like in English conversation

The word like in English conversation. It’s like 🤩

Do you think the word like is used too much by young people?
Learn some different ways we use the word like in English conversation and informal spoken English and see the word like in action in a conversation with Super Agent Awesome.
One use that’s common with young speakers is the quotative like. That’s when they use ‘like’ instead of says or thinks to report someone’s words or thoughts.
Some people complain that the word like is used too much by young people and it’s sloppy English. But it isn’t just youthful slang and there are useful functions that like performs.
We’ll show you how like can signal approximation or exaggeration, how we use like as a discourse marker and also how like can be combined with a dramatic face to describe someone’s feelings.

Click here to learn the difference between ‘Do you like…?’ and ‘What’s it like?’
Click here to learn how to use ‘be like’, ‘look like’ and ‘be alike’.

Like in English conversation

‘Like’. This is such a common word in English, but do you know how it’s used in colloquial English? And do you know what it means in teenage slang?

Today we’re very lucky to have some help. Super Agent Awesome is here.
Thank you Vicki.

I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m Vicki and I’m British.
The word ‘like’ has several meanings in English.
It can be a verb. For example, ‘I like you’.
I like you too!
And it can also be a preposition.
So we could say ‘What’s it like? or ‘It looks like …’
I’ll put a link here to other videos we’ve made about that.
But today we’re looking at some colloquial uses of ‘like’ – in other words how we use it when we’re speaking informally.
And in slang. It’s a word that young people use a lot.
Luckily we have Super Agent Awesome to help us.
Let’s see an example.

The quotative like

Is there anything you complain about doing?
I will be like Mom, ‘I want to play Fortnite again. Please, please, please!’
So you complain about not playing Fortnite.
Yeah, I feel like everyone should play Fortnite!

Did you catch it?
He said ‘I feel like everyone should play Fortnite.’
Well he loves that game, but he also said this.
So he used ‘like’ to report what he’ll say to his Mom.
This use of ‘like’ is particularly common with young people.
We call this the quotative ‘like’ because it’s about quoting what people say and also what they’re thinking. So it has a more general meaning than just ‘say’. It can mean ‘think’ too because you can use it to describe inner feelings and thoughts.
Notice we always use the verb ‘be’ here. You can change the tense, so you can use the future ‘I will be like …’ Or the past, ‘I was like …’ but we always use the verb ‘be’.
Is this use of like just an American thing?
No. Though they think it started in California in the 1980s. But it’s used by English speakers all over the world these days.

Do you think like is used too much?

Some people complain that young people use the word ‘like’ too much. They think it’s sloppy English.
Sloppy. Sloppy means without care or effort.
Do you think it’s sloppy and lazy?
No. I think it’s very interesting because languages change over time and if you look carefully, you find ‘like’ has new and useful functions in English. It can signal what we say and think and it can signal other things too.
Then let’s look at another example.

More functions that like performs

Do you ever complain about having to go to bed at a certain time?
Yeah. So one time, I was watching a movie, um, it was like Hotel Transylvania III. And then there was this really dramatic action scene, and like the villain is about to beat the hero, or the hero is about to beat the villain, but then Dad stopped me and I had to go to bed.

Why did he say ‘like’ here?
Well he was remembering, but he wasn’t totally sure. Perhaps that was the movie, or perhaps it was a different one.
So ‘like’ signaled he wasn’t sure?
Yes and he said it again later.
Now the hero is the good guy and the villain is the bad guy.
And he couldn’t remember who was winning, so he signaled that by saying ‘like’
‘Like’ signaled he wasn’t sure.
Yes. This isn’t just a feature of young people’s speech. We use ‘like’ in the same way.
It signals uncertainty or that something is approximate.
For example, it’s like this big. And it could be this big or it could be this big.
‘Like’ signals an approximation.
It means what I’m saying might not be perfectly accurate. And it can also signal exaggeration. It’s like this big!
That sounds like a useful function!
And another way we use ‘like’ is as a discourse marker
What do you mean?
It’s a word we use to organize our speech. For example … Like … Well … So … We put like it at the start of a sentence when we’re thinking of what to say.
So it’s a filler. Like Errr … and Umm …..
Yes, it’s a word that fills a space and helps us speak more smoothly.
OK. Let’s hear another story.

Can you name something that you’ve had to apologize for doing?
Oh I know, I know, I know, I know. The time where I buried my Dad’s ring. I had to apologize for burying my Dad’s wedding ring.

Before we carry on, do you know the word ‘bury’.
It means to put something in the ground.
When people die we bury them. It’s a regular verb. Bury, buried, buried.
A dog could bury a bone in the ground.
We can bury treasure too.

I had to apologize for burying my Dad’s wedding ring. The reason why I did it was because I wanted to use the metal detector. Then I told my Dad and said ‘Dad, where’s the metal detector?’ Then my Dad was like your brother took it apart a couple of months ago, and then I’m like … Dad was like ‘Yo, what’s wrong?’ And then I was like Argh! I buried your wedding ring. And then my Dad was like … Oh! So that’s why you wanted to use the metal detector.

Did you understand everything?
He buried his Dad’s wedding ring in the yard.
Or in British English, the garden.
He buried it in the yard so he could try to find it with the metal detector.
But their metal detector was broken because his brother had taken it apart.
Did they ever find the ring?
No. I think it’s still lost. Let’s hear what his Dad said again.

And then my Dad was like … Oh! So that’s why you wanted to use the metal detector.

He’s lucky because his Dad is really nice.
He was very understanding.
OK, there was one more use of ‘like’ there that’s common and pretty funny.

Your brother took it apart a couple of months ago and then I’m like ….

So you can say ‘like’ and then make a funny face.
It’s very common.
And easy too. No words, just a dramatic face.
I want to say a big thank you to Super Agent Awesome for helping us make this video.
He was like … !
If you enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up and share it with your friends.
See you next week everyone. Bye.

Click here to learn the difference between ‘Do you like…?’ and ‘What’s it like?’
Click here to learn how to use ‘be like’, ‘look like’ and ‘be alike’.

how to report an emergency in English

Emergency English – making a 911 or 211 call

This lesson’s about how to make English emergency calls such as a 911 or 112 call.
You’ll learn how to report an emergency in English and how to report your location to get help fast.
We give examples of different emergencies you might need to report like:
– Someone’s choked on some food
– I think someone’s trying to break into my home
– There’s been a car accident
– Someone’s walked into a glass window
We also look at questions response workers typically ask such as:
– Are they male or female?
– How old is he?
– Is he conscious?
– Is he breathing?
Finally we’ll show you an English emergency call so you can see some of the phrases in action.

Click here to see more vocabulary lessons.

How to report an emergency in English

Hi. I’m Vicki and you’re going to learn some words and phrases that we hope you’ll never need!
And I’m Jay and this lesson is really important. It’s vocabulary you must learn, just in case.
If there’s an emergency, what number do you dial for help?
In the US it’s 911.
And in the UK it’s 999 or 112. It’s 112 in most European countries.
Emergency numbers are generally short – usually just three numbers.
So you can remember them and dial them quickly.
They’ll connect you to the service you need, like ambulance, police or fire.

What’s your emergency?
What emergency are you reporting?
What service do you need? Ambulance, police or fire brigade?

What do we call the people who answer the phones?
Well, they have several names. They’re operators because they operate the phones.
Or responders because they answer questions and do things.
Or dispatchers because they send people to help.
My husband has choked on some food and he’s not breathing.
Help! My house is on fire.
I think someone’s trying to break into my home.
My son walked into a glass window and cut his head.
There’s a guy in Falworth Park who needs help. I think he’s having a heart attack.
There’s been a car accident on Ridge Pike.
In emergency calls, it’s crucial to state your location – to tell the dispatchers where you are.
Location is the most important thing. If they don’t know where you are, they can’t send help.

What’s your location?
What’s the address?
What’s the address of the emergency?
Where are you exactly?

Give any useful information you can about location.
You need to be exact and as helpful as possible.

It’s 4 Vandyke Street and we’re in flat 6 on the second floor.
It’s the building on the corner, with two big antennas.

You might be able to name a local landmark or nearby business.

We’re in front of the Philadelphia art museum.
We’re across the road from the Bagel Factory.

The address is really crucial, so the dispatchers will want to check they’ve got it right.

Can you repeat it to make sure I have it correctly?
So the address is 20 Vandyke Street? That’s where we’re going, right?

Once they have the address they can send help. But stay on the line so they can collect more information.
If someone is hurt or injured, they’ll ask you about the patient.

Is the patient male or female?
How old is he?

You might not know the patients’ age and that’s all right. You can make a rough guess.

She’s a young teenager.
Oh, he’s middle-aged.
She looks like she’s in her late twenties.

Two more important questions are ‘are they conscious?’ and ‘are they breathing?’
Conscious means awake and able to understand what’s happening.
And breathing means taking air into the lungs and sending it out again.

Is he conscious?
Is she awake?
Is he breathing?
Does she appear to be breathing?
Is he fully alert?

If you’re alert, you can think quickly and clearly, so you know what’s happening.
The responders may also want information about the accident and what’s happening now.

Tell me exactly what happened?
What’s happening now?
Are you with the patient right now?
Are you alone?
Is anyone helping?
Is someone giving first aid?
Is anyone giving CPR?

First aid is simple medical treatment that we give to people before a doctor comes.
CPR is the abbreviation for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s when you press on someone’s chest to keep them alive if they’ve stopped breathing or if their heart has stopped beating.
The emergency service might want you to stay and help.
And then they’ll give you instructions.

An English emergency call

My co-worker fell off a ladder and he’s bleeding.
Where are you?
We’re at the construction site at 20th and Arch.
So the address is 20th and Arch? Is that where we’re going?
Yes. The south west corner. We’re on the first floor.
The south west corner of 20th and Arch. First floor. Is that right?
How old is your co-worker?
He’s about fifty. Please come quick.
Help is on the way. They’ll be with you shortly. Is he conscious?
Is he breathing?
Is he breathing, Mike?….
Yes. he’s breathing.
Is someone with you?
Yes, my supervisor Mike is here.
He’s coming round.
He’s coming around.
So the patient is conscious?
Yes, but he needs stitches.
Is there serious bleeding?
Yes, from his head.
Is there blood spurting out or pouring out?
OK. Don’t move him unless it’s absolutely necessary. Tell him to sit still and wait for help to arrive.
Tell him to sit still, Mike. Is anyone coming?
Yes, help is on the way.

Coming around means becoming conscious again.
So you’re unconscious and then you come round or come to. It means become conscious.
We saw a lot of blood there.
Blood is the red liquid that flows through your body.
If blood is spurting, it’s coming from an artery. The heart pumps blood through arteries.
And if blood is pouring, it’s probably coming from a vein, and it’s on its way back to the heart.
When you lose blood, you bleed. So bleed is the verb. Bleed, bled, bled.
He was bleeding from a wound in his head. A wound is an injury where there’s a hole in your skin.
And a stitch is a short piece of thread that doctors use to sew the edges of a wound together.

I’m going to give you some instructions to control the bleeding, so listen carefully.
Do you have a clean dry towel or cloth?
Mike does, yes.
Place it on the wound and press down firmly. Don’t lift it up to look.
Hold it down on the wound, Mike. Press it firmly. Don’t lift it up.
If he becomes less awake and vomits, quickly turn him on his side.
OK. Help is on the way?
Yes, they’ll be with you in just a minute.
Oh, I can hear them. Thank you, thank you so much.

To vomit means to be sick. To bring up your food.
We’ve made another video about that and other sickness vocabulary.
I’ll put the link here.
And another thing you heard was a siren.
Ambulances, police cars and fire engines all have sirens. [makes the noise]
No that’s a British siren. An American one goes [makes the noise]
And that’s it everyone!
Are we finished?
But there’s one more thing we should mention. Don’t call the emergency services unless you really need them!
Don’t make calls that waste their time.
Only call if it’s an emergency.
It’s got to be something where you need help right way.
A medical emergency or immediate danger.
We hope that never happens to you!
Now, if you think this video was useful, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and click the notification bell so you hear about our future videos.
See you next week, bye-bye.

Click here to see more vocabulary lessons.

disagree in English

How to Disagree like a Native Speaker

Disagreeing is tricky in any language. It means you’re saying someone else is wrong or different and linguists have found it’s a dispreferred response.
In this lesson we look at some steps English native speakers often follow when they disagree:

  • Hesitating
    Asking challenging questions
    Saying ‘yes but…’ and adding their objections

We note how the phrases I agree and I don’t agree are explicit and formal and hence have limited uses in everyday conversations, namely to report other people’s opinions and to clear up misunderstandings.

Click here to see our video on 12 ways to agree in English

Disagreeing in English

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?

Agreeing is easy in English and we’ve made another video about that.
Disagreeing is harder because people don’t like to disagree.
It can damage relationships.
So how do we disagree in English?
In this video you’ll learn some of the things we say, and some things we don’t say too.
Let’s start with that. Look at these phrases.
I don’t agree and I disagree. They mean the same thing.
But are they common phrases in spoken English?
They’re grammatically correct.
Yes, but are they things we often say?
I’m going to guess yes.
You’re wrong!
What do you mean, I’m wrong?!
My students say them a lot, but native English speakers don’t use these phrases much in normal conversation.
How do you know?
Well, these days we have big data banks with lots of examples of spoken English so we can look at things like this.
And, we don’t say these phrases much?
Not in everyday conversation.
Then what do we say?
We need an example!

How native English speakers do it

Are you ready?
Well let’s go. …… What’s the matter?
Are you going to wear that shirt?
Yes. It’s my Phillies championship shirt. It’s my favorite.
Yeah, but it’s ten years old.
That’s when we won the championship.
Yes, but it’s got a hole in it! Throw it away.
No way, it’s my favorite!
You look a mess.
Stop nagging.
I don’t want to be seen with you in that shirt.
Well then I’ll go on my own.

OK, so what happened there?
Well the conversation followed some steps. Linguists have found that when we disagree it often goes in steps.
What did we say?
Well first of all, I didn’t say anything.

Are you ready?
Well let’s go. ……

You hesitated.
Yes, so first I kept quiet.
There was a pause.
And then what did I do?

Well let’s go. …. What’s the matter?
Are you going to wear that shirt?

You asked a question.
That’s very common. Instead of disagreeing we ask questions.
Challenging questions. And then what did you say?

Are you going to wear that shirt?
Yes, it’s my Phillies championship shirt. It’s my favorite.
Yeah, but it’s ten years old.
That’s when we won the championship.
Yes, but it’s got a hole in it!

You said ‘yes but…’ and raised an objection.
‘Yes but….’ means no!
Uhuh. ‘Yes but’ is the most common phrase we use to disagree.
And then after that, we got into a fight.
Yes, once it’s clear there’s disagreement, we say what we really think.
So there were four steps – hesitating, questioning, ‘yes but’ and then the fight.
We don’t always take every step, but it’s a typical pattern.
We start slowly and build.
Maybe you do this in your language too?

Disagreeing – a dispreferred response

Agreeing is easier. We can just say ‘You’re right’, and nobody gets upset.
Disagreeing is harder because we’re saying someone’s wrong or different.
Linguists call disagreeing a dispreferred response. We prefer to say ‘Yes, you’re right’.
How about if we say ‘I’m sorry but I disagree’ or ‘I’m afraid I disagree’.
So add an apology?
It softens the disagreement.
Yes, but again it’s not frequent in normal conversation. So it could sound weird. We normally say something like ‘Yes but…’ instead.

How to use I don’t agree and I disagree

So let’s go back to these phrases. Are there any situations where we do use them?
Perhaps a formal meeting. They sound formal.
‘Excuse me Ms. Chairperson. I disagree.’
Yeah, or if you’re taking part in a political discussion on a television talk show. Politicians often say them.

We can afford to make these investments. Now I know there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.
We can afford to make these investments. Now I know there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.

Notice what Obama did here. He used the verb ‘disagree’ to report other people’s opinions.
He wasn’t saying ‘I disagree with you’.
He was reporting what other people think. Here’s another example.

This is the camera we should buy.
Ooo, I see. And what does Kathy think?
She thinks we should buy this camera.
Oooo. So she doesn’t agree with you.
Yeah but Kathy doesn’t know anything about cameras.

So if we’re reporting someone else’s opinions, we’ll say they don’t agree or they disagree.
Yes, disagree is often a reporting verb. And we use it when we want to be explicit.
Being explicit means being extra clear about what we mean.
That might happen if there’s a misunderstanding.

So this camera costs $5,000.
Yes. It’s a high-end camera with all the features we need.
But this one only costs $2000.
Yeah, but it can’t shoot slow motion.
I don’t think we need that.
Exactly. We don’t need the cheaper camera.
No, I mean we don’t need slow motion. I don’t agree with you.
You think we should get the cheaper camera?

So we misunderstood one another there.
Yes, I had to be extra clear.
And that’s why you said I don’t agree with you.
Yes. These phrases are formal and explicit, so be careful. A lot of students over use them.
Don’t use them too much.
When we disagree we normally, hesitate, question, say ‘yes but’ and add that objection.
OK. Let’s see another example of that.

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!

It is freezing! You agree with me, don’t you?
Feel free to disagree in the comments.
And that’s it for today everyone.
Is that all? We’re done already?
But we haven’t looked at how we can prevent arguments in English.
We’ll do that another day.
So make sure you subscribe to our channel everyone.
And hit the notification bell so you don’t miss it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this video and find it useful.
If you have, please share it with a friend.
See you next week everyone. Bye-bye.

second conditional examples

The second conditional in action – English grammar

We use the English second conditional to talk about imaginary, hypothetical or unreal possibilities. In this video we’ll show you how to form the second conditional and when to use it. We look at:

First vs second conditional

First and second conditionals are similar because they’re both about present and future possibilities. The difference is the second conditional is more imaginary. We use it to talk about unlikely or unreal possibilities.

Second conditional examples

You’ll learn how to use the second conditional in conversation with a funny story. We’ll show you lots of examples in action in a story.

Click here to see our lesson on the first conditional
Click here to see our lesson on the zero conditional

The second conditional

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

Hi I’m Vicki.
And I’m Jay and this video is the third in our series on English conditionals.
We’ve looked at the zero and the first conditional, and now it’s time to look at the second.
And we have another story for you, so you can see it in action.
A funny story! I think the second conditional is my favourite, because it’s about future possibilities.
But so is the first conditional.
Yes, but these possibilities are more imaginary. We just saw an example.
Then let’s see how it works.

If we left at 2.30, Kathy would go crazy.
Nah. She won’t care.

Second conditionals have two parts – two clauses. One is the condition and one is the result. In the condition clause we use ‘if’ with the past tense, and for the result we use the modal verb, would, and then the base form of the verb.
Notice we use ‘would’ in the result clause and not the condition clause. Like other conditionals, we can reverse the order and the meaning stays the same. Just remember to use a comma if the sentence starts with ‘if’.

If we leave at 2.30, we’ll be there for the start.

So Jay used a first conditional here but I used a second. They’re similar, but in the second conditional, we use the past instead of the present. And instead of ‘will’ we use ‘would’.
OK, so when do we use a first conditional and when do we use a second?
It depends on how likely we think something is.
How certain we are that it will happen.
Yeah. First conditionals are more probable and second conditionals are more hypothetical.
I thought Kathy would let us leave at 2.30.
You thought it was possible, so you used a first conditional.
But you didn’t think she would.
No, I thought she’d stop us, so I thought it was improbable – unlikely.
So if we think something is unlikely to happen, we use the second conditional.
Now something else is strange. We were talking about the future here, right?
But you used a past tense.
Yes! This is important. The past tense doesn’t indicate past time here. It indicates a distance from reality. We often use the past tense like this in English.
I think we need some more examples.
Then let’s have the story.
And while you’re watching, see how many second conditionals you can spot.

The second conditional in action in a story

I’ve got so much work to do and my assistant is Jay. You see the problem. But if I fired Jay, I could get someone else. A smart intelligent woman. The interviews are starting now.
Thanks for coming in.
The job sounds very interesting.
Well, I’ve got some questions for you.
Of course.
OK, first one. How long does it take you to reply to a text message?
Not long usually. If you texted me, I’d probably reply in about 5 or 10 minutes.
Wow! That’s much better than Jay. I texted him at ten last night and it took him two hours to respond.
You texted him at ten last night?
Yes. I wanted him to pick up my dry cleaning. In fact, that’s my next question! If I asked you to pick up my clothes from the dry cleaners, would you complain?
Well, it’s great to meet you.
You too.
I have a lot of questions for you, but this one is important for this job: Do you like dogs?
Great because I have four rottweilers that I’d like to bring to the office.
But if you brought them to the office, they’d need walking.
Exactly. Thank you for offering. Now, I’m working on my master’s degree at the moment and sometimes it hard for me to get all my homework done.
Well, those degrees can be a lot of work.
So if I asked you to do my homework, would you help me?
So this is the break room where we can make our coffee and tea.
It’s very nice.
Sometimes I’m so busy, I don’t have time to make my tea.
And it’s a big health problem for me because I get dehydrated and ill, you know.
Well, if you needed a cup of tea, I guess I could make one for you.
Thank you. I like herbal tea and I like it brewed for 3 minutes and 45 seconds and I’d like one every hour please.
If you were me, who would you choose? They were all good. Hi, it’s Vicki. I was very impressed with you at your interview and I’d like to offer you the job.
Oh, err, thank you but I’ve…. had another offer.
Well, not to worry.
So what do you think?
Oh. I’ve decided I wanted to spend more time with my family.
I’m afraid it’s not a good fit. I’m… allergic to herbal teas.
Oh. What’s that?
It’s your dry cleaning.
Would you like a cup of tea?
Oh yes please. I guess he’s not that bad.

How many examples did you spot?
There were seven. Let’s look at them again.

But if I fired Jay, I could get someone else.

This is interesting because instead of ‘would’ you said ‘could’.
It means I would have the ability to get someone else. I’m not saying I would for sure, but it’s a possibility.
Well, thanks for that! So ‘would’ isn’t the only modal verb we can use in the results clause?
Yes, they have slightly different meanings but we can say would, could, may, might, should…
OK, another example.

If you texted me, I’d probably reply in about 5 or 10 minutes.

If I texted you, you wouldn’t reply in 10 minutes.
No, I probably wouldn’t. I’m too busy!
Notice how we form negatives. The negative of would is would not – but when we’re speaking we usually use the contraction – would not – wouldn’t
OK, another example.

If I asked you to pick my clothes up from the dry cleaners, would you complain?

We heard a question there.
Yes. Would is a modal verb, so to form the question, we reverse the word order. You would complain. Would you complain?
That’s easy!
Yeah, next example.

Because I have four rottweilers that I’d like to bring to the office.
But if you brought them to the office, they’d need walking.
Exactly! Thank you for offering.

We heard another contraction there. They would – they’d.
Notice how we form contractions with would. I’d… you’d… he’d… she’d… it’d… we’d… they’d…
The problem my students have with these contractions is they confuse ‘I had’ with ‘I would’.
Oh yes. I had – I’d. I would – I’d. It’s the same contraction.
You have to look at the context to work it out.
OK. Another example.

Well, those degrees can be a lot of work.
So if I asked you to do my homework, would you help me?

‘Would you help me?’ is a very common phrase and it’s half of a second conditional.
We can also say ‘Can you help me?’ But ‘Would you help me?’ sounds a little more polite.
It’s because there’s more distance from reality.
I’m not sure if you’ll help me.
And that makes it a little more polite. We heard a similar example.

I get dehydrated and ill, you know.
Well, if you needed a cup of tea, I guess I could make one for you.
Thank you.

We could also say ‘I can make you a cup of tea’. It’s another way to make an offer.
But ‘could’ sounds a little more uncertain.
Yes, a little more tentative and polite.
So that’s why ‘would’ and ‘could’ are useful for making requests and offers.
Yes. OK, we have one more example and this is very interesting.

If you were me, who would you choose?

OK, so I have a question. Is it possible for you to be me?
No, of course not.
But that’s what I’m saying here. We can use the second conditional to imagine impossible things like if I had a million dollars….
If I were the President of the United States…
If I were twenty years younger…
A common phrase we use to give advice is ‘If I were you…’. So ‘if I were you I’d watch all our videos’ or ‘I’d study English every day’. It’s impossible for me to be you, but with the second conditional we can imagine unreal things.
Notice that the grammar is a little strange here. Normally with ‘be’ in the past tense we say I was, you were, he was and so on. But in the second conditional, we say ‘were’ for all the forms of the verb ‘be’.
Why is that?
It’s called the subjunctive, if you want to look it up, but if you get it wrong and say ‘I was’ instead of ‘I were’, it’s no big deal.
We often say that too in conversation.
Yeah. But if you’re taking an exam in English, they’ll often test you on this.
And then you want to say ‘If I were you…’ not ‘If I was you’.
So are we done?
Well, not really because we’re going to look at the third conditional next, but that’s another video.
So make sure you subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
See you all next week everyone. Bye-bye.
Click here to see our lesson on the first conditional
Click here to see our lesson on the zero conditional

quite in British and American English

The trickiest word in English – Quite!

Is the meaning of the adverb quite, very or completely? It looks like a small difference but it can lead to big misunderstandings.
Sometimes quite means the same thing in British and American English, but sometimes it’s used differently.
In this video we show you
– how to use quite to mean completely
– how to use not quite (meaning not completely) to criticize someone gently or say you disagree.
– how quite can mean very in American English, but fairly or pretty in British English
– how you can sometimes tell the meaning of quite by whether it’s used with a gradable or ungradable adjectives.
Finally we have some advice for any American guys who are going on a date with a British girl.
Don’t tell her she’s quite pretty!

Click here to see more videos on British and American English.


The adverb quite

Hi everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American and today we’re looking at a word that’s quite tricky.
No, it’s very tricky.
But that’s what I said!
No you didn’t!
I speak British English and Jay speaks American English and normally, we manage to communicate OK.
But there’s a word that causes us problems. Quite.
It’s such a common word. We both use it a lot.
But it’s the word that’s hardest for us to understand.
Sometimes we use it in the same way, but sometimes we use it differently.
And then we get confused.
Let’s look at some examples.

Have you finished the artwork yet?
No. I’m not quite ready. I need another five minutes.
Take your time. I’m quite happy to wait.
Do you want to go and get a coffee or something?
No, I’m quite all right thanks. I’ve had quite enough coffee today. That’s not quite correct.
Just go away!
What’s your problem?

Here are some of the things we said. ‘Quite’ is an adverb and it means ‘completely’ in all these examples. It means to the greatest possible degree – 100%. We can use it this way in British and American English
And you heard quite in two negative sentences too, where it means not completely – so almost, but not 100%. Again it can have this meaning in British and American English. We often use quite in the negative like this to criticize someone gently or to say we disagree with them.
So we might say ‘I don’t quite agree’ or ‘That’s not quite right’.
Yes, and we mean ‘I don’t agree 100%.’ or ‘You’re a little wrong’. Quite softens the disagreement.
It works like that in American and British English.
But there’s another way we use ‘quite’ that’s quite different.

So what did you think of my report?
It’s quite good.
Fantastic. I’ll send it to everybody now.
Hang on. It needs some changes.
But you said it was quite good.
Yes, but we need it to be VERY good.

There was a misunderstanding there.
Yeah, I thought you liked my report.
Well, I thought it was fairly good or pretty good, but not very good.
But you said it was quite good. If I say that I mean very good. Quite is a forceful word.
It’s not forceful in British English. It just means to some degree.
So let me get this straight. Sometimes when you say ‘quite’ you mean completely, like me.
But other times you just mean fairly or pretty.
Then how can I tell what you mean?
Well, sometimes you can tell from the kind of adjective we use with quite – whether it’s gradable or ungradable.
We’d better explain that.

Gradable or ungradable

Some English adjectives are gradable, so they can be true to different degrees. For example good is gradable. Something can be very good, or fairly good, or just a little good. But other adjectives are ungradable, for example perfect. We don’t say something is very perfect or fairly perfect or a little perfect. It’s just perfect.
Here are some more examples of ungradable adjectives. Things are either dead or they’re not. People are either married or they’re not. There’s no in-between with these adjectives, so we don’t use them with ‘very’. The meanings of these adjectives already contain the idea of ‘very’.
So here’s what happens in British English. If we use ‘quite’ with an ungradable adjective, we probably mean completely. For example, ‘It’s quite perfect’. It’s 100% perfect. But if we use quite with a gradable adjective, we probably mean ‘fairly’ – so to some extent, but not very. For example, ‘It’s quite nice’ – it’s fairly nice.
So if you say ‘I’m quite tired’, you mean you’re fairly tired.
Yeah, and what about you?
I could mean that, but normally if I say I’m quite tired, I mean I’m very tired.
Pronunciation matters too. If we stress the word ‘quite’ the difference can get more marked.
I’m QUITE tired – that means I’m very very tired
I’m QUITE tired – that means I’m only fairly tired.
There’s another thing you do in British English.
What’s that?
I’ll say something and instead of saying ‘I agree’ you say ‘quite’.
Oh yes. It’s rather formal but to show we agree with someone or to show we’ve understood, we can say ‘quite’ or ‘quite so’. It just means ‘yes’.
It sounds very British.
Let’s have a quiz question now.
OK. See if you can answer this everyone, and you Jay. If your American boss says ‘your work is quite good’, what does it mean? Jay?
If my American boss says my work is quite good, I should get a raise. They think my work is very good.
British English is different. If my British boss says my work is quite good, I’d have to ask what I’m doing wrong.
Because it’s only fairly good. Wow!
So the difference in meaning is subtle, but it can be very important.
If you don’t pay attention, you might miss it.
When I came to the US I had to stop and think when people said ‘quite’. ‘Do they mean fairly or do they mean ‘very’? I still have to stop and think sometimes.
And I’ve had to learn the difference too, so I can understand Vicki’s family and friends.
Yeah. Here’s a real example. My British friend was visiting us and meeting Jay for the first time and they were just getting to know one another and talking about their families.
I was telling her about my father and how he spoke six languages and I said ‘He was quite good at languages’.
So my British friend was surprised and she said, ‘Why are you saying that? You said he spoke six languages.’
‘Yeah, he was quite good at languages.’
So my friend was thinking, ‘He’s being derogatory about his father? That’s not nice! If you speak six languages you’re a very good linguist – not just fairly good.
And I was thinking, ‘We’ve only just met. Why is this woman being so argumentative?’ It was like she wanted to pick a fight with me for no reason.
It’s the sort of misunderstanding that can damage relationships.
Yes, it’s dangerous because you might not realise it’s happening.
And one last thing before we stop.
I have some advice for any American guys who are going on a date with a British girl.
What’s that?
Don’t tell her she’s quite pretty. It happened to one of my friends on her first date with an American guy.
What! He told her she was quite pretty?
Yes, he was lucky to get a second date! And that’s it for today everyone.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please share it with a friend and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. Bye-bye now.
See you next Friday. Bye.

Click here to see more videos on British and American English.

british english slang

British Slang Words Quiz

Play along with a British English slang quiz.

Vicki (who is British) tests Jay (who is American) with 10 British English slang words and he does very well!
You’ll learn 10 slang words and colloquial expressions including:

  • bloke, meaning dude
  • quid, not quids
  • bog and bog roll
  • a tad meaning a little
  • knackered and clapped out
  • skint meaning broke
  • hard cheese meaning hard luck – often ironic
  • peckish meaning a little hungry
  • cheeky meaning disrespectful or funny

We also look at two old-fashioned slang words that you can use as a joke:

  • spiffing meaning splendid
  • tickety-boo meaning fine and dandy

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

British English slang words quiz

I have no idea what we’re doing today.
Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m going to test Jay to day on his British slang.
Uh-oh. Can they play along?
So how good is your British slang, Jay?
Pretty good. I mean we’ve been together for more than 20 years so I think I know a lot.
I’ve got 10 different expressions here and we’re going to see how many you know.
They’re all British expressions?
Yeah, and they’re all slang, so they’re informal spoken English.
The kind of thing you’d say with your friends.
And if you get them all right, you get a prize.
What’s this?
It’s your prize.
But you can’t look at it yet.
I have to get all of them right first?
Yes. And here’s your first one.

Bloke meaning dude

Bloke. I know what a bloke is. That’s a guy. A dude.
That’s what you’d say in American.
OK, use it in a sentence.
OK, let’s see. Um. I saw this bloke riding down the street on his bicycle.
Yes, that would work. That would work.
I met a nice bloke last night.
So bloke is just an informal way of saying ‘man’. We might also say chap and fellow. OK and in American you’d say…
I saw this dude riding down the street on a bicycle!
OK, next one.

Quid meaning pound

Quid. Quid. I know this one too. Quid is slang for pound. The currency of the UK.
That’s right. What would be an American equivalent?
A buck!
Oh a buck. Of course. And, erm, what about if you have five of them? What’s the note called?
A five dollar bill? Oh you mean in quids! A five pound note. A fiver!
OK, you just said quids. You’re lucky I don’t take your point away because the plural of quid is quid. It’s an irregular plural because there’s no ‘s’. One quid, two quid, five quid. But American English is different?
Yes, we’d say five bucks, ten bucks, twenty bucks, so we add an s to make it plural.
But you were right to say a fiver. A fiver is the name we give a five pound note and a ten pound note is…
A tenner.
That’s right!
In American English we’d say a five dollar bill and a ten dollar bill. What’s next?
This one.

Bog meaning toilet or loo

Bog. B-O-G. In American English a bog is a swamp.
Yes, a sort of muddy piece of land.
Right. And it’s slang for something else?
I have no clue.
I’ll give you another clue. Bog roll.
Is that like… what we would call toilet paper?
Yes. So it’s a toilet roll, and it’s another word for the toilet. So instead of saying I’m going to the toilet, we’d say I’m going to the bog.
In America we never say we’re going to the toilet. We say we’re going to the bathroom.
Yes. You’re very posh.
Bog is a slang way of saying toilet in British English. If you want to be more polite you can say “I’m just going to the loo”.

A tad meaning a little

Ah! A tad. Now a tad always reminds me of a tadpole.
It has nothing to do with a tadpole. A tadpole is a little baby frog.
Right, but it’s little and so that’s how I remind myself that a tad means a little bit in British English. Right?
You’re quite right. It’s a small amount.
So I could be a tad unhappy, a tad disappointed. Does tad always work with negative feelings?
No, no, not at all. You could be a tad pleased. Erm… But you could also have a tad more to eat.
Or a tad more wine, please. A tad just means a little. For example, “Could I have a tad more time?” It means, ‘Could I have a little more time?”
OK, another one.

Knackered meaning exhausted or clapped out

Knackered. Knackered. I know knackered. Knackered is when you’re exhasuted and your so tired you can’t do anything. You’re knackered.
Exactly. You got that one right. So use it in a sentence.
Let see. Uh. I worked for twelve hours today and I’m completely knackered.
Excellent. Excellent.
It can also mean ‘clapped out’.
So .. so old…
Clapped out?
Clapped out means…
You clapped to many times?
No. No. It means it’s too old or broken down to use any more. So your car could be clapped out or your bike could be clapped out and they can both be knackered as well.
Really? An inanimate object can be knackered?
Yeah. My bike’s knackered. I need a new one.
So knackered has two meanings. One is very tired and exhausted. I’ve been working all day and I’m knackered. And the other is too old and not working well. For example my bike is knackered.
Like me!
OK, another one.

Skint meaning broke

Skint. You know I really don’t know. I think it has something to do with being cheap. Is that right?
Ah. It’s to do with money, but it’s when you have no money.
Oh, so if I say I’m skint, I’m out of cash?
Got it.
Can you lend me some money?
I’m skint!
Yes! So we could say ‘I can’t come out with you tonight because I’m skint’. We could also say ‘I’m broke’. It means the same thing. I’m skint, I’m broke.
OK, next one…

Hard cheese meaning hard luck

Hmm. Hard cheese. Well I think this means hard luck. Too bad.
Yes. That’s right. It’s used as a way to say we’re sorry about something, but we don’t usually mean we’re sorry. So it’s a bit ironic. For example. Oh you need some help? Well, hard cheese! I’m going for my break!
OK, you’ll know this one.

Peckish meaning a little hungry

Oh, peckish.
Peckish means you’re a little hungry, right?
Is it from the verb ‘peck’? To peck? Like a bird pecks at its food?
Oh, maybe. Erm…but if you’re a little bit hungry. Oooo. If you only want to eat a little bit of food, you might peck at your food. That’s when you’re not terribly hungry and you’re eating it. But peckish, yes. A little bit hungry.
So we might say ‘I’m feeling peckish. What’s in the fridge?’ And if someone is only pecking at their food it means they’re only eating a little of it, perhaps because they’re not hungry or not feeling well.
OK, here’s your next one.

Cheeky meaning disrespectful or funny

Mmm. Ah. This one I know too. This is cheeky. Cheeky in American English would be wise-ass.
Ah, OK. Except that’s quite negative. We can use it in a sort of positive and negative way in British English. You could have a child who has a cheeky grin, and it’s quite a cute grin. Erm… But it’s slightly naughty. But naughty in a fun way. And erm yes, but people could also be being cheeky when they’re answering back. If children are cheeky theyre being wise-arses as youd say in American English – or wise-ass.
So cheeky can mean disrespectful in British English. So we might tell a child to stop being cheeky and do as you’re told. And it can also be used in a more positive way too. So if they do something funny we might say ‘You cheeky monkey!’

Spiffing and tickety-boo!

I think we should teach the British word ‘spiffing’.
Where did you learn this word ‘spiffing’?
One of our community members online mentioned that the wig I wore in our last video was spiffing and I had to go look it up. What does it mean?
It means marvelous or wonderful. But it’s a really old-fashioned word. It’s from the last century. You can use spiffing for a joke. He was having a joke.
It’s very British upper class, isn’t it?
Yeah. OK, and I’ve got another one that’s like that for you now.
Here you go. Tickety-boo. I can’t even say it without saying it in a British accent. Tickety-boo. It means that’s just perfect.
Erm, yeah. OK. I think in American English you’d say OK. Dandy, or something like that?
A hundred years, a hundred years ago we’d have said dandy. Yeah.
Fine and dandy, and it means everything’s in working order. Everything’s fine. How are things going? Oh, tickety-boo. Everything’s going very well. And it’s very old-fashioned, and today we’ll only use it if we’re joking.
So these are two old-fashioned slang expressions that you can use for a joke.
Spiffing means extremely good or pleasant. And tickety-boo means going well, with no problems.
So how did I do? Have I won the prize?
No, I’m afraid you got skint wrong and you didn’t really know bog.
But I knew bog roll and also, I knew spiffing!
OK, I could give you a bonus point for spiffing.
Great so what’s my prize? Dinner for two at the Indian restaurant. Oh wow! That’s a great prize! Thank you very much. Look at that.
OK everyone. In that case, we’ve got to go. If you’ve enjoyed this video please share it with a friend.
Any don’t forget to subscribe to our channel. See you next week everyone.

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

useful english adjectives

7 useful English adjectives

Learn some adjectives while you’re shopping with us in Philadelphia. We’ll show you 7 useful English adjectives in action and also some common adjective + preposition phrases.
We look at:
– the adjective chilly and how we use it to talk about the weather and relationships
– major, meaning large and important
financial vs economic
tall vs high
vague meaning not detailed or clear
And we also look at some adjective + preposition phrases like ‘good at’, ‘excellent for’ and ‘fed up with’.

Useful English adjectives

Ladies and gentlemen. Today’s lesson is about…. useful adjectives!
So what are adjectives?
They’re words that describe people or things and give us more information about them.
Words like beautiful, big, new, black, (tugs at shirt) wooden (taps head)
And useful – useful is an adjective!
We’re looking at useful adjectives today.
And a little bit of grammar.
Let’s get going.

Hi everyone. We live in Philadelphia and we’re taking you out shopping with us today.
I’m going to lock the door. It’s a chilly day in Philadelphia.
Yes, but it doesn’t matter because we’re going somewhere warm.
And we’ll show you some sights along the way.
This is John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
It’s a major street in the financial district of Philadelphia.
And there are lots of luxury apartments here and beautiful tall glass skyscrapers.
There are shops too, but they aren’t the only place you can shop around here. There’s somewhere else that we’re going now. It’s a definitely a lot warmer.
Yes. The wind has stopped blowing. This is the part of the underground shopping area connected to Suburban Station.
We’re not exactly sure where the store we’re looking for is, but we’ll keep going.
I need to get me one of those.
But Jay’s got a vague idea, yeah?
Yeah, I think so. I think we have to turn to the south.
Hey sir, you look good together.
He said we look good together Jay.
Well we are good together.
So this is where we’re going shopping today. This is the wig store. We’ve got a wig at home, but it’s the only one we’ve got and I’m getting a bit bored with it. With all this choice, I’m never going to get fed up with wearing the same wig again.
I’m amazed at the prices. They’re very reasonable.
There are lots of other beauty products here. I’m not very good at makeup.
This one would be excellent for Halloween. So which one are you going to buy?
Thank you very much.
Thank you.

That was fun!
Shall we show them the wig we bought?
Later. First let’s look at some of the adjectives.

It’s a chilly day in Philadelphia.
Yes, but it doesn’t matter because we’re going somewhere warm.

Chilly is a great word to know because we’re always talking about the weather. Chilly means too cold to be comfortable. Like most adjectives it can go in two positions. Before a noun – so a chilly day – or after a linking verb like be, feel, seem, look….
The weather isn’t the only thing we can describe as chilly. It works for relationships too, and then it means not friendly. So we might talk about receiving a chilly welcome, a chilly reception, a chilly response. It means it wasn’t warm and friendly.

This is John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
It’s a major street in the financial district of Philadelphia.

We’ve got two adjectives here. Can you spot them? There’s major – that means very large and important.
A major street, a major city, major heart surgery.
And the second adjective is financial which means connected with money.
Financial services, financial advice, financial difficulties
My students often mix up the adjectives financial and economic.
They are very similar. They both mean ‘to do with money’ so what is the difference?
Normally it’s about scale. Individual people might have financial problems but countries might have economic problems.
And what about companies? They could have financial problems too.
Yes, in the UK, the person in charge of money in a company is usually the Finance Director or Financial Director.
And in the US, it’s the CFO – the Chief Financial Officer.
Yes, and they manage financial planning and reporting. Not the economic planning and reporting.
We usually say economic when we’re talking about the money of countries and nations.
Exactly. OK, next one.

And there are lots of luxury apartments here and beautiful tall glass skyscrapers.

Notice we said the skyscraper was tall there. Not high.
It’s because the skyscrapers are higher off the ground than they’re wide. Long thin things are usually tall, not high.
Like people.
Yes. We’ve made another video about that. I’ll put the link here.
Let’s have another one.

We’re not exactly sure where the store we’re looking for is, but we’ll keep going.
I need to get me one of those.
But Jay’s got a vague idea, yeah?
Yeah, I think so. I think we have to turn to the south.

Vague is a useful word to know.
Something that’s vague, isn’t detailed or clear in our mind.
We might have a vague memory of something that happened in the past, when we can remember it but not clearly.
Or we can have a vague feeling that something isn’t right. And then we discover we’ve left our keys in the front door or something.
People can be vague too, when they don’t give clear information.
Yes. If you’re giving instructions or directions, don’t be vague. OK, another one.

I’m amazed at the prices. They’re very reasonable.

Reasonable – reasonable prices are not too high – not too expensive.
We could also say cheap, but the problem with cheap is it can have another meaning – poor quality.
So sometimes cheap means not expensive and it’s a positive thing, but sometimes it means poor quality, and then it has a negative meaning.
If you want to be positive, say reasonable.
You used another adjective there too. You said I’m amazed at the prices.
Yes, I thought they were amazing.
Amazed, amazing. There are lots of pairs of adjectives like this in English – where they end in -ed or -ing.
Interested, interesting, Bored, boring,
The -ed adjectives describe how we feel and the -ing adjectives describe the person or thing that causes the feeling.
We’ve made another video about that too.
I’ll put the link here.
We heard an example of bored.

We’ve got a wig at home, but it’s the only one we’ve got and I’m getting a bit bored with it.

Notice I said ‘with’. I’m bored with it.
Some English adjectives are followed by prepositions, like with, for, at…
So you have to learn which prepositions go with which adjectives.
I said I was amazed AT the prices, but I could also say I was amazed BY the prices.
And it would mean much the same thing. But often only one preposition is possible.
See if you can spot some more adjectives and prepositions.

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

Did you spot them? The first one was good at. We often use ‘at’ to talk about ability so we can be good at things or bad at things or slow or fast at things.
The next one was excellent for. We often use ‘for’ to talk about purpose. So this wig would be excellent for Halloween and this one would be good for our Christmas show.
And the last one was fed up with. The adjective fed up means bored or unhappy so we could get fed up with doing the same thing again and again, or fed up with constant rain. I’m fed up with Jay not emptying the dishwasher.
What me?
Yes you!
OK. Let’s show everyone the wigs we bought.
OK. This one is the one I chose. I think it’s going to be excellent for a spy story.
And here’s another one that I chose for Vicki.
I’m amazed at how good this looks. You can expect to see this is a future video.
And then there was one more. What do you think.
I think this one was probably a mistake.
I thought it looked really good on me. What do you think?
If you have any ideas for how we can use it in a video, please tell us.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.
Yes, if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it wit a friend.
See you next week everyone. Bye-bye.

can't and not c*nt

2 tricky vowel sounds in British and American English – AH and UH

We made a video a while ago on how we say can and can’t in British and American English. You can see it here.

It was very popular but many of you wrote saying you were worried about saying the right the vowel sound in the word can’t. If you get it wrong you could say can’t and not c*nt – so a rude word in English.

Some of you said you say cannot instead. That’s clear, but it will sound a little strange. Cannot is more frequent in written English than spoken.
The way to solve the problem is to work on the vowel sounds so you can say AH and UH – the ɑːand ʌ vowel sounds.

We’ll show you how to do that in this video and demonstrate some ah uh minimal pairs. We’ll also show you how we pronounce words differently in British and American English.

Click here to see our video on can and can’t.
Click here to see more of our pronunciation videos.

Hi everyone, I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American and this video is long overdue. Why is it overdue?
I’ve been slow. A year ago, we made a video about how we both pronounce ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ in English.
It was nearly two years ago.
We say the negative word ‘can’t’ differently.
She means can’t.
Sometimes when Jay says it, I don’t understand him.

I don’t want you to see.
I can’t see.
Oh well let me try again.
Why? I can’t see?
Do you mean you can or you can’t see.
I can’t see.

Can’t and not c*nt

That video was very popular.
But in the comments a lot of you said you had a problem.
Yes, a lot of people didn’t want to say can’t the British way in case they say c*nt. Oh, I said a rude word.
Lots of people are worried about that. They don’t want to sound rude
Some of you told us you say ‘cannot’ instead.
That’s clear, but it sounds strange.
Cannot is more frequent in written English. We don’t say it much when we’re speaking.
It sounds stilted.
You don’t want to sound formal and strange. So what we need to do is work on the vowel sound – the AH sound.
That way you can say it confidently.
And make sure you don’t get it mixed up with UH. This is going to be useful for pronouncing lots of words, and good for your listening too.
So where should we start?
I think we should look at what’s causing the problem in the first place. Too many English vowels.

Vowel sounds in British and American English

We have five vowels in the English alphabet, but we pronounce them in different ways, so we have lots of vowel sounds. When I was learning Japanese there were just five vowel sounds. It was pretty easy. Spanish is another language that has five.
If your language has fewer vowel sounds than English, of course it’s going to be difficult to hear and say the English ones. You have to train your ear and learn to move your mouth muscles differently.
We have twelve pure vowel sounds in English and we’re going to focus on two that are very similar.
I thought it was eleven sounds.
Ah. No. In American English there are eleven, but in British English we have twelve.
Yes, there’s one you don’t say.
What’s that?
ɒ like in the word lot. We’ve made another video about that.
But we’re focusing on two other vowel sounds today: AH and UH.
So you can say can’t and not c*nt. Ah I did it again.
So let’s look at these sounds. AH… This is the sound I make when Vicki gives me a foot rub. AH.
You wish. And what about UH?
That’s when I’ve made a mistake. UH!


AH is a longer sound. AH.
And with AH there’s a little more jaw drop. AH.
And you press your tongue down a bit at the back. So when your jaw goes down your tongue goes down too.
And there’s a little tension in your tongue.
Now the other sound, UH. This is a shorter sound.
Your tongue is completely relaxed. UH.
And your jaw is a little higher. Say the sounds with us.


Now we need some words to practice.
This is where it gets tricky because sometimes we use these sounds in different words.
It’s an American and British English difference.
So let’s start with a different vowel sound. Aaaa.
Here are some words that we both say with Aaaa.

Can, bag, sad, man, fat.
Can, bag, sad, man, fat.

So we both said the vowel sound Aaaa there.
But there are other words where Jay says Aaaa and I say AH.

Can’t, aunt, past, laugh, class, after.
Can’t, aunt, past, laugh, class, after.

Did you hear the difference? I said AH and Jay said Aaaa.
And then there are other words where we both say AH.

Father, father, llama, llama, calm, calm, bra, bra.

I think your vowel sound was a little longer than mine.
Maybe. We both said AH, but perhaps your AH was a little shorter than mine?
What do you think? Let’s try some more.
Dark, dark, barn, barn, march, march, cart, cart.
Our vowel sounds were the same again but our R sounds were different.
Yeah. I’m from just north of London in England, and we don’t pronounce our Rs in these words. There are parts of the UK where people do, but most people don’t.
We’ve made another video about that.
OK. Now there’s another group of words where you say AH, but I don’t.

Doll, doll, fond, fond, lock, lock, hot, hot, gosh, gosh.

Did you hear the difference?
I said AH – gosh. But you didn’t.
No, I used the other extra vowel sound that we have in British English.
The twelfth vowel sound. It sounds so British!
It’s just what we say. But let’s recap so far. There are some words where I say AH and Jay doesn’t, and some words where we both say it, and some where Jay says it and I don’t.
OK. But what about the other important sound. Now we need to look at UH.
Yeah. UH is more straightforward because we both say this sound in much the same words.

Cup, cup, hut, hut, luck, luck, love, love, come, come, dull, dull.

So UH is a shorter sound and you need to keep your tongue relaxed.

ah uh minimal pairs

Let’s compare UH with AH now.
See if you can hear the difference.

Cart cut, carp cup, dark duck, barn bun, calm come.
Hot hut, lock luck, cot cut, fond fund, doll dull.

If you find it hard, you’re not alone.
Yes, it’s tricky. It’s about small movements of the tongue and the jaw.
It just takes practice, but you’ll get it.Now, do we have any sentences?
Yes. I’ve got one for you to say and one for me to say and you can try saying them with us. Your one has UH sounds.
OK. ‘Don’t be unhappy, love. Come to lunch with me and let’s have fun!’
OK, my one has AH sounds. ‘I can’t meet you after class because I’ll be in the bath.’
You mean the bath.
And that’s it for today everyone.
If you’ve enjoyed this video please give it a like and share it with a friend.
See you all next Friday. Bye

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plate or dish prototype theory

Dish or plate? Prototype theory and English vocabulary

What’s the difference between a plate and a dish in English? In some languages there’s just one word.
It’s not a simple answer because the meanings of words often overlap.
In this English lesson we explain when we say dish or plate and look at the features of:
– plates, dishes, cups, mugs and bowls
– different kinds of games
We show how the meanings of words can be fuzzy at the edges and it leads us to linguistic prototype theory.
We draw on the work of two different writers:
– the philosopher Wittgenstein and his work on words that share a family resemblance
– the psychologist Eleanor Rosch and prototype theory
If you’re interested in this topic, a great book to read is ‘Words in the Mind’ by Jean Aitchison. She explores how we store words in our brain.

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Plate or dish?

We had a great question from a viewer called Aurum last week.
Aurum asked what’s the difference between a dish and a plate? Some languages have only one word.
A dish is a container or bowl. It’s usually pretty shallow, so not very deep.
We serve food from a dish and sometimes we cook food in it too.
But sometimes a dish is a particular type of food that’s served as part of a meal.
Like a fish dish or a pasta dish.
A plate is flat and usually round. We put our food on it and eat from it.
And in American English, a plate can also be a whole main course of a meal.
But not in British English.
No. Aurum’s question looked simple, but when you go deeper, it’s quite tricky.
There are lots more words like this. Let’s look at some.

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

Wow! That was confusing!
Yes. It’s because the meaning of words often overlap with other words. Another meaning starts before one meaning has finished.
So we call this a cup, but we could also call it a mug. It’s part cup and part mug.
Exactly. The boundaries between the words are fuzzy. There’s no clear dividing line between their meanings.
Are there more words like this?
Oh yes, lots. What about the word game? What does game mean?

Wittgenstein and words that share a family resemblance

You mean a board game like Monopoly, or a card game like poker?
Yes. Or a game like football or tennis.
Or computer games.
Or the Olympic Games. What do they all have in common?
Well there’s competition. We compete against another person or another team. If it’s a game we can win or lose.
But there’s also the game of patience.
We call that solitaire. It’s a card game you play on your own.
And what if a child throws a ball against a wall? It’s a game, but it’s not a competition.
OK. Is it that games are all amusing and fun?
Well, that’s often true, but some games are quite serious like chess, or war games.
Is it about skill? We need to learn and practice a game to play well – like chess or football? They require skill.
Skill can be important, but in some games, you can win by chance. Like roulette or bingo. You don’t need skill to win them.
So there are different features of the word ‘game’: competitive, amusing, skillful. But we don’t need all the features to call something a game.
Exactly. The meanings of words are often a group of ideas that are similar. But they don’t all have to be true for the meaning to work. They just have to have a family resemblance.
OK. Here’s a big question. What does this mean if you’re learning English?
It means words you have in your language might not match English words exactly. They could be similar in some ways but different in others.
Because the word boundaries might be different.
That’s right. And there’s some interesting research about that.

Prototype theory and English vocabulary

In the 1970s a psychologist, called Eleanor Rosch, ran some experiments on prototypes. A prototype is a typical example of something. For example, she showed people lots of dogs and asked them what’s the doggiest dog for you? A sheep dog, a bull dog, a collie, a dachshund, a Pekingese? So she wasn’t asking what dogs people liked. She was asking what kind of dog is most typical of all dogs.
She asked the same question about lots of different categories of things. For example birds, vegetables, toys, pieces of furniture. And she discovered two things. The first one was people kept ranking things in the same way. Their answers were very consistent. For example, most people thought a chair was the best example of a piece of furniture and a lamp wasn’t very good.
And the second thing Eleanor discovered was very curious. People believed the words must share some common features. So for example, they’d look at different birds and say they’re birds because they can all fly. But a penguin can’t fly and an ostrich can’t fly. Flying is a common feature of birds but it’s not a necessary feature. People kept looking for necessary features that don’t exist.

So things in her categories shared some features, but not all of them.
Yeah, and the things that shared the most features were the best prototypes.
It was like the word ‘game’. Different games have some features in common, but they don’t share all of them.
Our brains want to think that words fit neatly into categories and that there are clear boundaries where one word stops and another begins.
But that’s not how it works. The meanings of words are fuzzy at the edges.
You can’t always separate them with clear lines.
And this is something that’s true for all languages.
I have a question.
What’s that?
What’s the birdiest bird for you?
Oh it’s the robin. Definitely.
For me it’s the sparrow.
Really? But robins are such a common bird.
But in the UK, the most common bird is a sparrow.
Wow. So maybe we have different ideas of what a bird is.
And maybe you have different ideas about birds, or what dishes and plates are.
Write and tell us in the comments if you do.
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
And Aurum, thank you for a great question. See you all next week everyone. Bye-bye.

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

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

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

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Vocabulary for talking about love

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

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

Impressing and trying too hard

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

A euphemism

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

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

Personal attributes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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