English Lessons


English Animal Expressions Part I

English, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. You may have heard the English expression "as hungry as a horse" (very hungry) or "monkey see, monkey do" (when somebody copies somebody else). What these expressions have in common in all languages is that they refer to some quality that is associated with a specific animal in that culture: Horses eat a lot of food and monkeys can be mimics—always compared to humans, of course. Let's take a look today at some English animal expressions.


All of the sudden, one of the orcas made a beeline in this direction.

Caption 2, National Geographic: WILD Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark

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Similar to the English expression "as the crow flies"—meaning the fastest way between two points is a straight line—the phrase "to make a beeline" means "to go quickly" or "to go directly." Speaking of bees:


Leave me the birds and the bees.

Caption 21, Counting Crows with Vanessa Carlton: Big Yellow Taxi

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The phrase "to know about the birds and the bees" means "to have received education about sex," but it is often used as a general metaphor for sex. And now we're on to birds:


I killed two birds with one stone!

Caption 36, English: Common Phrases

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This expression fortunately has nothing to do with actually killing any poor birds, but means "to get two (or more) things done at once." There's also another somewhat similar idiom, "better a bird in the hand than two in the bush." This means it is better to actually have something real than risk losing it by trying to get something better. Speaking of birds again:


Well if he wants to play chicken, this rooster ain't backing down.

Caption 15, How I Met Your Mother: The Perfect Cocktail

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The phrase "to play chicken" means to play a dangerous game to see who is bravest. A famous movie used this as part of its plot: In the film Rebel without a Cause, the actors James Dean and Corey Allen "play chicken" by racing cars towards the edge of a cliff to see who will dare to stay in the car the longest before jumping out. Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well!


At that moment, the witch realized that there was something fishy, and started yelling at her.

Captions 45-46, Fairy Tales: Rapunzel

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The usual expression is "something fishy is going on," and it means that something about a person or a situation is suspicious or not as it appears. It probably comes from the fact that even though a fish at the market may look fine, it smells bad if it is no longer fresh.


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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Happy Valentine's Day! (Part II)

Yabla published a Happy Valentine's Day lesson some years ago, but we've added a lot of new videos since back then that discuss the holiday, so here is Part II of the series! You may have heard about Valentine's Day, but you may not know that much about it if it wasn't celebrated where you grew up. In primarily English-speaking countries, Valentine's Day is often celebrated by giving your loved one a valentine's card, flowers, or chocolates. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it takes place on February 14th every year, but is not an official public holiday.


I hope people will be around to watch even though it's Valentine's Day.

Caption 14, Dr. Sheldon Cooper: Fun with Flags

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We too hope that you will read this lesson, even though today is Valentine's Day. (Sorry if you are late in reading this!)


Every woman wants a date on Valentine's Day.

Caption 17, How I Met Your Mother: Desperation Day

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That is simply not true: some people prefer to be alone. And besides, just as many men want dates too. The above video is actually a comedy, and it's against Valentine's Day, preferring to call it "Desperation Day." Anyway, it's okay to feel any way you want to about it!


And today is Valentine's Day here. -Today is Valentine's Day. That is true. Happy Valentine's Day, everybody.

Captions 41-42, Luana and Austin: How They Got Married

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Indeed, happy Valentine's Day to you, too. Celebrate it any way you like or not at all. That's the great thing about this holiday, it's strictly optional. Unless, of course, you're in a relationship, and then it's best if both of you agree!


And what's your plan for Saint Valentine's Day?

Caption 1, NorthEasternTV: What Are Northeastern Students Doing for Valentine's Day?

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Yes, that can be a troubling question if you are single and worrying about it. Best not to worry about things though, just have a good time with some similarly single friends or just ignore the holiday altogether! Note that sometimes, as above, the holiday has the saint's name included in it, which you occasionally see. If you choose to be critical of Valentine's Day, it's reassuring to know that there were three Saint Valentines, and nobody is even really sure which saint the holiday was named for!


Note that "Valentine" is written with the first letter capitalized when it's a proper noun, such as "Valentine's Day," a person's name like "St. Valentine," or a band name like "My Bloody Valentine." But when you write about the type of card known as  "a valentine" or ask somebody to "be your valentine," then it's always written lowercase.


Further Learning
If you're a bit skeptical about the holiday, watch the How I Met Your Mother episode on Yabla English. But if you're feeling more supportive, watch the Valentine's Day movie trailer. Either way, we at Yabla wish you all a happy Valentine's Day!

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New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! A New Year's resolution is a tradition that, according to Wikipedia, is common in the Western World. People make promises to themselves to "continue good practices, change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life at the start of a new year."


It's the first day of 2019.  -We should do New Year's resolutions.

Caption 2, New Year's Resolutions: Lele Pons & Hannah Stocking

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Often friends and family will discuss their resolutions for the upcoming year.


My New Year's resolution is to just keep going at the gym.

Caption 7, Ashley Tisdale: Happy New Year!

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This resolution will probably be easier to keep, since she has been going to the gym already and it´s just a matter of continuing to go.


Every day, I am gonna do one thing I have never done before. That, my friends, is my New Year's resolution.

Captions 9-11, New Year's Resolutions: Friends

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This, on the other hand, might prove difficult. It may be hard to even think up practical things that you've never done before. Even more likely, you'll just forget your resolution because of regular routines!


All right, my New Year's resolution is to learn how to play guitar.

Caption 29, New Year's Resolutions: Friends

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This too may prove to be difficult, since learning to play a musical instrument requires a lot of time and patience.


I don't really make any New Year's resolutions anymore because I learned early on that when I did, I never really followed through with the resolution.

Captions 2-4, Ashley Tisdale: Happy New Year!

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According to statistics, most people fail in their resolutions. Apparently, you are more likely to achieve your goal if you take smaller steps towards achieving it, rather than trying to make a large change in one go.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the "New Year's Resolutions" episode of Friends, it's pretty funny! And if you have made a New Year's resolution (or plan to), be sure you try to accomplish it in small steps rather than all at once— you'll be more likely to attain your goal. Best wishes in the new year from all of us at Yabla!

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Pop Music Instruments in English

A few lessons ago, we discussed the names of classical music instruments in English. Let's take a look today at the English names of some of the most common musical instruments used in pop music.


We already discussed the piano in the classical instruments lesson, but there are also a number of other kinds of keyboard instruments that are used in pop music. As a general term, they are simply called keyboards. A person who plays keyboards is a keyboardist.


I spoke with Andrew, who plays keyboards in INXS.

Caption 26, INXS: Pat Monahan about recording Beautiful Girl

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The Hammond organ is a popular vintage organ that is still much-loved in pop and jazz music. Other popular electronic organs from the 1960s, which were produced cheaply by companies such as Farfisa in Italy and Vox in the UK, are often referred to as electronic organs.


Scott Ellaway, who is now a successful conductor, loves to come here and play the organ.

Captions 19-20, Euromaxx city: A Visit to Oxford, England

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Another popular keyboard instrument that began to be widely used in the 1970s is the synthesizer. It's often referred to casually as a synth.


Because the synth especially really grounds it into a modern sound.

Captions 54-55, Making Tracks: Stu Cullen and Samuel Blair's Musical Journey

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Probably the most important instrument in rock music, especially in heavy metal and punk rock music, is the electric guitar. Generally, a person who plays guitar is called a guitar player or a guitarist. In some bands, there is a rhythm guitarist, who mainly just plays chords, and a lead guitarist, who usually plays the guitar solos.


In the film, we see Queen's lead guitarist, Brian May.

Caption 29, Bohemian Rhapsody: Six Facts about the True Story

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On the bottom end of the harmonic spectrum, we find the bass guitar or electric bass, and the acoustic upright bass, also called a contrabass. A person who plays bass is called a bass player or a bassist.


My main instrument is bass guitar.

Caption 11, Bee and Flower; Interview

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Let's look now at the beat, an important element in most forms of pop music, with the drums at the forefront. A person who plays the drums is a drummer or a percussionist.


My dad's an incredible percussionist.

Caption 10, Bruno Mars: Electronic Press Kit

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I bet Garth Brooks would take you as a drummer next time he tours.

Caption 68, Ask Jimmy Carter; Interview with Phil Collins

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Of course, brass instruments have always played a role in pop music, but the most common horn in pop music is probably the saxophone. A person who plays the saxophone is a saxophone player or saxophonist. The trumpet is also a popular horn instrument, and it's played by a trumpet player.


Trumpets were all screaming, saxophones were blaring.

Captions 17-18, The Rolling Stones: Living In A Ghost Town

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Let's not neglect a major aspect of pop music that makes it possible to play so loudly: the amplifier. There are amplifiers made especially for specific instruments, such as a guitar amplifier, a bass amplifier, and a keyboard amplifier. Vocals, horns, and other acoustic instruments are usually amplified through a microphone, or just "mic" (pronounce like the name "Mike") for short. All of these instruments are usually amplified on larger stages through a PA system. This term is an abbreviation of "public address system," as they were originally developed for speaking to large crowds.


Try turning a quarter of an inch closer to the microphone, please.

Caption 5, Ask Jimmy Carter: Interview with Angelina Jolie

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above relating to musical instruments. You can also search for the names of the instruments and find other videos. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in English using these musical instrument words, then compare what you both came up with.

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Classical Music Instruments in English

In last month's October edition of the Yabla English Lesson, we discussed the Performing Arts, one of which is music. Let's take a look today at the English names of some of the most common musical instruments used in classical music.

The piano is one of the main instruments in western musical traditions, and many musicians who specialize in other instruments and singing are often required to learn some basic piano skills. This is because of the piano's large range, from deep bass to high treble, which allows it to cover all of the ranges used by orchestral instruments. The piano is also important for musical composition, and many works for orchestra have been composed using the piano. A person who plays the piano is called a pianist or a piano player.


Well, when I write songs, I sometimes will write it on a piano.

Caption 27, Bee and Flower: Interview

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Warren Beatty's a good pianist.

Caption 71, Chevy Chase: talks about his acting life

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The violin also has another common name in English: the fiddle. This term is usually more casual and used especially in country, folk, and bluegrass music. A person who plays the violin is called a violinist or a fiddler.


Good. Did you mind if I play the violin? -No, go right ahead.

Caption 10, Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Cunningham Heritage

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So, I picked up an instrument that was called the fiddle.

Caption 17, Sigrid: An American in Italy

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Of the remaining bowed string instruments, the viola is played by a viola player. The cello, actually short for "violoncello," is played by a cellist. The double bass—also called the upright bass or acoustic bass—is the deepest of the string instruments. It's played by a bassist, or double bass player, upright bass player, etc.


I'm Jasmine Beams. I'm from Milwaukee and I play viola.

Caption 9, Making Tracks: Dewayne Everettsmith & Jasmine Beams musical journey

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I grew up playing the cello.

Caption 10, Justin James: Booking Submission Video

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And did you take bass lessons when you were young?

Caption 12, Bee and Flower: Interview

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The highest of the woodwind reed instruments are the clarinet and the oboe. The clarinet is played by a clarinetist and the oboe by an oboist, although "clarinet player" and "oboe player" are fine too. The deepest is the bassoon, played by a bassoonist, or bassoon player.


I play the clarinet. -I play the bassoon.

Caption 8, Making Tracks: A musical journey inspired by Australia

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I played the oboe in middle school band.

Caption 85, Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt: Answer the Web's Most Searched Questions

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There are also several non-reed woodwind instruments such as the flute and the recorder. A flute player is called a flutist (or flautist), and a recorder player is called just that.


When I was a girl, I studied flute like many girls,

Caption 36, Sigrid: An American in Italy

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And so I started playing recorder.

Caption 44, Sigrid: An American in Italy

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Of the brass instruments, the most commonly used are the trumpet and the French horn. The players of these instruments are a trumpeter (or trumpet player) and a French horn player. In the lower registers there's also the tuba, played by a tuba player.


Oh, yes, yes, practice trumpet every day.

Caption 23, They Might Be Giants: The Seven Days Of The Week

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Lastly, the main percussion instruments used are the marimba, the snare drum, and the timpani. The person in the orchestra playing these instruments is called a percussionist.


We know where the certain snare-hits are.

Caption 27, OK Go - Needing/Getting: Behind The Scenes

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above relating to musical instruments. You can also search for the names of the instruments and find other videos. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in English using these musical instrument words, then compare what you both came up with. In next month's lesson, we'll talk about the different kinds of musical instruments used in pop music!

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The Literary and Performing Arts

Last month we started learning about different kinds of Visual Art: architecture, ceramics, conceptual art, drawing, painting, and sculpture. Let's continue today with the Literary Arts and the Performing Arts.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines literature as "writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest." This does not usually include news journalism or technical writing, but usually includes poetry, drama, and fiction and non-fiction prose. A person who creates literature is usually called an author, a dramatist or playwright, a poet, or simply a writer.


By the year 2050, the whole literature of the past will have gone.

Captions 1-2, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: BBC TV Movie

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The author Dave Eggers wanted to have a location that was accessible from the streets.

Captions 14-15, Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.: Learn about this fun shop in Brooklyn, NY!

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The next category of types of art is the Performing Arts. Merriam-Webster defines this as "types of art (such as music, dance, or drama) that are performed for an audience." 


Dance as an art form, simply defined as "the art of dancing," is usually referring to contemporary dance and ballet, but may include figure skating, synchronized swimming, and some forms of gymnastics. A person who designs a dance performance is called a choreographer.


The inspiring story of a boy's struggle against the odds to become a ballet star.

Captions 20-21, Visit London: Top 10 London Musicals

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I came to America to become a professional dancer.

Caption 3, Another 7.4 Earthquake: Hits Japan

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Music is described by Merriam-Webster as "the art or skill of creating or performing music," although Wikipedia describes it more interestingly as "an art form whose medium is sound and silence, occurring in time." A person who performs music is a musician (or named after the instrument they play, such as a pianist, violinist, or guitarist). A person who writes music is called a composer or songwriter


So you write music as well, as in literally "write music?"

Captions 36-37, Bee and Flower: Interview

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This is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was an Austrian musician and composer.

Captions 9-10, English Grammar in Use: Past Simple

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The last form of the performing arts is theater, defined by Merriam-Webster as "dramatic representation as an art or profession." Clearly, this extends beyond works performed in theaters to all forms of acting, which may also include any of the other performing arts of dance and music. Although theater and filmmaking encompass many kinds of work, the main performing artist is called an actor or actress, though it is usually best to refer to all genders of such performing artists simply as actors.


You're a repertory theater actor, you're expected to do everything.

Caption 14, Ask Jimmy Carter: Interview with Richard Gere

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above relating to art forms and professions. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in English using these art words, then compare what you both came up with.

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The Visual Arts

The arts are basically divided into three different categories: the Visual Arts, the Literary Arts, and the Performing Arts. Of course, there are art forms that combine the different categories—as well as art that is very difficult to categorize at all—but let's stick to the basics!


Today we'll focus on just the Visual Arts. The first type of art in this category is architecture, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as "the art or practice of designing and building structures, and especially habitable ones." The professional title of a person who creates architecture is an architect.



California's central coast is a gorgeous stretch dotted with Spanish architecture.

Captions 2-3, Travel + Leisure: Weekend Getaway, Santa Barbara

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The next type of art in the visual arts is ceramics, defined by Merriam-Webster as "the art or process of making ceramic articles."  Works of art made of ceramic are also called pottery. You call a person who makes ceramics a ceramicist or a studio potter.



The most popular pieces, I would say, are the ceramic pieces.

Caption 17, New York City: Little Shop of Crafts

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The next type of art in the visual arts category is drawing, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as "the art or technique of representing an object or outlining a figure, plan, or sketch by means of lines". 



So it's kind of a messy drawing, but it really helps to start to think of ideas.

Caption 27, Creative Space: What does an Interior Designer Do?

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A person who draws might be called a "drawer," but this is usually a person (such as a draftsman) who makes plans and sketches of machinery or structures, or a person who "draws up" or writes legal documents. Most visual artists use drawing as part of their skill set, if not as a finished product, then as a way to sketch out ideas.


Now we come to painting, a field practiced by painters, which is probably the traditional art form that most people think of when they think about art. It's simply defined in the dictionary as "the art or occupation of painting."



When I do an oil painting, it takes me a week or a month.

Captions 15-16, Creative Space: An Artist's Studio

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Next comes photography, practiced by photographers, which has many aspects that are not generally considered "high art," such as photojournalism for the news and commercial photography for advertising. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (such as film or an optical sensor)."



This rule applies to film-making, photography...

Caption 2, Filmmaking & Photography: The Rule of Thirds | What Is It?

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The next type of visual art is sculpture, a field practiced by sculptors, and defined by Merriam-Webster as "the action or art of processing (as by carving, modeling, or welding) plastic or hard materials into works of art."



She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor.

Caption 4, Alessia Cara: Scars To Your Beautiful

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The last form of visual arts is conceptual art, which Merriam Webster defines as "an art form in which the artist's intent is to convey a concept rather than to create an art object." A person who practices this art form is a conceptual artist. In the United Kingdom, conceptual art has come to mean any contemporary art that does not use the traditional skills of painting or sculpture. Since conceptual art may take the form of an installation, or a form that is not easily sold (in the way an object like a painting or sculpture can be sold), most conceptual artists live from art grants and other forms of financial support.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the videos above relating to art forms and professions. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in English using these art words, then compare what you both came up with.

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Fall, Autumn, and Indian Summer

The weather where you live may be different, but with cooler temperatures and rains, summer is already showing signs of being over. Summer officially ends on August 31st, so let's talk today about the season that comes after summer. 


The most common American English name for the season after summer is fall. The word possibly came from Old English or Old Norse into British English. By the 20th century, it had fallen into disuse in Britain. 


The fall is my favorite season in New York.

Caption 10, Caralie and Annie: Get to Know Each Other

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Spring is long gone, and summer's over, and we're ready for fall.

Captions 36-37, Food Talk with Sigrid: Simple Summer Vegetables

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Third, we have fall, or you could say autumn, when the leaves turn golden.

Captions 21-22, Lydia Explains: Weekdays, Seasons and Months

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The other English word for this season, as you can see in the last caption above, is autumn. This is the standard British English word for the season. It's also common in American English, though a bit more formal than "fall."


The Changing of the Guard happens throughout autumn and winter,

Caption 27, In London with Lauren: Buckingham Palace

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It's the end of October, so we are in the middle of autumn.

Captions 4-5, Sigrid: Pumpkin Season

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Meanwhile, autumn has painted its colors on the Alps.

Caption 21, The Last Paradises: Realm of the Golden Eagle

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The last caption does not mean that the season is literally taking up a brush to paint. It's metaphorically describing how in autumn, the green leaves of the trees change color to orange and gold!


Some years we get lucky and have a few weeks in fall (or autumn) when it's warm and sunny. This is commonly called Indian summer in English. Nobody knows where this phrase really came from, but other languages also have a name for this phenomenon. In many European languages, it is called "old woman's summer," and in some South American countries, it is called "little summer."


You're like an Indian summer in the middle of winter

Caption 27, Katy Perry - Thinking Of You: Behind The Scenes

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the Lydia Explains video to learn more about seasons. You can also find more videos by searching for "autumn" and "fall."

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Summer Sports and Gerunds

There are a lot of sports that are best enjoyed under a summer sun. Many names of sports are gerunds, which means the noun came from the verb, usually ending in "-ing." So you have the sport "surfing," and to make a verb for it to describe participating in the sport, you add the word "go": you "go surfing."


With some sports, the noun does not end in "ing," such as the sport golf. In this case, you can "play golf" or "go golfing." With some sports, such as tennis, you can "play tennis." But it's incorrect to say you "go tennising."


Let's take a look at summer sports today and figure out afterwards which of those have noun gerunds, and whether the noun gerunds carry over into the related verb or not.



When you throw a frisbee, part of your spirit flies with it.

Caption 6, Movie Trailers - The Invisible String

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I found myself traveling around the world windsurfing.

Caption 11, Justin James - Booking Submission Video

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I'm not a scuba diving instructor yet.

Caption 1, Job Interviews - Mr. Alan Hint Monologue

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Caveman Skatetech delivers a very armchair appreciation to the sport of skateboarding.

Captions 2-3, Caveman Skatetech - Desert Vol 1

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It is also a popular recreational area for boating and other water sports.

Caption 36, The Last Paradises - America's National Parks

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If I'm in a kayak or a canoe, I have to be careful because if I move too much, then I can tip over.

Captions 53-55, Sigrid explains - The Tipping Point

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This effect is very important in sports like tennis, soccer, and golf.

Caption 30, Science - Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect

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Sport name           Non-gerund verb        Gerund verb
Boating                   (none)                          Go boating, canoeing, kayaking
Diving                     (none)                          Go diving, scuba diving
Fishing                    (none)                         Go fishing
Frisbee                    Play frisbee                 (none)
Golf                         Play golf                      Go golfing
Skateboarding        (none)                          Go skateboarding
Snorkeling              (none)                          Go snorkeling
Surfing                    (none)                          Go surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing
Soccer                    Play soccer                  (none)
Tennis                     Play tennis                   (none)


Note too that with some sports, you can use a non-gerund verb to describe playing the sport: "I golf badly, I dive well, I fish very well, I skateboard like a pro, I can snorkel, and I can surf." But other sports require you to have a helping verb: "I play frisbee, soccer, and tennis." 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch some of the videos above for more references to summer sports.

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Flowers in Springtime

Spring and summer are the times of year that most flowers bloom in the Western Hemisphere. Let's take a look today at some of the more common types of flowers you'll come across in English. 


This incredible variety of shades of purple lupines are springing up everywhere.

Captions 25-26, New Zealand: 100% Pure New Zealand, Home of Middle-earth

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The Lupine (often spelled "Lupin" in British English), with its beautiful purple flowers, has become a problem in New Zealand, because it is not a native plant and has spread rapidly throughout the country.


If you come in June, you can see the roses.

Caption 11, Jessica: Brooklyn Sites

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The rose has been linked since ancient times to love, so it's the standard flower for people in love to give each other as a present.


This brief, rich time is crowned by the blooming of the alpine rose.

Caption 10, The Last Paradises: The Alps, Realm of the Golden Eagle

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The alpine rose is a kind of rose that is found in the mountains of central and southern Europe.


Anticipating the second her ears would open like lotuses...

Caption 15, White House Poetry Jam: Joshua Bennett

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The lotus flower is usually pink in Asia, and yellow in North America. It is considered a sacred plant in some eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.


And who can believe that a kind of rhododendron is growing in the Alps as well?

Caption 12, The Last Paradises: The Alps, Realm of the Golden Eagle

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There are over a thousand kinds of rhododendrons. It's the national flower of Nepal.


There are Easter lilies and other flowers everywhere.

Caption 67, Holidays and Seasons with Sigrid: Easter

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The Easter lily is found most often in Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. In Ireland, a badge shaped like an Easter lily is worn during the Easter holidays in remembrance of people who died fighting for Irish independence.


Beside the red carpets shines the deep blue gentian.

Caption 13, The Last Paradises: The Alps, Realm of the Golden Eagle

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There are many different kinds of gentian, which usually have blue flowers. Some kinds are used medicinally or as a food or drink flavoring. 


Dream if you can a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom.

Captions 4-5, Prince. When Doves Cry

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Violets are often—but not always—a shade of purple that is also called violet, but there are also blue varieties. People sometimes invent rhymes that start with the line "Roses are red, violets are blue..." 


As did the queen of the Alps, the edelweiss.

Caption 18, The Last Paradises: The Alps, Realm of the Golden Eagle

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The edelweiss is usually found in the mountains of Europe. 


So much for them daisy chains.

Caption 37, Diane Birch: Valentino

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"Daisy" is a common name for several different kinds of flowers, which if strung together in a garland, are called "daisy chains." But the term "daisy chain" is also used as a technical term for connecting things, such as computers, ropes for climbing, and even a kind of fishing lure!


Further Learning
Find out more about different kinds of flowers on English Wikipedia or Simple English Wikipedia. You can start by looking up some flowers from this list: daffodil, dahlia, hibiscus, jasmine, marigold, morning glory, pansy, petunia, tulip, sunflower, and lavender.

You can also go to Yabla English and find more videos that use the word "flower" or "flowers" to see the different ways it is used by native English speakers. 

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All about "run"

Let's take a look today at different idioms, or slang expressions, that are based on the verb "to run" and its noun version, "run." The primary meaning of "to run" is, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "to go faster than a walk; specifically, to go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step." But there are a lot of other uses for this handy word whose meanings are meant as a figure of speech.


It's no secret that the both of us are running out of time

Caption 30, Adele Hello

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It just was a movie that didn't end with all the pizzazz that it should have because they ran out of money by the end.

Captions 70-71,  Ask Jimmy Carter: Interview with Robin Williams

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To "run out" of something means that you will soon have no more of something left. The phrase "to run out of gas" literally means that your car will soon have no more gas. But it is also a figure of speech meaning that you are getting tired and have very little energy left. "I wanted to finish my homework, but I ran out of gas."


In the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.

Captions 1-2, Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven

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The phrase "in the long run" means over a long period of time, or eventually.


Yeah, she'd stay there till her blood ran cold.

Caption 22, Krayolas: La Conquistadora

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The saying "blood runs cold" means that somebody gets very frightened and fears for the worst.


And wonder runs in the family.

Caption 14, Selena Gomez: Ramona And Beezus

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If something "runs in the family," it suggests that some kind of illness is inherited in a family or some kind of behavior is seen in a family, as if it were inherited. 


I was running late and I decided in order to make up the time, that I was gonna speed my car.

Caption 30, Drivers Wanted: Pizza Delivery

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To be "running late" does not necessarily mean that you are literally running—although people do often run when they are late—but simply that you are late for something like an appointment. 


Further Learning
See if you can guess the meaning of the following figures of speech using "run." The answers are at the very bottom of the page, so you can check them afterwards.


A. to get off to a running start
B. to make a run for it
C. to run a fever or temperature
D. to run a tight ship
E. to run around in circles
F. to run into a stone wall
G. to run someone ragged


You can also go to Yabla English and find more videos that use run, running, ran etc. to see the different phrases used by native English speakers. 









A. to start something, such a project, very quickly and efficiently
B. to escape something, whether literally by running or any other means
C. to have a fever or a high temperature
D. to supervise very effectively and efficiently
E. to be inefficient, wasting time
F. to be stopped from making progress
G. to exhaust somebody by giving them too many tasks

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Nationalities, Part II

In Part II, we are going to continue to talk about the names of some major countries, the main languages they speak, 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. For instance, in France, the French speak French. But there are also exceptions: In the United States, most Americans speak English. Note too that in English, unlike many other languages, even the adjectives are usually written with a capital letter.


Let's start off with two countries whose nationalities end with -ian or -ean:


Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, it is one of the richest ecosystems on the planet.

Caption 3, Greenpeace Australia Pacific: Eyes On The Reef

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One third of mammal species lost in the world are Australian.

Captions 56-57, BBC Planet Wild: Alien Animals

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And what about North Korea?

Caption 41, Jimmy Kimmel: Kids Answer "What is the Best Country in the World?"

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I know a little Korean. Let's try it.

Caption 10, Hemispheres: The Amazing Cell Phone

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And next some countries whose nationalities end with -ese:


You do know that in China it's not going to be a problem.

Caption 23, ABC Science Online: An interview with Douglas Adams

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There's a large Chinese population in London.

Caption 8, London: Multicultural Britain

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You came with a friend from Portugal to the United States?

Caption 13, Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life

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While speakers of Spanish and Portuguese can often understand each other.

Caption 55, TED-Ed: How languages evolve

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The Netherlands presents a special case: 


He has been told he has a long lost cousin in the Netherlands.

Caption 7, Naish Kiteboarding TV The Real Stig

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The Dutch came sharing coleslaw and cookies.

Caption 8, The History of English: American English

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So while the Netherlands (usually with the definite article "the") is the proper name of the country, it is still often called Holland—although strictly speaking, Holland is only a region of the Netherlands. The standard adjective for people from here is "Dutch." There is also the term "Netherlandish," but this does not usually refer to the language. It's an art history term used to refer to the northern part of the Low Countries in the 16th and 17th centuries.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and find more videos that use some of the following country names, dominant languages, and nationalities. 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
(the) Netherlands  Dutch                   Dutch
Portugal                 Portuguese         Portuguese
Russia                   Russian               Russian
United States        English                 American


Thanks to you all for reading this, keep up the good work! If you have any good ideas for lesson topics, please email them to us at newsletter@yabla.com, and you can tweet us @yabla.

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Nationalities, Part I

In today's lesson, we are going to talk about the names of some major countries, the main languages they speak, 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 from that country. For instance in France, the French speak French. But there are also exceptions: In the United States, most Americans speak English. Note too that in English, unlike many other languages, even the adjectives are usually written with a capital letter!


Let's start off with two countries whose names have only one syllable


And where would I like to go? That's easy: France.

Caption 8, Parts of Speech - Question Words

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People speak French in France, and as noted above, the adjective for something from France is also "French." One of the few national adjectives in English that is not standardly written with a capital letter is in the term "french fries." This is what is called a "misnomer" or mistaken name, because so-called french fries probably came from Belgium or the Netherlands! 


He was throwing french fries at you?

Caption 38, 7-10 Split - Short Film

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And on to the Greeks in Greece, who speak Greek: 


...especially those who were considering going to Greece.

Caption 15, Job Interviews - Mr. Alan Hint Monologue

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"K" is a very old letter. It comes from the Greek letter "kappa."

Caption 12, The Alphabet - The Letter K

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There are a lot of countries whose languages and nationalities end in the letters -ish. Note that the adjective for somebody from Britain is "British," but they usually speak "English" in the form of "British English":


The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in Britain.

Caption 38, Christmas Traditions - In the UK

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We also drop the letter "r" at the end of words in British English.

Caption 29, British vs American -  English Pronunciation Lesson

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And on to Spain, where the Spanish speak Spanish: 


I should speak in Spanish because Custo Barcelona is a Spanish designer.

Caption 13, New York Fashion Week - Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Take Over

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Here I am in Southern Spain in the height of summer

Caption 2, Tara's Recipes - Delicious Fruit Salad with Greek Yoghurt

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


Country          Language          Nationality
France             French                French
Greece            Greek                  Greek
Britain              English                British
Denmark          Danish                Danish
Finland             Finnish                Finnish
Poland              Polish                  Polish
Spain                Spanish              Spanish
Sweden            Swedish              Swedish
Turkey               Turkish               Turkish

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Conjunctions of Time Part II

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or sentences. The easiest conjunctions to remember are "and" and "or." But there are conjunctions that do more than just connect—they give meaning to a sentence by expressing the time that something is happening: conjunctions of time.


You can easily tell if a conjunction of time is being used in a sentence because the sentence will tell you when something happens or for how long something is occurring. If you can make a "when" or "for how long" question from the sentence, and that question can be answered by the other half of the sentence, then you know that the sentence is using a conjunction of time.


In Part I, we learned about when, before, after, while, as, by the time, until, and till. Let's continue today with the remaining conjunctions of time.




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

Caption 9, The London Story -  Tower of London

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And I've been doing that since I was ten years old.

Caption 6, Ashley Tisdale - Thanksgiving Traditions

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Be careful not to confuse the conjunction of time "since" with the preposition "since," which means "because."


As soon as


As soon as your baby is born, you will give it to me.

Caption 41, Fairy Tales - Rapunzel 

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As soon as we showed up, the bears raced off into the forest.

Caption 8, Alaska Revealed - Tidal Bores, Icebergs and Avalanches

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You should try to ignore cyberbullying whenever possible.

Caption 4, Bob Parsons - Cyberbullies

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You can listen to Radio One whenever you want.

Caption 56, Hozier - Someone New

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The first (second, third etc.) time


The first time was a very good experience

and the second time is also a very good experience.

Captions 5-6, The Olympics - Teresa Gabriele (Canada)

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That was the third time we were in the studio.

Caption 22, MTV News - Selena Gomez Decodes Her Instagram Pics

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and find other sentences (not questions) that contain the conjunctions of time "since," "as soon as," "whenever," and "the first time"—or any time you care to choose! Write these sentences down and practice making questions and answers from the sentences like we did above.

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Conjunctions of Time Part I

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or sentences. The easiest conjunctions to remember are "and" and "or." But there are conjunctions that do more than just connect—they give meaning to a sentence by expressing the time that something is happening: conjunctions of time.


You can easily tell if a conjunction of time is being used in a sentence because the sentence will tell you when something happens or for how long something is occurring. If you can make a "when" or "for how long" question from the sentence, and that question can be answered by the other half of the sentence, then you know that the sentence is using a conjunction of time.




When I flew in on the float plane, they were all there on the boat.

Caption 4, Alaska Revealed - Endless Wave

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Q: When were they all there on the boat? A: When I flew in on the float plane.




Be sure to put your mask on before helping them.

Caption 18, Air New Zealand - An Unexpected Briefing

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Q: When should I be sure to put my mask on? A: Before I help them.




They have to defend their breed from predators

for up to four weeks after they're born.

Captions 49-50, Evolution - Deep Ocean

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Q: When do they have to defend their breed? A: After they are born.




We have to tread lightly while filming.

Caption 40, Nature & Wildlife - Search for the Ghost Bear

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Q: When do we have to tread lightly? A: While filming.




We paddle along and we pick up trash as we go

Caption 23, Alison's Adventures - Your Passport To the World (LONDON)

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Q: When do we pick up trash? A: As we go.


By the time


By the time I got to New York,

I was living like a king

Captions 10-11, David Bowie - Lazarus

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Q: When were you living like a king? A: By the time I got to New York.


Note that some conjunctions of time are also phrases, not just a single word.


Until, till


The conjunctions of time "until" and "till" are interchangeable and you may use either word. Many people wrongly think that "till" is just shortened version of "until," but in fact "till" is the older word, in use since the 9th century. The variant "until" has been in use since the 12th century. These two words are unusual in that they express a length of time rather than a point in time, so we should ask the question using "for how long" instead of "when."


She sat until she broke the chair.

Caption 28, Story Hour - Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

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Q: For how long was she sitting? A: Until she broke the chair.


So he sat on a chair,

till he died of despair,

Captions 20-21, Sigrid explains - The Limerick

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Q: For how long was he sitting? A: Till he died of despair.


Further Learning
Don't despair, and by all means stay healthy! Go to Yabla English and find other sentences (not questions) that contain the conjunctions of time "when," "before," "after," "while," "as," "by the time," "until" and "till." Write these sentences down and practice making questions and answers from the sentences like we did above. You can also read more about "until" and "till" on the Merriam-Webster website

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Some Common English Idioms, Part III

This is the last part in our three-part Yabla series about sayings in English (called "idioms") that are not always so easy to understand, but that you will often hear native English speakers say. 


But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.

Caption 11, Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do

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To do something "in the nick of time" means to do it at the last possible moment. This comes from a 17th century meaning of "nick" that is otherwise no longer used, which means "a critical moment." Thus "in the nick of time" means "at a critical moment in time." 


Having a serious deadline like that it caused

the whole team, to really buckle down and get it together.

Captions 43-44, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

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To "buckle down" means to "start working hard." Its origin is American, where it first appeared in print in the mid-19th century. The idiom "get it together" is probably related to the phrase to "get your act together," which means to get organized so that you can accomplish something effectively. 


And I am sick and tired of my phone ringing.

Caption 58, Lady Gaga - Telephone, featuring Beyoncé

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This doesn't really mean that somebody is either ill or exhausted, but rather that something is annoying or getting on their nerves. It probably originated in North America in the 18th century.


You better step your game up on that.

Caption 40, Java - The "Java Life" Rap Music Video

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To "step up your game" means to improve your skills. This probably started as a phrase used in sports, but is now commonly used for any subject. 


You keep your nose out of this.

Caption 36, Dream to Believe - aka Flying

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The phrase "to stick your nose in somebody's business" means to involve yourself in something that is none of your concern. Thus "to keep your nose out" means to "not get involved" in something. 


You wanna just kind of take it easy and rest?

Caption 52, Leonard Nimoy - Talking about Mr. Spock

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To "take it easy" means "to relax," but if someone "takes something hard" it means that something has had a negative emotional impact on them.


Because if they don't get him, we're up that creek without a paddle.

Caption 47, Karate Kids, USA - The Little Dragons

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As common sense implies, if you are in boat with no way to control it or make it move, you are in trouble. So "up a creek without a paddle" means to be in trouble! 


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and review the three-part Yabla series about English idioms. See if you can make your own sentences using the idioms in different contexts to see if you understand them correctly.

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Some Common English Idioms, Part II

An idiom is basically a phrase that is figurative and used to describe literal situations with words that may not be clear to a non-native speaker. Last month we went through a selection of common idioms, and in this lesson we can go through some more that you may hear when you are speaking English with somebody.


So I think to kitesurf all year around,

um, as a job and to do it 24/7,

you need a break, and I mean, it may not seem like time off!

Captions 19-21, Sam Light - In a Nutshell

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The slang expression "24/7" is best explained in this video: 


It's basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Caption 22, World's Toughest Job - Official Video

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What do you want to get off your chest?

Caption 16, Comic-Con 2015 - Jennifer Lawrence

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To "get something off your chest" is to admit something that has been bothering you.


Alaska's wide and very isolated mountains ranges are a paradise for these animals,

but a nightmare for us,

because it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Captions 35-37, Nature & Wildlife - Search for the Ghost Bear

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A needle is a small, very fine object, and to find it in a haystack, which consists of countless fine pieces of hay, is very difficult indeed—and this phrase thus means that something is very difficult or nearly impossible. 


If I was, for instance, being put into a courtroom with lawyers,

I am not a lawyer,

so therefore, I would feel like a fish out of water.

Captions 14-16, English - Common Phrases

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To feel "like a fish out of water" thus means to feel out of place or uncomfortable.


Hang in there, guys!

Caption 56, Movie Trailers - Disney's Frozen

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To "hang in there" means to be patient and to wait for something.


But they don't know where they're going

in the fast lane.

Captions 16-17, Echosmith - Cool Kids

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This is often used in the expression "to live life in the fast lane," which means figuratively to live an exciting or stressful lifestyle, which may, depending upon the context, be a good or bad thing. The phrase is often about somebody who is on the verge of losing control of their life. A song by the 1970s pop group the Eagles called "Life in the Fast Lane" states that it will "surely make you lose your mind."  


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the "Common English" videos Part I and Part II to learn more about some English idioms. 

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Words Related to Democratic Elections

Fair elections are an essential part of a working democracy. It's important to know the English words relating to elections when you read or hear the English-language news about an election. The recent US presidential election has been in the media a lot this month, and you may have heard many of the following words in news reports.


The verb "to vote" means "to choose" the person you are voting for: 


We try really hard to persuade people

that we're right,

and then people vote.

Captions 47-49, Barack Obama - On Trump Presidential Victory - Part 2

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There is also the noun "vote," and a synonym for a vote is a ballot. A ballot is also the actual paper that you use to write your vote on.


The place you go to vote is called a "poll":


When it comes to election day, the public go to the polls to vote for one presidential ticket.

Caption 66, US Elections - How Do They Work?

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But a "poll" is also a survey that asks people who they intend to vote for:


That supports Jeb Bush, who has been struggling in some polls.

Caption 19, ABC News - The Broncos Win Super Bowl 50

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The person who is running for political office is a candidate:


So the candidate with the most votes wins.

Caption 48, US Elections - How Do They Work?

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Candidates often confront each other before the election in a debate:


Remember, he was just on the stage with Joe Biden at that debate.

Caption 19, ABC News - President Trump and First Lady Test Positive for COVID-19

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If somebody has "been elected," it means that they got the most votes and won the election:


Senators, like members of the House of Representatives,

are also elected to their seats by the public.

Captions 42-43, US Elections - How Do They Work?

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When a candidate for US President has won the election in November, he does not take office until the 20th of January the following year. In the two and a half months before he takes office, he is called the "President-elect." After the 20th of January, he is called the "President" and the person who left office is called the "former President."


So I have instructed my team to follow the example

that President Bush's team set eight years ago

and work as hard as we can

to make sure that this is a successful transition

for the President-elect.

Captions 25-28, Barack Obama - On Trump Presidential Victory - Part 1

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the US Elections: How Do They Work? video for a detailed description of the US national elections process.

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