were right.
So what is phlegm.
It’s a thick substance that forms in our nose and throat when we have a cold.
Say it with us.
There are lots of silent letters in English.
Yep. Here’s another one.
Ah no!
This word is particularly tricky for Spanish speakers.
We have two different words: guarantee and warranty. G – guarantee and w – warranty
And they have similar meanings so what’s the difference?
One meaning of guarantee is a promise. Like Jay often arrives late for work and when I complain…
I say ‘I guarantee it won’t happen again.’
It’s a promise he never keeps.
And a warranty is a kind of promise too, but it has a more limited meaning.
A warranty is a written promise. If we buy a new washing machine, they might promise to repair it if it breaks down with a year.
That’s a kind of guarantee.
And the document they give us a a warranty.
Look at our mouth positions when we say the words.
Guarantee. Warranty.
Guarantee. Warranty.
When we say /w/, our lips are more rounded.
Yeah, but there’s another problem that students can have with this word. The spelling is misleading.
They’re not quite right.
The letter U is silent.
They got it.
Yeah. Say it with us.
OK, that’s it. but do you realize this video is part of a series?
We’ve made videos about other words that are hard to pronounce.
I’ll put a link to the playlist at the end of this video.
But now we’d like to thank all the English learners who helped us teach the words.
They were so nice to give us their time and such fun to work with.
If you’ve enjoyed this video why not share it with a friend?
They might enjoy it too.
Have a great weekend everyone and see you soon.

storytelling past continuous dog rescue stories

Storytelling, the past continuous and dog rescue stories

Watch 4 true dog rescue stories about puppies found on the streets of Manila and learn how their lives turned around. You’ll see sick little puppies transform into happy healthy dogs and learn how to tell a great story in English at the same time.

To tell a good story you’re going to need the past simple and the past continuous. The past simple is great for describing the main events in a story but the past continuous adds extra information that can bring a story to life.
It’s useful for setting the scene and describing the background, so it’s great for giving reasons, and explaining why things happened. And it can also explain the timing of events.
You can use it to describe:
– when actions happened – so actions that were going on around a point in time.
– things that were happening at the same time – simultaneous actions
– actions that got interrupted – long actions that were stopped by another shorter action
In short, the past continuous helps make stories better!

Everyone likes listening to a good story, but can you tell a good story?
Story telling is a really useful skill.
It gets you invited to lots of dinner parties.
And it’s useful at work too. Sometimes stories are a good way to explain why you want to do something.
So today we’re looking at a grammar structure that will help you tell a good story.The past continuous.
Also known as the past progressive.
And we have some great stories for you as well.
We have four special stories today.
They’re all about dogs and puppies, and they’re all set in Manila in the Philippines.
And they’re all true stories.
And very heart warming.
Let’s jump straight in and hear the first one.
See if you can spot examples of the past continuous.

Meet June. Today he’s a very happy dog, but his life used to be very different. Two years ago, when he was just a puppy, he was living on the streets of Manilla. He had wounds all over his body and he was drinking water from the ground.
People scared him and he didn’t like it when a dog catcher picked him up. But that was when his life turned around. He spent a month at the vet’s getting better and then he went home with Hazel, his new owner. Now he’s probably the most fashionable dog in Manila.

Past simple vs past continuous

Did you spot the past continuous?
I was just looking at the dog. He was so cute.
I know it’s hard to think about grammar when you’re focused on a story, but let’s see what happened.
Most of the time when we’re talking about things that happened in the past, we use the past simple.
It’s pretty straight forward. You add -ed to the main verb, you form the negative with didn’t and irregular verbs have special forms.
But we heard another past tense form too: the past continuous. We can use it to talk about actions that were in progress at a specific time in the past, so here it’s 2 years ago.
We form the past continuous with the past form of the verb be – so was or were – and then the -ing form of the main verb.
I have a question for you. Why do we say had here and not was having?
It’s because the verb have describes a state here, not an action. State verbs don’t normally have continuous forms. We’ve made another video about that if you’re interested.
I have another question.
Why do we use the past continuous when we’re telling stories? Why not use the past simple all the time?
Great question. The past simple works well when we want to list things that happened. But stories get more interesting when we use the past continuous too, so the past simple AND continuous.
Why’s that?
The past continuous brings stories alive. It adds extra information and helps us paint pictures in our mind. Let’s hear some more examples.

It was a busy day in Manila. The sun was shining and everyone was hurrying to work. Michael decided to take a different route to college, and something caught his eye.
A young puppy was limping along the road. He looked very sick and he was starving.
Michael found him some food and water, but he couldn’t afford to adopt him because he was supporting both himself and his younger brother through school.
So he turned to his friends for help. He posted a message on Facebook with a map of the dog’s location and asked everyone to share it.
The message made its way to the US where Geri picked it up. She contacted her friends in the Philippines and found someone to take Jay to the vet.
Jay was suffering from mange, a skin disease that made him lose his fur. He was always scratching because his skin was itchy, but not any more. Jay was adopted by Ninfa and just look at him now. What a bundle of lovely white fur and what a happy dog!

Hey that dog has the same name as me!
Yes, they called him Jay because apparently, in Chinese culture, the letter J is lucky.
He was a very lucky dog.
Indeed. But let’s look at how the we used the two past forms.

Storytelling and the past continuous

Notice how the story started. The sun was shining, everyone was hurrying to work. We often use the past continuous like this at the start of stories to set the scene. We use it to give the background and context for the story, and then when the action starts, we switch. For the events in the story we use the past simple.
But when we’re describing a scene, we use the past continuous, like this. The past continuous paints a picture of what things were like, so it’s very effective at the start of stories.
And another thing. Sometimes we want to give reasons and explain why something happened or didn’t happen. The past continuous is useful for that too. We use it to give context, so here we learn why Michael couldn’t adopt Jay. He was he was supporting himself and his brother through school.
Michael couldn’t afford to adopt Jay because he was supporting both himself and his younger brother through school.
Another example. Why did Jay lose his fur? It was because he was suffering from mange. So ‘he lost his fur’ is an event but we use the past continuous to give the background and explain why.
So the past continuous sets the scene and gives context to a story.
That’s a good way of thinking about it. Past simple for the events. Past continuous for the context and background.
And the past continuous can tell you about the timing of events.
What do you mean?
Well, let’s watch another example.

Erika was a stray dog that visited the parking lot outside Fernando’s office. She was super friendly and loved to be petted.
Every day, when Fernando was going into work, Erika was sitting outside, waiting to greet him. And when he was leaving at night she was there again, waiting to follow him to his car and watch him drive away.
Then one day, Erika showed up with a friend, Chance. Chance was very thin and he was suffering from mange. Fernando was worried about how sick he was. He knew he wouldn’t survive long on the streets, so he decided to take them both to the vet.
It was easy to persuade Erika to get into the car. She trusted him, but Chance was frightened. But by the end of the day, he’d relaxed. He seemed to know he was safe.
Fernando adopted both of them and today Chance is a very happy dog and a lot fatter. Sadly Erika passed away last year, but Chance still lives with Fernando and some of other stray dogs that Fernando has rescued.

So Erica has died.
Yeah. She had a special place in Fernando’s heart.
We know how he feels.
It’s tough when a dog dies. I still think of Carter all the time.
Carter was a dog we had that died.
Notice we have two actions happening at the same time here. We can use the past continuous for both actions and it shows they were happening simultaneously. That can be useful when you’re telling a story.
When we use the continuous form of a verb, it can express duration and repetition. So it indicates an action continued for a length of time, and possibly that it happened again and again. And that’s what we’re seeing here. Two actions happened simultaneously and also repeatedly. Fernando kept going to work and leaving and Erika was always there.
You could switch the word ‘when’ for ‘while’ in this sentence and it would mean the same thing. And you could also change the order of the two clauses and it would mean the same thing as well. These are two long actions that were happening at the same time.
So the past continuous adds information about timing. It shows an action had length and duration.
We’ll often use the past continuous for long actions and the past simple for short ones.
And that can be very useful for telling stories.
How come?
Sometimes long actions get interrupted or stopped by short ones.
We need another example. Let’s have our last story.

Nobody knows what happened to Bella. She was probably hit by a car while she was crossing the street.
When Lance and Anzhelika found her she was lying at the side of the road and she couldn’t move.
They took her to the vet but the news was bad. Bella had a spine injury and the vet said she would never walk again. So Lance and Anzhelika found a solution. Bella is mobile again and look at that smile!

What a great story!
She’s amazing.
It started so badly but then it had a happy ending.
And we had some great examples of the past continuous.
The long action here is ‘Bella was crossing the street’. And it was interrupted and stopped by a short action. She was hit by a car.
Notice we use the past continuous for the long action and the past simple for the short one.
This is another sentence where you could reverse the two clauses and the meaning would stay the same.
And also, you could change ‘while’ for ‘when’ here. But notice that you couldn’t say ‘while she was hit by a car’.
We can use ‘when’ with the short action or long action. But we only use ‘while’ with long actions.
Another example. The long action here was ‘lying’. When they found Bella they picked her up and took her to the vet, so the long action was interrupted or stopped by the short one. Past continuous – past simple.
I think we need a quick summary.
That sounds good.
OK, to tell a good story you’re going to need the past simple AND the past continuous. The past simple is great for telling the main events in a story but the past continuous adds extra information that can bring a story to life.
It’s useful for setting the scene and describing the background. So it’s great for giving reasons, and explaining why things happened.
And it also describes the timing of events.
You can use it to describe when actions happened – so actions that were going on around a point in time.
And to describe things that were happening at the same time – simultaneous actions
And to describe actions that got interrupted – long actions that were stopped by another shorter action
In short, the past continuous makes stories better!
We want to say thank you to all the lovely dog rescuers who have let us share their stories in today’s videos.
They were so inspiring.
If you’ve enjoyed them, please give this video thumbs up and share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss our future videos.
Bye everyone.

mayor pneumonia pronunciation

9 English words that are hard to say in British and American English

Does it drive you crazy that English words are pronounced differently from the way they’re spelt? Don’t worry, we can help.
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:
• jostle
• temperature
• mayor
• manoeuvre/maneuver
• despicable
• pneumonia
• pathetic
• tsunami
• ubiquitous

We talk about:
• silent letters
• the tricky English th sound
• syllable and word stress
• British and American differences
and lots, lots more.

To see our other videos on how to pronounce difficult words, click here.

We’re back with some more words that are difficult to pronounce in British English.
And in American English.
Are you ready to try them?
I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And all the people you’ll meet in this video come from lots of other countries.
English is their second, or third or even fourth language and we’re going to ask them to pronounce some tricky words.
So let’s get started!

Jostle pronunciation

Jos – jostle – so difficult!

There are two things to remember here. The word starts with ‘j’ – jostle.
So it’s a /d/ and ‘zh’ sound together- ‘j’, ‘j’.
And the letter t is silent. We write it but we don’t pronounce it.
So what does jostle mean?
If you push roughly against someone in a crowd, you jostle them.
You push or knock them.
When I get on the train in rush hour I get jostled.
Say it with our learners


OK, next word.

Temperature pronunciation


Ah nearly.
How many syllables does it have?


So it has three syllables. Temp-p(e)ra-ture
And temperature is the measurement in degrees of how hot or cold something is. For example, the temperature is about 80 degrees today.
He means it’s about 27 Celcius. In the US they still use Fahrenheit to measure temperature.
Yeah, I’m always really hot!
Say it with our learners.

Er, temperature.

What’s next?
OK, the next word is complicated.

Mayor pronunciation


That’s nearly right but it has a different vowel sound.


That’s better. We pronounce this word in different ways in the US. Some people say may-or with two syllables. And I say mayor, with one.
What is a mayor?
It’s a public official – the head of a city or town.
Like the Mayor of London.
May-or or mayor
You don’t pronounce the r sound at the end.
Yeah. Unless the next word starts with a vowel, there’s no R sound for me. Mare. Say it with our learners.

Erm, Mayor.

OK, next one.

Manoeuvre pronunciation

Manoeurvre. That one is French!
Manoeurvre. It’s a French word so…
Manoeurvre. French. Whatever.

They’re right, of course. It’s a French word we use in English but we say it differently.
We met one French learner who knew the pronunciation would be different and he had a guess at how we might say it in English.

Manovee? Manovee?

Great guess but he’s completely wrong!
You know, I think it’s easier to say this word if you’re NOT French.


They were good.
What does maneuver mean?
It’s a skillful or careful movement that we make.
For example, I’m very good at maneuvering our car into tight parking spots.
That’s true! He is!
Say it with us.
What’s next?

Despicable pronunciation


They’re almost right.
They just need to change the vowel sound in the middle. Despicable.


What does it mean?
Something that’s really bad and not moral is despicable.
A despicable crime.
A despicable person.
Say the word with us.
The next word’s hard. The spelling is misleading again.

Pneumonia pronunciation

Have a guess.
Er, pneumonia.
Pneumonia. Although I don’t know what’s that.
Pneum.. pneumonia.
Pneumon.. pneumonia.
Pnu..Pnue… Uh! Pneumonia.

Oh no, they’re all wrong.
It’s hard because the spelling is so different from the pronunciation.
The letter p should be silent.

Ah! Pneumonia.

They got it!
What is pneumonia?
It’s a serious illness that affects your lungs.
It makes it difficult to breathe. You know we say this word a little differently.
I say nju – there’s a little y sound. Pneumonia.
And I say nuu. Pneumonia.
Say it with our learners.

Pneumonia. Cool!

Next word.

Pathetic pronunciation

Pathetic. Pathetic.

The tricky thing here is the ‘th’ sound.
Yes, it’s not a /t/ sound. It’s ‘th’.


How far should your tongue stick out to make a th sound?
That’s a good question. You don’t want it going out too far – that’s silly – and you don’t want it back too far either or you’ll make a /t/ sound.
This is a good measure. Just touch your finger lightly with your tongue.
My tongue is down in the middle and I can feel its sides between the sides of my teeth. And I’m blowing air out. ‘th’, ‘th’. That does it! Say the word with our learners.


OK, next word.
Our learners were pretty good at this one.

Tsunami pronunciation


So is it ‘tsunaaami’ or ‘tsunahhhmi’?
It’s ‘tsunahhhmi’.
An ‘ah’ sound.
What’s a tsunami? It’s a huge wave in the sea caused by an earthquake.
It’s a Japanese word and it starts with a Japanese sound – tsu.
So a t sound quickly followed by s. tsu. tsu.
Then ‘nah’ then ‘me’. Say it with us.
Let’s have a really hard one now.

Ubiquitous pronunciation

Wow! Ubiquitous.
Ubiqui – ubiquitous.

It’s very hard!


They came very close!
What does ubiquitous mean?
If something seems to be everywhere, we say it’s ubiquitous.
For example, in Philadelphia there are lots of stores where you can buy donuts.
Yeah, Dunkin’ Donuts are ubiquitous.
And places where you can buy cheesesteaks are very common.
Yeah, they’re ubiquitous too. Cheesesteaks are a Philly dish.
So it starts with a /j/ sound.
And it has four syllables. U-bi-quit-ous.
What’s that trick for saying long words?
With a long word it often helps to start at the back and work forward. Try it with me.
-quit – tous.
So that’s it.
But we’ve made lots of other videos about words that are hard to pronounce.
I’ll put a link to the playlist at the end of this video.
We want to say a big thank you to all the learners who helped us teach these words.
They were terrific and it was lovely to meet them all.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please give it a thumbs up and share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe and click that notification bell!

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.


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.
This word’s really tricky!
It looks like it has three syllables but there are only two.
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.
OK, next one.
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.
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.
Is there a way to cheat at this?
Well you could try saying yous, without the ‘th’.
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.
The next word’s interesting.
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.
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. Oh my god.
It’s very hard.
Oh. 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.
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.
So the main stress is on the second syllable. OeSOphagus.
Say it with us.
What’s next?
This was another request from our viewers.
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.
Did you hear the difference? I stressed the first syllable.
And I stressed the second.
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.
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.
Next word.
Err, rural.
Good job!
They did well.
Yeah. I think this word is hard because of American English.
Oh, so it’s my fault?
You pronounce your R sounds so strongly.
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.
Now what about Asian languages?
Oh yes.
For Asian learners this word is extra difficult because of the R and L sounds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let’s have a really hard one now.
OK. Here’s one that lots of our learners didn’t know.
Oh my. Anemone.
Wow, anemone.
Ah dear! They’re all wrong!
English spelling is so confusing!
We say anemone – and it’s a kind of flower.
So the main stress is on the second syllable.
And it has four syllables. aNEMone.
Say it with us.
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.

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?
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?
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.

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