English Lessons


English Expressions for "Crazy"

There are a lot of English expressions suggesting that somebody or something is "crazy." But please remember: while it may be perfectly polite to use such expressions regarding objects or situations, it can be rude and aggressive using them to describe people. A dictionary even warns: "The reference of the adjective "crazy" (and words derived from it) to mentally or psychologically ill people is strongly discriminatory." It also might get somebody very angry with you, so it's a better policy to be polite!


... a thin, pale, watery cup of tea that nobody in their right mind would want to drink.

Captions 15-16, Simon Jones: On Tea

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If somebody is described as "not being in their right mind," it suggests that they are not thinking clearly.


I can't imagine my life without the ocean. I would go absolutely nuts!

Caption 19, Naish Kiteboarding TV: Kai Riding Jaws

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'Cause they'll drive you good and nuts.

Caption 7, Ask Jimmy Carter: Interview with Robin Williams

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The phrase "to go nuts" means the same as "to go crazy." If something "is driving somebody nuts," it means that something is making them crazy. There is also an old-fashioned expression "to be nutty as a fruitcake," which also suggests "crazy."


Some say to survive it you need to be as mad as a hatter.

Caption 5, Filmtrailer: Alice in Wonderland

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The 19th century English children's book Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll had a character called the Mad Hatter, hence the phrase "mad as a hatter." In the old days, hatmakers were exposed to mercury, which would eventually damage their health and their minds. Note that in British English, "mad" means "crazy," whereas in US English, "mad" usually means "angry."


And I'm always off my trolley, so I never say sorry.

Caption 19, Robbie Williams: Party Like A Russian

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The expression that somebody is "off their trolley" is a particularly British expression meaning "crazy"—or as they would say, "mad." The equivalent American English expression is to say somebody is "off their rocker." The source of the latter phrase is uncertain, but it may refer to elderly people falling out of their rocking chairs due to senile dementia. Not very nice, is it?


Some further idioms and expressions that mean "crazy" include:


—to go (or be) bananas
—to be a basket case
—to not be playing with a full deck of cards
—to have the lights on, but nobody is home
—to lose one's marbles
—to have a screw loose
—to take leave of one's senses
—to have toys in the attic


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the above videos in their entirety to see the contexts in which the expressions were used.

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All About Feet

Let's talk today about the noun "foot" (and its plural "feet") as the word is used in different idioms and expressions. It's interesting that many English expressions may have the same or similar expressions in your native language. But the ones that don't may take a bit of getting used to, since direct translations often don't make any sense at all!


The mud at the foot of the cone makes a perfect cement.

Caption 7, America's National Parks: Yellowstone

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Closer to the foot of the bed ...

Caption 13, The Cure: Lullaby

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The English expression "the foot of" means "the base" or "the bottom" of something. It's most commonly used for the foot of a mountain or (as above) the foot of a bed. The latter is easy to remember since the foot of the bed is where your feet go when you lie down!


Let's hope the snow's gone come kick-off time, otherwise all the teams will get cold feet.

Caption 29, World Cup 2018: A Tour of Cities and Venues

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The caption above is ironically meant, in that of course, playing in the snow would make a soccer player's feet cold. But the meaning of "to get cold feet" is "to be afraid," so it also means that soccer players are afraid of playing in the snow!


But I think it's in my best interest and in the interest of the bear community to put the best foot forward.

Captions 72-74, Habitat: The Bear

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In US English (as above), the phrase "to put one's best foot forward" means "to behave very well so as to make a good first impression." However, in British English, it means "to do something with as much effort and determination as possible." The two meanings are not necessarily compatible.


What was that like having one foot in the door?

Caption 53, Movie Trailers: Funny People

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To "have one foot in the door" is a figurative way of saying "to gain entry" or "to get an opportunity." People often use the expression when they are close to achieving a goal, such as getting a new job.


So Columbus never actually set foot in North America.

Caption 18, Slow News with Sigrid: October commemorations in the U.S.

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To "set foot" somewhere means "to have been" somewhere. Many US Americans grew up learning that Christopher Columbus "discovered America," which in most people's minds means the part of North America that constitutes the United States. The phrase has fallen into disrepute, however, since the land Columbus "discovered" was already occupied by  native peoples. Columbus was not even the first European to land in the Americas, as the Norse were already there centuries earlier. And as the comment above shows, none of the parts of the Americas where Columbus "set foot" were in North America.


And I can't sweep you off of your feet.

Caption 2, Ed Sheeran: Thinking Out Loud

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The usual phrase is "to sweep someone off their feet," but perhaps Mr. Sheeran needed an extra syllable in his song! It means "to cause somebody to fall in love with you."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the above videos in their entirety to see the contexts in which the expressions were used. Just for fun, you can take a look at this extensive list of other foot expressions!

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Father's Day

Father's Day always falls on the third Sunday in June in the United States and the United Kingdom. This holiday was established in 1910 in the US state of Washington, and remains the most popular Father's Day date in the world. This year, Father's Day is on June 18th.


Most countries in the world celebrate Father's Day, as you can see on this map on Wikipedia Commons. In many places like the US and the UK, the date falls on a particular Sunday of the month. But in some countries, the date is fixed and the same every year. In some Hindu, Islamic, and Burmese cultures, it falls on a date that varies each year according to the lunar calendar.


Let's take a look today at some typical Father's Day traditions in the US and the UK. These might be the same as you do in your home country, but maybe they'll help give you some ideas for Father's Day this year anyway!


But it later became a permanent federal holiday.

Caption 34, Spotlight: Why Columbus Day?

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A federal holiday (called a "bank holiday" in the UK) is a holiday where most people have the day off from work and where, depending on the local laws, many shops, offices, and institutions are closed. Father's Day in the US and the UK, however, is just a regular holiday, and not a federal or bank holiday. The fact that it always falls on a Sunday means that most people take the day off from work anyway!


My father yells, "What are you going do with your life?"

Caption 7, Cyndi Lauper: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

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Relationships with our fathers are sometimes problematic, but hopefully we've been able to forgive and forget, and maintain a healthy relationship with our dads.


This Mother's Day you might want to make her a card.

Caption 70, World's Toughest Job: Official Video

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It's also part of the holiday's tradition to send your dad a Father's Day card.


And what do you hope to get for a present this year?

Caption 15, Christmas in London: People

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This video caption is referring to Christmas presents, but you can also consider getting your dad a present for Father's Day. Then the question remains: What would he like to have?


We went out to dinner.

Caption 17, Sigrid: The New Normal

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If you live near your father, it's also a nice gesture to invite him out to dinner. It's also a nice gesture make dinner at your home and invite him over.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above. Maybe there are some Father's Day traditions in your native country that aren't discussed here. Try writing a paragraph in English about Father's Day traditions where you came from.

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Drought, Fires, and Possible Food Shortages

Today we're going to focus on a BBC news report from last year about water shortages in the Western United States, but the topic applies to many places in the world.


The Western United States is now entering one of the worst droughts ever seen.

Captions 24-25, BBC News: California ‘crippling drought’ leads to strict water restrictions

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A drought (rhymes with "doubt") is a prolonged period of dryness that is usually caused by a shortage of rainfall or snowfall.


Then, in a place like the West, we get wildfires.

Caption 29, BBC News: California ‘crippling drought’ leads to strict water restrictions

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A wildfire is a large and sweeping fire in a wilderness or rural area. When a wildfire happens in a forest, it's called a "forest fire." The Canadian wildfires that filled many US cities with smoke starting in March 2023 are also a result of drought. The smoke from the fires made many cities issue warnings to residents to keep their windows closed and not go outside.


But thousands of acres are now lying idle, because they're unable to irrigate.

Captions 35-36, BBC News: California ‘crippling drought’ leads to strict water restrictions

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An acre is a unit of measurement, used primarily in the USA and the UK, that is around 4,000 square meters. The verb "irrigate" means to supply land and crops with water by artificial means, such as pumps and diverting river flows. The noun equivalent is "irrigation."


We're looking at food shortages in the United States.

Captions 44-45, BBC News: California ‘crippling drought’ leads to strict water restrictions

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Because of the lack of water for farms, there's a possibility that some kinds of food made with ingredients grown in the USA may be in short supply.


The government has urged Californians to conserve water.

Caption 46, BBC News California: ‘crippling drought’ leads to strict water restrictions

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The verb "to conserve" means to avoid the wasteful use of something. Water conservation measures are essential during times of drought. According to the BBC, the first three months of 2022 were the driest on record in the Western United States, but during this period, water usage actually increased!


So you see how a shortage of precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) has a domino effect: it hurts farming, causes wildfires and forest fires, and has a major impact on health and the economy. The city of Phoenix, Arizona has even suspended previously approved house-building projects due to the projected lack of water for them. Cities like Las Vegas, Nevada have even banned lawns as "nonfunctional," since maintaining them requires so much water. Phoenix has not yet implemented such drastic measures. Similar programs are taking place all over the Western United States.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the video above in its entirety. You can also watch the Sigrid "Slow News" video in New Videos above. Then you may do a search for other videos using some of the keywords above. What can you and your family do to conserve water?

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Climate Change

The term "climate change" is generally used to describe how mankind's activities are affecting our climate today in ways that have a serious impact on our environment, our economy, and our lives.


In order to understand human-induced climate change, or global warming,

we need to understand something about burning fossil fuels.

Captions 7-8, Chemistry for All | FuseSchool - How Burning Fossil Fuels Leads to Climate Change

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Wikipedia describes fossil fuel as a material "such as coal, oil, and natural gas, formed naturally in the Earth's crust from the remains of dead plants and animals, that is extracted and burned as a fuel." The air pollution caused by fossil fuels causes global warming. Global warming, in turn, is the largely human-caused increase of our planet's temperatures over the last decades. If global warming continues....


... the glaciers will melt

and the level of the seas will rise unpredictably.

Captions 48-49, Once upon a Time... Planet Earth - The Guardians of the Planet

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As a result...


Countless deltas in coastal regions will be flooded.

Caption 50, Once upon a Time... Planet Earth - The Guardians of the Planet

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In addition to these problems...


So there are more floods, droughts, and storms.

Caption 66, Chemistry for All | FuseSchool - How Burning Fossil Fuels Leads to Climate Change

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A drought is the opposite of a flood: instead of too much water, there isn't enough. Without enough water, farmers are unable to grow the kinds of food that they used to in the past. Property, crops, and even human lives are lost as a direct result of storms, floods, and droughts caused by global warming.


The single most effective and significant action

that can be taken in the short term to stabilize global warming

is to stop tropical rainforest destruction.

Captions 6-8, The Prince's Rainforests Project - Prince of Wales' Introduction

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King (formerly Prince) Charles of Great Britain is probably correct in his statement that stopping the destruction of rainforests would help slow climate change. However, it's only going to change if wealthy people like King Charles and large profit-driven corporations are made to take financial and moral responsibility for the destruction they are causing.


But they won't make the necessary changes

because they have put their astronomical profits before people.

Captions 8-9, Breaking News - Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen

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The article above is referring to Facebook, but it's just as valid for companies that continue to make record profits from fossil fuels. Let's hope that the wealthiest people and companies are someday able to recognize that the planet they are polluting is the same planet where they, their families, and their descendants are supposed to be living. But in order to do that, they'll have to put humanity's long-term survival before their own profit margins.


Let's each of us continue to do our small part in reducing our consumption of products that directly lead to global warming!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above. You can also search for some of the highlighted words to find more English videos related to climate change.

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Nationalities, Part III

In Part III of "Nationalities," we are going to continue Part I and Part II and talk about the names of the main languages that are spoken and the adjectives used to describe somebody from that country. Usually, the noun for the language spoken is the same as the adjective for somebody who resides there. Note that in English, unlike many other languages, even the adjectives for nationalities are usually written with a capital letter.


For example, in the country Spain, most people of Spanish nationality speak the Spanish language. But there are also exceptions: In the United States, most Americans speak English. It is interesting that the residents of the United States choose to call themselves "Americans," when in fact all of the people in the countries in North, Central, and South America could equally call themselves "Americans."


Let's take a look today at some countries we didn't discuss in the first two lessons whose country names and/or languages differ from the nationalities.


And look at that temperature in Brazil!

Caption 69, Side by Side - Beginners - The Weather

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This is also by Kobra, the Brazilian street artist.

Caption 16, John S in New York - Kobra

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I can speak Portuguese.

Captions 25-26, Side by Side - Beginners - Expressing abilities

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In the country of Brazil, most Brazilian people speak the Portuguese language.




I come from Canada.

Caption 19, English Grammar in Use - Present Simple

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Canadian kids are stepping up.

Caption 19, CBS News - The Easter Bunny in New Zealand

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They brought many French words that became part of English.

Caption 46, The Alphabet - Introduction to the Alphabet

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In the country of Canada, most Canadian people speak predominantly English or French. In the Canadian province Quebec, most people speak French and are called French Canadians.




The whole world was turned upside down by pictures from Ethiopia.

Caption 6, Make Poverty History - Bono

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But a black runner never won the marathon until 1960,

when an Ethiopian runner did it barefoot.

Captions 11-12, Olympics 2012 - Fun Facts

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In the country of Ethiopia, the dominant language spoken by the Ethiopian people is Amharic.




They were colonized by Spain, and so was the Philippines.

Caption 54, Turn Here Productions - San Francisco, CA

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What's been the response to your winning from the Filipino people?

Caption 36, Miss World - Megan Young - Hello London!

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In the country of the Philippines, most of the Filipino people speak Filipino or Tagalog.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and find more videos that use some of the country names, dominant languages, and nationalities used above and listed below. You can also see a more complete list of countries, their people, and their languages here.


Country                  Language          Nationality
Australia                  English               Australian
Brazil                       Portuguese        Brazilian
Chile                        Spanish             Chilean
China                       Chinese             Chinese
Egypt                       Arabic                Egyptian
Hungary                   Hungarian         Hungarian
Italy                          Italian                Italian
Japan                       Japanese           Japanese
Korea                       Korean               Korean
Netherlands             Dutch                 Dutch
Portugal                   Portuguese        Portuguese
Russia                      Russian             Russian
United States           English               American

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Women's History Month

Happy Women's History Month in March! Many countries celebrate International Women's Day every year on March 8th, some as official public holidays, and some less formally. Unfortunately, none of the major English-speaking countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, or Canada—observe the holiday officially. The United States has, however, made Women's History Month a "proclaimed" one-month observance since 1987. Every year, the White House makes an official proclamation about it.


This experience has convinced me that we all need to focus on the issues that afflict women around the world, and we need to do it now.

Captions 9-10, A Message from Prince Harry - At the CHIME for Change Concert

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What are some of the issues that affect, or as Prince Harry puts it, afflict women around the world?


You're disrespectful, bullying, sexist, and I hate to say it, misogynistic.

Caption 14, Madonna - The Glee Club

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You probably know what the first three words above mean, but do you know what is meant by "misogyny"? This unpleasant word comes from the ancient Greek words for "hate" and "women."


Women's liberation has made us not have to be slaves to our anatomy.

Captions 57-58, Mayim Bialik - Open Relationships

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"Women's liberation" is a term for the women's rights movement. And while it is true that women's rights have advanced a lot in some countries, there is still a long way to go for women to truly have equal rights under the law and in real practice around the world.


By investing in education and women's rights, and raising people out of poverty, we could bring about "peak human" even sooner.

Captions 12-14, WWF International - How to Save Our Planet

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In this video, the speakers believe that better women's rights are essential in improving the evolution of humanity.


Thank you for showing your support for women's rights.

Caption 4, A Message from Prince Harry  - At the CHIME for Change Concert

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You are very welcome, Prince Harry.


Further Learning
But seriously—and this goes for everyone, not just the males of the species: When is the last time you had a good talk about women's rights? Watch the videos above on Yabla English and write down some questions that come to mind in English. Then, either in small groups or in tandems, talk about your views on some of the issues. How we can improve our support for women's rights in our own lives?

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Homophones Part II: Homographs

In last month's Yabla English lesson, we discussed heterographs. Today, we'll be taking a look at homographs. These are homophonic words that sound the same and are spelled the same but have different meanings. Homographs can be quite confusing in spoken language, because the only way to know the meanings of the words that sound the same is by the context in which they are used. The word "homograph" comes from Ancient Greek and literally means "written the same."


A female brown bear has shown up in the delta with her cub.

Caption 10, Nature & Wildlife - Search for the Ghost Bear

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OK, sure, it looks complicated, but bear with us.

Caption 3, Brexit - What Happens When the UK Leaves the EU?

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The noun "bear" is a large and sometimes dangerous land mammal. The verb "to bear" means to carry something or to go along with something. Thus, somebody who "bears arms" is carrying weapons, and "to bear with somebody" is literally to follow them or figuratively to follow a concept they are explaining. The verb "to bear" can also mean to have children or offspring. Here is an example of a homophone pair in a single sentence: "The mother bear was ready to bear her cubs."


There was a mother duck sitting on her seven eggs.

Caption 6, Fairy Tales - The Ugly Duckling

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I've also always believed that we have to confront big decisions, not duck them.

Caption 36, Brexit - David Cameron Resigns as UK Votes to Leave

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The noun "duck" is a flat-billed water fowl or bird, whereas the verb "to duck" means literally to lower your head for safety, or figuratively to avoid something. Thus the question "Can a duck duck?" is asking if this species of bird is capable of lowering its head for safety. It sounds pretty funny too, right?


Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly.

Caption 23, Alice Cooper - Along Came a Spider

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Airplanes fly there every day.

Caption 41, Motorcycle Masters - Birmingham Alabama

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This one is quite easy. The noun "fly" is an insect, and the verb "to fly" is to move through the air. Unless it's in pretty bad health, your average housefly should be able to fly!


We can go by train, by plane, or by bus.

Caption 5, A Weekend in Amsterdam - Planning the Trip

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We don't train them, we don't do anything like that.

Caption 28, Animal Planet - Lions Treat Woman like the Leader of Their Pride

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The noun "train" is the way to travel on railways, and the verb "to train" is to teach or learn by instruction or drill. Since trains are mechanical machines, they can be engineered, but I don't think they can really be "trained" to behave!


Further Learning
Take a look at this list of 299 English homographs and make yourself familiar with some of the words that are new to you. Once you have looked up the definitions to learn what the different meanings are, find some videos on Yabla English that use the words in different contexts.

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Homophones Part I: Heterographs

Don't be afraid of the difficult-looking words above! It's really quite simple: Homophones are all words that sound the same, but have different meanings. Heterographs are simply homophones that have different spellings. They can be quite confusing in spoken language, because the only way to tell homophones and heterographs apart is by the context in which they are used. The word "homophone" literally means "sounds the same," whereas the word heterograph means "written differently."


English has a large number of heterographs, and this probably has a lot to do with the history of the language. English is a Germanic language, meaning that it has its basic roots in the languages that were spoken in Scandinavia more than a thousand years ago. These peoples, called the Saxons, occupied much of Britain for centuries. But in the 1100s, the Normans, from what is now in France, invaded much of Britain and brought with them influences from the French language. This is also why English spelling can seem so difficult. The mix of languages in its development made for a mix of influences that also changed over time. For example, the word "rough" is pronounced RUFF, but the word "through," with the same -ough letter combination, is pronounced THROO. Let's take a look today at some heterographs in English.


Oh no. It's going to rain all week.

Caption 20, Sigrid explains - The Weather

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There have been ravens here since the reign of Charles the Second.

Caption 9, The London Story - Tower of London

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The words "rain" and "reign" sound the same. But if somebody is talking about weather, you'll know they are probably talking about rain. On the other hand, if the talk is about a king or a queen, they are likely discussing reigns.


I can hear about what they've been up to since they've been here.

Caption 48, The Apartment - Maggie's Visit

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In the example above, the heterographs "hear" and "here" both appear in the same sentence. Again, in most cases you can tell the difference in their meanings by the contexts in which the words are spoken.


OK, sure, it looks complicated, but bear with us.

Caption 3, Brexit - What Happens When the UK Leaves the EU?

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The koala bear is not a bear. It's a marsupial.

Caption 38, English with Lauren - Contradictions

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And our nightgowns are trailing and our feet are bare.

Caption 10, Katie Melua - Moonshine

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In the first example above, we see the verb "to bear," which figuratively means "to have patience" or literally "to carry" something. The noun "bear," which refers to a large mammal, is a homophone of the verb "to bear." They are spelled the same but mean different things. The last example, "bare," sounds the same as the verb "to bear" and the noun "bear," but is spelled differently. "Bare" can mean "uncovered," as in "bare feet," or "empty," as in "a bare cupboard." So a silly sentence like "Bear with the bare bear" means "Have patience with the uncovered large animal."


Pollination happens when insects, such as bees, or wind, or other forces of nature transport pollen from one flower to another.

Captions 31-32, Luana explains - Plants

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Mix the baking powder well into the flour before adding it to the other ingredients.

Caption 14, English Afternoon Tea - Victoria Sponge - The Royal Connection

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Again, the context in which the word is spoken will help you to know if the speaker is talking about flowers or an ingredient in a recipe!


Further Learning
Take a look at this list of 335 English heterographs and make yourself familiar with some of the words that are new to you. Then choose a pair of words that are pronounced the same, but spelled differently, and find some videos on Yabla English that use the words. Listen to the videos with the captions turned off so you can practice listening to the two words in the context of the videos. In most cases, you will probably know which word is meant! You can also watch the 10-Part Yabla series "The History of the English Language."

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Getting an Apartment in English

If you ever decide to move to an English-speaking country, you may be looking for an apartment or house to rent. Let's take a look today at some of the basic English terminology related to renting a place of your own! Note that in some countries like the UK, an apartment is often informally called a "flat."


Are you still looking for an apartment?

Caption 3, Side by Side: Beginners Looking for an apartment

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The first step in finding an apartment is to look for one! Sometimes people also say they are "apartment-hunting."


Hi, I'm calling about an apartment that I saw listed on craigslist?

Caption 33, Jessica and Liz: How Much and How Many

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How much does it cost? -A thousand a month.

Caption 36, Jessica and Liz How Much and How Many

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Looking on the internet is one of the best ways to find listings for rental apartments. Some people still use a website called craigslist, but in the United States, one of the most popular current websites is Zillow. Once you have found an available apartment that meets your requirements for size, price, and neighborhood etc., you can make an appointment to see the apartment.


Many employers don't check references at this stage of the application process.

Caption 4, Business Life: Curriculum Vitae

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The video above is about a job application, but when you find an apartment you like, you will then need to fill out an apartment application. In your application, you state things like job and landlord references. Sometimes potential landlords will ask your permission to run a credit check on you, which in some cases requires you to pay a fee. You may have to pay this fee whether you get the apartment or not, so be careful in these situations!


And how soon can you send us the contract to finalize the deal?

Caption 48, The Company: Difficulties with Coworkers and Contracts

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Once your rental application and credit check are approved, the next step is for you to sign a rental contract. This is often referred to as a "lease."


And if you're interested you can put down a deposit. How much money do you want for the deposit? 200 for the deposit and I'd like the first month's rent up front.

Captions 49-51, Jessica and Liz: How Much and How Many

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In most cases, you will be required to pay a rental deposit, either directly to the landlord, or into a shared escrow account. The amount is usually the equivalent of two or three months' rent.


Where are my keys?

Caption 50, Parts of Speech: Question Words

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Once you have signed the rental contract, it is standard for the landlord to give you the keys to the apartment.


I'm so excited to show her our new apartment.

Caption 3, The Apartment: Maggie's Visit

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Congratulations on getting your new place, at least in theory! A good English vocabulary will help you in your quest, but you'll need a little bit of luck too!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the entire Looking for an Apartment video, then practice any new words that you've learned. Happy holidays from Yabla!

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Office Supplies, Part III

This is the third and final lesson about non-digital office supplies that we use in the workplace and at school. You probably know some of the words already, but today let's take a look at some items that may be new to your vocabulary.


On your desktop you will see a folder marked "Irish Promotion."

Caption 32, The Company: Starting on a New Job

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This book is big. This is a red folder.

Caption 31, Parts of Speech: Introduction

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A folder is a folded piece of plastic or thin cardboard that you can store papers in. Like many office supplies, the folder has a digital counterpart, such as the virtual folders on your computer desktop.


I take notes in a notebook or on a notepad.

Caption 9, The Alphabet: The Letter N

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Do you know where you can see da Vinci's notebook?

Caption 20, Visit London: Top 10 London Attractions

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A notebook or notepad is a bit like a book with blank pages. Sometimes they are bound like a book, and sometimes they are bound with piece of spiral wire. Some laptop computers are called notebooks or notepads. So while Leonardo da Vinci would probably have been very impressed with a laptop, they hadn't yet been invented in the 15th century!


And in this cubby I have my interior design tools like my scale ruler and my measuring tape.

Captions 39-40, Creative Space: An Artist's Studio

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A cubby, also called a "cubbyhole," is a small shelf that may be part of a desk or part of a free-standing shelf. Cubbyholes are convenient for keeping items that you use a lot within easy reach.


A scale ruler is a kind of ruler that designers and architects often use. Unlike a flat ruler, the scale ruler is shaped on the end like a 3-pointed star and has 6 sides.


A measuring tape, also called a "tape measure," is for measuring things that are longer than a standard ruler. Measuring tapes roll up into a small case that you can carry in your pocket.


Let's get down to brass tacks.

Caption 20, Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life

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A tack, or "thumbtack," is usually a round piece of metal with a pin attached that allows you to attach papers onto a bulletin board or a wall.


A bulletin board is a somewhat large board usually made out of cork for tacking papers onto. A tack with a plastic handle that makes it easier to pull out is called a push-pin.


Note that in the video caption above, the phrase "to get down to brass tacks" is an expression that means "to get down to the basic facts." It probably came from Cockney rhyming slang.


Further Learning
Review Part I and Part II of this office supplies series to see if you remember the different English names for the various items commonly found in an office. Then go to to Yabla English and watch the videos above to get a better overview of the words you just learned. If you're feeling really brave, read the Wikipedia article above and see if you can invent your own Cockney rhyming slang for something!


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Office Supplies, Part II

Let's talk today about office supplies that we use in the workplace and at school. Some words, like "ballpoint pen," you probably know already, but let's take a look at some items that may be new to your vocabulary.


This is a felt-tipped pen because the tip, the end — usually a small end — is made of felt or something synthetic.

Captions 15-17, Sigrid explains: The Tipping Point

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Felt-tipped pens are also called "marking pens" or "permanent markers." This is because you can write on surfaces like steel or plastic with them and the ink does not rub off. They also often smell bad!


This highlighter is pink, and pink is usually just red and white mixed together,

Captions 31-32, Luana explains: Colors

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A highlighter, also called a "highlighter pen," is often used to mark passages of text in books with bright colors so you can more easily find them again. Since this makes it difficult for someone else to read it later, you may want to consider marking the book lightly with a pencil instead. It's also more environmentally friendly.


The caveman assembles the board with glue.

Caption 5, Caveman Skatetech: Desert

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Glue is a sticky fluid used to fasten objects such as wood and paper together. There are many different kinds of glue for different purposes.


I use a ruler to draw a straight line.

Caption 52, The Alphabet: The Letter U

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A ruler is a straight, flat, and narrow piece of wood, plastic, or metal that you can draw a straight line with, but it usually also has centimeter or inch markings on it so that you can measure something. Builders often use a tape measure, which is much longer than a ruler, and rolls up into a small case that is portable.


Most people think that the pink part of the eraser is for pencil marks.

Captions 36-37, Facts Verse: 10 Things You Did Not Know The Use For

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An eraser is a rubber-like object you use to remove or erase pencil marks.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above to get a better overview of the words you just learned. Stay tuned for the last part of our office supplies series next month!

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Office Supplies, Part I

Let's talk today about office supplies that we use in the workplace and at school. Some words, like "ballpoint pen," you probably know already, but let's take a look at some items that may be new to your vocabulary.


Who, from what I hear, needs to keep his stapler in his desk drawer.

Caption 39, New Year's Resolutions: Friends

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a stapler as "a small usually hand-operated device for inserting wire staples." A stapler looks like this!


I have a brown tape, a paper tape, and this clear tape.

Caption 25, Abiventures: Organizing

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The tape described above is adhesive tape, which usually comes in rolls and has a band of plastic or paper that is sticky on one side.


What's this envelope? Is this a wedding invitation?

Caption 3, How I Met Your Mother: Douche-pocalypse

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An envelope is the folded paper holder in which you send and receive letters—the part of a letter that has the address on it.


My green pencil... My red pencil... My yellow pencil.

Captions 44-46, David and Red: in England

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A pencil is, of course, a writing instrument, usually made of wood with a graphite center. They are sometimes called "lead pencils," because in ancient times, people sometimes wrote with sticks of lead. Pencils that are other colors, such as those in the video above, are called "colored pencils."


I'm cutting this string with my scissors,

Caption 12, The Alphabet: The Letter C

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In English, unlike many other languages, the noun "scissors" is always plural. Thus you say "The scissors are..." and never "The scissors is..." The word "scissor," without the -s ending, can be a verb or an adjective, however.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above to get a better overview of the words you just learned!

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Heat Wave

Many parts of the world are experiencing a heat wave of unprecedented scale this summer. As an extreme example, the United Kingdom experienced temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in recorded history. Let's talk today about the heat wave and other aspects of hot weather — hopefully with some nice, cool air conditioning running!


DJ, let the beat play, make a heat wave when you replay this.

Caption 50, Madcon feat. Ray Dalton: Don't Worry

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The heat wave referred to here is a metaphor, or figure of speech, but the heat wave enveloping many English-speaking countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom this summer is very real.


With more energy in the atmosphere, weather becomes more extreme, so there are more floods, droughts, and storms.

Captions 64-66, FuseSchool: How Burning Fossil Fuels Leads to Climate Change

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A common side effect of heat waves is droughts. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "drought" as "a period of dryness especially when prolonged;  specifically, one that causes extensive damage to crops or prevents their successful growth." It is therefore likely that the heat will cause there to be shortages in food production and higher prices in the coming year.


This heat makes more ice melt, which in turn allows more heat to be absorbed.

Caption 80, FuseSchool: How Does Global Warming Affect The Environment

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Another problem with excessively hot weather is the melting of the polar ice caps, which leads to rising ocean levels and floods.


The sea ice acts like the world's air conditioner.

Caption 35, Arctic Sea Ice: Why melting matters

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Many places that are now experiencing heat waves have rarely seen such high temperatures and do not have the infrastructure to deal with them. In some places, living spaces, offices, schools, and public transport do not have air conditioning, which makes day-to-day living uncomfortable and even dangerous. The heat can present a major health risk for the elderly and people suffering from illnesses.


I have a fan, so in the summertime it's cool enough for me to be in here.

Captions 16-17, Creative Space: An Artist's Studio

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If you don't have an air conditioner and are experiencing extreme heat where you live, having a good fan is the next best thing!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and search for terms like "heat" and "weather" to find more videos relating to hot weather. If you're experiencing intense sunny weather where you live, be sure and follow some good rules for safety in the sun. Thank you for learning English with Yabla and do your best to stay cool out there this summer!

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Independence Day in the United States

For those of you reading this lesson on the day it was published, today is the Fourth of July. In many countries, it's just another day of the month, but in the United States it is a federal holiday. The date is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, when the American colonies declared that they were no longer under the control of Great Britain.


One of the most important holidays in the United States is Independence Day or the Fourth of July. We can also say "July fourth," but when we're talking about that holiday we traditionally say "the Fourth of July."

Captions 30-33, Sigrid explains: Numbers - Part 3

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Many people in the United States celebrate this holiday with a variety of traditional activities. Let's take a look at a few of these today.


It's high summer with warm weather on the Fourth of July, so people often celebrate the holiday by going picnicking and even boating, if there is a lake nearby.


You can have a picnic, there's a lake to take boats out on.

Caption 26, Jessica: Brooklyn Sites

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Cold beer in a cooler and meat cooked on a barbecue are also Fourth of July holiday traditions, but some iced tea or lemonade for the kids and teetotalers, and some vegan sausages for the vegetarians have become traditional too!


Not to mention a cooler for the beer, and the meat for the evening barbecue.

Caption 39, The Last Paradises: America's National Parks

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Traditional Fourth of July picnic salads include potato salad, pasta salad, and a variety of fruit salads.


Then, I'm going to prepare a little salad of cherry tomatoes.

Caption 23, Food Talk with Sigrid: Simple Summer Vegetables

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But even more for its amazing flavor, no Fourth of July picnic would be complete without a fresh, ripe watermelon!


Watermelon, for its beautiful color...

Caption 14, Tara's Recipes: Delicious Fruit Salad with Greek Yoghurt

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The highlight and grand finale of a good Fourth of July is, however, the inevitable fireworks:


It started at seven and ended at one with an amazing fireworks display!

Captions 13-14, The Olympics: Interesting facts by Zara

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and study the captions in the videos above to get a better idea of the contexts in which they are used. Happy Fourth of July to all of you, wherever you may be!

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Gardening Tools in English

Summer is on its way, and if you are lucky, you may have a garden in your yard that you can take care of. To do that, it may help if you know the names of the gardening tools that you may need. Let's take a look today at some of the English names of some standard gardening tools.


This is what parts of Australia looked like before the European settlers arrived with their axes and saws.

Captions 14-15, BBC Planet Wild: Alien Animals

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An ax is used to chop through the trunks of trees and large branches. The word is made plural by adding "-es" for "axes." Sometimes the singular word is written as "axe," which is grammatically correct, but perhaps a bit old-fashioned. "Ax" is also a verb, "to ax." Thus you can ax a tree down, or you can cut a tree down with an ax.


A saw is used to cut through the trunks of trees and large branches. The plural form is, as you see in the example above, "saws." You can also use "to saw" as a verb. Thus you can saw a tree down, or you can cut a tree down with a saw. A saw that is especially made for cutting branches is called a "pruning saw."


I rake the leaves with a rake.

Caption 25, The Alphabet: The Letter A

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A rake is a gardening tool with a long, usually wooden handle. It has a wide metal fork with hooked ends that allow you to gather leaves and yard debris, much as you sweep with a broom. As you see in the example above, "to rake" is a verb and a "rake" is a noun.


We helped with hands and wheelbarrows, shovels and sweat.

Captions 46-47, All Hands: Volunteers Appeal Video

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People have to shovel their driveways and sidewalks in front of the house.

Caption 43, The Seasons: Winter

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A shovel, also called a spade, also usually has a long wooden handle. Its end is a triangle-shaped flat metal piece that is used to dig holes in the ground or move dirt, sand, and even snow. As you see in the second example, "to shovel" is also a verb.


A wheelbarrow is a cart with one wheel in front and stands in the back that is used to carry dirt, sand, and other similar things. There is no verb derived from "wheelbarrow," and usually its usage is "to push a wheelbarrow."


And anyone who laid it on with a trowel...

Caption 18, The History of English: Shakespeare

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A trowel is similar to a shovel, but much smaller. It works well for making small holes to put potted plants into the ground. The phrase "to lay it on with a trowel" is also an idiom, or saying, that means "to exaggerate."


People have lawn mowers and they mow the lawn.

Captions 27-28, Sigrid Spring Musings

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A lawn mower is a machine used to cut the grass or lawn. Some of them are manual and require a lot of force to push them by hand. Most lawn mowers today have electric or gasoline motors, and some even have powered wheels. There are also lawn mowers called "riding lawn mowers" that you can sit on and drive.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and study the captions in the videos above to get a better idea of the contexts in which references to these garden tools have been made. You can also go to this site and see a long list of different kinds of gardening tools.

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Mass or Uncountable Nouns

With most English nouns, you simply add an "s" to make the noun plural. The singular word for "noun" is "noun," and if you want to describe more of them, you just add an "s" to make it plural: "nouns." Sometimes there are irregular plurals with no "s," such as the singular "man" becoming the plural "men."


However, there are a number of nouns in English which cannot really be counted and are never used in plural form with an "s" ending. These are called mass nouns (or sometimes "uncountable nouns"). The Oxford Dictionary describes a mass noun as "a noun denoting something that cannot be counted (e.g. a substance or quality), in English usually a noun which lacks a plural in ordinary usage and is not used with the indefinite article."


Children often make the mistake of adding "s" to mass nouns, which is cute but also shows that it's not so easy to understand their usage. "Mommy, look at all the sheeps!" and "I really like to eat spaghettis!" are cute, but unfortunately grammatically incorrect!


You have a sheep and a hippo? -Yeah.

Caption 58, Jimmy Kimmel: Lie Detective

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A herd of bighorn sheep ends up blocking traffic on their way to a better grazing ground.

Caption 1, The Last Paradises: America's National Parks

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"Sheep" is a mass noun and there is no such word as "sheeps": One sheep, two sheep, three sheep.


They can play chess, if they wish.

Caption 30, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: BBC TV Movie

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The noun "chess" is not used in a plural sense at all. You can have "games of chess," "chess sets," or "chess boards," but in these cases, "chess" is being used as an adjectival describer and the nouns being described are the plurals.


Would you like to sample our vegan bacon?

Caption 1, Parks and Recreation: Best of Ron & April

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The only way to suggest "bacon" in singular form is to combine it with other descriptions such as "a piece of bacon" or a "little bit of bacon."


All spaghetti spoons have a hole in the bottom.

Caption 60, Facts Verse: 10 Things You Did Not Know The Use For

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With "spaghetti" too, you can have "lots of spaghetti" but not "spaghettis."


Thank you for showing your support for women's rights.

Caption 4, A message from Prince Harry: at the CHIME for Change concert

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You may see the word "supports" with an "s" in verb form, as in "Prince Harry supports women's rights." You also see it in a different meaning for the noun, such as "the steel supports for the building." But when you are talking about the kind of support that means you are giving approval, comfort, or encouragement to someone or something, then it's always a mass noun.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and study the captions in the videos above to get a better idea of the contexts in which mass nouns have been used. You can also go to this site and see a long list of mass nouns.

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English Animal Expressions Part II

English, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. Let's continue from Part I and take a look today at some more English animal expressions.


We're dying like flies down here!

Caption 16, Stephen King: The Stand

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The more common phrase is "dropping like flies," and probably comes from people having seen many dead flies on window sills, which gave the impression that they die in large numbers. The phrase usually means that many people have gotten sick or are dying.


We'd get together and horse around a little bit and sing.

Caption 5, Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock

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The phrase "to horse around" probably comes from seeing horses play, and means "to fool around." Another common related phrase with a similar meaning is "to indulge in horseplay."


Everything is fast paced in a rat race.

Caption 10, Core Kiteboarding: The Core Diaries

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The term "rat race" probably comes from seeing rats run a long way to try to get a small piece of food. Wikipedia describes "rat race" as "an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit." In American English, "getting out of the rat race" means to quit a stressful job and pursue a less hectic means of employment.


I wouldn't say it was a wild goose chase...

Caption 41, Karate Kids, USA: The Little Dragons

 Play Caption


A "wild goose chase" is a fool's errand, or an attempt to pursue something that is hopeless. It probably comes from wild geese being difficult to catch.


The King James Bible is the book that taught us that "a leopard can't change its spots," that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,"  that "a wolf in sheep's clothing" is harder to spot than you would imagine, and how annoying it is to have "a fly in your ointment."

Captions 18-21, The History of English: The King James Bible

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This caption addresses four common animal sayings. "A leopard can't change its spots" means that it's impossible or very difficult for a person to change their character. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" means that you shouldn't risk what you have if you might lose it seeking additional gain. It can also mean you should be satisfied with what you have. "A wolf in sheep's clothing" suggests somebody who is pretending to be a friend, but is in fact an enemy. Lastly, "the fly in the ointment" means that something unexpected has caused something to go wrong. It's also a warning that something may seem too good to be true.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and study the captions in the videos above to get a better idea of the contexts in which they have been used. You can also go to this site and see some other English phrases that use animals.

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