Office Supplies, Part III

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


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

Caption 32, The Company: Starting on a New Job

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This book is big. This is a red folder.

Caption 31, Parts of Speech: Introduction

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


I take notes in a notebook or on a notepad.

Caption 9, The Alphabet: The Letter N

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

Caption 20, Visit London: Top 10 London Attractions

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


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

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

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


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


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


Let's get down to brass tacks.

Caption 20, Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life

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


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


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


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


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Office Supplies, Part II

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


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

Captions 15-17, Sigrid explains: The Tipping Point

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


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

Captions 31-32, Luana explains: Colors

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


The caveman assembles the board with glue.

Caption 5, Caveman Skatetech: Desert

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


I use a ruler to draw a straight line.

Caption 52, The Alphabet: The Letter U

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


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

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

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


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

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Office Supplies, Part I

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


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

Caption 39, New Year's Resolutions: Friends

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


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

Caption 25, Abiventures: Organizing

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


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

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

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


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

Captions 44-46, David and Red: in England

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


I'm cutting this string with my scissors,

Caption 12, The Alphabet: The Letter C

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


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

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Heat Wave

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Caption 35, Arctic Sea Ice: Why melting matters

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


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

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

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


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

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Independence Day in the United States

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


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

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

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


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


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

Caption 26, Jessica: Brooklyn Sites

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


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

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

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


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

Caption 23, Food Talk with Sigrid: Simple Summer Vegetables

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


Watermelon, for its beautiful color...

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

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


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

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

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

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Gardening Tools in English

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


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

Captions 14-15, BBC Planet Wild: Alien Animals

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


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


I rake the leaves with a rake.

Caption 25, The Alphabet: The Letter A

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


We helped with hands and wheelbarrows, shovels and sweat.

Captions 46-47, All Hands: Volunteers Appeal Video

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

Caption 43, The Seasons: Winter

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


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


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

Caption 18, The History of English: Shakespeare

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


People have lawn mowers and they mow the lawn.

Captions 27-28, Sigrid Spring Musings

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


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

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Mass or Uncountable Nouns

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


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


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


You have a sheep and a hippo? -Yeah.

Caption 58, Jimmy Kimmel: Lie Detective

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

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

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


They can play chess, if they wish.

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

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


Would you like to sample our vegan bacon?

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

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


All spaghetti spoons have a hole in the bottom.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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English Animal Expressions Part II

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


We're dying like flies down here!

Caption 16, Stephen King: The Stand

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


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

Caption 5, Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock

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


Everything is fast paced in a rat race.

Caption 10, Core Kiteboarding: The Core Diaries

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


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

Caption 41, Karate Kids, USA: The Little Dragons

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


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

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

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


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

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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 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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