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Words Related to Democratic Elections

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

 

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

 

We try really hard to persuade people that we're right, and then people vote.

Captions 47-49, Barack Obama: on Trump presidential victory

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

 

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

 

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

Caption 66, US Elections How do they work?

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

 

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

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

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

 

So the candidate with the most votes wins.

Caption 48, US Elections: How do they work?

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

 

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

Caption 19, ABC News: President Trump and first lady test positive for COVID-19

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

 

Senators, like members of the House of Representatives, are also elected to their seats by the public.

Captions 42-43, US Elections: How do they work?

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

 

So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush's team set eight years ago and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the President-elect.

Captions 25-28, Barack Obama: on Trump presidential victory

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

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Some Common English Idioms, Part I

The English language, which is spoken as an official language in countries as widely ranging as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, has gathered many idioms over the centuries that are still in use today. An idiom is basically a phrase that is figurative and used to describe literal situations with words that may not be clear to a non-native speaker. Let's take a look today at a few common idioms that you may hear when you are speaking English with somebody.

 

A team of scribes with the wisdom of Solomon went the extra mile to make King James' translation all things to all men.

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

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

 

So it's going to be forever or it's going to go down in flames.

Captions 19-20, Taylor Swift Blank Space

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

 

So, the expression "once in a blue moon" is a way of saying, "very, very rarely—almost never."

Captions 42-43, The Alphabet the Letter M

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

 

But he said he could cut us some slack.

Caption 30, Business English Difficulties with coworkers and contracts - Part 3

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

 

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

Caption 20, A Mickey Mouse Cartoon Goofy's Grandma

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

 

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

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Pronouncing English plurals ending in "s"

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

 

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

 

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

 

And they made your eyes look different.

Caption 9, Adele at the BBC When Adele wasn't Adele... but was Jenny!

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

 

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

Caption 50, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four - BBC TV Movie - Part 6

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

 

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

 

The backs are the sleek, faster-running players.

Caption 13, Rugby 101

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

Caption 55, BBC Comedy Greats Michael McIntyre on Google Earth

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

Caption 14, Look Up A spoken word film for an online generation

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Wishful Thinking

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

 

I wish that I could be like the cool kids.

Caption 8, Echosmith Cool Kids

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

 

I wish I could find a book to live in.

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

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

 

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

Caption 37, Ask Jimmy Carter Interview with Demi Moore

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

 

How I wish, how I wish you were here

Caption 12, David Gilmour Wish You Were Here

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

 

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

Caption 2, Twenty One Pilots Stressed Out

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

 

I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Caption 5, Katie Melua River

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

 

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

Caption 63, Matthew Modine Showreel

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

 

I wish you a Merry Christmas. Goodbye!

Caption 60, Christmas in London People

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

 

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

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Some Summer Words in English

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

 

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

Caption 15, English with Lauren The weather - Part 1

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

 

Protect your face. Sunscreen is really the biggest thing.

Caption 12, Katie Holmes About family, beauty and Olay

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

 

Going camping is another popular summer activity:

 

I mean, camping out with my family.

Caption 12, Jimmy Kimmel’s Quarantine Minilogue Home with Kids, Trump, Tom Brady & St. Patrick’s Day - Part 1

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

 

Going to the beach is also a popular summer activity:

 

With 46 kilometers of beautiful beaches, it's the perfect spot to hit the beach.

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

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

 

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

 

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

Caption 36, Toxic Lake The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee - Part 3

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

 

There is just something about homemade strawberry ice cream.

Caption 1, Nigella's recipes Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

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

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Greeting Friends Again

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

 

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

 

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

Caption 20, Numberphile Connect Four

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

 

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

 

What's up?

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

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How's it going?

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

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What's happening?

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

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

 

Howdy.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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The Queen's Speech

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

 

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

Caption 2, COVID-19 The Queen's coronavirus address in full

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

 

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

Captions 3-4, COVID-19 The Queen's coronavirus address in full

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

 

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

Captions 19-21, COVID-19 The Queen's coronavirus address in full

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

 

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

Captions 26-28, COVID-19 The Queen's coronavirus address in full

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

 

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

Caption 53, COVID-19 The Queen's coronavirus address in full

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

 

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

Caption 54, COVID-19 The Queen's coronavirus address in full

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

 

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

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American English: Cowboy Slang

Yee hah, partners! There are a lot of common slang usages in American English that come from the Wild West cowboy days. I am pretty familiar with them as I grew up in Idaho, one of the most rural states in the USA.

 

Howdy, Yabla friends. Much of America's history is pioneer history.

Captions 1-2, Traveling with Annette Deadwood

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"Howdy" comes from shortening "How do you do," and though it originally came from England, it's still commonly used in the American West instead of "hello."

 

Giddyup! If the supply doesn't meet the demand.

Giddyup! If you are tired of playing a losing hand.

Captions 21-23, Damn Glad Giddyup!

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"Giddyup," also written as "giddyap" and "giddy up", is an expression that comes from a command given to a horse to go faster. It's still used today to mean "let's go" or "hurry up." 

 

This is called a saloon.

Caption 26, Tumbili Boat Tour--Inside

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A saloon is, as used in British English in the video above, a "salon" or "dining room." It's important to distinguish between British and American English, because in cowboy slang, a saloon is a bar! You'll see "saloon" written on the sign of nearly every bar shown in Old West films.

 

Who's that old dude? -Oh, that's JJ, our grandpa.

Caption 12, Karate Kids, USA The Little Dragons - Part 1

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"Dude" is still commonly used used to mean "man," as in the above video. But to call someone a "dude" in cowboy slang is a sort of insulting term for somebody from the city who is not familiar with country life. Luxury hotels that have ranches and include horseback riding among available activities are called "dude ranches."

 

Further Learning
Watch the video on Yabla English about Annette's visit to the Wild West town of Deadwood. Then see if you can find out the meanings of some other cowboy expressions such as "city slicker," "tenderfoot," "pony up," "in cahoots," and "yonder."

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Happy Valentine's Day!

You may know Valentine's Day from where you grew up, or you may know very little about it as it's not celebrated in every country. This holiday started off as a celebration for several Christian saints named Valentine, but most people know it as a day that celebrates romantic love. In predominantly English-speaking countries, Valentine's Day is typically celebrated by giving your loved one a Valentine's card, flowers, or chocolates, the latter preferably in a heart-shaped box. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it takes place on February 14th every year, but is not an official public holiday.

 

Loneliness. The looming spectre of Valentine's Day fast approaching.

Loneliness. The looming spectre of Valentine's Day fast approaching.

Caption 1, How I Met Your Mother Desperation Day

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The theme of this video is how people feel anxious if they don't have a date for Valentine's Day. For people who are single but wish they weren't, Valentine's Day is often a sad reminder to them of that fact.

 

Oh, great. Happy Valentine's Day. -You too.

Oh, great. Happy Valentine's Day. -You too.

Caption 10, Movie Trailers Valentine's Day

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It's polite to wish friends and co-workers a Happy Valentine's day, but of course you have to be sure the context is right, lest it be misinterpreted!

 

Valentine's Day is about love. It's about romance. It's about... Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is about love. It's about romance. It's about... Valentine's Day.

Captions 14-15, Movie Trailers Valentine's Day

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This comment takes the slighty cynical view that Valentine's Day may be more about commerce than love.

 

I

It's my fault that I'm alone on Valentine's Day. My closest relationship is with my Blackberry.

It's my fault that I'm alone on Valentine's Day. My closest relationship is with my Blackberry.

Caption 16, Movie Trailers Valentine's Day

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Maybe less time staring at your digital device and more time focusing on those you love is good advice for most everyone! 

 

Further Learning
Look for more videos relating to this holiday and love on Yabla English to improve your romantic outlook (and your English) on Febuary 14th. Happy Valentine's Day from Yabla!

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Into the New Year!

It's another new year — and this time around, it's a new decade as well! Let's take a look at some examples relating to New Year in Yabla videos:

 

New Year's Day is on January first or on the first of January.

Caption 39, Sigrid explains Numbers - Part 3

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Uh, my New Year's resolution is to just, like, keep going at the gym

Caption 7, Ashley Tisdale Happy New Year!

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

A "New Year's resolution" is a promise you make to yourself about something you want to do in the New Year, usually something expressing a wish to somehow be a better person. 

 

On the twelfth day after Christmas, we have to take down all the decorations and the tree, or else it's bad luck for the New Year.

Captions 47-48, Christmas traditions in the UK

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Depending on people's beliefs, the Twelfth Night fell on either January 5th or January 6th this year, so you'd best have your Christmas tree taken down by now!

 

On New Year's Eve we checked out the rings of Saturn.

Caption 15, Jason Mraz Tour of studio

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Looking through a telescope at the stars is not a traditional pastime on New Year's Eve, but perhaps it should be...

 

The second part of Brick Lane is a party atmosphere, for younger people and the younger generation to celebrate, and they're very famous for their New Year's parties.

Captions 24-26, London Brick Lane

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And it's where people gather for the New Year's celebrations.

Caption 7, London City Sights

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The place in the second caption is London's Trafalgar Square, so a couple of suggestions here if your next New Year's Eve is going to be celebrated in the UK!

 

Further Learning
Look for more videos relating to New Year's day on Yabla English to improve your English in this context!

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Homonyms in English - Part II

In English, there are many words that sound and are spelled the same but have different meanings. These are called homonyms. It may sound confusing, but in this second lesson in the series (the first lesson was back in October), we'll look at some examples to help clarify the differences so that mixing them up can be avoided!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

A good example of a homonym is the different meanings of the noun "bat":

 

And they'd go in. Skill Cole had a baseball bat. You know they don't play baseball

And they'd go in. Skill Cole had a baseball bat. You know they don't play baseball

Caption 28, The Wailers talk about the early days with Bob Marley

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Well, he'd tell you it was because of that time a bat flew through his window,

Well, he'd tell you it was because of that time a bat flew through his window,

Caption 37, Pop Psych Batman Goes To Therapy

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Thus "bat" can mean the large wooden stick used in the game of baseball, as well as the flying mammalian species for whom the superhero Batman is named.

 

I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree.

I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree.

Caption 3, A Charlie Brown Christmas True Meaning

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Turn left and carry on going until you reach Brushfield Street and turn right down it.

Turn left and carry on going until you reach Brushfield Street and turn right down it.

Captions 26-27, Giving directions with Lauren and Matt

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In the above, you can see that "right" can mean either "correct" or the direction that is the opposite of "left."

 

we're putting out special little clips that aren't in the film

we're putting out special little clips that aren't in the film

Caption 28, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World Electric Playground Interview - Part 3

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Fill a glass with water and challenge your friends to float a paper clip on top of the liquid. Every time they place something into the glass,

Fill a glass with water and challenge your friends to float a paper clip on top of the liquid. Every time they place something into the glass,

Captions 9-10, Richard Wiseman 10 bets you will always win

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A "clip" can be a segment of film or video footage, or the small metal object used to hold papers together.

 

Let's start with the letter "r".

Let's start with the letter "r".

Caption 18, British vs American English Pronunciation Lesson - Part 1

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We're going to explore how to write a successful cover letter.

We're going to explore how to write a successful cover letter.

Caption 2, Business English Cover letter - Part 1

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The noun "letter" can thus be referring either to the alphabet or to the piece of paper you write upon to send in the mail.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Further Learning
To find more instances of homonyms like these, have a look at Yabla English and see if you can find more examples in a real-world context.

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The Past Perfect

You may have a good grasp of the present perfect tense, and have also read our previous newsletter on the past continuous tense. This week, however, we are going to talk about the past perfect, also known as the pluperfect.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Similar to the past continuous (was/were + verb in -ing form), the past perfect is very helpful when we are putting events that occurred in the past in chronological order. It is formed with had + past participle, so, for example, to give becomes had given, to go becomes had gone, and to write becomes had written.

 

The King asked her what had given her such a fright.

Caption 42, Fairy Tales: The Frog King

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From the sentence above, we know that whatever scared the princess occurred before the king asked her about it. And unlike the phrase what was giving her such a fright, the phrase what had given her such a fright with the past perfect tells us that the action is finished, in other words she is no longer scared.

 

Now look at the example below, in which a reporter asks Prince Harry a question about Meghan Markle:

 

So, how much did you, Prince Harry, know about Meghan? Had you seen her on TV?

Captions 68-69, BBC News: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

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The construction had + past participle informs us that the reporter is asking about something that happened before Harry and Meghan met. Additionally, while using the simple past (did you see) would refer to watching Meghan on TV on a regular basis, the past perfect (had you seen) asks whether it ever happened in Harry's life, even one time.

Take a look at two more examples and determine which action occurred first. Note the contraction he'd in the second example, which is a combination of he and had rather than he and would

 

After everyone had gone, she was alone in the house.

Caption 29, Fairy Tales: Cinderella

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In his new role, he visited many EU countries he'd previously condemned.

Caption 43, Boris Johnson: The UK's New Controversial Prime Minister

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Further Learning
In addition to keeping your eye out for more examples of the past perfect on Yabla English, you can make a list of verbs in their infinitive form and make sure you know the past participle of each one. Refer to our previous lesson on expressing the conditional in English, which covers the use of the past perfect in the creation of Conditional III.   

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Homonyms in English - Part I

In English, there are many words that sound and are spelled the same, but they have different meanings. These are called homonyms. It may sound confusing, but in this first lesson in the series, we'll look at some examples to help clarify the differences so that mixing them up can be avoided!

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A good example of a homonym is the noun "rose" (the flower) and the verb "rose" (the past tense of "to rise"). Take a look at the two examples of "rose" and their different meanings:

 

A sprinkling of rose petals.
Caption 32, Victoria Sponge: The Royal Connection

 

The verb "to rise" has many meanings, such as "to get out of bed," or to assume a standing position" after lying or sitting down. It can even mean "to return from the dead" as shown in this example:

 

He was crucified on Good Friday, and after that, he rose again.
Caption 20-21, Holidays and Seasons with Sigrid: Easter

 

The noun "bank" can mean either a financial institution or "a raised portion of seabed or sloping ground along the edge of a stream, river, or lake." 

 

Two people have a bank account together: a joint account.
Caption 25, The Alphabet: the Letter J

 

My favorite place is probably on the south bank of the Thames River here in London.
Caption 19, Chris, I.T. Professional: Information Technology

 

The word "bow" has a multitude of very different meanings, both as a noun and a verb: 

 

Tie a ribbon in a bow. When you meet the queen, you bow.
Captions 48-49, English: with Annette O'Neil

 

The noun "bow," in this case the bow on a wrapped birthday gift for example and the verb "bow," as in bending from the waist in honor of somebody, are pronounced differently. Watch the video above to hear the pronunciations.

 

I got two orcas off my port bow.
Caption 38, National Geographic WILD: Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark

 

In this case, "bow" is a nautical term meaning the front of a boat or ship.

 

Bow hairs are being shredded like crazy!
Caption 45, Sting: Symphonicity EPK
 

 

Here the noun "bow" referred to is the bow of a violin.

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Further Learning
To find more instances of homonyms like these, have a look at Yabla English and see if you can find more examples. Perhaps you know some already that confuse you again and again — the Yabla videos can help you put these words in an everyday context! 

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Colloquial Contractions in American English, Part III

This lesson is Part III of a series. Let's continue discussing some of the ways that words are shortened in casual speech in American English that are not used in formal writing. "Colloquial" means "casual" as opposed to "formal," and a "contraction" is just the shortening of words.

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Hey, my little old friend, whatcha gonna do?    
Caption 12, Royalchord: Good Times

 

We discussed in a previous lesson that "gonna" is a contraction of "going to," thus "whatcha gonna do" is the colloquial equivalent of "what are you going to do."

 

'Cause you feel like home
'Cause I've been by myself all night long
'Cause nobody told me that you'd be here
Captions 5-19, Adele:When We Were Young

 

Normally the word "cause" is either a verb or noun, meaning the reason that something happens ("What is causing the problem? What is the cause of the problem?"). But in this case with the apostrophe in front of it, it is just a contraction of the preposition "because."

 

If you had a life we'd ask you to sorta give that life up.
Caption 38, World's Toughest Job: Official Video

 

Like many contractions, you can probably easily guess from the sound that "sorta" is a contraction of "sort of."

 

Lotsa bands playing there, like pretty much every night of the week.    
Caption 25, Turn Here Productions: Belltown, WA

 

The contraction "lotsa" is short for the informal "lots of" or "a lot of," meaning the same as the more proper "many," but without even saving any syllables!

 

C'mon, man. Fallen off over and over and over again.
Caption 30, Chris Sharma, World's best rock climber 

 

You may not even notice when somebody says "come on" quickly in speech, but it's good to know how the contraction is written as well!

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Further Learning
Watch this video on Yabla English to learn about more contractions, and search the videos on Yabla English for more examples of these colloquial contractions used in a real world context.

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Colloquial Contractions in American English, Part II

This lesson is Part II of a series. "Colloquial" means "casual" as opposed to "formal," and a "contraction" is just the shortening of words. Let's continue discussing some of the ways that words are shortened in casual speech in American English in ways that are not used in formal writing.

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So, lemme just show you.

Caption 53, Get the Dish - DIY Hatching Chick Deviled Eggs For Easter

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Lemme recharge it, OK?

Caption 17, Hemispheres - The Amazing Cell Phone - Part 1

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"Lemme" is an informal contraction of "let me."

 

dunno, it's kind of like they don't have any…

Caption 55, Ed Sheeran - Interview with Ellen DeGeneres

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Dunno" is easy. It combines the words "don't" and "know," and it is a response word used to express confusion.

Captions 27-29, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions - Part 2

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The next contraction is a bit more difficult: 

 

gotcha, I gotcha, OK.

Caption 21, Plain White T's - Visit The VEVO Office

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Similarly, the colloquial contraction "gotcha" isn't a grammatical superstar. It combines the words "got" and "you," and is used to express casual assent. Where's the button just to make one espresso? Gotcha.

Captions 20-25, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions - Part 2

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"Gotcha" is a colloquial contraction of "to get" something, in the sense of "to understand" something. If you say "I gotcha," it's a colloquial way of saying "I get it" or "I understand you." 

 

Nine times outta ten there's no manual on these things.

Caption 12, Motorcycle Masters - Birmingham Alabama - Part 1

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Get me security, get him outta here!

Caption 45, People's Choice - Kaley Cuoco Opening

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"Outta" is an informal contraction for "out of." It's also common to hear the expression "I'm outta here!" for "I am leaving," which is what I'll leave you with for this lesson!

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Further Learning
Watch this video on Yabla English to learn about more contractions, and search the videos on Yabla English for more examples of these colloquial contractions used in a real world context.

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Colloquial Contractions in American English, Part I

The topic above looks a bit complicated, but it's actually quite easy. "Colloquial" means "casual" as opposed to "formal," and a "contraction" is just the shortening of words. So let's talk about some of the ways that words are shortened in casual speech in American English. 

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In American English, the colloquial contractions you'll hear most often are: "kinda" [kind of], "wanna" [want to], and "gonna" [going to].

Captions 8-9, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions - Part 1

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These words are just casually spoken contractions of "kind of," "want to," and "going to."

 

I just kinda stay away from all that. It's not part of my life.

Caption 77, Ask Jimmy Carter - Interview with Cameron Diaz

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You do wanna keep your resume to one page.

Caption 4, Job Hunting - 4 Resume Do's & Don'ts

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You also do wanna highlight the results, the experiences,

Caption 16, Job Hunting - 4 Resume Do's & Don'ts

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What are you gonna [going to] do with it when you grow up?

Caption 8, A Charlie Brown Christmas - Snowflakes

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You definitely do not want to use these kinds of informal words in formal writing, for instance when applying for a job! 

 

There's another similar contraction that you will commonly hear among native speakers of American English: 

 

I'll talk to ya later, Mick. I gotta go.

Caption 32, A Mickey Mouse Cartoon - Goofy's Grandma

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I mean, you show up and your hair's gotta be in place and the lipstick has to be right.

Caption 43, Nicole Kidman - Batman Forever

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The conjunction "gotta" derives from "got to" or "have got to," in the sense of "have to" or "must". A more formal version of the sentences above would be "I have to go" or "I must go," and "Your hair has to be in place" or "Your hair must be in place."

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Further Learning
Watch this video on Yabla English to learn about more contractions, and search the videos on Yabla English for more real world examples of these colloquial contractions used in a real world context.

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The phrase "used to"

The phrase "used to" is a great one to know in English, as it has three different functions. 

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1. First of all, "used to" is the participle of the verb "to use" combined with the preposition "to." Note that in this case the "s" in "use" is pronounced more or less like a "z." The sentences below are about something being utilized for a particular purpose:

 

Java isn't the same thing as JavaScript, which is a simple technology used to create web pages.

Captions 6-7, Business English - About Java

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"Kinda," for example, combines "kind" and "of," but the word "kinda" is most often used as a casual synonym for "rather," and is used to modify an adjective or an adverb.

Captions 16-18, English with Annette O'Neil - Colloquial Contractions - Part 1

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2. The phrase “used to” can mean “accustomed to.” In this case, "used" is pronounced with a soft "s" rather than a "z" sound. To "get used to" something is to gain experience or become comfortable with it to the extent that you expect it: 

 

Now I know that you're used to seeing me in warmer climates,

Caption 1, British Gas - top tips on preparing your home for cold weather

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I remember Madonna saying the colored contacts she wore for “Evita” were pretty uncomfortable and hard to get used to, for example.

Captions 45-46, Bohemian Rhapsody - Six facts about the true story - Part 2

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3. When we talk about habitual actions in the past in English, i.e. something you did on a regular basis, we often use the construction “used to” + infinitive. Here, the "s" in "used" is also pronounced with an "s" sound.

 

it's a lot more interesting and enticing than it used to be.

Caption 35, Alaska Revealed - Tidal bores, icebergs and avalanches - Part 2

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and I used to go there every Saturday and go to the market,

Caption 32, Creative Space - An Artist's Studio - Part 2

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Further Learning
You can discover many instances of "used to" on Yabla English and get used to using this phrase yourself! As you can see, it is used to discuss not only practical uses, but also life experiences in the past and present. When you watch the videos, make sure you pay special attention to the difference in the pronunciation of the "s."

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Spanish Words in English, Part II

As we saw in Part I of this series, many words of Spanish origin have been absorbed into the English language. You will find many English words of Spanish origin listed in American English dictionaries that you won't necessarily find in British English dictionaries, or in the latter they will be identified as Spanish words rather than English words with a Spanish origin.

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Many words originating from Spanish are words that we associate with cowboys or the Southwest United States, which were originally territories of Spain.

 

I wore a sombrero once.

Caption 63, How 2 Travelers - Rethink What You Wear On the Plane!

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In English, a sombrero refers to a very wide-brimmed hat often seen in Mexico, but in Spanish, a sombrero is any kind of hat with a brim.

 

Ah, yeah, what a bonanza, a bonanza!

Caption 12, Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump

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A bonanza in English is a windfall or sudden good luck, which it can also mean in Spanish, although in Spanish it also means "fair weather."

 

California's central coast is a gorgeous stretch [weekend getaway] dotted with Spanish architecture, secret gardens, and chaparral-covered mountains.

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

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A chaparral is a dense growth of shrubs or small trees, stemming from the Spanish word chapparo, which is a kind of evergreen oak.

 

The trip through the labyrinth of flooded canyons is impressive.

Caption 11, The Last Paradises - America's National Parks - Part 8

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A canyon is a steep valley, often with a stream or river at the bottom. This is derived from the Spanish cañon, which has the same meaning.

 

185 of their friends are holed up in a crumbling adobe church down on the Rio Bravo.

Captions 25-27, John Wayne - The Alamo

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The word "adobe," the clay and straw bricks from which buildings are constructed in many drier climates, came to English via Spanish, but the word itself hearkens back to ancient Arabic, Coptic, and Egyptian!

 

[They] look like... kinda like chaps.

Caption 21, Chicago Bulls - Kid Picasso - Part 1

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Not to be confused with the informal British English "chap" (a "fellow"), chaps are the wide leather leggings worn by cowboys. This stems from the Mexican Spanish word of the same meaning, chaparreras.

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Further Learning
See if you can find the English meaning for other words with Spanish origins which are in common usage in the Southwest United States: arroyo, bronco, buckaroo, coyote, desperado, hacienda, machete, mesa, mustang, poncho, pueblo, ranchrodeo, serape, stampede, vamoose, vaquero, and vigilante. Then look at some of the video examples above English Yabla and see how they are used in specific context.

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