trying to learn

Trying to Learn to Touch Type – An English Conversation

Vicki is trying to learn to touch type so she is trying not to look at the keys. In this funny English conversation, Jay is surprised to see that she has covered her fingers with stickie notes.

Trying to learn conversation

What are you doing?
Oh, I’m trying to learn to touch type.
But what are all the stickie notes for?
Oh, I’m trying not to look at the keys.
Good luck with that.

Click here to learn the difference between ‘try to do’ and ‘try doing’.

Click here to see more conversation videos for English speaking practice.

suggestion box

Suggestion Box Ideas – An English Conversation

In this English conversation Vicki and Kathy are opening their office suggestions box. The first idea they read is to create a Facebook page. They like it. The second idea is to have casual dress days every day of the week. They are not so sure about that.
Notice the English phrases used to make suggestions in the conversation.

Suggestion Box Conversation

OK, let’s open the office suggestion box.
Yeah! Two suggestions! That’s great.
Open the first one.
OK. ‘Why don’t we create a Facebook page for our company?’
I like this idea.
That’s a very good suggestion. Read the second one.
OK. ‘How about having casual dress days at the office every day of the week? ‘Hmmm. That’s an interesting idea.
I wonder who suggested that.

Click here to learn the phrases we commonly use to make suggestions in English.
Click here for more video conversations for English speaking practice

first impression

Meeting a visitor? Make a good first impression

At your first meeting with a new business contact, you’ll want to make a good impression. What could go wrong? Well quite a lot.
First impressions count so here you’ll learn English phrases and expressions to make yours a great one.


Click here to see more everyday situations where you’ll want to be polite.
Click here to see more Business English conversations.

First impression script

So you’re meeting a new business contact.

Hi!

First impressions matter, so what can you do and say? OK. First thing – arrive on time. You don’t want your contact wondering where you are.

Erm… Excuse me. Are you from Pattersons?
Oh are you Vicki Hollett?
Yes.
Oh.

Next thing – be ready to greet your visitor and make them feel welcome.

Oh are you Vicki Hollett?
Yes.
Hi! Welcome to Philly!

Ah yes. It’s best to greet them in a professional manner.

Errr.. Hi, I’m Vicki Hollett.
Hi, I’m Jay Silber from Pattersons. Welcome to Philadelphia.
Thank you.
So how was your trip?
Erm, not too bad thanks but one of my bags didn’t arrive from England.
Let’s go then.

The next thing is listen. Pay attention to what they say, so you can respond.

So how was your trip?
Not too bad, but one of my bags didn’t arrive from England.
Will they send it to you here?
That’s what they promised.
Oh good. OK, let’s go.

Another thing. Be helpful!

Can I help you with your bag?
Ooo, yes please. It’s a bit heavy, I’m afraid.
Oh, no problem. My car’s this way.
Thank you.

That’s more like it!. Now what about small talk? What can you say to get the conversation going?

Shoot, this bag is heavy. So tell me about yourself? Are you married? How old are you?

Oooo, that’s not right. You want to be friendly and you don’t want to get too personal – not with someone you don’t know.

Do you travel abroad a lot?
Oh, a couple of times a year.
I’d like to travel more.
You like travelling. So do I.
Have you ever been to England?

Now that’s a good question. Travel is a neutral topic. The weather is another one.

Ooo, it’s cold out here. I hate this weather.
Uhuh.
It’s like this in England, isn’t it?
Well… Well, everybody says so.

That’s not good. He complains about the weather, and then he makes judgements about England. Let’s try again.

Oh, it’s cold out.
What was the weather like in England when you left?
Not too bad.
Well, it’s going to be nice and warm tomorrow.
And I think I’m going to have a good trip.

And that’s the key – be friendly, positive and upbeat. Now one question before we stop. Can you think of other good topics for starting conversations in English? Tell us in the comments below.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to see more everyday situations where you’ll want to be polite.
Click here to see more Business English conversations.

deadline

Asking for more time to meet a deadline

Deadlines! They’re so hard to meet when you’re busy. Here we see Vicky and Jay asking for a deadline to be extended so they can have another week.


Click here to learn about the difference between the prepositions by and until.
Click here to see more short conversations for speaking practice.
Click here to see more Business English conversations.

Deadline conversation

Hey Zeynep!
Hello Vicki and Jay!
Did you get my email?
Yes. And we’re going to start work on the video today.
That’s great. Can you finish by Friday?
Oooo, I don’t know. We’re a bit busy.
Can we send it next week?
I’ll have to ask Zehra.
Oh no! Not Zehra!
Hi Zehra. We were just wondering about the deadline. Could we have another week?
You have until Friday.
Sorry about that, but Friday’s the deadline.
Yeah, OK. You’ll have it by Friday.
Bye now. Take care.
Bye Zeynep.

Click here to learn about the difference between the prepositions by and until.
Click here to see more short conversations for speaking practice.
Click here to see more Business English conversations.

english meeting

English Business Meetings and Discussions (3 videos)

You need to attend an English meeting. Are you going to understand what everyone is saying? And are you going to be able to manage everyone’s time effectively and make good decisions? We can help!

Here is a series of 3 videos designed to help you manage discussions and communicate clearly in business meetings. They focus on:
1. Managing time
2. Making Decisions
3. Achieving Understanding
Make sure you scroll down to the end to see them all.

English meeting 1. Managing Time

I hate meetings.
Me too. They’re such a waste of time.
We never get anything done.
What’s this meeting about?
No idea.
I thought you called it.
That’s funny. I thought you called it.
No. What time is it supposed to finish?
Three o’clock.
Half an hour to go.

Welcome to the first in a series of lessons on managing discussions. We’re going to be looking at things you can do and say to make your English meetings more efficient and productive. Let’s go to a business meeting and get started.

So I said to him, I’ve told you about this before and he said, I know you have. So I said, well tell me what you’re gonna do about it. And he said ….
Yes, thanks Jay. Erm, perhaps we could come back to this later if we have time.
Speaking of time….
Do you have another appointment then?
Bank manager at eleven forty-five.
Overdrawn again?
Can I remind everyone that I’m trying to get through this by eleven thirty?
Good, because I have to go to New York.
Yes, I know Jay.
OK. Let’s turn to item three which is security. Sally, could you fill us in on the new procedures?
Yes, sure.

Did you understand everything? Let’s check. What about this part?

Speaking of time….
Do you have another appointment then?
Bank manager at eleven forty-five.
Overdrawn again?

Sally has an appointment with her bank manager, but what does ‘overdrawn’ mean? We put money into our bank account, deposit it. And then we withdraw it, take it out.
If we’re overdrawn, we’ve taken out more money than we put in. That’s not good. Now what about this phrase?

Let’s turn to item three which is security. Sally, could you fill us in on the new procedures?
Yes, sure.

Fill us in. If you fill someone in you tell them what’s happened. You give them information and bring them up to date.
OK. Now let’s look at some different things you can do to make your English meetings more productive and efficient. First of all you’ll need an agenda – that’s the list of different points that need to be discussed.

Let’s get started.
Yes. What’s on the agenda?
There are two items. The annual budget and the office party.
Let’s start with the party!

An item is a thing, so here it’s a topic or subject on an agenda. Now time is always limited, so you need to make sure people keep moving along through the agenda.

I have to go to New York.
Yes, I know Jay. OK, let’s turn to item three which is security.

‘Turn to’ means move on, go onto the next topic. Now here’s a different problem. What are you going to say if someone starts talking too long?

So I said to him, I’ve told you about this before and he said, I know you have. So I said, well tell me what you want to do about it then….

Nobody is interested in what they’re saying, but how can you get them to stop? What can you say?

Stop talking.
Be quiet.
Shhhh.
You’re wasting time.
I’ll give you ten dollars to keep quiet.
Shut up.
Shuddup.
Zip it.

Well, you could say these things, but not if you want to be polite. Let’s look at what Louise said.

And he said, I know you have, so I said, well tell me what you want to do about it then and he said….
Yes, thanks Jay. Perhaps we could come back to this later if we have time.

Louise was diplomatic. And if time is slipping away, there’s something else you can do as well. Set a target time for the meeting to finish and then remind everyone.

Can I remind everyone that I’m trying to get through this by eleven thirty?

Remind – it means help someone remember. And get through – that means complete, finish. And speaking of time, we need to stop now. But come back again later and we’ll have another video on how to manage discussions.
Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

English meeting 2. Making Decisions

OK everyone. It’s decision time. Yes or No? Jay?
I’m not sure. What’s your opinion?
Oh. How do you feel about it?
I don’t know. What do you think?
It’s difficult. Do you have any thoughts, Kathy?
Yeah. I think we should make a decision.
Right now?

Welcome back to another video on managing business discussions. Meetings always have a purpose. It could be to pass on information or update everyone. It could be to brainstorm ideas. Or it could be to make a decision. Let’s watch a meeting where a decision is being made.

So we need to decide what we’re going to do about getting tablets.
Oh, I’d love a new tablet. Me too.
Let’s get them.
How soon can we have them?
Hold on. How do you feel about this, Gemma?
We need to check out some different prices. You know there could be some better deals out there.
Jay?
She’s got a point.
Sally?
Mmm. I suppose so.
Could you do some research Gemma, say by next Tuesday?
Tuesday? Yeah, no problem.
OK great, so Gemma will get some prices and we’ll review the matter at our next meeting.

So did you understand everything? What was the topic of the discussion? Getting new tablets. And did they decide to buy some? No. They’re going to do some research first.

We need to check out some different prices. You know there could be some better deals out there.

Notice the phrase ‘check out’. It means look at or examine something to see if it’s good or acceptable. Deals are special low prices. Great. So now let’s look at some phrases you can use to reach decisions in your English meetings. First you need to get everyone focused.

We need to decide what we’re going to do about getting tablets.

So tell everyone what they need to do. Different people may have different opinions and ideas and that’s a good thing, or it can be.But we can make some bad decisions at meetings if we don’t listen to the right people.

Oh, I’d love a new tablet.
Me too.
Let’s get them.
How soon can we have them?
Hold on. How do you feel about this, Gemma?

Hold on. Stop or pause so we can collect different opinions. Now there are different ways to ask for opinions. We can simply call on people by name.

Jay? She’s got a point. Sally? Mmm. I suppose so.

And we can ask what they’re thinking. All these phrases work and they’re very common and useful for meetings. There are more phrases you could use. These are less common but you might hear them in a formal business meeting, a news interview or a formal debate.

Welcome to Education Today. And tonight’s question is should schools give tablets to students? Where do you stand on that, Mrs Fagan?
Oh they must!
And what’s your opinion, Mrs Hollett?
Absolutely not!
And there you have it. Two perspectives on whether schools should give tablets to students.

Once you’ve collected everyone’s thoughts, you can come to a decision. For a meeting to be effective, it has to have results. So you also need action points.

Could you do some research Gemma, say by next Tuesday? Tuesday?
Yeah, no problem.

There are three elements to this action point. What’s the job – the action we’re going to take? Who is going to do it? We need to know who’s responsible. And when by? What’s the deadline?

We need to get price estimates.
That’s a big job.
Yeah, I don’t have time I’m afraid.
I’m busy too.
What?
You need to get three price estimates by Friday.
Who me?
Yes, make a note of it Jay. Jay to get three price estimates by Friday. Good. What’s the next item on the agenda.

So we’ve looked at a three step process here. First tell everyone what they need to decide.

We need to decide what we’re going to do about getting tablets.

Second, collect opinions so you can make a good decision.

How do you feel about this Gemma?

And third create an action point. Decide who will do what and by when.

Could you do some research Gemma, say by next Tuesday?

And don’t forget to summarize the decision so everyone knows what’s happening.

So Gemma will get some prices and we’ll review the matter at our next meeting.

And that’s the end of this video, but come back again soon and we’ll look at some more phrases for managing discussions.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.

English meeting 3. Achieving understanding

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

Welcome back to our third video on managing discussions. Sometimes the hardest thing about business meetings in making sure everyone’s understood one another. And that’s what this lesson’s all about. So let’s go back to the meeting we’ve been following and see how they do it.

Are we wrapped up then?
Yeah.
Ah, just a moment. Is there anything else anyone wants to say?
Is the meeting going to be at eleven o’clock again next week?
Yes, is that a problem?
Well sometimes I have to go to the other site in the morning and it’s hard to get here in time.
Sounds like you need a faster car then.
I’m afriad I have another meeting at two.
Errr, don’t worry about it then.
Just get up earlier on Tuesdays.
Yeah.
So are you saying it’s not a problem, Jay?
I’ll work something out.
OK. So we’ve agreed we’ll meet at eleven o’clock again next Tuesday.
Yeah. Fine.
Are we finished then?
Looks like it.
Yes, this meeting is officially over.

Did you understand everything? What about this phrase?

Are we wrapped up then?
Yeah.

Wrapped up means finished. And what about Jay’s question?

Is the meeting going to be at eleven o’clock again next week?

Why did Jay ask that? Because the time was difficult for him.

Well sometimes I have to go to the other site in the morning and it’s hard to get here in time.

So are they going to change the time of the meeting for Jay? No.

I’ll work something out.

When we work something out we find an answer, a solution to a problem. Great! So now let’s look at some things you can do to check everyone understands in meetings. The first one is summarize the important points. People say a lot of things in meetings so make sure the key points get heard. If you’ve made a decision, briefly restate it.

OK, so we’ve agreed we’ll meet at eleven o’clock again next Tuesday.

Summaries like this are helpful. Everyone can check they’ve understood. And that’s good because sometimes people don’t hear things.

I didn’t hear what you said.
I didn’t catch that.
Sorry?
Can you say that again?
What was that again?

You can use all these phrases to get people to repeat things. And if you don’t understand, you can say something like this.

I’m not following you.
I don’t get it.
What do you mean?

But if you don’t understand, try to be specific.

So customers in Europe need to pay VAT. OK?
No, I don’t follow.
You don’t understand.
No, I don’t get it.
What don’t you get?
I forgot.

Customers in Europe will need to pay VAT.
What do you mean by VAT?
Value Added Tax.
It’s similar to sales tax in the US.
Oh, I see.

This question’s specific. It tells us what you don’t understand. Now there’s another very useful way to check you’ve understood. That’s to paraphrase. Let’s watch Louise doing it.

I’m afraid I have another meeting at two.
Errr, don’t worry about it then.
So are you saying it’s not a problem, Jay?
I’ll work something out.

To check she’s understood, Louise paraphrases – she puts what Jay says into her own words.

So are you saying it’s not a problem, Jay?
I’ll work something out.

Customers in Europe will have to pay VAT.
So are you saying they’ll have to pay a kind of sales tax?
Yeah, sort of.
OK. I get it.

So are you saying that IDK means I don’t know? You gotta be kidding me.

Now what about ending a meeting? First you’ll want to check that everyone has finished talking.

Is there anything else anyone else wants to say?

It gives people a chance to speak if they want. And if they don’t, you can end the meeting.

This meeting is officially over.

And this video series is officially over too. If you have anything else you’d like to say about managing discussions and business meetings, please write to us in the comments.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to watch more Business English videos

worth trustworthy

Worth and Trustworthy – really useful English words

Worth – you’re going to love this adjective. It’s surprisingly useful and you can use it to make new words like trustworthy and untrustworthy.
It means ‘having value’ and you just need to know how we use it. We put it in front of nouns and gerunds (-ing forms) and numbers, so we say things like ‘It’s worth $10.’
Learn this word. It’s worth it!

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to see more grammar videos.
Click here to see more vocabulary videos.

Worth and Trustworthy video script

So what do you think?
It’s very interesting.
We bought it at a flea market.
It cost a hundred dollars.
Is it antique?
It’s about a hundred years old.
Wow!
And how much is it worth?
Maybe five, maybe ten…
Ten thousnad dollars?
No, ten dollars. It’s not worth very much.
Oh!

Worth. It’s a word worth learning. Let’s look at what it means.

Have you sold your car yet.
No. Jay took it to a dealer.
They offered me $8,000, but it’s worth a lot more than that.
Jay thinks it’s worth $12,000.
I’m going to sell it privately.
Well good luck with that.

We use ‘worth’ to describe the value of something in terms of money.

Burglars broke into a Center City store last night and stole designer jewelry worth over a hundred thousand dollars.

Have you got it ready yet? Come on! You got it? Atta boy! Oh this paper here’s worth a million dollars.
A million dollars? Well I mean, after all I did it. Give me something. I’ve got to have something for it.
Oh sure, sure. I intended to. Here. Here. Here’s a nickle.
Thank you.
Atta boy.
Oooo, a nickle.

But we don’t just measure worth in terms of money. We can measure value in other ways too.

Z. I. P.
Zips.
That’s erm… fourteen points.
No, the zed is on a triple letter score. It’s worth thirty.
Thirty points?
Yeah.

Mostly we use ‘worth’ when we’re talking about the practical value of something, so how useful or enjoyable it is.

We’re cleaning out the office today. It’s a lot of work.
It’ll be worth it. Come on Jay.

How much is it?
A pound, but it’s totally worth it. Look at the view.
OK, I’ll get a pound.

Hi Kathy. How are you?
Fine.
You know we’re both flying to Frankfurt next month?
Yes.
Can we fly business class?
Absolutely not. The tickets would cost five thousand dollars.
It would be worth it for such a long flight.
Business class is really comfortable.
Forget it!
Ah well. It was worth a try.

So if something is worth it, it’s worth spending money, time or effort on. We can also say it’s worthwhile.

It takes a lot of practice to learn the piano but I love it. It’s so worthwhile.

Now some things require too much money, too much time or too much effort. They’re not worth it – not worthwhile.

We could try to sell it on Ebay.
It’s not worth the bother.
Let’s take it to the charity shop.

It’s grammar time. ‘Worth’ is an adjective and it’s followed by a noun or a noun phrase. If you want to use a verb, you’ll need to use a gerund – a noun form of the verb. Let’s look at some examples.

I’m just buying our flights.
Oh yeah?
Is it worth getting travel insurance?
How much is it?
Fifty dollars.
It’s not worth it.

Oh no Jay. There’s a long queue. Look at all these people.
Yeah, but it’s worth waiting. It’s a Star Wars movie.

Jay doesn’t need this anymore. It’s not worth keeping.

Did you spot the gerunds. Here they are again.

I’m just buying our flights. Oh yeah? Is it worth getting travel insurance?
Look at all these people. Yeah, but it’s worth waiting. It’s a Star Wars movie.
Jay doesn’t need this anymore. It’s not worth keeping.

And now let’s finish with another bonus word. You can combine the word ‘worth’ with the word ‘trust’ to make another adjective. If someone is trustworthy they’re reliable and you can depend on them because they do what they say. When companies look for employees, they want people who are trustworthy.

I need to learn to trust you more Vicki. How can I do that?
Oh, we could play the trust game.
The what?
The trust game. Turn around.
OK.
That’s right. And then you fall back.
And you’ll catch me.
Yeah!
OK. You didn’t catch me.
I’m just not very trustworthy.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to see more grammar videos.
Click here to see more vocabulary videos.
 

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.

effective efficient

Effective – Efficient – They mean different things in English

What is effective? and What is efficient? The answer to these questions will probably be different. Learn about the different meanings of the words effective and efficient. This lesson is going to be really useful if you’re learning business English for your career.

Click here to see more business English videos

Effective and Efficient video script

Here are some strong sleeping tablets, but don’t take them until you go to be. Why not? They’re very effective. Hmmm.
They can’t be that effective.

The meanings of these words are different in English. Some languages have one word that covers them both, but in English we have two.
So can you be efficient without being effective? Yes, and in this video we’ll find out how.

I start my day with a cup of coffee. Then I go online and see what’s happening on Facebook.
I start the day by setting priorities. I look at the list of jobs I have to do and work out which ones are most important. It makes me more efficient.

So the second guy didn’t waste time and he was more organized. That’s what efficiency is about.

The office secretary – that alert efficient person who plays such a vital role in the world of business. Promptness. Neatness. Orderliness.

Efficiency is about how we do things. Effectiveness is different. It’s about the things we do and how successful they are.

The drain’s blocked.
I’m gonna try and fix it with this.
Did this stuff work?
It was very effective.

So effectiveness is about results – achieving what we want to achieve. And if something doesn’t get results then it’s not effective.

We’re training Carter to be more helpful around the house. Carter, get my slippers. Carter, get my slippers.
So far the training hasn’t been very effective.

Now it stands to reason that if we’re efficient, we’ll often be effective too.
If we work in a quick and organized way, we generally get good results. But it’s not always the case.

Stop!
Oh, it’s more efficient.

So we found a more efficient way of working here. It was quicker and it required less energy. But was it an effective way of working? Probably not.
To be effective, the job itself would have to deliver results. And that job didn’t look very useful or important.
An important part of efficiency is the idea of no waste. No waste of time, money or energy.
Machines can make us more efficient because they can speed up work and do things more cheaply.
And we can also talk about how efficient a machine or piece of equipment is.

This is the heat exchanger for our house. It removes hot air in the summer and cold air in the winter.
It doesn’t cost a lot to run. It makes a lot of noise but it’s very efficient.

We can also say a piece of equipment is effective, but then we’re talking about something different.
Instead of talking about the way it operates, we’re talking about how well it does the job we want it to do.

Our windows are dirty so I’ve bought a new tool to clean them. Let’s try it out. Great results! It’s very effective.

Now what about money? You’ll remember that something can be efficient if it saves money.
Is it the same with effective. Does money matter? And the answer is ‘no’. Effectiveness is just about the results, not money.
But we do have a phrase we use when money is important. See if you can spot it.

Why don’t we buy rechargable batteries?
Because they cost more.
Yes, but they’re more cost effective in the long term.
What do you mean?
Well, after you’ve bought five of these you could pay for a rechargable battery.
I have to think about that.

Did you spot the phrase? Cost effective means delivering the best possible results for the lowest possible cost.
It’s about ROI – return in investment – what you get back from spending money.
So let’s recap. Efficient – doing things in a quick, cheap and organized way. And effective – achieving what you set out to do.
If this video has been effective you now know the difference between these two words.
And if it’s been efficient, you’ve wasted no time or energy. Hey, maybe you’ve got time to watch some more of our videos.

Vicki’s mad at me. So how was your day?
Don’t talk to me. I’m very cross with you.
Would you like some tea?
No thank you.
Flowers.
Humph!
Let me give you a foot rub.
Oh? A foot rub? Oooo, that’s lovely. I love you.
I love you too. Foot rubs are very effective.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to see more business English videos

making arrangements appointments

Making Arrangements and Appointments Song + Days of the Week.

Here’s a fun way to learn phrases we use to make arrangements and appointments in English. Sing them! Yes, sing them! It’s great for pronunciation and it’ll make them stick in your mind. You’ll also practice the days of the week.
This video stars my son Tom who is also an English teacher and he has a terrific YouTube channel where he teaches phrasal verbs. Make sure you check it out and subscribe!


Click here to learn about the verbs fit and suit
Click here to learn more verbs we use to talk about the future
Click here to see Tom in another video about meeting and greeting

Making Arrangements Song Script

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
When are you arriving? Shall we meet on Sunday?
What about Monday? When would suit you?
When are you arriving? Can you meet on Sunday?
What about Monday? When would suit you?
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Can you meet on Monday? I can do Tuesday.
I can’t do Tuesday. What about Wednesday?
Hmmm. I’m busy Wednesday. I can’t manage Wednesday.
What about Thursday? I can’t do Thursday.
How about Friday? I can manage Friday. Yes, Friday works.
OK, see you Friday. OK, see you Friday. OK, see you Friday. Friday works.

This video is also available with a clickable transcript. Click here to see it.
Click here to learn about the verbs fit and suit
Click here to learn more verbs we use to talk about the future
Click here to see Tom in another video about meeting and greeting

security safety

Security and Safety – an in depth explanation of these two English words

Security Safety – do these words mean the same thing? Sometimes the meaning of security overlaps with safety, but safety is the more general term. In this video lesson we go in depth and look at how we use these two words in English. To see a simpler explanation,click here.


Click here to see a more basic explanation of these words.
Click here to see more videos designed for business English learners.

Security and Safety – in depth explanation

I should be home by six.
Have a safe journey.

Bad things happen. Sometimes bad things happen by accident. And they can be safety issues. And sometimes, bad things happen because of bad guys. And they can be security issues. These words are about preventing bad things from happening. Safety is generally about preventing accidents. Security is generally about preventing bad guys from doing bad things. Now, that’s a good rule-of-thumb to follow. But sometimes, the meanings of these words overlap.

It’s bad news. Sales are down and the future of the company is not secure.

Nobody’s job is safe. Both ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ are possible in this context. And they mean much the same thing. So, perhaps it helps to look at the roots of these words. ‘Safe’ comes from the Latin word ‘salvus.’ It means healthy and sound, in good condition. Is this water safe to drink? Uh, no. Have some bottled water. Ok. Thanks ‘Secure’ comes from the Latin word ‘securus.’ It means free from care. So secure can describe how we feel when we’re worry free and happy. We talk about secure investments – investments we feel confident about because they’re not risky. And we talk about having job security – feeling confident that our job will continue.

Is your financial future safe? Is gold a secure investment? Is your financial future secure? Is gold a safe investment?

Safety is the more general term. It’s about protection from all kinds of things. Security is more specific. It’s about protection from the bad guys. We talk about national security – things governments do to keep their citizens safe. We have prison security and we have border security. And we have airport security – protecting people from the bad guys who pose threats. Safety is less specific.

Officer, will my car be safe if I leave it parked here? Yes, but don’t leave anything valuable in it.

Notice that Jay says ‘safe’ here, not ‘secure’ Officer, will my car be safe if I leave it parked here? There are all kinds of things that could happen to his car, including theft or loss. So safety and security – they’re both about protection from bad things. Security – protection from bad guys. Safety – protection from – well – all kinds of different things.

Is this website safe?
Oh yeah, don’t worry. You won’t get any, uh, spyware or viruses from it.

Hey, is this website secure?
Yes, you need a password to get into it.

Oh, right. Is this website safe? Oh yeah, don’t worry. You won’t get any, uh, spyware or viruses from it.
Hey, is this website secure? Yes, you need a password to get into it.
Oh, right.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript
Click here to see a more basic explanation of these words.
Click here to see more videos designed for business English learners.