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

 Play Caption



Warren Beatty's a good pianist.

Caption 71, Chevy Chase: talks about his acting life

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

Caption 17, Sigrid: An American in Italy

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



I grew up playing the cello.

Caption 10, Justin James: Booking Submission Video

 Play Caption



And did you take bass lessons when you were young?

Caption 12, Bee and Flower: Interview

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption


I played the oboe in middle school band.

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



And so I started playing recorder.

Caption 44, Sigrid: An American in Italy

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



Further Learning
Go to Yabla German 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!

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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!

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



I came to America to become a professional dancer.

Caption 3, Another 7.4 Earthquake: Hits Japan

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption


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

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption



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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption


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?

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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?

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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

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

 Play Caption



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

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

Captions 4-5, Sigrid: Pumpkin Season

 Play Caption



Meanwhile, autumn has painted its colors on the Alps.

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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."

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption


I found myself traveling around the world windsurfing.

Caption 12, Justin James: Booking Submission Video

 Play Caption


I'm not a scuba diving instructor yet.

Caption 1, Job interviews: Mr. Alan Hint monologue

 Play Caption



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

Captions 1-3, Caveman Skatetech: Desert Vol 1

 Play Caption


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

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

Caption 30, Science: Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect

 Play Caption


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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



The edelweiss is usually found in the mountains of Europe. 


So much for them daisy chains.

Caption 37, Diane Birch: Valentino

 Play Caption



"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. 

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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


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


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


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









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

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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

Captions 56-57, BBC Planet Wild: Alien Animals

 Play Caption


And what about North Korea?

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

 Play Caption



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

Caption 10, Hemispheres: The Amazing Cell Phone

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



There's a large Chinese population in London.

Caption 8, London: Multicultural Britain

 Play Caption


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

Caption 13, Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life

 Play Caption



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

Caption 55, TED-Ed: How languages evolve

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption



The Dutch came sharing coleslaw and cookies.

Caption 8, The History of English: American English

 Play Caption



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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

Caption 12, The Alphabet: the Letter K

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption


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

Caption 29, British vs American: English Pronunciation Lesson

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



Here I am in Southern Spain in the height of summer

Caption 2, Tara's recipes: Delicious Fruit Salad with Greek Yoghurt

 Play Caption



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

Weiter lesen

Conjunctions of Time Part II

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


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


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




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

Caption 9, The London Story Tower of London

 Play Caption



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

Caption 6, Ashley Tisdale Thanksgiving Traditions

 Play Caption



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 

 Play Caption



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

Caption 8, Alaska Revealed Tidal bores, icebergs and avalanches

 Play Caption





You should try to ignore cyberbullying whenever possible.

Caption 4, Bob Parsons Cyberbullies

 Play Caption



You can listen to Radio One whenever you want.

Caption 56, Hozier Someone New

 Play Caption



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)

 Play Caption



That was the third time we were in the studio.

Caption 22, MTV News Selena Gomez Decodes Her Instagram Pics

 Play Caption



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.

Weiter lesen

Conjunctions of Time Part I

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


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




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

Caption 4, Alaska Revealed: Endless Wave

 Play Caption


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




Be sure to put your mask on before helping them.

Caption 18, Air New Zealand: An Unexpected Briefing

 Play Caption


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




They have to defend their breed from predators for up to four weeks after they're born.

Captions 49-50, Evolution: Deep Ocean

 Play Caption


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




We have to tread lightly while filming.

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

 Play Caption


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




We paddle along and we pick up trash as we go

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



What do you want to get off your chest?

Caption 16, Comic-Con 2015: Jennifer Lawrence

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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

 Play Caption



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. 

Weiter lesen

Words Related to Democratic Elections

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


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


We try really hard to persuade people

that we're right,

and then people vote.

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

 Play Caption


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?

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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?

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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?

 Play Caption


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


So I have instructed my team to follow the example

that President Bush's team set eight years ago

and work as hard as we can

to make sure that this is a successful transition

for the President-elect.

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

 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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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!

Weiter lesen

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!

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

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

 Play Caption


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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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.

Weiter lesen

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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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

 Play Caption


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.

Weiter lesen