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Conditional Sentences in English

In English, we use conditional sentences for events or occurrences that are more or less certain under particular circumstances. Often, these employ the word "if" in the first clause, and then follow with a main clause. There are four basic types of conditional sentences that describe levels of possibility, from events that are very likely to missed opportunities in the past.  

 

Type 0 conditional sentences state facts or universal truths. The "if" clause and the main clause simply use the present simple tense.

 

If you are in the Skycouch row, there are special seat belt instructions in your seat pocket.
Caption 11, Air New Zealand: An Unexpected Briefing

 

Type 1 conditional sentences refer to cause-and-effect links, and events that are quite certain or even definite if the condition stated in the "if" clause is fulfilled. The "if" clause is formed with "if" + simple present tense, and the main clause is uses the "will" future. 

 

So, if you observe these writing rules, your letter will be easy to read,
Caption 12, Business English: Cover letter

 

If they are too late, they will miss their ride.
Caption 26, Nature & Wildlife: Wild Sharks

 

Type 2 conditional sentences refer to events that are less possible or likely, often hypothetical. The "if" clause uses the simple past, which actually creates the subjunctive mood, while the main clause contains "would" + the infinitive (together sometimes referred to as conditional I tense).

 

If you gave me a chance, I would take it.
Caption 14, Clean Bandit: Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)

 

If I had the vocal capacity, I would sing this from every mountain top.
Caption 37, Jamila Lyiscot's TED talk: 3 ways to speak English

 

Type 3 conditional sentences are used to talk about possibilities or events that never came to be. The "if" clause contains the past perfect, while the main clause includes "would have" + past participle (sometimes in combination referred to as the conditional II tense). 

 

Unfortunately, if we had signed the contract last week, we would have been able to make some concessions.
Caption 24-25, Business English: Difficulties with coworkers and contracts

 

It is worth mentioning that you may often see "mixed types" of the conditional, in which a missed opportunity in the past (expressed using the participle) is portrayed as still affecting the present. Take a look at the following sentence. It is clear that Chuck did not crash his motorcycle, yet the main clause is still being expressed as if it were part of a type two conditional sentence.

 

If Chuck had crashed it, we would be out.
Caption 65, Motorcycle Masters: Birmingham Alabama

 

Further Learning
Whenever you see a sentences with "if" on Yabla English, try to identify which type of conditional sentence it might be related to. Make up 3 or 4 sentences related to your plans for the week or anything you didn't get to do over the weekend. For example, "If Anna had wanted to go to the cinema, I would have gone with her," or "If I can get the afternoon off tomorrow, I will go to the cinema."

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How to Communicate What Other People Said

When you want to discuss something that somebody has said, it is called "reported speech" or "indirect speech," as opposed to quoting somebody directly. 

 

Imagine you are at work, for instance, and a supplier named Daniel tells you "Most of our new accounts are getting a 30% increase, but I can cut you some slack." This means that Daniel will have to charge your company more money, but he can "cut some slack," meaning he can make the increase not so large for your company. When your boss asks you what Daniel said, you would use "reported speech" to tell him: 

 

Daniel said most of their new accounts are getting a 30% increase, but he said he could cut us some slack. 
Captions 29-30, Business English: Difficulties with coworkers and contracts

 

Note the difference in how the speaker changes from first person "our" and "I" to third person "their" and "he":

 

Direct speech: Daniel said, "Most of our new accounts are getting a 30% increase, but I can cut you some slack."

 

Indirect speech: Daniel said most of their new accounts are getting a 30% increase, but he said he could cut us some slack. 

 

Note that indirect speech eliminates the need for quotation marks. Another primary feature of indirect speech is using a phrase such as "he said," "she said," etc. followed by a description of what the person said. Here is a sample of other verbs you can use to report what somebody said: 

 

—to tell: 

 

They told me I was going to lose the fight.
Caption 9, Kate Bush: Wuthering Heights

 

—to state:

 

A spokesman for the Ministry of Plenty stated last night that it will be necessary to reduce the chocolate ration to 20 grams in April.
Captions 10-11, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four BBC TV Movie

 

—to mention: 

 

You mentioned you're single.
Caption 10, Conan: Alice Eve Explains Differences Between American & UK Dating

 

–to confess: 

 

You've confessed to assassination, to distribution of seditious pamphlets, to religion, to embezzlement of Party funds, sale of military secrets, sabotage, and murder.
Captions 28-31, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

—to claim

 

They claimed to be weavers of a rare and especially beautiful and precious cloth.
Caption 24, Fairy Tales: The Emperor's New Clothes

 

Further Learning
Try taking the sample sentences above and reconstructing the direct speech. For example, "He told me he'd come to demolish the house." Change that into "He said, 'I've come to demolish the house.'" Now try it with the other examples!

 

If you are learning English in a small group, have one person state something as direct speech and another person then report what that person said. If John says "I speak the best English in the class," then Jenny can say "John claims to speak the best English in the class." 

 

You can also go to Yabla English and find other examples of indirect speech based on the verbs listed above.

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Variations of "to run"

The Oxford English dictionary defines "to run" as to "move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time." There are a lot of other meanings and idiomatic uses of "to run," however, which are commonly used and with which you should make yourself familiar. 

 

We will have young people to run the island.
Caption 48, Bishop Stanley: Island Cherries

 

Here "to run" means "to operate," in the sense of "to run a business." 

 

No, I'm not going to run for president.
Caption 46, Entertainment Weekly: The Obamas Answer Kids' Adorable Questions

 

If you "run" for a political position, it means you are campaigning to win an election.

 

When your oil is running out, could you imagine doing the next film.
Caption 62, Fast & Furious 5: Opening night in Cologne

 

The phrase "to run out" of something means your supply is getting low.

 

But President Bush's team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running.
Captions 19-21, Barack Obama: On Trump presidential victory

 

The phrase "to hit the ground running" is a metaphor that means "to take immediate action." Here you can see another metaphor using "run", albeit here as a noun:

 

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.
Captions 1-2, Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven

 

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

 

Further Learning
Go to this page and learn some other uses of the verb "to run," as well as searching for the term "run" on Yabla English.

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Making Phone Calls in English

Making a phone call in a language that is not your mother tongue can be quite nerve-racking! For this month's newsletter, we'll look some phrases that are commonly used in both formal and informal phone conversations.

 

People generally answer the phone “Hello?” on their private line, with “[Last name] residence” on a family home phone number, or more formally by using the word “speaking.”

 

Hi, this is the Irish Press, Daniel speaking.
Caption 44, Business English: Starting on a new job

 

When you make a call, you will first need to introduce yourself. 

 

Hello, this is Daniel. -Hi Daniel, this is Julia from Phonez and More.
Caption 10, Business English: Difficulties with coworkers and contracts

 

Uh, hi, Jonathan. It's Julia Smith for the marketing department interview.
Caption 7, Business English: The job interview

 

You might then need to ask if the person you want to speak to is available. The informal version is “Is [name] there?”, but for formal calls it’s better to use the following:

 

May I please speak to Daniel in advertising sales?
Caption 9, Business English: Difficulties with coworkers and contracts

 

Sometimes you might want to state the purpose of your call right away, so that the person answering can re-direct your call to someone who can help you.

 

Hi, I'm calling about an apartment that I saw listed on Craig's List?
Caption 33, Jessica and Lizhow much and how many

 

The formal way to conclude a phone conversation might involve thanking the person or setting up a next time to talk. 

 

Have a good day and I'll talk to you soon. 'Bye. -Goodbye.
Caption 56, Business English: Difficulties with coworkers and contracts

 

Of course, between friends, even if they are cartoon characters, much more informal goodbyes are possible: 

 

I'll talk to ya later, Mick. I gotta go.
Caption 32, A Mickey Mouse Cartoon: Goofy's Grandma

 

Further Learning
Watch the business English videos linked above on Yabla English to hear the sentences in the full context of a formal conversation. This helpful webpage provides additional telephone conversations with both audio and a transcription available.

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Traveling by Train in English

Last month we discussed terms relating to air travel, so this month we'll review some of the basic words related to train travel. Trains are not as commonly used in the United States as they used to be, but there are still a number of regular passenger trains running, especially on the the East Coast. In the United Kingdom, trains are still a standard mode of transportation, of course, as they are in the rest of Europe.

 

Firstly, the vehicle that you use to travel with: 

 

We have many people coming on the train from Manhattan.
Caption 24, Surfshop in Long Beach: Long Island

 

In the above example, the "train" referred to is probably the subway. New Yorkers often refer to the subway as "the train," unlike Londoners who refer to their local trains as "the tube."

 

Next, the place you leave from:

 

We will pick you up at the train station.
Caption 49, The apartment: Maggie's visit

 

Then the action you carry out on the train:

 

… and then taking the train down to Basel, Switzerland.
Caption 11, Sigrid : An American in Italy

 

You can "take a train" or "ride on a train" or "travel by train," among several possibilities. 

 

Next are the lengths of steel upon which trains travel:

 

When train tracks intersect or meet, it's often called a "junction."
Caption 26: The Alphabet: the Letter J

 

A junction is also called a "crossing." Train tracks are also called "rails," hence another term for trains in general: 

 

We'll have to go to the railroad.
Caption 83, The New 3 Stooges: Hairbrained Barbers

 

When you travel by train, you may not always have a ticket reservation and may need to buy a ticket at the train station. To find out when your train leaves, you will need to look at a schedule: 

 

If we have a variation in a schedule, it means the schedule changes.
Caption 33, The Alphabet: the Letter V

 

A train schedule is also called a timetable: 

 

There is no need for a precise timetable today.
Caption 57, Brexit: David Cameron resigns as UK votes to leave

 

With a train schedule or train timetable you can be certain of catching the right train at the right time! Only history will show, however, if with Brexit, Great Britain has indeed "missed the train." This expression can also be used metaphorically!

 

Further Learning
Go to this page and see some other examples of words relating to train travel in English, and then go to Yabla English to find other examples of train travel words used in a real-world context. Note in the above link the use of British English terms "single ticket" and "return ticket." In US English, a "single ticket" is a "one-way ticket" and a "return ticket" is a "round-trip ticket."

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Traveling by Air in English

Before you travel by air for vacation or perhaps to visit a friend, it might be wise to review some of the basic words related to air travel. Firstly, the place you leave from:

 

I'm off to the airport! -Have a nice trip.
Caption 88, Jimmy Carter: Another interview with Sharon Stone

 

Then the vehicle that you use to travel with: 

 

In an airplane, there's always a front exit and sometimes there's a rear exit
Caption 58, The Alphabet: the Letter R

 

Then the action you carry out on the airplane:

 

But most of us can't just fly off to faraway places. Well, no flying is necessary when you've got Yabla.
Captions 7-8, Yabla Languages: Introduction to Yabla

 

The verb "to fly," can mean to travel by airplane, and though you may not need to fly to learn a foreign language, it helps sometimes getting to you destination!

 

As we prepare for take-off, please relax and enjoy the flight.
Caption 89, Delta's Holiday: In-Flight Safety Video

 

"Take-off" is when the airplane leaves the ground and takes to the air. In English, you say you are "catching a flight" to mean you are going to travel on an airplane.

 

Please power off all electronic devices during takeoff and landing.
Caption 51, Air New Zealand: An Unexpected Briefing

 

"Landing" is, of course, the opposite of "takeoff" (note too that "take-off" may be spelled with or without a hyphen). "Electronic devices" include cellular phones, tablets, and laptop computers. 

 

Further Learning
Go to this page and see some other examples of travel words in English, and then go to  Yabla English to find other examples of travel words used in a real-world context.

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English idioms with the verb "to make"

An idiom is an expression that uses words to create a meaning that may not be immediately clear from the words used. Usually idioms derive from some kind of cultural context, and like many languages, English has a lot of idiomatic expressions. Today we're going to look at some idioms that use the verb "to make."

 

But the Magnus Effect is making a comeback.
Caption 43, Science: Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect

 

The phrase "making a comeback" means for somebody who was once well-known and successful, but who had in the meantime become forgotten or less successful, to be in the process or regaining their lost fame or success. 

 

We've made our way gradually down the country.
Caption 20, World Cup 2015: New Zealand getting the word out

 

To "make your way" is to start going somewhere.

 

They laughed about his big feet and made fun of his plump, grey body.
Captions 37-38, Fairy Tales: The Ugly Duckling

 

To "make fun" of something or somebody is to ridicule it or them.

 

You just make more waves.
Caption 70, Prince Ea: I Am NOT Black, You are NOT White

 

To "make waves" is to cause trouble or have a strong effect on something.

 

Further Learning
Here's a list of some more idioms with the verb "to make": make a beeline, make a clean sweep, make ends meet, make a face, make a fuss, make a fool out of, make a go of it, make a killing, make a living, make a name for, make a point, make a run for it, make a scene, make a stink, make an example of, make an exception, make arrangements, make good on, make light of, make mischief, make sense, make short work of, make someone tick, make something up, make the grade. 

 

See if you can figure out what they mean and do a search for other idioms on Yabla English to find other examples used in a real-world context.

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Some More English Slang

In the last lesson, we went through some examples of English slang, and this time we can continue on that topic. Wikipedia describes slang as referring "to words, phrases and uses that are regarded as very informal and often restricted to special context or peculiar to a specified profession class and the like." 

 

If you over-ask, you're going to be immediately dismissed.
Caption 25, Job Hunting: How to Answer the Salary Question

 

There are many proper English words that use "over" as a prefix, such as "overeat," "overwork," and "overheat," but "overask" is not one of them! In this case, since it's not a proper word, a hyphen (-) was used to separate "over" from "ask", and it means "to ask too many questions." You can place "over" before practically any English verb, but if you aren't sure if it's a proper word or not, you are better off saying "We walked too much" rather than something like "We over-walked." 

 

Well, I kind of invited us in for a little look-see.
Caption 31: Karate Kids, USA: The Little Dragons

 

This is a case of several proper verbs being turned into an informal noun: "to take a look and see" has thus been shortened to "take a look-see." According to the Oxford Dictionary, the phrase originated in either pidgin English (pidgin languages being those that have developed between two peoples who do not share a native language) or as an imitation of pidgin English.

 

Interesting cultural differences in math-speak...
Caption 11, Numberphile: The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake

 

In informal English, it is fairly common to use the suffix "-speak" applied to any topic that has its own special terminology. For instance, difficult grammar terms could be referred to "grammar-speak" or somebody working on computer programming could be said to use "tech-speak." 

 

But I've got a shockeroo.
Caption 6, Schoolhouse Rock: Them Not-So-Dry Bones

 

In the above example, a "shocker" is a person or thing that shocks, and here they have just added "-oo" to add emphasis to the word. Adding vowels to the end of words to give emphasis has a long tradition in English, and can be seen in such examples as "righto" instead of "right," or "coolio" instead of "cool." It's not advisable to randomly add vowels to a word to make it sound more slang, however, these are specifics that must be learned and used, like all slang words, in the appropriate context! 

 

Further Learning
Do a search for "slang" on Yabla English and find other examples of slang words used in a real-world context. 

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Some Examples of Slang in English

There is a long history of slang usage in the English language, and you can find some examples of English slang on Yabla too! Slang is sometimes often regional—many slang words used in the United Kingdom would not be readily understood in the United States and vice-versa—but slang is also cultural, for instance people of certain cultural heritages often use slang that is different from what you might hear among people with different ethnic or cultural heritages. Some slang is, of course, very vulgar and not acceptable in polite company, but there are many slang words and phrases that are common and acceptable in everyday speech. 

 

My personal style, I guess, would be edgy, boho,  fun, flirty.
Caption 6, Demi Lovato: Seventeen Magazine

 

The adverb and adjective "boho" is short for "bohemian", which when written lower case does not mean somebody from the Czech region of Bohemia, but rather describes an unconventional lifestyle as often lived by artists and writers. 

 

Oh, ta! Ah, yes, I'm very proud of my kiddies.    
Caption 57, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four: BBC TV Movie

 

This is an example of British English slang that may not be readily understood among speaker of US English: "ta" is commonly used in the United Kingdom for "thank you". The word "kiddies" is not slang, but is an informal version of "kids" (children).

 

Robust and secure, so our swag is on blast.
Caption 57, Java: The "Java Life" Rap Music Video

 

Here is a slang word with an urban origin often found in rap music: "swag" probably came from the verb "to swagger," which means "to walk or strut with a defiant or insolent air" or "to boast or brag noisily," but as a slang word has come to mean "style." The phrase "on blast" is a slang usage too meaning "loud," therefore "swag is on blast" means they are "showing their style." 

 

He has just been released from the pokey.
Caption 3, The Pop Topic Minute: Christina, Lady Gaga and Lindsay

 

The noun "pokey" is slang for "jail," and may have originated from the term "poorhouse," which was a kind of prison that existed until the 20th century for people who were too poor to pay their debts. Some other slang words for "jail" are  "clink," "cooler," "pen," and "slammer." The adjective "poky," on the other hand, is an informal word for "slow" (such as a "poky car") or small (such as a "poky room"). 

 

Further Learning
Do a search for "slang" on Yabla English and find other examples of slang words used in a real-world context. You can also read this Wikipedia article about slang and go to the links to learn about different kinds of slang in English.

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Happy New Year from Yabla English!

In English-speaking countries and communities, friends, family members, and even complete strangers are greeting each other today with the phrase “Happy New Year!” 

 

A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Caption 9-10, Bon Jovi: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

 

Of course, the celebrations began last night, which is known as New Year’s Eve. It is common for people to attend parties to “ring in the New Year” together. Shortly before midnight they engage in a countdown to the new year, often counting off the last ten seconds aloud together. Adults will toast with champagne or sparkling wine. If children are still awake, they may be given sparkling apple cider.

 

On New Year's Eve we checked out the rings of Saturn.
Caption 15, Jason Mraz: Tour of studio

 

One year to go, countdown to kick-off.
Caption 1, FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015: Meet the New Zealand 2015 host city

 

By today, many people will have already made a “New Year’s resolution,” which is a promise to do or not do something in the new year. Typical new year’s resolutions relate to learning a new skill (or perhaps a new language!), something related to health and exercise, or getting rid of a bad habit. 

 

My New Year's resolution is to just keep going at the gym.
Caption 7, Ashley Tisdale: Happy New Year!

 

Further Learning
For more information, read this article, which provides some interesting facts about the history and traditions of New Year’s Eve. 

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The Past Continuous

You likely know the present continuous ("I am sitting at the table," "He is going to the grocery store"), but how familiar are you with the past continuous? 

 

The past continuous is often used to set the scene and provide context when talking about the past:

 

I was working in the theater in England.
Caption 13, Donald Sutherland: talks career and Hollywood

 

A very typical structure with the past continuous and simple past tenses together occurs when one action or event in the past interrupts another action that is already in progress. 

 

There she encountered an old woman who was sitting at a spinning wheel.
Caption 32, Fairy Tales: Sleeping Beauty

 

In this example, it is clear that the woman already began doing what she was doing ("sitting at a spinning wheel") before Sleeping Beauty entered the room. In each of the following examples, one action was already happening when the other occurred:

 

But when the Princess opened her eyes the next morning, she was surprised that a good-looking prince was standing there.
Caption 26-27, Fairy Tales: The Frog King

 

I'm sorry, I was eating chips. What did you say?
Caption 12, The Ellen Show: Ellen Inspired Adele’s New Song

 

Further Learning
To get more context for the phrases, watch the videos above on Yabla English. Make sure you understand which action came first. For a thorough description with more examples, you can also refer to this page

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To borrow and to lend

In English, the verb to borrow means to take or use something that belongs to someone else for a short period of time. The verb to lend is to give something to a person for a short period of time. These two words often get mixed up by non-native speakers, so let's look at some examples. 

 

In the following example, Valentino lends the clothes and Sharon Stone borrows the clothes. In the end, she has to give them back.

 

So Valentino, the designer, lends me clothes to wear for appearances.
Caption 64, Jimmy Carter: Another interview with Sharon Stone

 

The phrase "lend a hand" means "to help out."

 

I would not lend a hand
Caption 5,  Phil Collins: In The Air Tonight 

 

In the following sentence, Richard Wiseman tells you to use your friend's money to play a trick on them.

 

Borrow a note from a friend. 
Caption 49, Richard Wiseman: 10 bets you will always win

 

Of course, some people keep things for longer than they should...

 

You are so welcome to borrow her for the next ten years or so.
Caption 5, Selena Gomez: Ramona And Beezus 

 

So now you know that saying "Johnny borrowed me ten dollars" is completely wrong! You have to say either "Johnny lent me ten dollars" or "I borrowed ten dollars from Johnny."

 

Further Learning
Write some sentences that begin with "I recently borrowed..." and "I recently lent..." Re-write the sentences above from Yabla English so that they use the other verb and remembering to change the subject and object of the sentence accordingly. 

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Present Perfect vs. Simple Past

English learners often have some trouble mastering when to use the present perfect tense and when to use the simple past tense. There are some instances where they are indeed interchangeable, but most often the choice between these two tenses is crucial for conveying the meaning of a sentence.

 

The present perfect is used when a situation, action, or state is not finished or concluded yet. Let’s look at the following two sentences from Yabla English:

 

She has lived an extraordinary life of public service.
Caption 36, Barack Obama: on Trump presidential victory

 

And I lived on a boat for three and a half years.
Caption 8, Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Let's Work for Solutions

 

In the first example, Barack Obama used the present perfect to indicate that Hilary Clinton has not finished serving the public and will continue to do so in the future. Her life of public service is ongoing. In the second example, the simple past tense makes it clear that the person speaking does not live on the boat anymore. If they used “I have lived” we would know that they are still living on the boat today.  

 

One clue for knowing which tense to use is that certain words like "since," "ever," and "never" are only used in sentences with the present perfect, whereas "ago," "yesterday," "last week" and "last month" indicate finished periods of time that require the simple past tense. 

 

We saw so many incredible places.
Caption 2, New Zealand 100% Pure: New Zealand, Home of Middle-earth

 

They were the most persistent tigers I've ever seen.
Caption 30, The Marx Brothers: Capt. Spaulding's African Adventures

 

In the second sentence above, Captain Spaulding means “I’ve ever seen in my life.” Because he is still living, and it is possible he may see tigers that are even more persistent in the future, the situation is considered unresolved and the present perfect is used.

 

For the next sentence, note that “this project made a huge difference” would mean that the project is finished, whereas how it is written makes it clear that it is, in fact, ongoing:

 

There's no doubt that this project has made a huge difference
Caption 36, WWF: Making a Difference - Rhino Conservation

 

In British English, the tenses are more interchangeable. For example, the present perfect is often used when talking about an event that is finished, but happened very recently. 

 

I have just been to Buckingham Palace.
Caption 1, BBC News - Theresa May: First speech as Prime Minister

 

However, in American English, there are also cases where either tense is applicable. The following sentence is an example in which either tense could be used. This is because the mistake is a finished act, but the situation surrounding the mistake is ongoing.

 

You really think we made a mistake?
Caption 35, The Big Bang Theory: Consequences Of The Wedding

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It's or its?

Since we already discussed the difference between their, there, and they're in a previous lesson, perhaps it is good to also cover another common point of confusion: the words it's and its. Even native speakers get these words mixed up, so master them and you will be ahead of the game. 

 

We are used to recognizing possessives by the use of an apostrophe, for example, my mother's car or the teacher's classroom. However, the word it's is not possessive, but rather a contraction of it and is used for convenience. In the sentences below, we see shortened versions of it is amazing, it is really exciting, and it is the most important part

 

And it's amazing, and they have one of the best sunsets in the world. 
Caption 25, Visit Isle of Wight: Mark King of Level 42

 

It's really exciting to know that I'm setting a good example for young people
Caption 24, peta2 Interviews: Vegan Surfer Tia Blanco 

 

That's how we know it's the most important part.
Caption 34, Rachel's English - How to Introduce Yourself: American English Pronunciation

 

The word its helps us to describe how something belongs to, for example, an animal, place, or object. The sentences below are about the bear's fur, the garden's street performers, and the vest's container

 

Its fur is almost silver with a blue sheen, the perfect adaptation to its environment.
Caption 19, Nature & Wildlife: Search for the Ghost Bear

 

Covent Garden is famous for its street performers.
Caption 3, Christmas in London: Places

 

To use, pull the tab to remove the vest from its container and then open the pouch.
Caption 69-70, Delta Airlines: In-flight Safety Video

 

So, as you can see, “it’s” with an apostrophe is the contraction for “it is” and is never a possessive, while “its” with no apostrophe can only be a possessive and is never the contraction for “it is”.

 

Further Learning
Take special note of examples of it's and its that you see while watching videos on Yabla English. Almost every video has one or both! 

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 Prize or Price?

One common mistake made by those who speak English as a second language is confusing the words price and prize. This may be because they are very similar in their sound and spelling, but also because many languages only have one word with two different meanings. For example, le prix in French and der Preis in German can refer to either an award or the monetary value of an item. In those languages you simply have to look at the context of the sentence.

 

The price of something is the amount of money it is worth:

 

Well, the price ranges from twenty-five to a hundred dollars.
Caption 54, Groucho Marx: You Bet Your Life

 

The price on this one was three dollars!
Caption 51, Jessica: on books

 

Price is also used metaphorically to talk about a sacrifice or consequence:

 

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
Caption 72, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

A prize is an award given to recognize an achievement. It can involve money (prize money or a cash award), but not always. The Nobel Prize is a prominent example of a prize given on an international level. 

 

I smell the prize, I'm getting closer
Caption 14, World Cup 2010: For The Love Of The Game

 

There's no prize money, Gillian. 
Caption 6, Dream to Believe: aka Flying

 

Further Learning
Find some aspect of the usage of these words on Yabla English that will help you remember which one is which. For example, remembering that "Nobel Prize" has a "z" might help you remember that a "prize" is a type of award. Or perhaps remembering that "cents" as in "dollars and cents" is spelled with "c" will help you remember that "price," which has to do with money, is spelled with a "c" as well.

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Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

In English, cardinal numbers (for example, "one," "two," or "three") refer to quantity, whereas ordinal numbers ("first," "second," or "third") refer to distribution. Ordinal numbers are used in dates and fractions. They are employed as adjectives to describe importance, position in a list, and placement in time.

 

Generally, ordinal numbers are created by adding -th to the end of the cardinal number. However, there are exceptions for the numbers one (first), two (second), three (third), five (fifth), eight (eighth), nine (ninth), and twelve (twelfth). 

 

I've been nervous. I think you know it's my first video ever.
Caption 31, Adele: The Making of "Chasing Pavements"

 

It is the world's sixth largest country by total area.
Caption 3, Soccer World Cup: Australia

 

On the twelfth day after Christmas, we have to take down all the decorations and the tree.
Caption 47, Christmas traditions: In the UK

 

Starting with twenty, the ordinal numbers for multiples of ten (for example, thirty or ninety) are created by replacing the "y" with "ieth."

 

And we've got the one year celebration on the thirtieth of May.
Caption 30, FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 - New Zealand getting the word out

 

This may seem like a lot to remember. However, for other numbers above twenty, only the last figure is written as an ordinal number:

 

English is the language of the twenty-first century.
Caption 8, Strothoff International School: Imagefilm

 

They have a wonderful internet café on the forty-seventh... forty-eighth floor.
Caption 67, An apartment: In Japan

 

Further Learning
Memorize the ordinal numbers from one to twenty with the help of this extensive list of ordinal numbers and find more examples on Yabla English.

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There, they're, or their?

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings and usages. This can be confusing sometimes as one must rely on context to figure out which word is meant or should be used. 

 

Even native speakers sometimes fail to use the homonyms "there," "their," and "they're" correctly. Here is a quick review of which one is appropriate for which occasion. 

 

1) The word "there" is used to refer to a physical or abstract location.

 

When I flew in on the float plane, they were all there on the boat.
Caption 4, Alaska Revealed: Endless Wave

 

Also, it is commonly combined with a conjugation of “to be” or a modal verb to discuss the existence of something.

 

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
Caption 28, Barack Obama's Inauguration Day: Obama's Speech

 

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. 
Caption 9, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Opening

 

2) "Their" is a possessive adjective used before a noun when the subject is "they." With "their," we are speaking about something that belongs to two or more people.

 

What are their names? -Their names are Naya and Alex.
Caption 14, Caralie and Annie: Getting to know each other

 

Their goal is a plan to finally help humanity reduce its carbon footprint.
Caption 3, Green TV: What Is COP21?

 

3) "They’re" is a contraction of "they are" used to refer to two or more people in the third person. It is especially useful for shortening sentences in the present continuous tense.

 

I think they're nice. 
Caption 12, Comic-Con 2015: Jennifer Lawrence

 

They're playing a game on the lawn.
Caption 10, Jessica: In Prospect Park

 

Further Learning
Check out the examples above on Yabla English to get a better sense of the full context for the use of "there," "their," and "they're." Try to write a few sentences in which you use two or even all three of these words to solidify your understanding. An example would be: "They're not sure when they will get there. It depends on when their plane lands."

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Winter Vacation and the Holidays

As we approach the end of December, many people are looking forward to having some time off. The “holiday break," “Christmas break,” or "winter vacation" observed by schools gives students up to two weeks off. Universities may have closer to a month of time off. Workplaces and offices close as well, although not for so long!

 

It is a time to relax and a time to spend with family and friends. If the weather outside is cold, there are some classic outdoor activities that people enjoy, although you may decide to simply stay nice and warm indoors.

 

And nowadays Rose and I do downhill skiing primarily.
Caption 73, Jimmy Carter - interviews Jimmy Carter

 

She could only rest in a corner next to the fireplace,
Caption 12, Fairy Tales: Cinderella

 

Many families take time to do activities like baking or cooking together, and also decorate to their homes.

 

And what's your favorite part of the Christmas dinner?
Caption 13, Christmas in London: People

 

But, up until that point, we decorate our houses with lots of different things.
Caption 6, Christmas traditions: in the UK

 

Many people are also preparing for the holidays and the tradition of exchanging presents:

 

I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards.
Caption 13, A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

...and then unwrap our presents and all the family will be there.
Caption 12, Christmas in London: People

 

Of course, the holidays can be stressful, especially if you are late with the preparations!

 

So they're looking for their last-minute presents for their loved ones.
Caption 3, Christmas in London: People

 

Our Yabla English team wishes you a lovely winter break and holiday season, filled with relaxation and the warm company of family and friends!

 

Further Learning
Go to the links listed above, or do your own search for Yabla English videos that reference holiday traditions. Another idea: look up the English words for the presents you are giving people this year if you don’t know them already.

 

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