clothes

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

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

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

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

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

can can't pronunciation

How to say Can and Can’t in British and American

Learn how to pronounce can and can’t in British and American English. Can is pronounced in much the same way in both varieties, but can’t is very different.  It explains one of the (many) reasons why Vicki sometimes find it hard to understand Jay.


Click here to learn about some more British and American differences.
Click here to see more pronunciation videos
Click here to learn to use can, could and may to ask for permission.

Can Can’t pronunciation video script

Hi! This video’s about how we pronounce the words can and can’t in British and American English.
She means can and can’t.
Can and can’t.
Yeah, can and can’t.
I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
We’ve received requests for a video on how we pronounce these two words.
I’m not surprised. Sometimes Vicki doesn’t understand me.
Yeah.

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

When Jay says can’t, sometimes I think he’s saying can. It’s hard to hear the difference, but don’t worry. We’ll go step by step and show you how we pronounce these two words.
Let’s start with the word ‘can’. We both pronounce it in two ways. Strongly – can, and weakly – c’n. See if you can hear the difference.

Can you hear me?
Yes, I can. Can you hear me?
Yes I can.

C’n… C’n you hear me? That’s weak. Yes I can. Can. That’s strong. Jay and I both say can and c’n.

C’n… C’n you hear me?
C’n… C’n you hear me?

C’n. It links with the next word. It links with the next word. C’n you… C’n you hear me? There’s no gap. But notice, that when we give a short answer, we both say ‘can’ strongly.

Yes, I can.
Yes, I can.

Can is longer and higher in pitch. It’s stressed. So what’s happening here? Well, normally when we’re speaking, we pronounce ‘can’ weakly. C’n. But If we’re emphasizing can and stressing the word, we use the strong form. Can.

Can’t you hear me?
No, I CAN hear you.

We always use the strong form in short answers.

Can you hear me?
Yes, I can. Cnn you hear me?
Yes I can.

Did you hear the difference between can (c’n) and can there? OK. Great. Now let’s look at ‘can’t’.

Can’t is pronounced differently in British and American.
Yes. I say can’t.
And I say can’t.
That’s different. Listen.

Can’t.
Can’t.
Can’t.
Can’t.

It’s a different vowel sound. Did you hear it?

Can’t.
Can’t.
Can’t.
Can’t.

So what happens when we use ‘can’t’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples.

Jay had surgery on his hand this week.
I can’t open jars. And I can’t chop. Oh, but I can write. That’s because I’m left handed.

Listen carefully to how Jay says ‘can’t’ here. When we write ‘can’t’, it ends with ‘t’. But does Jay pronounce the ‘t’?

I can’t open jars.

There was no ‘t’ sound!

I can’t open jars.
I can’t see.

No ‘t’ sound! Jay puts a stop on the word so it ends suddenly and the ‘t’ disappears. See if you can hear the difference.

Can.
Can’t.
Can.
Can’t.
Can.
Can’t.

They sound similar, don’t they? But can’t is a little shorter. It ends more suddenly.

Can.
Can’t.

Now what about British English? Here’s how I say it.

He can’t open jars.

You can hear the t sound. It connects can’t and open and links the two words together. Can’t-open.

He can’t open jars.

The t sound gets added to the next word. OK, another example. But this one’s different.

Hello. Hello. I can’t hear you.
Oh!

Did you hear a ‘t’ sound there? Listen again.

I can’t hear you.

I didn’t pronounce the ‘t’! Sometimes in British English, we’re like Americans. We don’t pronounce the ‘t’.

I can’t hear you.

So what’s happening here? Often in spoken English, we don’t pronounce the final t sound clearly in negative words that end ‘nt. So words like can’t, don’t and won’t become can(’t), don(’t), and won(’t). The t sound can disappear when we’re speaking. This happens a lot in American English. And it sometimes happens in British English too. So instead of saying don’t we say don(’t).

I don(’t) know.
I don(’t) know.

And instead of saying won’t we say won(’t).

No, I won(’t).
No, I won(’t).

And the same thing happens with can’t. Instead of saying can’t we say can(’t). We just say /n/ at the end. Can(‘t). Can(‘t). It’s a quick /n/ sound. Try it. /n/ /n/. The sound is in your nose.
In British English, we generally pronounce our t sounds more clearly than Americans, especially if we’re speaking carefully. But when we’re speaking casually and informally, we often don’t say them – just like Americans.

I can(’t).
I can(’t).

In British English, sometimes we say the ‘t’ and sometimes we don’t.

I can’t see.
I can(‘t) see.

So shall we review?
Yeah. In British and American English, when we say ‘I ca’n do it’, can sounds like c’n.
That’s right. And in American, when you say ‘I can’t do it’, ‘can’t’ sounds like ‘can’.
That’s right. ‘I can’t do it.’
So in American English can is c’n and can’t is can(t).
That’s right. Can(’t.)
American English is hard!
No, it’s easy! What do you think?
We have more videos on differences between British and American English and if you click here you can see some.
And make sure you subscribe to our channel because we produce a new video every week.
Happy studying everyone! Bye.
Bye.

Click here to learn about some more British and American differences.
Click here to see more pronunciation videos
Click here to learn to use can, could and may to ask for permission.

US Election Special and American and British English Group Nouns

US Election Special and American and British English Group Nouns

Come join me and find out what a US political rally is like.

And the home of the brave. God bless you all.

This weekend I went to my first American political rally and I thought you might like to see it too.

Hello Simple English Videos!

Philadelphia! Are you ready to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine? We are. We are.

Hi! I’m so excited to be here tonight. This has been a very unusual election. And I think it’s pretty obvious that young people like all of you who I am seeing in front of us tonight… This election matters to everybody, but it matters more to you. Thank you so much.

Let’s look at some of the words we heard.

Philadelphia, are you ready to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine?

To elect is a verb – an action -and the event where people vote is an election.

This has been a very unusual election.

But there’s another word you might not know: the electorate. It’s all the people in a country who have the right to vote. I’m a British citizen and I can’t vote in the United States, so I’m not part of the group that can. I’m not a member of the electorate.
So electorate is group of people and in British English we can use it with a singular or plural verb form. But in American English it’s only used with a singular verb form. There are other nouns for groups where this happens as well. We can use singular or plural verb forms in British English but only singular ones in American English. So watch out for those.
The event we saw is called a rally and it was organized to boost or increase support for Hillary. Do people hold similar rallies in your country, or are they different? In the UK I think most rallies are organized to protest things rather than show support, and I don’t think people would be so excited. I think you wouldn’t see as many flags, as well. We’d love to know more about rallies where you are, so tell us in the comments.
And also, this election matters here, but do you think this American election could matter to you as well? Are you interested in the results and do you want Hillary to win?
Oooo. And one last thing. I wanted to say I’m sorry about the shaky camera work in the video of the rally. I took a tripod but security was very tight and the secret service stopped me from taking it in. OK. We’ll be back next week with a regular lesson. See you there!

Give me a thumbs up if you like it. Yeah!

To find out about a playlist of videos made by English teachers about the 2016 election, click here.

abbreviations

British Abbreviations. Learn about English short forms

There are abbreviations in British English that Americans don’t use – words like brolly and chippie. I wonder if you know them? This video is about some differences in British and American abbreviations and you’ll learn some common British short forms. We made this video after the collaboration we did with other ESL YouTubers for the World Story-Telling Day Project.


Click here to see the story we made for World Story-Telling Day
Click here to learn about lots more British and American differences.

Abbreviations Video Transcript

Hi everyone. This lesson’s a little different to normal because last Sunday was World Storytelling Day. We got together with five other YouTube teachers to create a story. Did you see it? Click here if not.
Do you remember the names of the girls in the story? They were called Lilly and Philly. Now Philly is an abbreviation of Phyllis and it’s also the abbreviation for Philadelphia – the city where I live.
Philly is in the United States, but I come from England originally. And I’ve noticed something interesting. We seem to have some abbreviations in British English that they don’t have here in American English. So I thought I’d try some on Jay.

You know what my theory is, Jay.
What’s your theory?
You hear me but you don’t listen.
Of course I listen.
OK, here’s your first question.
When do you need a brolly? A brolly.
When it’s raining.
Very good. What is a brolly?
It’s an umbrella.
Excellent. Excellent. OK, second question. When do I wear a cossie? A cossie.
I have no clue.
I’ll give you a clue. When we go on holiday, I like to wear a cossie.
A swimming costume. That’s what we call a bathing suit.
A swimming costume. You call it a bathing suit in American English, but in British English it’s a swimming costume. Bathing suit sounds very old fashioned to us. It’s a bit strange in British English. OK, next question. OK. What would you find at a chippie? At a chippie.
Saw dust?
Ummm. You can find something to eat at a chippie.
A chips place, like, like…
Yeah, fish and chips. French fries and fish.
No, fish and chips. Or shish and fips as we used to say when I was a kid.
Right, erm…
The last question. Now this one’s different to the others. It’s an odd man out question. I’m going to give you four words and you have to tell me which one is the odd man out. Here are the words. Cabbie. Hubby. Postie. Brickie.
OK, a cabbie is a cab driver. We say the same thing in America. Hubby we also say is short for husband. Postie I’m guessing is a mail man.
You’re doing better than I thought you would.
And I don’t know what a brickie is.
A brickie is a brick layer. Someone who lays bricks.
Ah. So the brick layer, the cabbie and the postman, or mail man, they’re all workers. The hubby may or may not be. So the hubby is the odd man out.
That’s right. So you did pretty well there, Jay.
Well, I’ve been around you long enough to have picked up a few things.
OK, in that case you can translate for us now.
I’ll try.

Let’s take a break.
Yeah, let’s have a cuppa.
She means a cup of tea.
Let’s have a cuppa and a bickie too.
A biscuit. She means a cookie.
Let’s have a cuppa and a chockie bickie.
A cup of tea and a chocolate cookie.
Sounds good to me!

I hope you enjoyed the abbreviations and I hope you enjoyed the story. A big thank you to English with Jennifer for organising it, and the channels of all the other terrific teachers who took part. And don’t forget to subscribe to them.

Click here to see the story we made for World Story-Telling Day
Click here to learn about lots more British and American differences.

don't care don't mind

I don’t care and I don’t mind: An American and British difference

The phrases I don’t care and I don’t mind are very common and useful, but they can cause offence and/or confusion when Americans and Brits use them together. In the USA they mean one thing and in the UK they mean another.

When an American says I don’t care to a Brit, they can sound negative and apathetic. And when a Brit says I don’t mind to an American, they can appear to avoid the question, and answer another different question – which makes no sense. Learn how we use these phrases differently on both sides of the pond in this video.

To see more of our videos on American and British differences, click here.
To see more videos about what’s polite in everyday English conversation, click here.

Don’t care – Don’t mind Video Transcript

Would you like tea, or coffee?
I don’t mind. I don’t care.

This video’s about a curious difference between American and British English.
I’m American.
Yes, Jay’s American and I’m British.
And this video’s about a family argument.
Yes. It’s about how Jay uses the phrase ‘I don’t care’.
No, it’s about how you use the phrase ‘I don’t mind’.
Do you want to tell them or shall I?
I don’t care.
Then let me begin.

When you offer us two alternatives, two possibilities, British and American people respond in different ways.

Would you like tea, or coffee?
I don’t mind.
I don’t care.

We both mean we’re happy with either alternative, but our responses are different. So same intentions but different responses – that can lead to misunderstandings.

Let’s go to the cinema tonight.
You mean the movies.
There’s that comedy with Sandra Bullock, and that one with Robert De Niro.
Which do you fancy. I don’t care.
You don’t want to go then?
No, I don’t care.
All right then. We won’t go.
What did I do?

In American ‘I don’t care’ means I’m happy with either possibility. You can decide because I like both alternatives.
If we say ‘I don’t care’ in British English, it means we’re apathetic – we’re not interested. ‘I don’t care’ sounds negative.

So what would you like for dinner? Spaghetti or an omelette?
Oh I don’t care.

I don’t care is often rude in British English. We’d say ‘I don’t mind’.

So what do you want for dinner?
Spaghetti or an omelette?
I don’t mind.
What?

‘I don’t mind’ makes no sense in American English. It’s the answer to the question ‘Do you mind…?’ like ‘Do you mind if I have the last cookie?’ You can answer ‘No, I don’t mind’, or ‘Actually, I want it’. But if I ask ‘Do you want this or that?’ and you answer ‘I don’t mind’ you’re answering a question I didn’t ask, and it drives me crazy.

Would you like red wine or white wine?
I don’t mind.
But which do you want?

OK everyone, we’re finished. Let’s go and see that movie.
You want to see it?
Yeah.
Great!
Do you want to walk or take a bus?
I don’t mind.
Well make up your mind!
Why? You can choose.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
To see more of our videos on American and British differences, click here.
To see more videos about what’s polite in everyday English conversation, click here.

American baseball idioms

American Baseball Idioms (See examples in action)

If you need to understand Americans, it really helps to understand baseball idioms. They often come up in conversation.

We use many of these idioms in British English too, but not all. Watch these videos to learn their meanings and see lots of examples.

There are four baseball idiom videos here, so keep scrolling down to watch them all. They’ll help you hit it out of the ball park!

Baseball Idioms Video 1

(hit it out of the park, hit a home run, pitch an idea, a strong pitch, right off the bat, take a rain check)

Football! The most popular sport in the world.
No, no, that’s soccer.
In America, we play football.
That’s a different kind of football. But this lesson’s about your favourite sport, Jay.
Baseball?
Yeah. Well, sort of. It’s about baseball idioms.
Fantastic! We’re gonna hit this one right out of the ball park. It’ll be a home run.
When he starts talking about baseball, sometimes it’s hard to know what he means.
I’m British and when I came to the United States I discovered there were lots of baseball idioms in American English. They’re easy. But you need to know something about baseball or they don’t make much sense.
Baseball’s easy. Let me tell you about the scoring system.
Hang on, Jay. Let’s keep this simple.
Oh?
Let’s start with the basics. Americans play baseball in a park.
A ballpark.
And there’s grass. It’s like a pitch.
No. You play soccer on a pitch. We play baseball on a field.
One person has a bat and another has a ball.
The pitcher pitches the ball to the batter.
‘Pitch’. Our first idiom.

I’ve got a great idea.
Uhuh.
Can I tell you about it?
Err, I’m busy at the moment. Pitch it to me later.
Oh!

So ‘to pitch an idea’ is to present it. A good pitcher makes a strong throw.

That was a very persuasive presentation.
Yes, it was a strong pitch.

So ‘pitching an idea’ is like throwing the ball out there.
That’s right. Then the batter hits it as far as they can.
They want to get a home run.
A home run! There’s another one.
Yeah, a baseball field has four bases.
If the batters run around all four bases, they’ve hit a home run.

That presentation was amazing. Was it OK?
Fantastic! What a great job!
I think the audience liked it.
Liked it? You hit it out of the ballpark.
You hit a home run.

So what does ‘hit a home run’ mean?
It means be very successful.
And ‘hit one out of the ball park’?
That’s a fantastic success. You can’t do better than that.
And if you hit a home run right off the bat….
Hang on. ‘Right off the bat’. That’s another one.

So what happened?
I walked in the room and right off the bat I knew something was wrong.
Right off the bat? Yeah.
Right away he said, ‘You’re fired’.
He said that immediately?
Yep. No delay.

So ‘right off the bat’ means with no delay.
Yes. As soon as the ball hits the bat it comes right off it. It happens immediately.
And speaking of things that are happening immediately….
What?
I’ve gotta go.
Why? The game is starting in five minutes.
But we haven’t finished the idioms.
We’ll have to take a rain check.
Stop! ‘A rain check’. What’s that?
Oh, sometimes the weather’s bad and then the game is cancelled. If you have a ticket to a game but it rains, they give you a ticket to another game. It’s called a rain check.

I’ve got a problem.
What’s that?
I can’t make Monday’s meeting. Can I take a rain check?
Sure. Are you free sometime next week?
Yeah. How about Tuesday?

The game’s starting. I need to take a rain check.
OK, then please come back later guys and we’ll have some more baseball idioms for you then.
We ‘hit things for six’ in British English.
I have no idea what that is.
Well, if you…. if you’re playing cricket and you hit the ball a long way, then you can make six runs.
Oh, I think I get it. Six runs around the bases?
Yes, well back and forth ’cause there are only two wickets.
What’s a wicket.
A wicket… a wicket is, oh you’ll be stumped by this Jay…
A wicket is, is three sticks in the ground with some little pegs on the top.
And you have to bowl a ball and hit the wicket.
What? Do you bowl the str…. Do you… what …bowl…. bowl… we bowl ..
We bowl a ball in bowling. No, we bowl the ball.
How do you strike the batter out?
You don’t strike the batter.
That would get you disqualified if you hit the batter. It would be terrible.
Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

Baseball Idioms Video 2

(touch base, off base, caught off base, cover all the bases, drop the ball, a curve ball)

Welcome back to another video on baseball idioms.
Yeah. Now Vicki last time I never actually told them how to play baseball.
Yeah, you did. I didn’t. You did. I didn’t. You did. I didn’t.
Baseball is very easy. Here’s what happens. The batter hits the ball and then runs around the four bases.
The bases.
Yeah. And they briefly touch each one. The batter needs to get to each base before the ball.
Hang on. These are the bases. Yeah.
If the batter touches base before the ball, they’re still in the game. But if they don’t, they’re out.
So they have to make contact with the bases.
Exactly.

OK. I’ll talk to Pete about this.
And I’ll contact our suppliers.
And I’ll find out about the packaging. Let’s all keep in touch.
Yes. We need to know what we’re all doing.
Can you both let me know how you make out?
Yes. Let’s touch base soon.
Why don’t we meet again on Friday? Yeah.

So here’s an idiom: touch base. It means maintain contact to make sure everyone has the same information.

Can we touch base soon? It’s been a while since we spoke.
Great. Let’s meet on Monday.

What happens if a batter doesn’t touch a base?
That’s a problem. If they’re off base and the other team catches the ball, the batter could be out. You don’t want to be caught off base.
Caught off base.

Why have we got all that ice cream in stock?
Well, the weather forecast said it would be hot on Saturday.
So you bought lots of ice cream.
We thought we’d sell lots.
But then the weather turned bad.
It caught us off base.

Off base. You don’t want to be caught off base.
That’s when something unexpected and bad happens.
Our next idiom: caught off base.
Yeah, you want to be prepared. The other team is going to position someone at each base so they can try to stop you from making a home run.
Uhuh.
They’ll try to cover all the bases.
Cover all the bases. I know this one.

So if it’s sunny we’ll eat outside.
Yep. And if it’s raining we’ll eat inside.
Yep, and if it’s snowing we’ll cancel the party.
Yeah.
Good. I think we’ve covered all the bases.
Yeah.

It means deal with all the possibilities. Plan ahead so there are no shocks or bad surprises.
You know we use a lot of these idioms in the UK too. But here’s an idiom that I’ve only heard in the US.

Hey Jennifer.
Hi Jay.
I’m calling about the video.
Oh yeah? How’s it going?
Do you have the pictures? The pictures?
Yeah, you were gonna get some images.
Oh, you’re waiting for me to send the pictures.
Yeah.
I’m sorry. I’ve really dropped the ball on this one.

You said ‘dropped the ball’.
Yeah, I meant I hadn’t done what I was supposed to do.
Dropping the ball is about a failure, making an error.
That’s right. Now I never drop the ball normally.
No, but you did then. That was an idiom I hadn’t heard in the UK.
I know. We threw you a curve ball, didn’t we?
Curve ball. That’s another one.

OK. I want detailed plans before that meeting.
Yeah, yeah.
I want to know exactly what’s happening.
Yeah, yeah.
I don’t want any surprises.
Don’t worry. I won’t throw you any curve balls.

In British English we’d say ‘curved ball’.
Yes. It means do something unexpected, something that’s surprising.
But it’s a nasty surprise.
Yes, a curve ball is usually unpleasant for the batter. It’s devious. You think it’s going one way but then it goes another.
It’s a trick. Yeah.
It’s like American baseball idioms then. They can be tricky.
Yep.
OK. We’ve got to stop now but we haven’t finished.
Please check back later because we’ll have another video on baseball idioms.
And don’t worry. We’ll cover all the bases.
‘Cause in British English we say ‘curved ball’. Yep. It comes from cricket.
But the ball’s not curved. It’s… it’s round. No, no, no. It’s… it’s curved as in the adjective. E -D. It’s the past participle adjective.
A curve ball follows a curved path so it’s a curve ball. It’s a compound noun. Curve ball.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

Baseball Idioms Video 3

(a ballpark figure, big leagues, play hard ball, in a league of your own, batting a thousand)

Welcome back to our third video on baseball idioms.
Baseball is such a great game.
If you can understand it.
Baseball’s really popular in the United States.
Everyone loves a trip to the ballpark.
Ballpark. It’s part of our first idiom.

How much will you need to fix the roof.
I don’t know. There’s materials, paint, labor.
Well, just give me a ballpark figure.
Maybe five thousand dollars.
What?

Ballpark figure. It’s an estimate. So many people attend a big game that it’s hard to count them accurately.
So a ballpark figure is a rough estimate of a big number.
Yes, basball crowds are large. The thing is everyone grows up playing baseball here.
There are lots of little leagues. Leagues – we have them in football too.
Soccer.
Leagues are groups of teams that play one another.
Yeah. Kids play in little leagues and professional players play in the big leagues.
Big leagues! Another idiom.

Oh boy, have we got a problem.
We’d better hire a lawyer.
We’d better hire a big league lawyer.

So what’s a big league lawyer?
A very important one. They operate at the top level.They know how to play hard ball.
Hard ball?
You can play baseball with a hard or a soft ball. Hard balls are dangerous so kids learn to play with softballs.

It’s a lot of money.
Everyone wants to win this contract. The competition will be tough.
Yep, they’ll be playing hard ball.

So if someone plays hard ball?
It means they’re strong, experienced and willing to take risks.
So to play hard ball is to play tough. Maybe aggressively. Baseball can be a dangerous game.
Now here’s another idiom with the word ‘league’.

Everybody say hey!
What are you watching?
Oh I love this video that Jason made.
Me too. He’s fantastic in it.
Yeah, he’s in a league of his own.

If you’re in a league of your own you’re exceptional.
Yeah, you’re too good even for the top team.
Now statistics are important in baseball, aren’t they.
Yes, we have batting averages. If a batter has a perfect record for hitting the ball, they get a batting average of a thousand.

I’ve been reviewing everyone’s sales figures. Vicki, your results are excellent.
Thank you.
You’ve been our top salesperson every month this year. You’re batting a thousand.
Batting a thousand.
Now Jay.
It’s been a difficult year for me.
I can see that. You’re in a slump.

So batting a thousand. That’s the maximum possible. You can’t do better than that.
And if a batter is in a slump? Their statistics have been very bad.
OK. It’s time to stop but we hope these idioms will help you bat a thousand.
And come back soon and we’ll have another baseball idioms video.
What are you eating.
Oh. Crackerjacks. People eat them at ball games. Would you like some?
Oh yes please.
Here we go.
They’re like in the song. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks.
You know we should teach them the song in the next video.
Yeah. It’s like popcorn.
Yep.
Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

Baseball Idioms Video 4

(a whole new ball game, step up to the plate, three strikes and you’re out, out of left field, stuck out in right field)

This is our final video on baseball idioms. You’ll learn some great new expressions.
And you’ll learn a song. Come on. Let’s get going.
The wonderful thing about baseball is you never know what will happen. Every game is different. It’s a new game with new possibilities.

We need an idea for a sales promotion.
Let’s have a competition.
We had one last year. And nobody entered.
Forget last year. It’ll be very different this time.
We do have a lot of new products this year.
Exactly. It’ll be a whole new ball game.
Hmmm.

A whole new ball game? Yes, it means a completely different situation – totally new.
Now we’d better tell everyone about home plate. It’s a piece of white rubber and it has five sides.
It marks the place where the batter stands.
Yes, home plate is where a lot of the action starts.
When a batter steps up to the plate….
Hang on. There’s another idiom.

We’ve got a problem. The website went down three times last week.
Yes, I’m afraid the webmaster quit. There are problems with the code, but we have no control over that.
Well, who’s responsible then? Somebody’s gotta fix it.
Yes, fix the code. It’s quite a challenge.
Well, who’s going to do it?
What? Me?
Don’t worry Christina. Jay will fix it.
It’s a wonderful challenge for him. He can’t wait to start.
Excellent. Thanks for stepping up to the plate, Jay.
Bye now everyone.
But I don’t know anything about website code.

So to step up to the plate means to take on the responsibility for something.
Yes, when the batter steps up to the plate, they rise to a challenge.
Now how many chances does the batter get to hit the ball, Jay.
Well, it depends. They can only get three strikes. Now I’m the batter. The strike zone is from my chest to my knees. If the pitcher throws a ball and it’s in the strike zone and I don’t swing, that’s a strike. If I swing and miss, that’s a strike too. Three strikes and you’re out.
That’s another idiom!

You were two hours late this morning.
Yeah.
And you were two hours late last Wednesday. Yeah, sorry.
That’s two strikes.
If you’re late again, you’re out.
You’d fire me?
Yes. Three strikes and you’re out.

So a strike is a kind of failure. That’s right, and you’re only allowed to fail three times. After that, you’re out.
Now tell us about left field and right field. Left field is a long way from first base.
It’s hard to throw the ball to first base from left field.
So it’s surprising when balls come out of left field.
Yeah.

We have big plans for you, Graham. We’re going to give you a promotion.
You’re going to be our sales manager for all of Asia.
Gee, I’m sorry guys, but I quit.
You’re resigning?
Yeah, I got a better job.
But we had everything planned!
Wow! That came out of left field.

So something out of left field is surprising.
Yep. It’s odd or strange. It’s often something bad too. We don’t expect balls to come from left field.
They’re unconventional.
Yep. When ideas are crazy or eccentric, we might say they came out of left field.
So is it the same with right field?
No, that’s a little different. Right field is a quiet place. Nothing much happens there.

How long have you been working here, Jay?
Twenty seven years.
And you’ve always had the same job?
Yep.
You’ve never had a promotion?
No.
Sounds like you’re stuck out in right field.
Yep.

So if you’re stuck in right field, nothing much happens.
Yeah, if you’re in right field, you’re disconnected from the action.
I’ve heard a lot of these basball idioms used in British business conversations as well. And some of them are similar to cricket. But some of them were a whole new ball game for me too. We hope you find them useful.
Yeah, we hope they help you hit it out of the park.
We’ll be batting for you.
Batting for you?
Yes, we’ll be on your side, rooting for you.
Rooting for you?
Yeah, you root for your favorite team.
You mean you support them.
Yeah, like I root for the Phillies.
Root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame.
And it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

British and American English differences

A confusing phone call – British and American English

Here’s a conversation that goes wrong because of three British and American English differences. Can you spot them? (See below for the answers.)

I made this video with my friend Jennifer ESL. Check out her awesome YouTube channel here.

A confusing phone call script

Hey Jennifer!
Hi Vicki! I’ve got something for you.
That’s terrific!
Can you send me your address?
You want my dress?
Yeah, I’ll post it to you.
Why don’t I send you my address and then you can mail it?
OK, I’ll do that.
All right. You’re awesome.
Well, I don’t know about that.
OK, bye.
Bye.

Click here to watch this with a clickable transcript.

British and American English differences

The pronunciation of address – the stress fall on the first syllable in AmE and the second syllable in BrE.
We say post in BrE and mail in AmE.
British praise tends to be more understated than AmE praise. ‘You’re awesome’ is commonly used to say a ritual ‘thank you’ in America, but it’s less frequent in the UK.

British and American pronunciation

Tomahto – Tomayto: British and American Pronunciation

There’s a brilliant George Gershwin song that compares British and American pronunciation. It goes, ‘You say tomayto, and I say tomahto’. The lyrics are fantastic but they’re not 100% accurate which is troubling for word nerds. We wanted to create a song that reflected pronunciation differences with greater accuracy. Hope you like it.


Click here to see more pronunciation videos

American and English Pronunciation Song Lyrics

I am English. I’m American. I speak English. I speak ‘merican.
I say ‘tomahto’. I say ‘tomayto’. And oregano, the herb. And oregano, the herb.
In our leisure. In our leisure.
We like ballet. We like ballet. A matinee. A matinee. (Together) A ballet matinee.
Our relationship is clearly very fragile. Fragile. Fragile.
It borders on emotionally volatile. Volatile. Volatile.
It’s futile. Futile. Don’t get hostile. Hostile.
I eat pate. I eat pate. Like a gourmet. Like a gourmet.
I take vitamins. Vitamins. I use vaccine. Vaccine.
I take one route. My route’s different.
I narrate. No, you narrate. And you dictate. No I dictate.
You’ve got to translate. Translate.
Birmingham. Birmingham. Canterbury. Canterbury.
Leicester. Leicester. Worcester. Worcester.
It’s a controversy. Controversy.
There’s no respite. No respite.
Degas, Monet, Manet, Renoir. Degas, Monet, Manet, Renoir.
We’ve no defense. No defense. No privacy. Privacy. Dynasty. Dynasty.
It’s zed. It’s zee. It’s buoy. It’s buoy.
I like bananas. I like bananas. It’s a vase. It’s a vase.
It’s a garage. It’s a garage. Aluminum. Aluminium.
I am English. I’m American. I speak English. I speak ‘merican.
We can’t dictate. We can’t dictate.
We’ve got to translate. Translate.

To see this video with a clickable transcript, click here.
The IATEFL webinar that I mention at the end of this video is over now, but it has been archived for members to watch. Teachers – IATEFL is an excellent professional organisation and well worth joining.

How to be clear in the US

How to be clear in the US

I’m British but I live in the US and I’ve discovered there are all kinds of ways to confuse Americans like Jay with my British English.
Here are five.

I say zed. What would you say Jay?
I’d say zee.

OK. Zed in British English is zee in American.
Let’s try another.

Could you spell your name please?
Yes, it’s Hollett.
H-O-double L-E-double T.
H-O-W…
No. Double L E double T.
Oh, you mean Hollett. H-O-L-L-E-T-T.
If you like.

So Americans don’t say double. They say letters twice instead.
That’s true for telephone numbers too.

And while we’re talking about that, what kind of number is this, Jay?
Ah, that’s a telephone number.
And how do you know?
Well all telephone numbers are shaped like that. There’s a three digit area code and then a group of three and then a group of four.

So remember that. If your telephone number is shaped differently, Americans may be surprised. Here’s another.

Hi. What time does our flight leave?
At 15.30.
Not the flight number. What time does our flight leave?
It leaves at 15.30. 3.30 pm.
Oh right.

Americans use A.M. to talk about times in the morning and P.M. to talk about times in the afternoon and evening.
It comes from Latin.
Here’s my top way to confuse an American. I went for a blood test the other day and confused my phlebotomist. I’ll let her explain how.

You said the day of your birthday, and then the month and then the year of your birthday.
Ah, and what would you do in America?
Say the month first and then the day and then the year. It’s not 25 month, and so that’s whay I was a little confused there.
Thank you.
You’re welcome. Enjoy your day.

So the month then the date then the year. Here’s hoping you’re not like me and you never confuse Americans. Bye now.
Bye.

Good, that’s a wrap.
Hey, are you sure you didn’t say H-O W?
No darling. I said H-O-double L.
That’s a really strange way to say it. All righty.

This video is also available with a clickable transcript. Click here to see it.