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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.

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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 12, 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 1-3, 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, kitesurfings
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. 

 

 

 

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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. 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 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.

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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.

 

Since

 

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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Whenever

 

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.

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When

 

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.

 

Before

 

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.

 

After

 

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.

 

While

 

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.

 

As

 

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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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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 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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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

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

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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

 Play Caption

 

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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Some Common English Idioms, Part I

The English language, which is spoken as an official language in countries as widely ranging as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, has gathered many idioms over the centuries that are still in use today. 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. Let's take a look today at a few common idioms that you may hear when you are speaking English with somebody.

 

A team of scribes with the "wisdom of Solomon" "went the extra mile"

to make King James' translation "all things to all men."

Captions 6-7, The History of English - The King James Bible

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The idiom "to go the extra mile" means to make an extra effort at something. If you are not familiar with the Bible or the Quran, you may not know who Solomon (also written "Sulayman") was. To say someone is as "wise as Solomon" means they are very smart indeed, as King Solomon is considered by religious people to have been a very wise prophet. 

 

So it's going to be forever

or it's going to go down in flames.

Captions 19-20, Taylor Swift - Blank Space

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The idiom "to go down in flames" probably originates from the time of the First World War, when airplanes were first used in combat and would literally "go down in flames." Its figurative meaning is to fail suddenly and dramatically. A similar phrase, "to be shot down in flames," means to be suddenly rejected.

 

So, the expression "once in a blue moon"

is a way of saying, "very, very rarely—almost never."

Captions 42-43, The Alphabet - the Letter M

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The meaning of this idiom is nicely explained in the example sentence. A "blue moon" has several different meanings, but all of them mean a type of moon that is not actually blue to the eye, but only occurs every several months or years. The phrase first appeared in print in the early 1500s and has thus been in common usage for 500 years!

 

But he said he could cut us some slack.

Caption 30, Business English - Difficulties with Coworkers and Contracts

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The idiom "to cut somebody some slack" means to not judge someone too harshly. Some think that the phrase, which has been in use for some hundreds of years, comes from the way sailors tie a ship to a dock with ropes. To "give slack to" or "to slacken" means to loosen or allow more line or rope.

 

You can eat all my food, smash up my walls, but I draw the line...

Caption 20, A Mickey Mouse Cartoon - Goofy's Grandma

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The idiom "to draw the line" means that a limit has been reached and something must stop. The ancient Romans would draw a line in the sand and order their troops not to proceed past that point. It has been used as an idiom in English for hundreds of years in a figurative sense.

 

Further Learning
Try using the above idioms in your own sentences and have another student or your teacher check your work to see if you properly understood the meanings. Thank you for using Yabla English!

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Pronouncing English Plurals Ending in "S"

Most words in English are made plural by simply adding the letter "s" to the end. Sometimes, if the word ends with a vowel such as "y," then it changes to "ies" when plural (one baby, many babies, one country, many countries). Sometimes words ending in consonants add "-es" for the plural (one coach, many coaches).

 

I've noticed that some non-native English speakers have mother tongues that don't include a sound similar to the letter "z" as pronounced in English. This makes it very difficult for them to pronounce the "z" sound. This sound is made with the top of the tongue vibrating against the middle of the palate and makes a buzzing "zzzzzz" sound like the sound a bee makes. 

 

Most English words use this "z" pronunciation on the plural "s." If you accidentally pronounce some English plurals with the "s" sound instead of the proper "z" sound, it could lead to some misunderstandings, as there are other words in English that are spelled differently, but sound the same (they are called homophones):

 

And it makes your eyes look different.

Caption 9, Adele at the BBC - When Adele Wasn't Adele... But Was Jenny!

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If you accidentally pronounce "eyes" with the "s" sound instead of the "z" sound, a native English speaker may misunderstand the sentence as "And they made your ice look different."  This is because "eyes" spoken falsely with the "s" pronunciation sounds exactly the same as "ice." It's a similar situation here: 

 

Oh yes, all they think of is spies, and the war, of course.

Caption 50, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four - BBC TV Movie

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If the last "s" in "spies" is not pronounced correctly, it will sound the same as the word "spice." There are a number of homophones that could lead people to misunderstand what you are saying if you mispronounce the plural "s," such as "tries" ("trice"), "lies" ("lice"), and "plays" ("place"). 

 

There are, however, English words ending in certain consonants where the plural "s" is indeed pronounced "s," and not "z." These are mostly words that end in "k," "p," and "t." The reason why the plural "s" cannot sound like a "z" in these words is because it tends to make these consonants sound like different consonants if you use the "z" sound: 

 

The backs are the sleek, faster-running players.

Caption 13, Rugby - 101

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Now, people have literally no idea how to access water from modern taps.

Caption 55, BBC Comedy Greats - Michael McIntyre on Google Earth

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Where we all share our best bits, but leave out the emotion.

Caption 14, Look Up - A Spoken Word Film for an Online Generation

 Play Caption

 

If you try to pronounce the words highlighted above with the plural "s" pronounced incorrectly as "z," you'll see that they sound like different words: "backs" becomes "bags," "taps" becomes "tabs," and "bits" becomes "bids."

 

So remember: most English plurals ending in "s" have the "s" pronounced as a "z," except for words ending with "k," "p," and "t."  Let's call this the KPT rule!

 

Further Learning
Have a tandem partner who is a native English speaker open a dictionary at random and pick out a word for you to pronounce as a plural word. They may occasionally find plurals that don't end in "s," but this will be the exception. They can also find words for you that end with "k," "p," and "t" to test you. Try to remember the KPT rule and you should get the pronunciation right every time! 

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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Wishful Thinking

Many of our social activities have been reduced by the current crisis, giving us a lot more time on our own. Maybe this is a good time to think about what we wish for the future. Let's take a look today at some English sentences that use the standard phrase that begins "I wish..."

 

I wish that I could be like the cool kids.

Caption 8, Echosmith - Cool Kids

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By "cool kids," they mean the kids who are more popular.

 

I wish I could find a book to live in.

Caption 11, Miley Cyrus - The Backyard Sessions - Look What They've Done to My Song

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This is a poetic way of saying she wishes her life had more excitement and romance — like in a book!

 

I wish I would've had more time to travel around.

Caption 37, Ask Jimmy Carter - Interview with Demi Moore

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These days, the problem is not so much having the time to travel as the fact that travel restrictions often make traveling impossible.

 

How I wish, how I wish you were here

Caption 12, David Gilmour - Wish You Were Here

 Play Caption

 

Most of us are missing friends and family members who we aren't able to see because of travel restrictions. At least it's usually possible to call them or have a video chat. It's not the same as being there, but it helps!

 

I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words.

Caption 2, Twenty One Pilots - Stressed Out

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The singer of the band Twenty One Pilots clearly needs to get some singing lessons and work on his lyrics!

 

I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Caption 5, Katie Melua - River

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The river she wants to skate away on had better be frozen solid or she'll be swimming in her ice skates.

 

I wish it hadn't happened. But it did.

Caption 63, Matthew Modine - Showreel

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As far as the crisis goes, it is still happening, but it is good to be realistic about things, as Mr. Modine advises.

 

I wish you a Merry Christmas. Goodbye!

Caption 60, Christmas in London - People

 Play Caption

 

Some countries actually celebrate Christmas in July. It's also possible to say "It's like Christmas in July!" when you get a present, even though it's not a holiday or your birthday.

 

Further Learning
Make up some sentences about things that you wish for using the phrases "I wish I had...", "I wish I could...", and "I wish I was...". Find some more examples using "I wish" on Yabla English so you can get a better sense of the different contexts in which the phrase is used.

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Some Summer Words in English

Now that summer is finally here, it's a good time to improve your summer vocabulary. Let's take a look in this lesson at some of the important words you may need when heading outdoors into the sunny weather.

 

It's too sunny outside. Make sure you have your suntan lotion!

Caption 15, English with Lauren - The Weather

 Play Caption

 

Suntan lotion was originally intended to help people get suntans without getting a sunburn. A "suntan" occurs when skin darkens after being exposed to bright sunshine, while a "sunburn" is when it actually turns red from too much exposure. These days we know that too much sunshine can be dangerous to your health, so it's good to use a lotion that protects your skin. For this, you want sunscreen:

 

Protect your face. Sunscreen is really the biggest thing.

Caption 12, Katie Holmes - About Family, Beauty and Olay

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Sunscreens are rated by SPF, which stands for "Sun Protection Factor." A sunscreen with a SPF of 15 blocks 93% of the sun's rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks 98%. Many people think that SPF 30 blocks twice as much sun as SPF 15, but this is not true. So while it is important to get a good sunscreen, the higher SPF sunscreens are often much more expensive and actually provide only a small percentage more protection. The important thing is to apply it often, especially after swimming!

 

Going camping is another popular summer activity:

 

I mean, camping out with my family.

Caption 12, Jimmy Kimmel’s Quarantine Minilogue - Home with Kids, Trump, Tom Brady & St. Patrick’s Day

 Play Caption

 

Unfortunately, most commercial camping spots may be closed this summer because of the coronavirus. But if you are an experienced camper, you may still be able to go camping in non-commericial places in nature where camping is allowed.

 

Going to the beach is also a popular summer activity:

 

With 46 kilometers of beautiful beaches,

it's the perfect spot to hit the beach.

Captions 10-11, Discover America - California Holidays: Surfing and Beach Town Santa Cruz

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The phrase "to hit the beach" is just a casual way of saying "to go to the beach." With the current coronavirus travel restrictions, we may have to settle for going to a local beach at a lake this summer instead of flying to a distant beach on the ocean. Those of you who are lucky enough to live near the sea won't have this problem!

 

Building sandcastles is something that is fun to do once you've hit the beach:

 

Last Fourth of July, they skipped putting out beach chairs or building sandcastles.

Caption 36, Toxic Lake - The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee

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But when it starts to get too hot, you may need some help cooling off: 

 

There is just something about homemade strawberry ice cream.

Caption 1, Nigella's Recipes - Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

 Play Caption

 

Further Learning
Think of some other things you like to do in the summertime and search for the words on Yabla English so you can get a better sense of the different contexts in which the words are used.

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Greeting Friends Again

A lot of the things we used to take for granted are now seeming very special, such as when meeting up with friends again as the coronavirus lockdown starts loosening up and we begin returning to work and school. I realize this may not be happening quite yet where you live, but it will hopefully start in the coming weeks or by mid-summer at latest. 

 

There are a lot of English slang words and idioms commonly used in informal speech, so let's take a look at a few of those today. Let's start with a phrase I used in the first sentence of this lesson: 

 

Again, this assuming your opponent plays perfectly, but we'll take that for granted.

Caption 20, Numberphile - Connect Four

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"To take something for granted" means that you presume something automatically, without really thinking about it. When that something is not as you expected, you are surprised.

 

Let's start with some different ways that people greet each other besides the standard "hello," "good morning," "good afternoon," and "good evening." 

 

What's up?

Caption 29, English with Annette O'Neil - Ways To Say Hello

 Play Caption

 

 

How's it going?

Caption 30, English with Annette O'Neil - Ways To Say Hello

 Play Caption

 

 

What's happening?

Caption 31, English with Annette O'Neil - Ways To Say Hello

 Play Caption

 

 

All of the above questions are rhetorical, which means that people are usually not expecting you to tell them your life story or about real problems you might be having! Usually you just answer "fine," or "not much," or "I have been busy" or something simple like that. Note too that sometimes "what's up" is slurred into "'Sup," "what up," and similar variations.

 

Howdy.

Caption 46, English with Annette O'Neil - Ways To Say Hello

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"Howdy" is just a colloquial or casual way of saying "hello" that originally came from the more formal question "how do you do?". You can see from the bold letters where the word came from!

 

If you haven't seen each other in a long time, you might say something like "it seems like forever" or the odd-sounding "long time no see!" This last phrase, meaning "we have not seen each other for a long time," is thought to have come from the basic English first spoken by immigrants to North America over 100 years ago.

When meeting up with your friends for the first time in a long time, please remember to keep safe according the local rules of where you live. But also remember to enjoy yourself as we begin to have more social interactions again into summer!

 

Further Learning
Watch the entire conversational video series on Yabla English by Annette O'Neil and test your comprehension using the Yabla Flash Card Game.

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The Queen's Speech

On Sunday, April 5th, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II, the ruling monarch of the United Kingdom and the 16 Commonwealth realms, gave a speech to the nation about the coronavirus crisis. In our lesson today, let's take a look at some of the English terms she used in her address.

 

I'm speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time.

Caption 2, COVID-19 - The Queen's Coronavirus Address in Full

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The adjective "challenging" means "difficult and demanding" and is used to describe situations that test one's abilities.

 

A time of disruption in the life of our country, a disruption that has brought grief to some.

Captions 3-4, COVID-19 - The Queen's Coronavirus Address in Full

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The noun "disruption" means a break or interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity or process.

 

Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.

Captions 19-21, COVID-19 - The Queen's Coronavirus Address in Full

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The verb "to tackle" is often used as a sports term in American football and soccer, but in this case means "to deal with" something.

 

...that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humored resolve, and of fellow feeling still characterize this country.

Captions 26-28, COVID-19 - The Queen's Coronavirus Address in Full

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An "attribute," a noun, means a "quality, character, or characteristic."

 

This time, we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor.

Caption 53, COVID-19 - The Queen's Coronavirus Address in Full

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The noun "endeavor" means a "serious determined effort" or an "activity directed toward a goal."

 

Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal.

Caption 54, COVID-19 - The Queen's Coronavirus Address in Full

 Play Caption

 

The adjective "instinctive" is used to describe something that "comes from natural instinct" or something that "arises spontaneously." The noun "compassion" is described by the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it" and by the British Oxford Dictionary as "sympathetic pity, and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others." It's interesting that the American definition additionally includes the urge to make the suffering stop, whereas the British definition defines it only as noticing another's suffering. I think we can safely presume that the Queen was including the American definition in her use of the word!

 

Further Learning
Watch the entire video of the Queen's address on Yabla English and test your comprehension using the Yabla Flash Card Game.

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