English word pairs

31 word pairs for natural fluent English

Make your English sound more natural and fluent with useful English word pairs. These binomial expressions will make your English sound more colloquial and conversational.

We start off with some easy ones like salt and pepper and knife and fork and then move on to some you might not know like:
– an arm and a leg
– touch and go
– high and dry
– to and fro
– thick and thin
– flesh and blood
– kith and kin
– kiss and make up
– meat and potatoes
and lots, lot more.

We’ll show you what the word pairs mean and how we use them in action so they’re easy to remember and you know how to use them yourself.

Do you want your English to sound more natural?
And more fluent too? We’ve got some great expressions to help you.
They’re very idiomatic and conversational
And they’re fun too.
So I’m going to say a word and you’re going to say the word that goes with it.
OK, I’ll try that.
So if I say salt?
Salt and pepper.
OK, salt and pepper.
Knife and fork.
Uh huh. Notice you said ‘n. Knife ‘n fork.
Knife ‘n fork. Right.
So the ‘and’ gets reduced to ‘n. in a lot of these.
Husband and …
Me and …
Yes. Ladies and …
You knew them all.
They were very predictable. They’re a kind of collocation – a fixed expression.
Yes, they’re pairs of words that go together and English is full of them.
I bet you know lots already. Give it a try!

Common word pairs

Cup and …
Yes. Boys and …
Boys and girls.
Bride and …
Groom. Bride and groom.
Milk and …
Cookies. Milk and cookies.
Bow and …
Arrow. Bow and arrow.
Needle and …
Yes. Peanut butter and …
Jelly. Peanut butter and jelly.
Rock and …
Rock and … Rock and, what?
Your clue is Elvis Presley.
Oh, rock and roll.
So you’ve got the idea.
You have two words, joined by ‘and’.
And the order of the words is generally fixed, so we say ladies and gentlemen, but not gentlemen and ladies.
It’s rock and roll, not roll and rock.
Now those were easy ones, but there are lots of others that you might not know.
So let’s look at some more.

An arm and a leg

OK, an arm and …
And a leg.
Yes, so what does it mean?
An arm and a leg is when you have paid so much that it feels like it cost you an arm and a leg.
Jay’s bought a new food processor. A very expensive food processor.
It’s awesome!
We paid an arm and a leg for it.

Peace and quiet

Peace and …
Peace and quiet.
Yes. Peace, of course, means no war and quiet means not noisy.
It’s exactly what I need to do my work. Peace and quiet.
Then why do you have the music up loud?
Argh. Here’s another example. Do you like it when the grandkids come round?
Oh yes, I love it.
And what about when they leave?
Well I feel sad.
OK, I like it when the grandkids leave as well.
She likes the peace and quiet.

Tooth and nail

Tooth and …
Oh tooth and nail.
Yes, tooth and nail. People sometimes fight tooth and nail.
It means fighting in a very determined way because you must win that fight.
Yes, very aggressive.
Now so far we’ve just been looking at nouns.
But lots of other kinds of words can pair up like this.
They could be verbs, adjectives , adverbs, prepositions …
They just have to be the same kinds of words
Let’s see some examples.

Touch and go

Touch and …
Oh, touch and go.
So touch and go is when you’re not sure if something will be successful. The brain surgery was touch and go.
Will I be OK doctor?
Oh, it’s going to be touch and go.
So if something is touch and go it might work or it might not.
And there’s a possibility that something bad might happen.

Short and sweet

Short and …
Sweet. Short and sweet.
So if you’re telling a story and you make it concise and include just the facts, you’re telling it short and sweet.
It would be brief but satisfying. And with presentations, you probably want to keep them short and sweet. People like that.
You’re late.
How long is this meeting going to take?
About twenty minutes.
I’ll give you five.
Then I’ll keep it short and sweet. You’re fired.

Toss and turn

OK. Tossed and …
Turned. Tossed and turned.
Last night in bed, I tossed and turned. I couldn’t sleep. I kicked the covers. I rolled around.
So it’s when you keep changing your position in bed because you can’t sleep.

By and large

By and …
Large. By and large.
OK, this is an expression we use when we’re talking generally. It indicates a general statement is coming.
With the corona virus it’s very hard for us to go out and go shopping, but by and large we’re OK.
Because we can buy food on line.
I’ve got another one for you. I don’t always agree with you, but by and large I do.
Well I’m glad to hear that.

Give and take

OK. This is something that a good relationship needs. Give and …
Take, give and take.
Yes, what does that mean?
Well, give and take is sort of the process of compromise on two sides.
So what are you doing today?
Oh I’ve got no socks so I have to do the laundry.
I could do it for you, if you like.
Really? Oh thank you.
Perhaps you could do some things for me.
Sure. Anything.
Here are a few things.
Oh, no problem.
That was an example of a little give and a lot of take.
Yes, give and take means something more equal, so everyone gets what they want… sometimes.
Business negotiations are often about give and take.

High and dry, high and low

OK, high and…
Dry. High and dry. If you’re left without help and without the things you need, you’re left high and dry.
So it’s when you’re in a difficult situation. Perhaps Jay walked off and he left me with no money, and no phone, and no car keys. And you’ve left me high and dry.
So sorry. Why would I do that to you?
Here’s another one with High. High and …
Low. High and low.
Yes. It means everywhere.
I’ve searched high and low for my car keys and I can’t find them.
Have you seen my glasses? I’ve been searching high and low for them.

To and fro, back and forth

To and …
Fro. To and fro.
Yes, so it’s when things move from one place to another.
Yes. Think of some things that go to and fro.
A pendulum. To and fro, to and fro.
What’s that for?
I’m going to hypnotize you. Just let your body relax.
You’re not going to make me do something stupid are you?
Oh no!
Here’s a similar one. Back and …
Yes. And what does that mean?
Well, back and forth is a movement.
Back and forth is the physical movement, but you can also go back and forth more metaphorically.
Well you can go back and forth in a discussion. One person makes a point. The other person makes a different point and you go back and forth, trying to listen to each other.
Yeah, negotiations could go back and forth.
So some of these word pairs have figurative meanings as well.
Here’s another one like that:

Thick and thin

So thick and…
Thin. Thick and thin.
OK. So thick or thin. But also it has another meaning too.
Right. I’ll stick with you through thick and thin.
Yes, whatever happens. Through good times, through bad times.
So it means in spite of any difficulties or problems.
The words thick and thin can describe size. Is it a thick book or a thin book?
But we also say through thick and thin and it means in spite of any difficulties or problems.

Flesh and blood, Kith and kin

Flesh and …
Blood. Flesh and blood.
Management wants us to process all these reports by Friday. It’s impossible
We’re not machines.
We’re only flesh and blood.
Flesh and blood refers to a human being.
Yes, it means when you’re thinking of someone in terms of them being very human.
Or very close to you. Someone that’s related to you is your own flesh and blood.
So flesh and blood has two meanings. One is human. Not like a machine.
And the other meaning is your family. They’re your flesh and blood.
There’s another one like that. Kith and…
Kith th th.
Oh, kith and kin.
Kith and kin means your family but kiss and tell means something else but it’s another word pair. What does kiss and tell mean?
Kiss and tell is what you don’t do after you’ve had a relationship with someone else.
Yes. It’s when you’ve had a relationship and the relationship has finished. You don’t tell other people about what happened.
Kith and kin, however, is about family. So kith and kin means relatives. Blood relatives.

Kiss and make up

So we’ve done kiss and tell, but there’s another one with kiss. Kiss and… After an argument.
Oh, kiss and make up!
The best part of arguments.
It’s when you become friendly again after the argument.

Meat and potatoes

Meat and …
We often say the meat and potatoes of that job is…. meaning the standard. Because meat and potatoes is the standard meal.
Now that’s new for me because in British English we talk about meat and potatoes when we’re talking about meal, but it has an extra meaning for you?
Yeah, in American English it refers to meals too, but it also means the basics – the simple but really important things.
Observation is the meat and potatoes of detective work.
So for Sherlock Holmes, observation was a fundamental thing.
It was essential. Here’s another example. The meat and potatoes of our video lessons is grammar and vocabulary.
They’re the simple basic ingredients.
But we also show you how we use English in action too.
And we tell you about differences between American and British English.
So make sure you click the subscribe button to see more of our videos!
And if you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.


English for the hairdresser's and barbershop

English for the hairdresser’s and barbershop

Jay hasn’t been able to get his haircut because of the corona virus so Vicki takes on a hairdressing challenge. What could go wrong?

Learn lots of English words and phrases that you’ll need at the hairdresser’s and barbershop.
You’ll learn how to:
– explain the haircut you want
– give instructions to your hairdresser or barber
– engage in small talk

Here’s just some of the hairdressing vocabulary we look at:
The tools: scissors, clippers, cape, gown, straighteners
Actions: to blend, to blow dry, to trim, to braid or plait, to clip close
Problems: bald spot, receding hairline, too much volume, straggly eye brows
Hair styles: pony tail, buzz cut, undercut, bob, quiff

You’ll also find out whether it’s possible to cut someone’s hair after watching YouTube videos. Enjoy!

My hair’s getting very long because the barbershops are closed.
Because of the corona virus.
So Vicki’s going to cut my hair.
I’ve never done this before.
But she’s watched some YouTube videos.
What could go wrong?
You’re going to learn phrases you could use at the hairdresser’s today.
And the barbers, or the barbershop.
Barber’s are for men and hairdresser’s are for men and women.
But mostly for women.
And we also have hair salons and beauty salons and styling salons.
But for us, it’s the kitchen!
Here are our tools. We have scissors.
We have combs.
We have a hairdryer.
We have clippers.
Straighteners. I don’t think we’ll need them.
And a spray bottle for keeping my hair wet.
It’s a bit dirty, Jay.
Yes, I use it when I’m grilling on the deck.
OK. We don’t have a razor.
That’s a very, very sharp blade.
And we don’t have one of those brushes for brushing away the hair that’s been cut off.
Another thing we don’t have is a cape.
That’s the gown they give you to wear so you don’t get hair all over your clothes.
But we do have a bin bag. Here’s your gown, sir.
Then it’s time for the haircut. How do you want me to cut your hair.
Yes but… Ok we need words describing what you want your barber to do.
Well, shorter all over, but not so short that my bald spot is uncovered.
Oh, OK. A bald spot is a place on your head where there’s no hair.
That’s different from a receding hairline.
A receding hairline is when your hair moves up and back.
How much shorter would you like? About .. about this much?
A little bit shorter? Maybe you can cut an inch off?
So you want quite a bit off. You don’t want me to just trim it.
No, a trim is really not short enough.
When you trim hair you make it neater by just cutting off a little bit.
I need to trim my fringe.
We call those bangs in the US.
What else can we trim?
Well we can trim a hedge.
We can trim the lawn. Erm, we can trim costs.
Oh yes. A business might have to trim costs.
The first thing they do at a barbershop is wash your hair.
I think we’ll use the squirty bottle. Um. It’s not working Jay.
You have to twist the front.
OK. We’ve hit our first problem. The squirty bottle doesn’t work. I’ll put some.. I’ll use a cup of water. All right?
Oh Jay. You’re going to get very wet today.
I AM getting very wet.
It’s a good job you’ve got the dustbin bag.
Jay’s hair’s very curly. Mine’s pretty straight. It’s just wavy at the bottom.
My hair’s getting so long, you could possibly braid it.
A braid. We call that a plait in British English.
It’s when you take three pieces of hair and rope them over and under eachother.
You can braid of plait and it’s a noun as well.
And if you have lots of them and they’re really long, they’re called dreadlocks.
And then there are pony tails.
That’s when your hair is tied at the back of your head.
Or pig tails. That’s when you have two bunches of hair.
Is your hair dry or oily, Jay?
Its dry. And hair can be thick or thin. Mine’s thin.
Uhuh. Mine’s pretty thick. So sometimes when I go to the hairdresser I say, ‘Can you take some weight off?’ or ‘Can you take… Can you give me less volume?’.
OK Jay. Do you want a parting?
No thank you. In American English, we call that a part, and I don’t want one.
OK Jay. Here we go. And this is getting serious now. Can you take your glasses off?
Great. How much do you pay your barber?
My barber is really very inexpensive compared to other barbers in the city here. He only charges me $20 for a haircut and I give him a $5 tip. But most of the barbers around town are $35 for a haircut, or more.
You see for a women’s haircut I think I pay about $75.
Well you generally have more hair than I do.
I don’t think we pay your barber enough. OK, tilt your head forward.
Does your barber offer you anything to drink?
For a $20 haircut? No!
I always get a cup of coffee.
I guess that’s why you pay $75!
Let me see how long it is in the front.
Cut some more off.
Cut more off?
Oh yeah. Sure.
Yeah. Oh, you’re right. Look at that.
Barber’s also cut sideburns.
Oh yes. That’s when you have hair that comes down here.
Well, we refer to ‘the sideburns’ even if they’re higher. The question is how do you make them absolutely even?
And the answer is the line in my ear. Right here. You make it even with that line..
Oh right.
And when you get the clippers out, you can make sure it’s a sharp line.
OK, you want a sharp line.
If I.. If I comb down.
I see.
And then cut it.
You’ll cut my ear off.
It will all look… It will look funny.
I see.
So you have to blend it.
I see.
That’s what they do on YouTube.
Oh, I hope I haven’t taken too much off. Do you think that much was too much?
I have no idea.
So what different kinds of men’s hairstyles are there, Jay?
Well there’s a buzz cut. That’s a military style where your hair is really very, very short.
And there’s also a crew cut. That’s a little bit longer than a buzz cut, but it’s similar.
And there’s a mohawk.
That’s where it’s spiky on top.
You have to put products in your hair to make it stand up straight.
And you could have an out-of-bed look. Sort of bed head. That’s when your hair’s a mess. It looks like you’ve just got out of bed.
There’s also a fade. A fade is when it’s very short at the bottom and gradually gets longer.
And there’s also an undercut. That’s when the bottom is really short and the top is much longer.
Women have this cut too and it’s quite fashionable. So sometimes they’ll have very little hair on the side, but then they’ll flick their hair over and it’s long.
And then there’s a quiff. This is a British English term. It’s when part of your hair stands up in the front above your forehead. Elvis Presley had a quiff. There’s another British term too that’s a bit old fashioned. And it’s a short back and sides and that’s when you have short hair at the back, and at the sides.
There are different kinds of hairstyles for women too. Long, short and medium length.
And some women have a bob, that’s very common. I have a wig that’s a bob. The hair is the same length all the way round. And then the opposite of a bob would be a layered cut where the hair is different lengths.
You know you need small talk when you’re at the barber’s of hairdresser’s. What do you talk about with your barber.
Well, we talk about how we’re feeling, we talk about our lives. We talk about how work is going. There are people that we both know. We talk about them.
You’ve known your barber a long time, haven’t you?
Well he’s been cutting my hair since 2003. That’s seventeen years.
OK, what about if you met a barber for the first time? What conversations could you have with him?
Well I’d ask him where he’s from. And how long he’s been doing this. I might ask about his family. Sometimes they talk about their children and grandchildren. It’s always fun.
So you go to very old barbers then.
Yes. Very experienced barbers.
With my barber, I always talk about politics. But it’s a safe topic for us because we support the same policies. Do you think politics is a good topic, Jay?
No, I do not. I’m not sure what my barber’s politics are and I’m even less sure of the other people in the waiting room. So no, it’s not a discussion I would have in the barbershop.
You could ask your barber to recommend hair products for you. The only one he’s recommended actually is, after he’s seen my gray hair, he’s recommended dye.
Jay and I don’t dye our hair, but sometimes I get highlights. It’s when they make strips of your hair lighter than others, so I have blonde streaks.
You can also get lowlights. That’s when they make some streaks darker.
The word ‘hair’ is tricky. It can be a countable noun or an uncountable noun.
When it means all the hair on your head it’s uncountable.
I have gray hair. That’s uncountable.
But when we’re talking about individual strands of hair, hair is a countable noun.
I have some grey hairs. Can you see them? Most of my hair is brown, but there are some grey strands there.
What products do use use on your hair, Jay?
Well there’s conditioner. That’s a liquid or cream you put onto your hair during or after washing to make it softer. It stops it from being dry.
And there’s hair spray. That’s a sticky liquid you spray on to keep it in place. It stinks.
And then there’s hair gel. That’s a thick wet substance that helps your hair hold a style.
And then there’s hair wax. That’s similar to gel but it’s made of wax so it doesn’t go hard. It doesn’t dry out.
I’ve never used clippers before. You can put attachments on them.
So Jay. Do you want it clipped close?
Not terribly close. I just want the lines to be straight.
Do you know what number you want?
Something in the middle maybe?
Number one is the shortest and then a higher number gives you longer hair.
Put your head down.
I can make a line like this Jay.
That’s right.
Good job, Vick.
Sometimes barbers will trim your beard if you have one, or your mustache. And they will trim my eyebrows.
Oh, I can do that for you because I saw how to do that on YouTube.
Good because I definitely need it.
Would you like your eyebrows trimmed, sir.
Please trim my eyebrows! I’m told that the gray ones are the worst ones to cut.
Are they?
Because they’re the straggly ones.
When the barber is done he always gives me a mirror so I can look at the back of my hair. With a hand mirror.
We don’t have one of them.
Probably just as well.
OK, sir. I hope that I’m going to get a good tip.
Oh absolutely! You’ll get the best tip that there is.


COVID-19 wordplay quiz

COVID-19 Word Play Quiz

People have been using English words in funny new ways during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Play along with Jay and see if you can work out what they mean.

We’ll look at these clever examples of word play
– covidiot
– coronacoaster
– coronials
– the COVID-10.
– fattening the curve
– the locktail hour
– quarantinis
– furlough merlot.
– bored-eaux.
– cabernet tedium
– elephant in the zoom

Do you want to play with some English words?
This video is about wordplay.
That’s when you use words in funny or clever ways to make jokes.
So come and play with some new COVID-19 words.
And join in our quiz!
Thank you everyone who’s been leaving us comments about how you’re surviving the corona crisis.
We’ve loved hearing about what you’ve been doing and learning about new words you’re using.
Here’s something I’ve learnt. If you translate the word elbow bump from German, it becomes an elbow kiss! So an English elbow bump is a German elbow kiss.
It sounds much nicer than a bump.
Lots of you have told us about English words that you’re using in your language.
So phrases like ‘social distancing’ have become international.
But in Indonesia, Saeful says it’s PSBB which means something like ‘restrictions on large-scale social’.
It sounds very formal.
Well it is in a way. Several of you mentioned this new word.
Covidiot! That’s a great one.
So what does it mean?
It’s a term for someone who thinks the coronavirus isn’t real.
So It’s a combination of COVID and idiot and it’s wordplay.
Covidiots think social distancing rules are unnecessary so they’re ignoring all the public health advice and going sunbathing on crowded beaches.
Or joining large crowds to protest about the shutdown.
And not wearing masks.
New words like this are being coined with the coronavirus. I’ve got some here and I’m going to see if Jay knows what they mean.
You can play along with me and see if you know what they mean too.
OK, here’s the first one: coronacoaster.
Does it mean drinking beer from Mexico?
Oh Corona beer. No.
Is it something to do with a crown?
Corona’s another word for crown. That’s how the virus got it’s name.
Because it has spikes like a crown. Good guess but no. Coronacoaster. It sounds like roller coaster.
So the amusement park ride?
Yes, a roller coaster has a lot of ups and downs and a coronacoaster is the ups and downs we feel during lockdown.
One minute we’re thinking this is great because we can stay at home with our family and and we have this extra time.
And the next minute we’re thinking this is terrible because of all the bad news about the virus. Living through COVID-19 is an emotional roller coaster.
A coronacoaster! OK, next one: coronials.
It sounds like colonials – people who live in a colony.
Yeah, but it also sounds like millennials.
Oh, it’s the generation of people who survive and live through the corona virus.
Nearly. But it’s a future generation of babies – babies that will be born in 9 months-time.
Because their parents were staying inside on lock down and finding fun ways to pass the time.
You’ve got it! Millennials are the generation of people that became adults in the early 21st century, so this is a clever bit of wordplay.
Where are these words coming from?
Oh they’re all over the internet. People love playing with words.
I wonder if they’ll make it into the Oxford dictionary?
Who knows. OK, next one. The COVID-10.
It sounds like a gang – a group of thieves or criminals.
OK, here’s a clue. We’ve both been eating more than we should during the lockdown.
Oh it’s the extra 10 pounds we’ve put on!
You’ve got it and there’s a similar one that made me laugh. You know how we’ve been talking about flattening the curve. What’s that?
That’s about doing things like social distancing so we don’t ovewhelm the hospitals.
Taking protective measures can flatten the curve, so hospitals have the capacity to handle all the COVID cases.
But there’s here’s the new term. Instead of flattening the curve, this one’s fattening the curve.
Oh that’s funny. That’s about all the extra weight we’re putting on from eating too much.
We’ve both been fattening our curves!
It’s so true! Have you been putting on weight too?
And have you got any tips for taking it off?
We need them!
I think the Simple English Videos family has been using its time wisely because several of you mentioned you were studying English and preparing for FCE.
Good for you! But what’s happening with the Cambridge English exams?
They’ve been disrupted because of the virus. In some countries, Cambridge have introduced a new IELTS exam that you can do online.
Even the speaking exam?
That too. It’s similar to the normal exam but online. They call it an indicator exam.
So it indicates the score you’d get if you took the real exam?
Yes. It’s a temporary solution for students who need to present their IELTS score to universities.
Cool! OK, let’s have another word.
OK. This is a phrase. The locktail hour. What’s that?
I’ve no idea.
You’ve heard of the cocktail hour, right?
Yes, it’s the time of day when we have cocktails.
So the locktail hour…
Is the cocktail hour during lock down! I think it’s been getting earlier in the days for lots of folks.
Yes! There are lots of funny phrases about drinking. What are Quarantinis?
You got me.
They’re experimental cocktails you mix from whatever you can find in your drink cupboard.
So quarantine – martini. Very clever. We could make some of those!
We have some strange drinks in our closet.
And there are puns about wine as well.
A pun is when you play with a word that has more than one meaning
Or words that have different meanings but sound similar. Here’s one: furlough merlot.
That rhymes! It must be the wine you drink to relieve the frustrations of being furloughed.
To be furloughed is when companies tell workers not to come to work for a while because they don’t have the money to pay them.
It used to an American rather than a British term, but I read it in the Guardian this week.
So you’re starting to use it in British English now?
Uhuh. Here’s another one. Bored-eaux. Get it?
Yeah – they’re playing with the wine varieties here.
And another: cabernet tedium
Instead of cabernet sauvignon.
Yeah. Tedium is another word for boredom. Tedious is the adjective.
Are you finding the shutdown tedious? We hope not.
OK, I’ve got one more for you and it’s my favourite. But first, what’s an elephant in the room, Jay?
Umm, it’s a problem that everybody knows about, but they avoid mentioning.
Yeah, it when there’s a topic that’s difficult so nobody wants to talk about it. Can you give me an example?
OK. Um. Racial inequality is going to be an elephant in the room for a lot of politicians in our next election.
Good example! OK, so here’s the new expression. You know how we’re all having video meetings these days. What’s an ‘elephant in the zoom’?
Oh, then this is about some sort of problem in a zoom meeting.
Maybe someone’s behaving strangely, but nobody says anything about it.
Exactly. So you can see something’s wrong.
Their office is really untidy – a big mess.
Or they might have grown a strange beard or perhaps they’re still wearing their pajamas. But nobody says anything.
Well things in Paris have been really really busy.
Well thanks for making time for this meeting. We’re just waiting for Jay. Oh, here he is. Hi Jay.
Hi everyone. Sorry I’m late.
Well, let’s get started then. Shall we all look at last month’s figures?
You know what we need a new word for.
What’s that?
The bad hair I’m getting from not being able to go to the barber.
Perhaps you can suggest one. What should we call it? Corona hair?
But I think the solution came today.
Open it up.
What this?
Let’s see what we’ve got here. This just arrived earlier today.
What have you got?
Would you like my help?
It’s hairclippers! Are you going to cut your own hair?
No actually, I was going to cut yours.
You’re kidding!
You’re going to cut it for me.
No, you’re going to cut if for me.
You’re very trusting.
Well, you can see how well she does in our next video.
We hope you’re finding better ways to solve your problems and enjoy life in these difficult times.
We’ll see you all soon, and in the meantime, wash your hands,
And call your grandparents. Bye now.

New English words & COVID-19

New English Words and Language Change with COVID-19

Languages change when new problems come up because we need to words to describe them.

In this video we look at some of the new words that have entered the Oxford English Dictionary since the outbreak of COVID-19, and we’ll show you how we use them in action.

You’ll learn:
– the difference between COVID-19 and the coronavirus
– new acronyms: WFH and PPE
– how the meanings of phrases like social distancing, self isolation have changed over time
– collocations for the adjective non-essential
– how we’re using the words lockdown, stay at home and shelter in place these days.

Language Change with COVID-19

The English we speak is always changing.
There are two things that drive the change. One is contact with other languages and the other is major events that change our lives.
When new problems come up, we need new words to describe them.
And that’s what’s been happening with the coronavirus.
In this video you’ll learn some important new English words and how to use them.
They’re words and phrases that you can use to describe your life and relationships in our new world.
Every three months the Oxford English Dictionary adds new words and phrases.
But because of the coronavirus, more new words and meanings have been coined, so they’ve done an early update.
For example, they’ve added the word COVID-19.
They call it ‘an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by the coronavirus.
Respiratory means connected with breathing and your lungs.
OK, what’s the difference between coronavirus and COVID-19?
Coronavirus is a general term so there are lots of different coronaviruses. The common cold is a coronavirus
More serious viruses like MERS and SARS are coronaviruses too.
COVID-19 is the particular strain of the virus that we’re fighting today. So COVID-19 is a more specific term.
It’s a short form of the phrase ‘coronavirus disease 2019’. 2019 was the year they identified it.
And sometimes it’s called novel coronavirus . Novel means new, because it’s a new coronavirus!
A lot of the new meanings in the Oxford English Dictionary are about how we interact with one another because of COVID-19.
For example, elbow bump.
So an elbow bump is a greeting when we don’t want to shake hands.
But in the past, elbow bumps were like high fives, a sort of celebration.
COVID-19 is making us rethink the way we interact.
Oh. Do you have the figures for February?
Oh sure. Let’s see. Oh, here it is!
I didn’t want to touch that paper after you’d licked your fingers.
We have to learn new habits and with new habits come new words.
Or new meanings of old words.
Here’s one. In the past self-isolation used to describe countries that kept themselves separate.
Historically, some countries have had an isolationist foreign policy where there was no foreign trade and it was very hard for people from other countries to enter.
But now self-isolation means something different.
If someone has or thinks they might have the coronavirus, they self-isolate and keep themselves apart from their family.
They have to stay physically separate and clean and disinfect any common areas.
Another word like that is self-quarantine.
Quarantine is a length of time when a person or animal is kept separate so that they don’t infect anyone with a disease.
But these days people are self-quarantining, so they don’t infect their families.
Self-quarantining is really tough to do.
And here’s another phrase that’s changed its meaning: social distancing.
You’ll hear this a lot.
In the past, social distancing meant not wanting to engage socially with other people.
We went to a networking event last night.
Oh, what was it like?
It was very useful. There were about a dozen people there and everyone made a short presentation.
I didn’t like it.
Did you meet any interesting people?
Yes. Well I did.
I didn’t talk to anybody.
So you kept your social distance from everyone at the event.
I didn’t want to get involved.
You didn’t want to talk to them!
But these days social distancing is less about feelings and attitudes and more about physical distance.
We need to stay six feet apart.
So now we get our groceries delivered, but the delivery person is careful not to come near us.
They leave the food on the front doorstep and go away.
Have a good day.
Thank you so much.
You’re welcome. Take care.
Thank you, bye.
We have lovely neighbours and we used to stand at the wall on our deck and chat to them.
But now we understand that we need to keep our distance.
Joao! Hello!
How are you doing?
We also have some new English acronyms.
An acronym is when you take the first letters of a phrase and turn them into a word.
Do you know what this means?
It means working from home and you’ll see it a lot in emails.
It’s usually written. When we’re speaking we normally say working from home.
How are you finding working from home Jay?
Oh it’s great! I never get bored in meetings any more.
Another new acronym is PPE.
We talked about that in our last video.
It stands for personal protective equipment, but that takes a long time to say so we just say PPE.
Doctors and nurses need PPE to protect themselves.
And we’re starting to wear PPE now too.
Good morning colleagues. Welcome back to work after the shutdown. Please remember to sit six feet apart. And please remember to wear masks. And don’t forget to wear gloves.
When something big like COVID-19 happens, we have change our ways.
It makes us rethink all the things we do in our lives.
What really matters? What’s important in life?
Here’s an adjective that’s been rising in frequency.
If something is non-essential it means it isn’t necessary
We talk about non-essential travel, non-essential workers, non-essential businesses…
For example, where we live in Philadelphia they’ve closed non-essential businesses.
But what is a non-essential business?
That’s a good question because people disagree.
Non-essential businesses are often recreational, so things like theatres, museums, restaurants, bars…
Schools have closed too, of course.
Here’s another group phrases we’re hearing a lot.
A lockdown is an official order that’s given in a dangerous situation. It controls the movement of people or vehicles.
Prisoners in jail might be placed on lockdown if there’s violence.
A lockdown is very strict and it suggests danger.
But these days people people are using ‘lockdown’ when they’re just talking about staying at home when they really want to go out.
In Philadelphia, we have a ‘stay at home’ order which sounds a little less strict than a lockdown.
We can go out, but only to do essential tasks like shopping for food.
Some states in the US have another term: ‘shelter in place’
This is interesting because ‘shelter in place’ used to be connected with gun violence in the US.
Well it’s still used if there’s an active shooter with a gun. People are told to shelter in place.
It means stay where you are and don’t move.
But now, with COVID-19 it can just mean ‘don’t go out’.
It’s become another way of saying ‘stay at home’.
We know a lot of you are obeying the rules and staying at home too
Yeah. We’ve loved reading your comments and hearing how you’re coping with the coronavirus in your part of the world.
Staying at home has been our best defense and thank you for doing that.
I have a question. Have you noticed any new words and meanings entering your language too?
Write and tell us if you have.
We want to hear about them.
And thanks to everyone who has already written and please keep the comments coming.
And don’t forget to wash your hands.
And don’t forget to call your grandparents, wash your hands and keep safe.

Click here to see another video we made about the coronavirus.

Covid-19 Stocks supplies and shortages

COVID-19: Stocks, supplies and shortages

Learn the English vocabulary you need to talk about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting your lives.
In this video we focus on important words and phrases for talking about stocks, supplies and shortages.
First we look at serious shortages of medical supplies:
– PPE: personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, goggles and gloves
– respirators and ventilators
– COVID-19 tests
Then Vicki and Jay show you how they’re coping. You’ll hear about contact-less delivery and learn many different meanings of the word ‘stock’ along with verbs like ‘snagged’ and ‘hoarding’.

How are you?
We really hope you’re keeping safe and healthy.
We’re both fine and we’re staying at home because of COVID-19.
We know many of you are too, so we’re going to tell you how we’re coping
And we hope you’ll share your stories with us too.
This video’s about vocabulary you can use to talk about your lives and how you’re affected by COVID-19.
We’ll focus on language for talking about a big issue – stocks, supplies and shortages.
A shortage is when there isn’t enough of something that’s needed.
The most serious shortages are medical supplies and equipment.
Doctors, nurses and other essential workers need PPE – Personal Protective Equipment.
In particular, they need masks to protect their faces.
Goggles to cover their eyes.
Gowns to protect their bodies.
And gloves to cover their hands.
Hospitals also need ventilators and respirators.
They both help with breathing so what’s the difference?
A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient breathe.
It pumps oxygen into the lungs if they’re too ill or weak to breathe themselves.
A respirator is a kind of mask, so it’s a kind of PPE.
The American Centers for Disease Control recommends that health workers wear N95 respirators that fit tightly around their nose and mouth.
Now ,there are some kinds of respirators that pump air, so they’re a kind of ventilator too.
So sometimes the words respirator and ventilator can be synonyms and mean the same thing.
But normally, ventilators are machines that help patients breathe and respirators are the protective masks.
OK. Another serious shortage in the US is testing. It’s very hard to get tested for COVID-19 here.
We lack the tests we need.
There’s a lack of testing.
Notice the word ‘lack’ here. We use it when there isn’t enough of something and you can use it as a verb or a noun.
There’s another thing we lack at the moment.
What’s that?
Good news.
Yes. The news is so bad.
But personally, we want you to know that Vicki and I are fine.
And we’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s been wishing us good health in the comments.
Thank you all. We’ve been isolating for nearly a month now, so we haven’t left the house.
And we’re lucky because in Philadelphia we can order online and get food and other things delivered.
It’s called contact-less delivery because they just leave it on your doorstep.
Can you do the same? I know it’s harder for my family in England.
But it can take a while to get a delivery here now.
Lots of people are ordering online so there are delays
It took two weeks to snag a delivery.
Snag – that’s an interesting use of the word snag.
Really? It means we were lucky to get a delivery.
That meaning is more common in American than British English.
Well I’m glad we snagged it. Our stocks were running low and our refrigerator was empty.
We ran out of fresh fruit and vegetables.
When you run low, you don’t have many.
And when you run out, you don’t have any.
We need to learn to order early. But we’ve stocked up now.
Now, what about that word ‘stock’? It has a lot of different meanings.
We have the stock market. For example, the stock market fell when the corona virus hit.
Here stock means a share in a company.
And stock can be a liquid too that we use in cooking.
This is stock. It’s a liquid you make by boiling meat or vegetables and you can use it to make soup.
But more often, stock is a supply of something.
Companies might do stocktaking.
That’s when they count their inventory and all the materials they use to manufacture their products and do business.
And the word ‘stock’ can be a verb too. If a store stocks something, then it has it for sale.
And they might stock the shelves – keep them full.
And if a store has an item available for sale, then we say it’s ‘in stock’.
And if there aren’t any for sale, then the store is ‘out of stock’.
Here’s a message I had from Amazon this week. It’s quite formal English because it was a written message. If I were saying this, I’d probably say something like ‘This item is out of stock, so we can’t get it. We’ve cancelled your order and we’re sorry.
What were they out of?
Contact lens solution.
So you can’t clean your contact lenses?
No but it’s not a big problem, yet.
With the corona virus, lots of people have been ‘stocking up’ on things – buying them in large quantities.
Like hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
People have been panic-buying because they’re worried about a shortage. They’re hoarding them.
Now hoarding is another interesting verb. It has negative connotations.
It’s when you have a secret stack of something that you don’t want to share.
Here’s another phrase we use with the word stock.
We could say a supermarket is well-stocked.
That means the shelves are full of different things.
We have a well-stocked refrigerator.
We can order food online and get it delivered so we’re not worried about running out.
But drinks are a different story.
Yes, we don’t know what we have so we want to ‘take stock’.
We want to evaluate our situation because we can’t buy any more.
Yeah. The reason dates back to the 1920s when there was prohibition in America and nobody could buy or sell alcohol.
And when they changed the law so you could buy alcohol again, Pennsylvania, the state we live in, took control of all the liquor stores.
When the COVID crisis started, the governor closed down all the non-essential businesses, but he left the liquor stores open.
So other businesses complained and they said ‘Hey! That’s not fair!’ So then he closed down the liquor stores too…
And people REALLY complained about that.
So they opened up an online store and as soon as they did…
… the website crashed!
But luckily we have some alcohol in the house. We’ve got.. We’ve got some red wine. We like red wine. There’s a bottle of port there, and I think it’s full.
Oh my goodness. There’s a little tiny bit of martini. Another bit of port. Oh look, there’s some English sherry.
Oh, very nice.
A pre-dinner drink one night. Some pickled onions.
An English delicacy. Erm…
And then we have this Frangelico liqueur.
Where did we get that?
I have no idea.
I think it’ll give us a headache.
We’ve also got this.
Ah, cachacas. You mix this with lime juice and a lot of sugar and it makes a caipirinha. You get those in Brazil.
And we’ve got a little bit of campari but I haven’t got any soda water. I’ll have to get some. And then a bit more wine. Is it.. oh…
It’s scotch whiskey.
I think we’ll be all right for a little while.
Do you have plenty to eat and drink too? We hope so.
And are you like us and looking through your cupboards and finding food and drink there that you’d forgotten you had?
Are you staying at home too? What are you doing through this COVID-19 crisis?
We’d love to hear about your experiences, so please write and tell us in the comments.
Or make a video about them. You can post it on YouTube and send the link here.
We’d love to know how you’re getting on.
Please keep safe everyone and don’t forget to call your grandpa and grandma.

British and American word differences

25 more British and American English word differences

Here’s the last in our series with Super Agent Awesome on British and American English word differences.

In this video we look at differences like takeout-takeaway and cookies-biscuits and say what we’d call them in British and American English.

Some of the other words we explore in this video include marquee and suspenders, movie theater and cinema, and garbage bins, rubbish bins, candy apples and toffee apples, math and maths, catapult and slingshot.

When you buy your food for the night, you get…
Oh, I get takeout.
OK and I’d call it a takeaway.
A takeaway. Isn’t like takeaway like somebody taking away your stuff? Like stealing?
Hello everyone, today’s lesson’s about British and American words. And luckily, I have Super Agent Awesome to help me.
Thank you so much Vicki. I am so glad to have you here.
And are you British, or are you American?
I am American.
And I’m British, so together we should be quite good.
Now, where is this baby sleeping?
In the crib.
And I’d call it, in British English, a cot.
That’s a crib.
This is what we’d call a crib.
Now, what’s this baby wearing?
It’s wearing a onesie.
And I’d say it’s wearing a babygro.
That’s a rowboat.
And I’d say a rowing boat.
A jump rope.
We’d call that a skipping rope.
This is a slingshot.
Ah, and I’d call it a catapult.
Huh. Rowboat.
Rowing boat.
Jump rope.
Skipping rope.
And, what are they?
Oh yeah, they’re cookies.
And I’d call them biscuits.
She’s using the stove.
Uhuh, and I’d say she was cooking on a cooker.
That sounds like a tongue twister. A cook, cooking on a cooker.
So, what building is this?
I would call this a movie theater.
And I’d call it a cinema.
On the top, what’s that thing outside?
A marquee?
We might call that an awning in British English. For me, this is a marquee. It’s an outside tent.
It’s a tent to have parties in.
A movie theater.
Party tent.
What’s this guy wearing?
He’s wearing a watch.
And what else is he wearing.
He’s also wearing suspenders.
He’s not wearing suspenders in British English. He’s wearing braces.
Braces? Aren’t these the metal things that go on your teeth?
Ah, we do call those braces as well. And so do you. Let me show you what suspenders are in British English. See the red things. They’re suspenders.
Oh, we got garbage bins.
OK, I’d call them dustbins. So, what’s their job?
Trash collectors.
And I’d say they’re dustmen.
A trash can.
And I’d call it the rubbish bin.
Trash or garbage bins.
Trash collectors.
Trash can.
Rubbish bin.
My favorite. Candy apples.
And we’d call them toffee apples.
Candy apples.
Toffee apples.
Ok, and I say it in a similar way but I say it with an S a the end.
Yes. What are those blue marks?
Oh, they’re call the check marks.
We’d call them ticks.
Check marks.
We call that beets.
They’re beet roots.
They’re called herbs.
And we’d call them herbs with a “h” at the start.
And this one we call oreGAno.
Oh, we call this oREGano.
They’re called sneakers.
Normally we call them trainers. And I don’t know if you have these, but in schools in England a lot of kids do their gym practice in these shoes.
They’re called plimsolls.
You’ve got an American one and a British one.
Oh, wow. I call that a mailbox.
In British English it’s a post box. At the bottom of a letter there are some numbers. What are they?
We call them a zip code.
We have post codes.
Mail box.
Post box.
zip code.
Post code.
Ok so, we finished. That’s it.
Bye, Oh, Whoa. Wait, Vicki. We forgot to tell them to subscribe.
Oh, OK.
If you really like our videos and you really want to stay informed on this channel then hit the subscribe button below this video. It’s the red button. That it for the video. Super Agent Awesome here, signing out. Peace!!!

We have other kinds of videos that compare British and American English that you might enjoy. Click here to see a playlist on YouTube
And here’s one of our favourites: https://youtu.be/ArRdrhejS3A

british and american word differences

26 British and American English word differences

British and American word differences are curious things. Super Agent Awesome stopped by to explore some with us.

We looked at differences with words like crisps/chips and chips/French fries and compared what we’d call things in British and American English. Words we explore in this video include swimming costume and bathing suit, spanners and wrenches, hundreds and thousands and sprinkles, and lots, lots more.

We have lots of other kinds of videos that compare British and American English that you might enjoy. Click here see some more.

Here’s your first word. What is it?
Potato chips.
OK, I call them crisps.
OK, what’s this?
French fries.
No, no, no. They’re chips.
Wh… what?

Chips. Crisps. French fries. Chips.

Hi everybody. I’m here today with Super Agent Awesome. Thank you for coming.
And we’re looking at British and American English words today. What’s this?
A cell phone.
OK, and I’d call it a mobile.
A faucet.
OK, and I’d say it’s a tap. What’s that?
An airplane.
I say aeroplane.

Cell phone. Mobile. Faucet. Tap. Airplane. Aeroplane.

We got candy. Oooh, nice.
And I’d call them sweets.
We got sprinkles.
We call these hundreds and thousands.
Wow. A pretty big name for a really little dot.
And what’s this stuff.
And I’d say jelly.

Candy. Sweets. Sprinkles. Hundreds and thousands. Jello. Jelly.

And what are these people wearing?
OK, we’d say they’re in fancy dress.
I wear costumes for Halloween.
And if you dress up very smartly, you might wear this.
We will wear a tux.
And we’d call it a dinner jacket.

Costumes. Fancy Dress. Tux or tuxedo. Dinner Jacket.

What’s this thing on the back of the car?
That’s a license plate.
And I’d call it a number plate. This bit of glass in the front of a car.
It’s a windshield.
A windscreen.

A license plate. Number plate. Windshield. Windscreen.

Oh, these are fish sticks.
We call them fish fingers.
Fish fingers.
Like fish have fingers.
Fish sticks. Fish fingers.
He’s doing push-ups. He wants to be fit.
And I’d say he’s doing press-ups. And, what are these people doing?
Waiting in line.
And I’d say they’re waiting in a queue.

Push-ups. Press-ups. Waiting in line. Waiting in the queue.

He’s holding a wrench.
That’s a spanner. And, do you know what that’s called?
Uh, I think that’s an Allen wrench.
We’d call that an Allen key.
Wrench. Spanner. Allen Wrench. Allen key.
We’re looking at thumb tacks.
And I’d call them drawing pins.
Oh, they’re clothes pins.
And we’d call them pegs.
A vacuum cleaner.
We’d often call it a hoover.
Why would you call it a hoover?
It’s named after the American firm, Hoover.
That makes sense. Thumbtacks.

Drawing pins. Clothes pins. Clothes pegs. Vacuum cleaner. Hoover.

We got the laundromat.
And I’d call it a laundrette. And what kind of shop do you think this is?
Uh… a pharmacy.
We’d normally call it a chemists. Do you also call it a drug store?
In British English a drug store sounds funny, because it sounds like a place where you can buy drugs.

Laundromat. Laundrette. Drug store or pharmacy. Chemists.

Uh, that’s a merry-go-round.
Usually, we’d say roundabout. We call this a roundabout too.
Oh, it’s a traffic circle.
We have a lot of these in the UK.

Merry-go-round. Roundabout. Traffic circle. Roundabout.

A woman… a ladies’ swimsuit.
Yes, and we could call it that too. Um, would you ever call it a swimming costume?
Err no, why would we ever say that? It’s not for halloween.
We would call it a swimming costume. Would you call it a bathing suit?
Yeah, we would.
OK, that for us is a bathing suit. It’s really old fashioned for us.
That’s a bathing suit?

Swimsuit or bathing suit. Swimsuit or swimming costume. Bathing suit.

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

test your English and avoid common mistakes

How good is your English? Quiz 3

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

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

Test your English and avoid common mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

actual actually false friends

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

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

Actual and Actually – false friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American English slang lesson

7 American slang expressions that Brits don’t use.

How good is your American English slang?
In this American English slang lesson you’ll learn 7 American English colloquial expressions that Brits don’t use, and a couple that both Brits and Americans use.

They include:
– for the birds
– John Hancock
– shoot the breeze
– Monday morning quarterback
– carpetbagger
– Joe Blow or the average Joe
– John Doe and Jane Doe.

American English slang and expressions that Brits don’t use

I’m going to have fun today.
He’s going to test me.
And if Vicki does well, she gets a prize.
Ooh, what is it?
Uh uh, you can’t look. You have to wait and see.
Hi, I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m Vicki and I’m British.
We made a couple of videos about British slang that Americans don’t use a little while ago.
I’ll put the link here. Lots of you saw them and requested a video on American slang.
So I’ve got some American slang words and colloquial expressions and I’m going to see how many Vicki knows. How do you think you’ll do?
I should be pretty good because I’ve lived with you a long time. But there are still some words that I hear that I don’t know sometimes. So we’ll see.
You can play along with us. OK Vicki, here’s your first one.
For the birds. I think if something has no value then you say it’s for the birds.
If it has no value or it’s ridiculous. Can you give us an example? Use it in a sentence?
Oh, um, OK, uh this old sock has a hole in it. It’s for the birds.
Do you know where the expression comes from?
No, where?
Well, in the days before we had automobiles, horses would travel down the street and leave manure behind them. And guess what would come and eat the manure?
The birds.
Of course. So it’s for the birds.
Something that’s worthless or useless is for the birds. For example, this silly TV show is for the birds. Let’s turn it off. Here’s your next one.
Oh, this is a good one. Um, John Hancock. And it means, I think, your signature. So you might put your John Hancock on a document.
Exactly. But do you know who John Hancock was?
Oh, I think so. I think he was the first person to sign the declaration of independence. So he was the first traitor in America.
Well actually, he was president of the continental congress right here in Philadelphia in 1776. And when the declaration was first printed, he signed his name so large, the legend goes, so that King George III could see it without his spectacles.
So he was the first traitor to commit treason and betray his country.
He was a great American patriot. A John Hancock is an informal way of saying a signature. For example, put your John Hancock here. Here’s your next one.
Shoot the breeze. I know this. Shoot the breeze is when you have a casual conversation with your friends. And you just get together and talk about nothing much.
That’s exactly correct. Good job!
If we shoot the breeze, we have an informal conversation about this and that. Nothing important. For example, let’s have a beer and shoot the breeze for a while.
And, of course, we both say something is a breeze. If something is a breeze, then it’s very easy to do.
Exactly correct as well.
I hope my next question is a breeze.
If something is a breeze, it means it’s very easy to do. For example, it’s hard to cycle up this hill, but coming down will be a breeze.
We use breeze with this meaning in British English too.
Here’s another one for you.
Oh, good one. Ok. Monday-morning quarterback. Well, first of all, a quarterback is a football player – an American football player.
Well, he’s not only a football player, he leads the team. The quarterback is the person who designs all the plays and controls what’s happening from his team’s point of view and throws the ball.
But this is a Monday-morning quarterback. And that’s a person who looks back on an event and they have their own opinion about what should have happened and how things were done wrongly. And I guess its Monday morning because most football games are at the weekend?
College football is on Saturday and professional football is on Sunday.
So if you’re looking at it on Monday morning, then you’re looking back at what’s already happened.
A Monday-morning quarterback is someone who looks back after an event and complains about what other people did. So, for example, after the conference was over, he complained about how it was organized. He’s such a Monday-morning quarterback. Now, do you have the expression backseat driver?
Oh, we do and that’s similar. So in British and American English we’ll talk about a backseat driver. What do they do?
Well, they tell the driver what they should be doing. The back seat driver is really annoying.
Yes, they’re a bit different to a Monday-morning quarterback because they’re telling them while the other person’s driving. But the Monday-morning quarterback gives their advice on what should be done and shouldn’t be done afterwards, don’t they?
Exactly. A backseat driver is an annoying person who interferes and tries to tell you what to do. For example, stop being a backseat drive and let me do my job.
We say back seat driver in British English too.
OK, here’s your next one.
Oooh. Carpetbagger. I’m not exactly sure about this. I think that it’s someone who you can’t trust who might be a kind of crook or thief. And I know that it has some sort of historical background to it. And I think that there were people who had bags made out of carpet. And maybe they were crooks somehow.
I’ll give you a point for the bags made out of carpet. And it is a historical term. It comes from the American Civil War, from 1860 to 1865 when smugglers who were carrying illegal goods that weren’t allowed in the south, or weren’t allowed in the north, and they put them in bags made of carpet or in big carpet rolls that they carried over their shoulders. They were carpetbaggers. But, it has a totally different meaning today. Do you know what that means?
Well, you know a carpetbagger…
Do I?
In recent political history. Hillary Clinton.
Oh yes.
A carpetbagger today is a politician who lives in one place and then moves to another and runs for office. Hillary Clinton grew up and lived in Arkansas. And after Bill Clinton’s presidency was over she moved to New York state and ran for senate.
And they called her a carpetbagger.
Exactly. A carpetbagger is a political candidate who runs for office in a place that they’re not from. The idea is they are not welcome, so it’s a derogatory term. OK, what do you think about this one?
Oh, Joe Blow. Joe Blow is the name that’s given to stand for the average man, an average guy.
Right. We also say, the average Joe.
And it just means the man in the street.
The ordinary guy, that’s right.
OK. Um, in British English we also say Fred Bloggs, or Joe Bloggs and it’s just the name for a sort of Mister average, that we sometimes use.
Joe Blow, or the average Joe, is an ordinary man in the street. For example, what do the new tax cuts mean for the average Joe?
In British English we might say Joe Blogs, and it means much the same thing.
Now, there’s another term on there that I gave you.
Joe… John Doe. John Doe. I associate John Doe with dead bodies in morgues.
Well, that’s sort of how it goes. If the police can’t identify someone, living or dead, they’ll give them the name John Doe or Jane Doe.
John Doe can also mean the average man but it has another meaning too. John Doe or Jane Doe is the name used for a person whose name is a secret or not known. These names are placeholder names in court or in police investigations.
How did I do?
Not bad.
I think I was very good. Do I get the prize?
Yes, you get the prize.
Ok, I get… oh, this is good – two tickets to the comedy show at the Adrienne theater.
Right, we’ll have lots of fun. Hey, if you liked this video, please share it with a friend and give it a thumbs up.
And don’t forget to subscribe. See you soon.