Monthly Archives: November 2009

33. Money Money Money – 12 Phrasal Verbs & more…

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Vocabulary and listening on the subject of money and the economy. Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for learners of English. Use this podcast to get exposure to natural British English. Listen to it wherever and whenever you want to. Luke is a well experienced and qualified English teacher, with plenty of other interests. Improve your English with this podcast, and have fun!

Hello everyone, this podcast is all about MONEY – cash, pounds, dosh, currency, capital, loot, notes, coins, credit, loose change, deniro – call it what you like – we all love to get it and then spend it on STUFF!

In this podcast you’ll hear me talk about money and the economic crisis. I use 12 phrasal verbs. Can you find them? I also discuss a few idioms, sayings and quotations about money.

12 Phrasal Verbs

Here is the transcript of the part of the podcast in which I use 12 phrasal verbs connected to money:

These days, many of us are living in tough times. The economic crisis is making life difficult for many people in this country. We’re all having to economise and cut back on our spending. Nowardays there is less credit available in the money markets and this is having a knock-on effect in our lives.

Unemployment is going up and house prices have gone down over the last few years. The Bank of England used tax payers’ money to bail out many of the banks which were facing insolvency due to their poor investments in so-called ‘toxic assets’ (many of them originating in the American sub-prime real estate markets). The government lowered interest rates to help people pay off their bank loans and mortgages. VAT was lowered to 15% in order to encourage us to splash out in shops up and down the country, and inject more money into the economy.

Some people are not being affected so seriously; particularly the wise individuals who have saved up their money in secure savings accounts. When they need to, they can just dip into their savings in order to pay for an unexpected household repair or a much needed holiday. But for many of us, we just have to get by every month on our monthly salaries. It’s not easy though, particularly in London when everything is so expensive. We try to pay off our loans and mortgages while trying to avoid taking too much cash out of the many cash machines which are available to us all over the city.

The energy companies in particular seem to be ripping everyone off with the price of oil and electricity. It’s almost as though they’re using global warming as an excuse for charging us extortionate amounts for our energy, even though wholesale market prices have dropped in recent months. There’s something rotten going on somewhere.

Big companies and banks seem to get protection from the state, while the average tax payer has to pick up the pieces by working harder, cutting back on our spending, moving into more modest accommodation, or accepting badly paid work because we have no choice. Perhaps it has to be that way – the big companies have to be protected in order to support the economy. It just seems a little unfair that’s all, and I’m sure there are some CEOs and directors who are still doing very well while the rest of us struggle to get by.

Still, it’s not all bad. The lower interest rates on bank loans and mortgages mean we don’t have to pay back so much money each month, and there is now so much freely available entertainment on the internet that it’s quite easy to have a good time without reaching too deep into our pockets.

So, take advantage of free internet content like this. But, if you’re doing okay for money at the moment, and you’re feeling generous – you could always donate some money to me via PayPal!

Did you find the phrasal verbs? Here they are:

1. to cut back on spending – this means to spend less than before. To try and reduce your spending. E.g. “I’m going to have to cut back on my spending in order to save up some money”
2. to go up – this means to increase
3. to go down – this means to decrease
4. to bail someone out – this means to save someone by giving them money. It’s usually used when the government gives money to a company or bank in order to save them from insolvency. E.g. “The government bailed out the banks by giving them £5billion of tax payers’ money”
5. to splash out – this means to spend quite a lot of money in a care-free way when you go shopping. E.g. “I was feeling a bit depressed, so I went to the shopping centre and just splashed out on some new clothes”
6. to save up – this means to save money. E.g. “I’m saving up for a holiday in Italy next year”
7. to dip into savings – this means to go into your savings account, and take a bit of money out. E.g. “I can’t afford to pay my electricity and telephone bills this month. I’m going to have to dip into my savings”
8. to get by – this means to survive, usually on a small amount of money. E.g. “Students in London find it difficult to get by on money they earn from part-time work”
9. to pay something off – this means to completely pay a loan or debt. E.g. “YEAH!!! I’ve finally paid off my student loan!”
10. to take some cash out – this means to withdraw money from a bank or cash machine
11. to rip someone off – to charge too much money for something. To give a bad price. E.g. “You always get completely ripped off in Harrods. You can by the same stuff in other shops for much less money. The prices are just high because it’s Harrods.”
12. to pay something back – to give money back. When you have borrowed money, you have to pay it back each month.

Here are the idioms, sayings and quotes I talk about in the podcast too:

“They say the best things in life are free” – This just means that the most important things are free; like friendship, love, trust, etc.

“Money makes the world go round” – This means that financial transactions, trade & business are what makes everything happen in the world.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” – This means that you have to work for money. You can’t get it without working.

“Money is the root of all evil” – This means that most of the bad things that people do are the result of their greed for money.

“Money money money: it’s a rich man’s world” – This is a quote from a song by the Swedish pop group, Abba.

“Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” – This is a quote from a song by Notorious BIG featuring Puff Daddy and Mace.

32. Doctor Who (with Lee Arnott)

This episode is all about Doctor Who. There are some announcements at the beginning of the episode, then an interview with an expert on Dr Who.

The interview begins at approximately 10.00 minutes into the episode.

Right-click here to download this episode.

Transcript available below. Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for people who are learning English as a foreign language. Luke is a well qualified teacher of English with over 12 years’ experience in Japan, the UK and France. He speaks British English, and teaches at a language school in London, and now at a university in Paris. You can use this podcast to get exposure to native speakers using natural English. Learn phrasal verbs, idioms, useful expressions, linkers, etc. Find Luke on Facebook (search for Luke’s English Podcast) or Twitter (@EnglishPodcast). Cheers!

Some good advice for iPhone users (courtesy of a helpful listener from Russia, called Nikita Kolganov): Copy and paste the tapescript from a podcast into the ‘lyrics’ section of each podcast on your iPhone. To do this, first copy the text from this webpage. Then go into iTunes and ‘right click’ the podcast episode there. Then choose ‘Get Info’, then select ‘Lyrics’. You can add the transcript into the text box there, and then read while you listen to the podcast. Thanks Nick!

Here’s the tapescript for the interview with Lee, about Dr Who:

Luke: Right, if you imagine somebody who’s never heard of Dr Who before, right, how can you explain who he really is. So, so, if, what are the most important things that you should know about Dr Who if you’ve never heard of him before, basically.

Lee: Well, Dr Who is, err, a TV show that it’s main character, a character called The Doctor, who is in fact an alien, has a machine that can travel through time and space, which means that he is able to go anywhere in any planet, any point in the future, the past, whenever.

Luke: Erm, what’s the name of that machine?

Lee: It’s called The Tardis.

Luke : And can you just describe The Tardis? That’s like his spaceship, yeah? Can you describe The Tardis for us? Because in Britain here, everybody knows The Tardis, like, almost everybody knows it. It’s very familiar to us. It’s almost like an icon of British culture. But what is The Tardis? What does it look like?

Lee: Well, The Tardis looks like a 1960s police box, and in the days before mobile telephones and actually people having telephones in their houses, these blue police boxes were like an old phone box, and they also had a double function in that if a criminal caught a policeman [if a policeman caught a criminal] they would be locked up inside this police box, and they also had a phone, so they were a very common object in 1960s Britain, early 1960s Britain when Dr Who started.

Luke: So, it looks a bit like a red telephone box, but it’s blue, and it’s something the police use to make telephone calls. And they could use it to keep criminals in. They could lock a criminal in there if they needed to.

Lee: Exactly. It was a very everyday object which everybody would have known.

Luke: Ok, so everybody knows about what a police box is so…

Lee: But of course it’s not really just a police box because it’s actually bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Luke: Ok, so Dr Who’s spaceship is in the shape of a police box. It’s called The Tardis but it’s actually bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Ok, right, fine. Um, actually, people these days often use the word Tardis to mean something that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside. Can you give me an example of how we might use the word Tardis to mean something else?

Lee: Well actually there’s quite a famous example when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, in one of the last interviews he did before he left the post, I think it was with The Guardian, the interviewer asked him what was 10 Downing Street like…

Luke: That’s the Prime Minister’s house.

Lee: And he said, oh it’s like The Tardis, and he didn’t need to say anything else but everybody would know that he means it looks smaller on the outside but it’s much bigger on the inside.

Luke: Right, ok. I’ve heard people say that, like, a woman’s handbag is like The Tardis, sometimes, because it looks like a small handbag, but you can actually keep lots and lots of things inside it…

Lee: And such is the power of the programme that even if you’ve never seen Dr Who in this country, you will know if somebody says “It’s like a Tardis”, you will know that it’s bigger on the inside than the outside.

Luke: Right, ok, so that’s what Tardis means to everybody now. OK, what are the other important things that we need to know about Dr Who?

Lee: Erm, well, we need to know the fact that the programme started in 1963, and that means that you get a very good representation of how British society evolved in a kind of televisual way. A record of the times, our changing attitudes to race, to women’s lib, to even things like joining of the common market in the early 70s…

Luke: What do you mean by women’s lib?

Lee: Well The Doctor, traditionally is always accompanied by a female companion, and this was specifically because the programme’s original remit was to entertain a family audience on Saturday afternoon.

Luke: It’s a family show

Lee: Yeah, it’s very much a family show. One that was designed to catch the fathers who’d been watching an afternoon of sport on a saturday, with family who watched, like a pop music programme… it was designed to keep everybody watching, and of course it was hugely successful when it started so it achieved its aim.

Luke: Ok. So, ok, so basically err, he always has a female companion. I think that Dr Who has also had, like, a robot companion as well, right?

Lee: He has, he has, and err, he had a robot companion in the late 70s but he actually… people have thought that it was because Star Wars came out, and C3PO and R2-D2 but actually Dr Who was a year before Star Wars, so…

Luke: Really? So before… everybody knows about Star Wars, they know about R2-D2 and C3P0, but Dr Who before Star Wars had K9. K9 was like a robot dog! (laughs)

Lee: Of course the most important thing to remember is that when the show first started in 1963, the guy who was playing The Doctor was a very old guy, and after 3 years playing the role, it became very obvious that he was ill and he couldn’t do it, and they were like “what are we going to do?”. So, they devised… because we didn’t know who this character was, or where he came from, in 1966 they changed the actor, but made it a part of his personality, and that allows… has allowed the programme to continue to this day nearly 50 years later.

Luke: OK, so this is another important thing about Dr Who, is that you have to know that… How many actors have played him now, actually?

Lee: Erm, well we’re now on number 10 and number 11 starts filming next month.

Luke: OK, erm, the interesting thing about Dr Who is that when Dr Who dies, he doesn’t die. He doesn’t die, instead he changes into a new form, so he becomes a new person, but it’s still Dr Who but he becomes a new person, and it’s like a really important event when Dr Who. It’s… to be honest it’s a way for them to change the actor, right? But in the show, Dr Who… one Dr Who dies and he changes into a new Dr Who, and it’s always like a really big event for the show, right? Erm, so it’s really just a way for them to continue the show. It’s a bit like James Bond in that sense.

Lee: Hmm, but I think it’s more believable than James Bond because its not supposed to be exactly the same character. So each Doctor, well each actor has been allowed to have his own, his own way of playing the part.

Luke: So, his own personality. So every time it’s like a new, different kind of Doctor with a different personality.

Lee: Even though it’s the same, we know it’s the same character behind it, but it’s like a new person to get used to and that keeps the show fresh and it’s kept it going all this time.

Luke: OK, so there have been 10 Doctors, and the 11th Doctor is coming very soon. Who do you think is the nation’s favourite Dr Who so far?

Lee: Well, for many years, everybody would have said immediately, Tom Baker, an actor who played the part from 1974 to 1981.

Luke: Tom Baker actually, err, the Tom Baker Dr Who is probably the most famous one until the most recent one. And he’s famous for having a long scarf, and he was in The Simpsons. He was in the American comedy show The Simpsons.

Lee: He was also in Family Guy …

Luke: He’s in Family Guy as well

Lee: Until Dr Who, because Dr Who was off the air, it stopped being made in 1989 until 2005 when it came back. And until 2005, everybody would have said Tom Baker was the Doctor, but as you’ve said in 2006 the current Doctor David Tenant has taken the programme to new heights of success that it never ever had in it’s original format.

Luke: So Dr Who, even before, erm, the latest Doctor, Dr Who was really really big and really successful, but it’s become even more successful with this new Doctor played by David Tenant, who’s like a great actor, Shakespearian actor

Lee; Yeah, he’s just done Hamlet, and they’re going to be filming Hamlet for television

Luke: It’s a great thing. Because David Tenant is so popular as Dr Who, now he’s playing Hamlet, it’s going to be shown on TV, millions of people in the UK are going to watch Hamlet, which is written by Shakespeare, so it’s a really good way of

Lee: And that kind of fits in with the original, the kind of format of Dr Who in that, because he’s able to go back in the past and meet people like Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, it inspires people to go out and learn more about… you know… the original brief of the show was that it had to go to the future and then the past. So not only would it educate the viewers in a very 1960s BBC way, but it would also entertain, and it would inspire people to go and learn about things

Luke: That’s what the BBC was all about. It was to educate, to entertain and to inform, right? Ok, actually I think I need to clarify just a little bit more about Dr Who just to make sure everybody understands who he is. Dr Who is a Timelord, and that means he’s a kind of alien. He’s not a human, he’s from another planet, but he came to Earth because he, he loves humans, right?

Lee: Yeah, but he doesn’t live on earth, he’s always… just Earth happens to be convenient because that’s where they can film on the cheap

Luke: So, he doesn’t live on earth, but he comes to earth quite a lot

Lee: but he can go anywhere, in time or space. But we have to remember that The Doctor, ok he’s the main character, but what really really made the programme successful and which we cannot not talk about are The Daleks.

Luke: Right, ok, so we’ve talked about, err, Dr Who’s spaceship, his companions, err K9, but another very important thing is to know the enemies that Dr Who has, and you just mentioned The Daleks, right? So who are Dr Who’s enemies? There’s probably, like, three maybe four most popular, most famous enemies

Lee: Well, The Daleks are, if you, again it’s like the word Tardis, if you say to somebody who’s never seen Dr Who in their life, they’ll know, if you say Dalek, they will know what you mean and may even do an impression of one by talking like this

Luke: Exterminate! Exterminate!

Lee: Exactly! Exterminate. So, I mean, Dr Who’s first story in 1963 was a bit of a dull… and it was set in caveman times. It’s very much introducing the characters. It was four weeks later, the introduction of these things called The Daleks, which just literally took the public imagination by storm. You can’t work out why. If you see them they look like a pepper-pot walking around. Maybe it’s the voice. There’s been lots of theories of why people just, why they’re so important to people, but whether they’re reseblent [reminiscent] of Nazis, because you remember the war had finished just 20 years before, you know. There’s just something about a Dalek, and again it’s just a proper cultural icon. So much so that in 1996 there was a survey to find out icons of British culture the public wanted put on stamps, and the first class stamp was The Dalek.

Luke: So there was a survey, and the British public voted The Dalek as the number 1 icon to put on a stamp! That’s even before the Queen, so they didn’t want the Queen’s head, they wanted a Dalek on there. So, just again to clarify a Dalek is like a robot…

Lee: It’s a robot but it’s got a creature inside it controlling it that hates anything … (laughter) …if you see them, it’s like “What is it?”, but there’s something about them. It’s a creature inside that controls them, and this creature wants to kill anything that is not like yourself [itself]. Now, I have to stress, the programme, although it sounds violent again is for a family audience, so y’know, the kids were watching, with their parents and although they were scary, it was a safe kind of fear because you could hide in Mum and Dad’s arms, you know, or hide behind the sofa, which is very much again the tradition of the…

Luke: These are other important things about Dr Who, is that it’s a family show, so so, erm, most people in the UK grew up as children watching Dr Who on a Saturday night. I watched it with my family…

Lee: I watched it with my Mum, my Mum watched it with her Mum, you know…

Luke: Everybody knows it, it’s like something really important about British culture. Erm, one of the things that everybody says about Dr Who is that because it’s quite scary, erm, you end up watching it from behind the sofa. So you can’t just sit in front of the TV and watch it. You have to hide behind the sofa, and sort of like, y’know, look over the top of the sofa to watch it because it’s so scary.

Lee: Now, you see, you’re lucky because when I was a child, our sofa was pushed against the wall. So I had to hide behind a cushion.

Luke: So you couldn’t hide behind the sofa.

Lee: Which is very very scary…

Luke: But that’s another expression, it’s another bit of erm, vocabulary that everybody knows now ‘to hide behind the sofa’, because of Dr Who. OK, so we’ve talked about The Daleks… now another thing about Dr Who is that it’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

Lee: Mmmm, it’s got a very British dry sense of humour, and partly because the programme has never had much money spent on it, so… rather than have lots of special effects you have to have a very good script that’s sharp, that’s funny. The Doctor is a character who never carries a weapon. He uses words, he uses his brains, he uses his intellect to get out of situations, so… and it has an, it it has a kind of humour that’s very British, but also, as you say very funny, you know, so…

Luke: I…

Lee: It doesn’t take itself too seriously

Luke: It’s not a serious show. It’s very much a kind of camp, funny kind of show. And also, one of the…

Lee: …and scary and exciting

Luke: That’s right, it manages to mix, like, comedy and erm, like, satire and fashion or something, and serious science fiction as well. It’s just great. Erm, what was I going to say? Oh yeah, err, one of the funny things about Dr Who is, like, the special effects.

Lee: Mmm, they were. In the old series, which as I said started in 1963, ended in 1989… famously, Dr Who never had any money, which means that there was no money for special effects, but you have to remember, the news series is different. It’s got amazing spe… award winning special effects. But you have to remember that the BBC as an institution in the 1960s and the 1970s was at the cutting edge, was at the front of this new technology, and all the stuff you see with green screen now is because of the stuff the BBC were doing with Dr Who in 1969 when colour television had just been invented, and you see that early experiments in yellow screen it was then, but you know this is why we have these special effects now.

Luke: So Dr Who innovated a lot of special effects.

Lee: Exactly. People like Ridley Scott was one of the designers…

Luke: Ridley Scott is now a famous director who’s directed films like Gladiator, but, and Ridley Scott worked on Doctor Who in the 60s. But I remember when I was younger when I watched Doctor Who on TV in the 80s, the special effects were quite funny because usually the monster was, a kind of man in a suit. It was basically a man in a suit. You know? In a bit… in a similar way to, in Japan, the way Godzilla was so popular. Godzilla when you watch the original movie, it’s obviously a man in a rubber suit.

Lee: Well I think the thing about 80s Doctor Who is, it’s very 80s. You know, 70s Doctor Who, 60s Doctor Who is, and to a certain extent it’s all very scary but there’s something about 80s Doctor Who which just looks over lit, the colours are really garish, and it’s just very 80s. Very much a product of its time. And maybe in a way that 60s and 70s Doctor Who was very much ahead of its time.

Luke: Ok, so Now though, Dr Who is very popular, more popular than it was before.

Lee: More popular than it’s ever been before. It’s the top rated drama on the BBC, it gets the highest ratings for a drama. The audience appreciation figures, which are a rating of how much the audience actually enjoys it are always in the lower 90% which for a drama which is very popular which is unheard of, umm. It’s always in the press because remember the newspapers have a 50 year history to draw back on and public interest in Dr Who at the moment has never ever been higher and now with David Tenant, the most, arguably the most popular Doctor ever, about to change at Christmas and New Year, then the future once again looks…

Luke: Great. So basically, umm, the important thing about Dr Who, if you’re a learner of English right, is it important to know about Dr Who? Why is it important for learners of English to know about something like Dr Who?

Lee: I wouldn’t say it was important but I would say it offers a very good insight into British culture, the British view of things, the British sense of humour, and also it’s just a great way to pass 50 minutes just lapping up British culture.

Luke: It’s just a great show, it’s very fun, very entertaining.

Lee: It’s very easy to watch. You don’t have to know everything about it. Each week there’s somewhere new, you know, so

Luke: It’s one of those things I guess, that … if a learner of English listens to two English people, often they don’t understand it because often the English people will talk about things that the learner of English doesn’t understand, and one of those things might be Dr Who. It’s kind of something that everybody knows about, something that people talk about quite a lot. For example, like, mentioning the Tardis or The Daleks

Lee: I think there was a great interview with, erm, when the Queen’s golden jubilee about 5 years ago, 6 years ??. there’s an interview with Prince Andrew and he said he had really happy memories of watching Dr Who with his Mum and Dad in the early 70s.

Luke: So even the royal family watch Dr Who

Lee: David Beckham gets the box sets for Christmas, delivered to his house. Everybody watches it.

Luke: OK, so there you go. Everybody is a fan of Dr Who. Is it possible to watch Dr Who in other countries?

Lee: Yes, it’s the BBC’s biggest export in terms of where it’s sold to, and it’s currently available in 42 different countries, you know. It has a regular audience of 165,000,000 viewers, so… everywhere from Saudi Arabia… it’s the number 1 export show in South Korea, so…

Luke: Really? So, a lot of South Korean people…

Lee: It even beats CSI

Luke: Even more popular than CSI? …in South Korea. So if you’re from South Korea and you’re listening to this, then send me a message if you’ve seen Dr Who, tell me what you think of it. Now, I think that they did show Dr Who in Japan, but I heard that nobody understood it at all. They didn’t get it, and erm, I think…

Lee: But they did, to be fair, they did show this back in the 1980s when they showed the last 3 years of the show and, quite frankly, unless you were a fan of Dr Who it probably would have been the weirdest thing that definitely may even have got a cult audience, but not a…

Luke: I think the late 80s Dr Who was probably the worst Dr Who. It’s terrible, right?

Lee: That’s a bone of argument I have to say

Luke: For me, after Peter Davidson, it wasn’t very interesting. I didn’t like it myself. I stopped watching it at that point.

Lee: Anyway, shall we end on a positive note?

Luke: Yeah. Umm, ahh, just a thing about in Japan. They even changed the name of Dr Who, they put it into katakana, that’s Japanese characters. And in Japan everybody knows Dr Who as Do-ku-ta-fhooo. Dokuta-fhuuu, which is kind of funny. Ok, so, right, are you looking forward to the new Doctor?

Lee: Yes, again, you know, the, having been a fan of Dr Who since I was 5 years old, errm… I’m still very young… ermm, I errr,… I love it when he changes. It’s so exciting, you never know what’s going to happen

Luke: Do you think this new guy is going to be a good Doctor?

Lee: I’m sure… because, they guy who’s now in charge of the show is one of the best writers of the last couple of years, so I’m sure it’s in very safe hands, and you know, I think it’s going to be great.

Luke: OK, great, so, erm… If you’re interested in Dr Who you can buy the box set, the DVDs on Amazon. You could probably watch some Dr Who clips on YouTube

Lee: Yeah, for real…

Luke: Erm, if you’re interested, you can watch it. But otherwise, just umm, errr I don’t know what I’m going to say now! I hope you enjoyed that conversation anyway. Thank you very much Lee.

Lee: Bye, thank you

Luke: Oh oh, one more thing. Why do you know so much about Dr Who?
Lee: As I said, because I’ve loved it since I was 5 years old, and erm, for me it’s just, I don’t know, I have a really strong emotional attachment to Dr Who, you know, he was always there… because he was such a constant character in my childhood and even in my adulthood.
Luke: You’re also an expert, aren’t you, on Dr Who
Lee: Yeah, but I have my limits… My house is not full of toy daleks of every description
Luke: Just a few… because you’re not a total geek or anything
Lee: No, I’m not. I haven’t got Dalek pajamas or… which are available!
Luke: If you’re wondering what to buy Lee for his birthday or Christmas
Lee: Dalek underpants or pajamas please
Luke: Dalek underpants or pajamas. I think they’re available on the internet
Lee: Marks and Spencer!
Luke: or Marks and Spencer, do they do them? Right, well I think on that note, err, I’ll end the conversation. Thanks very much Lee.
Lee: Thank you very much
Luke: OK

An interview with Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor:

they would be locked up inside this police box, and they also had a phone, so they were a very common object in 1960s Britain, early 1960s Britain when Dr Who started.

Extra information clauses

Describing a film or book can be a little difficult. It’s quite hard to keep people interested. That’s why when we introduce a character we sometimes say something interesting or exciting about them

a character called The Doctor, who is in fact an alien

..then there’s Princess Leia who is fact Luke’s sister

In 1988 she met this man called Greenlee, who was in fact the top CIA agent in Bolivia at the time.

In the examples above ‘who’ refers to the noun before it (The Doctor/Princess Leia/ this man called Greenlee). In the example below ‘which means that’ doen’t only refer to the noun before, it refers to the whole clause before:

It’s a machine that can travel through time and space, which means that he is able to go anywhere in any planet, any point in the future, the past, whenever

The most common verb after ‘which’ in extra information clauses is ‘means’ .It often says something about the result of an event

I slept through my alarm clock which meant that I had to run like crazy for the train

Gilardino scored a goal very late in the match which meant that Italy qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

In that..

When Lee was describing police boxes in England he said:

they had a double function in that if a policeman caught a criminal they would be locked up inside this police box

we use ‘in that’ when we think we could be more precise about something we’ve just said :  ‘in that’+example

He was quite reserved in many ways but he was also very sociable in that he liked entertaining,

It’s already old news (in that it was announced 6 hours ago…) but President Obama has been awarded the Nobel peace prize

The most common adjectives that come just before ‘in that’ are:

unique / unlucky / unusual/ fortunate

UNICEF is unique in that they are in countries, before, during and after emergency situations and humanitarian crises

Gordon Brown was unlucky, in that he became PM when we were on the edge of a disaster

She was fortunate, in that she had so much money she didn’t need to work


‘Like’ is very common when we describe:

And can you just describe The TARDIS? That’s like his spaceship, yeah?

Luke is trying to explain what the TARDIS is…. But he can’t find exactly the right words. This is very common in conversation and when we describe things because it’s difficult to be precise all the time

As the examples below show, sometimes we are imprecise because we want to exaggerate. ‘Like’ is very common to introduce an exaggeration:

It’s [almost] like….. an icon of British culture

Because in Britain here, everybody knows The TARDIS, like, almost everybody knows it

Some other examples:

..and it was so good, it was like, one the best meals I ever had.

..and for a few months he was like, crazy about me, he was calling me and sending me flowers

Notice how we pause just after ‘like’ when we use it in this way

Other uses of  ‘like’

We use ‘like’ in questions to ask for a description:

But what is The TARDIS? What does it look like?

‘Like’ also means similar to:

These blue police boxes were like an old phone box

When ‘like’ means ‘similar to’ we use adverbs to make the comparison softer or stronger

a bit like /rather like /  (to soften)

just like /exactly / a lot like (to strengthen)

Horse surfing is a lot like surfing, just with horses

The currents in the sea were really strong and, for a minute, it is was almost like a huge monster was sucking me under

The following ‘sense’ verbs are common before ‘like’ when we use it in this way.

feel/ taste/ sound/ look/ smell

It felt like I had been waiting for hours but it was in fact only 20 minutes

He smelt like he hadn’t had a shower for weeks

She looks like she’s been crying

31. Hello! / Argument Sketch

Right-click here to download this episode.

Some vocabulary and a listening transcript for the argument sketch are provided below. Learn English vocabulary (phrasal verbs, natural expressions, idioms, commonly used British English) and grammar (hopefully not boring) by listening to this podcast. Practise listening by playing the podcast on your iPod or computer. Develop awareness of pronunciation by repeating what you hear and recording yourself. Listening regularly is vital for the development of your English – so listen to Luke’s English Podcast, enjoy yourself and have fun!

In this podcast:

  • Some news from me – Why haven’t I uploaded a podcast for a while? I’ve been a bit busy… (some vocabulary is defined below)
  • Listen to a comedy sketch about two people having an argument (transcript below)

Here is some vocabulary from the ‘news’ section of the podcast:

“I’m in a bit of a rush” – in a rush means in a hurry. I’ve got lots of things to do, and not much time to do them, so I’m doing everything quickly. I’m in a bit of a rush.

“My little handheld mp3 recorder” – handheld is an adjective to describe something you hold in your hand. E.g. a handheld video camera, a handheld microphone, a handheld device

“I haven’t uploaded a podcast recently” – upload is a verb which means to put a file (a photo, video, music file) onto a website from your computer.

“My little egotistical moment” – egotistical is an adjective which means self-centred, selfish, vain, narcissistic

“Maybe it’s a little self indulgent” – self indulgent is an adjective which means you excessively do things which only please yourself. You indulge in your own desires and interests

“I’m just going to ramble” – to ramble is a verb which means you talk and talk without a particular plan or direction. “Luke just keeps rambling on and on about his podcast, it’s really boring” etc.

“Vocab which comes up will be defined” – vocab means ‘vocabulary’, and comes up is a phrasal verb which means ‘arise’, ‘happen’, ‘be mentioned’. You can use ‘come up’ in many situations, e.g. “An issue about the website came up yesterday in the meeting” – an issue was raised by someone. “A few questions about the IELTS exam came up during the lesson” – during the lesson, some people asked questions about the IELTS exam (and then everyone agreed they should listen to Luke’s English Podcast for good practice)

“It makes it difficult for you to navigate the page” – to navigate is a verb which means to move through something, to find your way through something. You can navigate a ship or a plane too.

“If you’re using the scroll bar on the side of the page to move up and down” – to scroll is a verb which means to move a computer page up, down, left or right. The scroll bar is the tool on the right or bottom of the page which you use to do this.

“Don’t use your cursor to grab the scroll bar” – the cursor is the arrow on-screen which you control with your mouse.

“RSS feed” – this is an internet term which stands for Really Simple Syndication. Basically, it’s a way to publish recently updated content on a website. E.g. when I upload a new episode of the podcast, iTunes uses the RSS feed for my site to access the new podcast.

“If you’re struggling to find content on the page – use iTunes” – to struggle is a verb which means ‘to have difficulty’

“Your subconscious is where English should go” – subconscious is a noun and an adjective. There are two parts of your mind – the conscious (the thoughts you are aware of – like a voice in your head) and the subconscious/unconscious (the thoughts in ‘the back of your head’ which you are not aware of, but which are still very important for making decisions, having opinions etc). For more information have a look at this:

“A stand-up comedian” – this is a comedian with a microphone who stands up in front of an audience and makes them laugh just by talking to them. Like this:

“Dr Who is a household name. Everybody knows him” – a household name is something that everybody knows. The origin of this expression is products which everyone has in their house, so everybody knows them. E.g. Coca-Cola, Corn Flakes, etc. We also say that people can be a household name, if everyone (adults and children) knows who they are

“I bought some graphic novels” – graphic novels means comic books for adults. In Japan comic books are called ‘manga’.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed” – to keep your fingers crossed means to cross your fingers for good luck (see photo). E.g. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you” fingers-crossed

“I think The Beatles are overrated” – overrated is an adjective which means ‘it isn’t as good as everyone says’. E.g. “I think U2 are overrated – they’re really popular and successful, but I think their music is boring”

Monty Python’s Flying Circus – The Argument Sketch (Transcript Below)

Man: Is this the right room for an argument?
Other Man: (pause) I’ve told you once.
Man: No you haven’t!
Other Man: Yes I have.
M: When?
O: Just now.
M: No you didn’t!
O: Yes I did!
M: You didn’t!
O: I did!
M: You didn’t!
O: I’m telling you, I did!
M: You didn’t!
O: Oh I’m sorry, is this a five-minute argument, or the full half hour?
M: Ah! (taking out his wallet and paying) Just the five minutes.
O: Just the five minutes. Thank you.
O: Anyway, I did.
M: You most certainly did not!
O: Now let’s get one thing perfectly clear: I most definitely told you!
M: Oh no you didn’t!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh no you didn’t!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh no you didn’t!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh no you didn’t!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh no you didn’t!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh no you didn’t!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: No you DIDN’T!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: No you DIDN’T!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: No you DIDN’T!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh look, this isn’t an argument!
O: Yes it is!
M: No it isn’t!
M: It’s just contradiction!
O: No it isn’t!
M: It IS!
O: It is NOT!
M: You just contradicted me!
O: No I didn’t!
M: You DID!
O: No no no!
M: You did just then!
O: Nonsense!
M: (exasperated) Oh, this is futile!!
O: No it isn’t!
M: Yes it is!
M: I came here for a good argument!
O: AH, no you didn’t, you came here for an argument!
M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
O: Well! it CAN be!
M: No it can’t!
M: An argument is a connected series of statement intended to establish a
O: No it isn’t!
M: Yes it is! ’tisn’t just contradiction.
O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!
M: Yes but it isn’t just saying “no it isn’t”.
O: Yes it is!
M: No it isn’t!
O: Yes it is!
M: No it isn’t!
O: Yes it is!
M: No it ISN’T! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just
the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.
O: It is NOT!
M: It is!
O: Not at all!
M: It is!
The Arguer hits a bell on his desk and stops.
O: Thank you, that’s it.
M: (stunned) What?
O: That’s it. Good morning.
M: But I was just getting interested!
O: I’m sorry, the five minutes is up.
M: That was never five minutes!!
O: I’m afraid it was.
M: (leading on) No it wasn’t…..
O: I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to argue any more.
O: If you want me to go on arguing, you’ll have to pay for another five
M: But that was never five minutes just now!
Oh Come on!
Oh this is…
This is ridiculous!
O: I told you…
I told you, I’m not allowed to argue unless you PAY!
M: Oh all right. (takes out his wallet and pays again.) There you are.
O: Thank you.
M: (clears throat) Well…
O: Well WHAT?
M: That was never five minutes just now.
O: I told you, I’m not allowed to argue unless you’ve paid!
M: Well I just paid!
O: No you didn’t!
M: I DID!!!
O: YOU didn’t!
M: I DID!!!
O: YOU didn’t!
M: I DID!!!
O: YOU didn’t!
M: I DID!!!
O: YOU didn’t!
M: I-dbct-fd-tq! I don’t want to argue about it!
O: Well I’m very sorry but you didn’t pay!
M: Ah hah! Well if I didn’t pay, why are you arguing??? Ah HAAAAAAHHH!
O: No you haven’t!
M: Yes I have!
If you’re arguing, I must have paid.
O: Not necessarily.
I could be arguing in my spare time.

Click here to buy Monty Python DVDs on

Check for “Low Moon” by Jason

30. The Mystery Continues


Part 2 of the strange story from the last episode. Use this podcast to improve your listening, reading, vocabulary and pronunciation. You should listen to it after listening to the previous episode “Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses”.

This episode of the podcast is continues the story of the last episode. Find out the answers to the mystery of the strange Doctor.

This podcast includes:

  • Lots of very descriptive language – learn how to describe people, places and feelings
  • Complex sentences and examples of effective use of narrative tenses
  • Clear pronunciation in a couple of slightly different accents – raise your awareness of connected speech and intonation
  • Some amusing cultural information about London’s heritage – learn more about the culture of the language

How to use this podcast to improve your English:

I recommend that first, you listen to the podcast and just follow the story. Second, listen to pick up language – use the tapescript if you like. Third, pronunciation – use the script to copy sentences from the story. Fourth, record yourself telling the story, and try to make it sound really interesting, and alive and funny. Listen to yourself and do it again, focussing on the weak points from the first time. You will improve more quickly, and develop an instinct for the structure of the language, which helps you make quick decisions about what is right and wrong in English. There is no other way to do it: exposure to natural English is very important in learning the language.

So, now! Enjoy the story…

The Man & The Moon, part 2…

When I arrived home that night, I immediately wrote everything that had happened into my diary.
“I could make a great podcast out of this”, I thought to myself…

The next day I told my friend what had happened.

“I know just the person who can help you!” he said, “There’s a man who lives in Baker Street, in the centre of London”, he said.

“Yes, I know where Baker Street is – it’s quite a famous street y’know”

“Yes! Anyway, this man is the best detective in London! He’s the most brilliant mind there is. The police have to use him to solve all their crimes, and some say that even the Queen asks him for help when she has lost her TV remote control down the back of the sofa! You should go and visit him. I’m sure he’ll be able to help you.”

I took the address and immediately went to Baker Street on the underground. I took the Picadilly Line from Hammersmith, and changed at Green Park station, but the Jubille line was closed, so I had to get back on the Picadilly Line and then change at Leicester Square onto the Northern Line, but that was delayed due to engineering works and a signal failure at Waterloo station. But finally, after an hour an a half on the underground, I arrived at Baker Street. I found the address: Flat number 21b and knocked on the door. An elderly woman answered.

“Yes?” she said.

“Umm, hello, I’m here to get some help. A friend told me to come”

“Alright, come in then.”

We walked through into the hallway. I could smell pipe tobacco, and what sounded like a cat being murdered in the next room. Then I realised it was a violin being played, very badly.

The woman knocked on the door of the front room, and the violin stopped playing.

“There’s a man here to see you” “Yes, yes, I know” said a loud, commanding voice from inside the room. “Show him in Mrs Hudson, thank you”

Mrs Hudson stepped aside, and I walked into the room.

I immediately felt nervous and awkward. There, standing at the fireplace was a very unique looking man. He was tall and thin, and old. I’m not sure how old he was exactly. His hair was going grey, and his skin was wrinkled, but his eyes were bright and youthful. He could have been as old as 80, but he had the spirit of a much younger man.

He was wearing a brown suit, with a waistcoat, and long leather winter boots. In his hand, he was holding a Stradivarius violin, of very fine quality. On the mantelpiece next to him was a smoking pipe.

“Umm, my friend Smith recommended you. He said that you would be able to assist me” I said.

“Smith? Hmmm?” said the man. “And…?”

“Oh, and, well, the thing is, I need your help… it’s…”

“Well, what do you think Watson?” Said the man, quickly, and only then did I realise that there was a third person in the room. To my right, in a dark leather armchair, there was a red faced man, probably about 65 years old. He had a large brownish red moustache which covered his top lip. In his hand was a large glass of Brandy, and in his other hand, a cigarette. He seemed very comfortable, as if he had just woken up from a lovely sleep by the fire”

“Huh…? Oh, hello! How do you do?” he said, smiling at me and yawning.

“What do you think Watson?” Snapped the man with the violin.

“Oh, err… a student? Perhaps a waiter… erm… ah! An unemployed librarian!”

“No no no! Watson. Completely wrong! Don’t overcomplicate matters! Now, let me try…”

I stood there, feeling confused. The tall man looked at me. “Your name is Thompson, am I right?”

“Well, how on earth did you guess…?”

“Not a guess Mr Thompson… Not a guess… Allow me to demonstrate something for you, if I may”

I stood in silence. I was in the presence of a great mind, I could understand that now.

“Let me see…”

He looked me up and down for a second.

“I would say that you are an English teacher… of no more than 10 years experience, but no less than 5. Let’s say 8 and a half years.”

I was gobsmacked.

“You worked in the far east, didn’t you?” “In Japan?”

“yes! Yes I did!”

“Kanagawa prefecture?”

“Oh my god, yes!”

“Now, I suppose something happened to you, near the river, which you don’t understand, and you need answers, so your friend told you to come and see me so I could sort it all out for you, is that right?”
“Oh – My – GOD! How did you know…? It must be magic, or … a trick!”

“Alright, I’ll tell you” he said, with a bored look on his face.

“Using simple empirical methods of observation and deduction, the truth will almost always reveal itself to you as the most reasonable answer. You just look at the evidence, and think logically. Usually, the simple answer is the best.”

“Would you like a cup of tea? He might take a while” It was Mrs Hudson.

“Oh, yes please” “two sugars”…

The man continued… “One simple look at your hands revealed your occupation. Your nails are badly chewed and damaged. This must be due to stress. A common problem for any teacher, but especially one that has to deal with demanding students from different countries who all want to know about the difference between all the past perfect continuous passive conditional verb tenses, and adjectival noun phrases and reduced non defining relative participle clauses and such matters.” I looked at my fingers, he was right. The nails were a terrible mess… “I saw also that your hands are very dirty with blue and red ink. This must be from using whiteboard marker pens. You write on the board, and in your haste you make a mistake, and then quickly rub it off with your hand, hoping that no-one notices…”

“Umm, yes, that’s true.”

“That’s the evidence which told me that you must be an English teacher.”

“Wow!” I said

“Yes, that and the fact that you’re holding a copy of New Headway Upper Intermediate Teacher’s Book by Liz and John Soars, which kind of gave it away… oh, and Watson googled you before you arrived, but anyway… On your face I noticed wrinkles – around your mouth and eyes. This is from smiling all the time, to keep your students happy, is it not?”

“Yep. Well done. Right again”, I said, sipping my tea, getting a little impatient. “Umm, sorry but could you hurry up a bit? It’s just that this is going to be a really long podcast, and I don’t want anyone to stop listening…”

“Yes yes! I counted the wrinkles on your face, and estimated that since graduating from university, you have been smiling at students for exactly 8.5 years. Simple: Count the wrinkles on the face, divide by 5 (the average teaching hours per day) and the result: 8.5 years.”

“Fair enough” I said.

“And when you entered the room, you bowed slightly. This must be body language which you picked up while living in Japan.”

“Yep. Well done… very good”

I was getting annoyed and impatient. I gulped down my sugary tea.

“OK, you’ve convinced me, you’re a brilliant detective. Now, will you help me out please, Mr…?”

“It’s Holmes, Sherlock Holmes, and this is my companion, Dr Watson”

“Wow, it really is Sherlock Holmes”, I thought. “I’ve read so much about him, but I never thought he was real! And his faithful companion Dr Watson! Fantastic!” I looked again at Watson. He was fast asleep in his chair.

“WAKE UP WATSON!” shouted Holmes, throwing a chess piece at him. It bounced off Watson’s head, and he woke up suddenly, and smiled at me sleepily. “So, how can we help you then Mr Simpson?”

“It’s Thompson you fool!” Shouted Holmes quickly” “And we must hurry to the riverside in Hammersmith immediately! There’s another mystery to solve! Come Watson!”

“How did you know it was Hammersmith…?”
“Oh, never mind…” said Holmes.

The three of us jumped in a cab on Baker Street and drove to Hammersmith bridge. On the way there, I told Holmes about how I’d sat down by the river the night before, how it had been a full moon, how a green monster had nearly grabbed me, how I’d heard weird noises and seen a strange blue light and how I’d been saved by a mysterious man called The Doctor. When we arrived I took Holmes and Watson to the spot where everything had happened. A cold chill ran down my spine as I remembered it all again.

“This is where it happened Mr Holmes” I said.

“Excellent” Said Holmes, a magical light shining in his eyes. “Stand back! I shall investigate the area.”

“He always does this” Said Watson. “He’ll be busy for an hour or two I reckon.”

Holmes was bent over, studying the ground next to the river with a magnifying glass. Occasionally he stopped suddenly, and picked something up and placed it carefully in his pocket. He walked close to the water and looked in. He looked up at the sky and down at the river again. He sniffed the air with his big nose. He picked up a stone and dropped it into the water, and then went back to look at the steps where I had been sitting the night before.

Watson yawned, and said to me “There’s a pub over there, fancy a pint while Holmes does his investigation stuff?”

Watson pointed at a pub called The Black Lion. “Umm, alright. Yeah, why not!?” I replied.

“We’re just off for a pint in that pub” shouted Watson.

“Hmmm” said Holmes, as he studied some markings on the ground.

Watson and I sat in the pub next to the fire, and made small talk.

“So, you’re a doctor, are you?”

“Yes, that’s right”

“Hmm, that’s interesting…”

“Yeah, it’s alright, I suppose. Most of the time I just hang out with Holmes to be honest. Do a bit of writing. That sort of thing. It’s pretty boring really. I like a quiet life, you know?”

“Yeah, I suppose so. The man I met last night said he was a doctor. You don’t know who he is, do you?”

“A doctor? Doctor who?”

“I don’t know, he didn’t say his name. He just said ‘you can call me The Doctor…’ and then he disappeared. It’s really annoying…”

ly: ‘book antiqua’, palatino;”>Just then Holmes burst into the room.

“Come with me Watson, we must walk up the river bank and investigate the mud near the sewage outlet for evidence!”

“Umm, do we have to? I mean, why don’t we just stay here in the pub, and you go and look in the mud near the sewage outlet? How about that?” said Watson, sipping another pint of beer and warming his feet by the fire.

“Oh Watson, you stay here then, if you must. Your love of the local Chiswick ale will be the end of you Thompson, what about you? Fancy getting up to your knees in mud??”

“Erm, I think I’ll stay here with Watson actually, if that’s all right.”

“Fine, stay here, both of you! I shall return within one hour.”

59 minutes and 59 seconds later, Holmes returned. His leather boots were covered in brown mud, and he had a grim look on his face. He suddenly looked much older, and tired. I was a little bit worried about him.

< /p>

We took a cab back to Baker Street and Holmes remained quiet and moody for the whole journey. I stared out of the window and dreamed about the present perfect continous passive tense. Watson fell asleep.

When we got in, Mrs Hudson brought us some cake and Watson opened the drinks cabinet. “Brandy anyone?” he said, pouring himself a large glass.

Holmes ignored him, and sat in his chair, smoking his pipe.

For what felt like 2 hours, Watson drank brandy and nodded off by the fire, while Holmes sat silently in the chair surrounded by clouds of his own smoke, his face tight with concentration. The sun went down, and Holmes stayed in the chair, and his pipe smoke stretched outwards across the room, running along the ground and wrapping itself around my legs like claws. The moon shone in through the window, and I began to fall asleep.

Suddenly Holmes jumped out of his chair, a young man again. The room seemed brighter.

“THOMPSON! I have solved your mystery!” Shouted Holmes, confidently!

“Wow, that was quick!” I said. I looked over at Watson. He was fast asleep.

Holmes proceeded to walk around the room, rubbing his hands and laughing to himself.

“So! What’s it all about??” I asked, impatiently.

“I have read about cases such as this before Thompson, and I have been very much looking forward to having the opportunity of working on one myself. And this Doctor of yours… well, I never thought I would be lucky enough to…”

“To what?? I asked… just tell me what’s going on, please! This is going to be such a long podcast, and I’m really worried that all my listeners will be really bored, and they’ll stop listening, and, there’s not enough pedagogical content, and…”

“ENOUGH!” Shouted Holmes. “I will explain everything. You would be wise to listen carefully. I have looked at the evidence, which has been presented to me. There wasn’t much, but there was enough. First, you told me that this happened near the river. Inspection of the riverbank revealed several things to me.”

“I discovered some vital clues. I found two green hairs, which must have come from the ‘monster’ which you talked about. I checked the hairs, and they perfectly match hairs which have been discovered near the Thames before. They are hairs from a lunaris goblarmunas – a moon goblin!”
“Yes, I already know that! What the hell is a Moon Goblin!”

“Oh, it’s a monster which lives in the water, and which comes out when there’s a full moon to eat people. They worship the moon, and some people say that they are aliens which once lived on the moon, but they escaped to earth millions of years ago when the moon lost its atmosphere.”

“Oh, right… wow, I never knew about that. How did they travel to the earth, through space”

“Oh, err, well, they’re actually robots”

“Robots, what do you mean?”

“Oh never mind, it’s too difficult to explain…Yep, it’s true, there’s loads of them in the Thames. They’re responsible for a lot of stuff actually. The Queen knows all about it, so does the Prime Minister…”

“They do?”
“Yeah. Anyway, when I investigated the mud up the river, I noticed that there were lots of goblin footprints. They’re very active. In fact, there’s many more of them than I first thought. I will have to tell her majesty all about it. She will want to know.”

“I’m sure she will… Anyway, what about this Doctor guy…”

“Oh yes, while you and Watson were having such a lovely time in the pub, I inspected the area near where you were sitting last night. I found some very interesting scratches on the ground. They were blue scratches. They must have been caused by something very heavy, blue in colour, and square in shape.”

“What, like a big blue box?” I said.

“Exactly Thompson! Exactly!” I estimate that it was similar in size to a telephone box. It must have been there for a moment, and then it moved away quickly.

“So you’re telling me there was a big blue telephone box there one minute, and then the next minute it was gone?”

“I also found some footprints near where the box had been. Those must have been the footprints of your Doctor. The size of the feet match the description you gave me. I also found this lying on the ground, near where the blue telephone box had been”

He showed me a silver ticket. It was a concert ticket, made of an amazing shiny material. It said “Prince Michael Jackson II – Live in Concert – Wembley Arena September 16th 2021”

“Oh my god! Prince Michael II? That’s Michael Jackson’s son! But, how is this possible!? How can the doctor have a ticket for a concert from the future?”
“Let me explain. Look at the evidence. The goblins from space, the blue ‘telephone box’, the strange sound, the blue flash of light, the man who called himself the doctor who appeared and disappeared out of nowhere, the thing he pointed at that goblin, the special knowledge he had about the moon goblins, the ticket from the future. It all means one thing.”

“What!? What does it mean?!” I demanded.

Holmes stared at me with dark eyes. Watson snored in the corner of the room.

“There is no other answer. The Doctor you told me about. Well, he must be a Timelord.”

“What? Is that your answer? What the hell is a Timelord?” I asked him.

Holmes stood up, and said.


I sighed with frustration.

“Don’t worry Thompson.” Said Holmes. “I know an expert on Timelords, and he will tell you everything he knows about The Doctor. Just wait for the next episode of the podcast, and you’ll learn everything.”

I left 21B Baker Street wishing I had never gone there in the first place. Holmes wasn’t quite the brilliant man I thought he was, but I was still determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. I had managed to get some answers: The Doctor was a Time Lord who travelled around through space and time in a blue telephone box. That explained the strange light, the sound, and how The Doctor appeared and disappeared so quickly. But who was he really, where had he come from and what on earth was going on?”

With the address of the Timelord expert in my hand, I jumped on a number 27 bus towards Hammersmith, desperately hoping to get some final answers to this mystery, and silently hoping that none of my listeners got really bored with this stupid Sherlock Holmes story and stopped listening and decided to unsubscribe from Luke’s English Podcast because it’s gone a bit strange, and where are the phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions that he said he would teach us…? I decided that I had to end this mystery as soon as possible, and then I could go back to teaching useful expressions and pronunciation… But before that, I was determined to find out about Timelords, and The Doctor… I arrived at the address, and went inside to meet the Timelord expert who Holmes had recommended…

To be continued…

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29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses in English

This podcast is about narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous & past perfect – see details below). We use these tenses to sequence stories about the past. To master the use of these tenses you have to deal with their form, their use and their pronunciation – both for listening and speaking. Use this podcast to help you deal with all of those things, and then start using narrative tenses fluently whenever you describe something. Make your descriptions more detailed and colourful!

Below you can read the mystery story from the podcast, and then grammar details and a tense review exercise.

Listen to the story, and notice the different verb forms being used. If you like you can try to remember the story and repeat it to yourself until you’re using all the tenses correctly. You can then transfer what you’ve learned and remembered from the story when you talk about something else.

Subscribe to Luke’s English Podcast to improve your English every day, and have fun in the process! Add your email address to the mailing list on the right of this page, or subscribe using iTunes.

The mystery story:
Last night I was walking home next to the river Thames, when something strange happened to me. It was late at night and I’d had a long and difficult day at work. There was a large full moon in the sky and everything was quiet. I was tired and lonely and I’d just had a few pints of beer in my local pub, so I decided to stop by the riverside and look at the moon for a while. I sat on some steps very close to the water’s edge and looked up at the big yellow moon and wondered if it really was made of cheese. I felt very tired so I closed my eyes and after a few minutes, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, the moon had moved behind a cloud and it was very dark and cold. The wind was blowing and an owl hooted in a tree above me. I rubbed my eyes and started to get up, when suddenly I heard a splash. I looked down at the water and saw something. Something terrible and frightening, and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Something was coming out of the water and moving towards me. Something green and strange and ugly. It was a long green arm and it was stretching out from the water to grab my leg. I was so scared that I couldn’t move. I’d never been so scared in my whole life. The cold green hand was moving closer and closer when suddenly there was a blue flash and a strange noise from behind me. Someone jumped onto the stairs next to me. He was wearing strange clothes and he had a crazy look in his eyes. He shouted “Get Back!” and pointed something at the monster in the water. There was a bright flash and the monster hissed and disappeared.

I looked up at the man. He looked strange, but kind. “Don’t fall asleep by the river when there’s a full moon”, he said “The Moon Goblins will get you.” I’d never heard of moon goblins before. I didn’t know what to do. “Who… who are you?” I asked him. “You can call me… The Doctor.” He said. I was trying to think of something else to say when he turned around and said, “Watch the stars at night, and be careful of the full moon”. I was trying to understand what he meant, when there was another blue flash and I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, he had gone.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. What on earth were Moon Goblins, and who was the mysterious Doctor? And why had he saved me? I was determined to find the answers to these strange questions. I stood up, looked at the moon and quickly walked home.

Listen to just the story again here [Download audio]

Narrative Tenses
Past simple tense
Form: the simple past form of the verb. E.g. “We met on holiday, we talked about art and music, we fell in love, I asked her to marry me and when she said yes I kissed her passionately on the lips.”
Use: To explain the main events of the story in sequence. We use ‘then’, ‘after that’, ‘first’ and ‘finally’ to link them up. E.g. “First I finished work, then I went to the pub, after that I had a few pints, then I sat down by the river and then I fell asleep, after that the moon moved, and then I woke up and then an owl hooted and after that I heard a splash and then a monster tried to grab my leg and after that the Doctor rescued me and then he disappeared, and finally I went home.
We can also use conjunctions to link up clauses with past simple verb forms. ‘When’ is probably the most common. E.g. “When I woke up, and owl hooted.” Or “An owl hooted when I woke up”.

Past continuous
Form: was/were + -ing E.g. “We were talking about my Swiss bank account when suddenly she pulled me close and kissed me again.”
Use: To describe longer or repeated actions. It’s often used to describe the general situation at the beginning of a story. E.g. “I was walking home when something strange happened.”
Also, we use it to sequence events when it is combined with the past simple. Past continuous is the long or repeated action which is interrupted by a short, quick past simple action. E.g. “The green hand was moving towards me when suddenly there was a blue flash and a man jumped onto the stairs next to me”.
We use ‘when’ or ‘while’ to link the actions in a sentence. E.g. “When I woke up, the wind was blowing. The wind was blowing when I woke up. While I was walking, something happened. Something happened while I was walking.”

Past Perfect
Form: had + past participle E.g. “When I arrived at the airport I realised that she had stolen my wallet and passport”.
Use: To express that an action happened before the main events of the story. E.g. “When I woke up, the moon had moved” [the moon moved, then I woke up], which is different to “The moon moved when I woke up” [I woke up, then the moon moved].
Sometimes it is used a bit like present perfect, but when everything is in the past. E.g. “I’ve never heard of moon goblins before” But for yesterday it would be “I had never heard of moon goblins.”

Pronunciation drills:

1. Andrew had done the test before, so he found it very easy.

2. I didn’t laugh at the joke because I had heard it before.

3. We left the restaurant when we had finished dinner.

4. When I found my wallet, I discovered that somebody had taken all the money from it.

Here’s the transcript to the mystery story, but with some of the verbs ‘gapped’. Try to put them in the correct tense. Listen again to check.
The mystery story:
Last night I _________________ (walk) home next to the river Thames, when something strange _________________ (happen) to me. It was late at night and I _________________ (have) a long and difficult day at work. There was a large full moon in the sky and everything was quiet. I was tired and lonely and I _________________ (just have) a few pints of beer in my local pub, so I decided to stop by the riverside and look at the moon for a while.

I _________________ (sit) on some steps very close to the water’s edge and looked up at the big yellow moon and wondered if it really was made of cheese. I felt very tired so I _________________ (close) my eyes and after a few minutes, I _________________ (fall) asleep. When I woke up, the moon _________________ (move) behind a cloud and it was very dark and cold. The wind _________________ (blow) and an owl _________________ (hoot) in a tree above me. I rubbed my eyes and started to get up, when suddenly I _________________ (hear) a splash. I _________________ (look) down at the water and saw something. Something terrible and frightening, and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Something _________________ (come) out of the water and _________________ (move) towards me. Something green and strange and ugly. It was a long green arm and it _________________ (stretch) out from the water to grab my leg. I was so scared that I couldn’t move. I _________________ (never be) so scared in my whole life. The cold green hand _________________ (move) closer and closer when suddenly there was a blue flash and a strange noise from behind me. Someone _________________ (jump) onto the stairs next to me. He _________________ (wear) strange clothes and he had a crazy look in his eyes. He shouted “Get Back!” and _________________ (point) something at the monster in the water. There was a bright flash and the monster hissed and disappeared.

I looked up at the man. He looked strange, but kind. “Don’t fall asleep by the river when there’s a full moon”, he said “The Moon Goblins will get you.” I _________________ (never hear) of moon goblins before. I didn’t know what to do. “Who… who are you?” I asked him. “You can call me… The Doctor.” He said. I _________________ (try) to think of something else to say when he turned around and said, “Watch the stars at night, and be careful of the full moon”. I was trying to understand what he meant, when there was another blue flash and I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, he _________________ (go).

I couldn’t believe what _________________(happen). What on earth were Moon Goblins, and who was the mysterious Doctor? And why had he saved me? I was determined to find the answers to these strange questions. I stood up, looked at the moon and quickly walked home.

Would you like to know what happens next in the story?

Other episodes:

28. Interview with a Native Speaker – The Weather

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I talk to Chris from Ladbroke Grove about the British weather, and why he thinks foreigners should stop complaining about it!

Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for people who want to improve their English. Learn real english with this podcast. Natural expressions, phrasal verbs, idioms and more vocabulary. Good listening practice. Join the growing community of listeners around the world who use this podcast every day. Email me your comments:

Hello everyone, and thanks for listening to another episode of Luke’s English Podcast. This episode is longer than I expected. At the beginning of the episode I say that it is just a quick episode – but it’s actually 45 minutes long… Never mind! Again – you’re getting a bit extra for your money (which is quite a lot considering this is a free service).

So, I interviewed Chris, who is one of the lads I play football with on Wednesday afternoon (a ‘lad’ is an informal word for a young man). Chris is a fairly typical lad from Ladbroke Grove in North West London. Here are his views on the British weather, and the weather in other countries.

Listen to the interview – do you understand everything Chris says? What do you think of his opinions? I explain most of the English he uses. You can also read a transcript of the interview below. Enjoy!

Chris uses a swear word (a rude & offensive word) in the interview. The word ‘shit’ is a rude word, so be careful if you choose to use it… (I’m sure you know all about the swear words by now, don’t you?)

Luke: Hi Chris
Chris: Hi
Luke: So, err, what do you think of the weather today?
Chris: It’s so shit considering it’s summer.
Luke: Ah, right, so, erm, is it normally like this then, do you think?
Chris: Well, in Eng… in this country it’s very unpredictable, because sometimes, actually most of the time recently we’ve been getting summer in our… summer when we’re meant to have winter, and winter when we’re meant to have summer. So, you can’t tell about the weather in England.
Luke: Right, ok. So, what do you normally do when the weather’s like this then? Actually, before you answer that question, how would you describe the weather today?
Chris: Very very dull, to put it, to put it… in brief.
Luke: Ok, alright. And what do you do when the weather’s dull like this?
b: Err, well I still play a bit of football because there’s no rain, but most of the time… but I do all different things, so…
Luke: Just give me an example of one of those different things.
Chris: Err, relax. Sometimes I play football.
Luke: yeah
Chris: Sometimes I go to the cinema
Luke: Okay
Chris: All different things.
Luke: Alright, well, thanks very much Chris. Do you have anything else to say to my class of students? from… they’re from all over the world. Any comments?
Chris: If you want to learn decent English, come to me.
Luke: Ok, alright so you heard it here first. Where can they find you Chris?
Chris: Err, Ladbroke Grove.
Luke: Ladbroke Grove, ok. So what, they just go to Ladbroke Grove and ask for Chris do they?
Chris: Ladbroke Grove… Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury’s and I’ll meet them there.
Luke: OK, well thanks very much, cheers.
Luke: Chris has realised that he does have something interesting to say. Erm, so you’ve got something extra to tell everyone?
Chris: Yeah, just about the weather. I think that people complain too much about the weather over here. Especially… foreigners. The problem is… yeah? …that in all the other countries, like Spain and… Australia… They’re full of sand because they don’t get any rain. That’s why in England… They get… England looks so nice, it’s got loads of green, and it’s… it doesn’t look like a desert basically, because we get a certain amount of heat, and a certain amount of rain, to… for the, for the plants to grow, and for the heat to dry [die] down a bit.
Luke: Ok, so are you saying that all foreign countries are like deserts?
Chris: Most of them yeah. Some, some… Not most of them, but, the hot countries like Spain, and Arab countries and China and India. They’re all basically full of sand because they don’t know what rain means, and that’s not good for the plants, and that’s not good for them either, because… because, you know, they can’t ever play football because it’s too hot.
Luke: Ha ha ha! Ok, are you serious or are you joking Chris?
Chris: I’m serious but in a jokey way.

[It started raining, so we talked a little bit more]
Luke: OK Chris
Chris: See? A perfect example of, you don’t know what the weather’s going to be like in England. That’s why it’s so special, this country. One minute it’s sunny, the next minute it’s raining, like now.
Luke: But some people would say that that’s a bad thing. That it’s rain… that it rains a lot and that’s not good. You know, because when it rains you get wet and, you know, it’s not very healthy, not very good for you, if you get wet. So why is it good that it rains a lot? What’s so good about that?
Chris: It doesn’t rain a lot, it just rains at the normal time. People just don’t understand that it gets boring, erm… hot… if you have hot weather throughout the year. And, you know, what’s there to look forward to? You go out, you wake up every day. You go out. You know, you wake up to it’s “oh, it’s too hot today, it’s too hot today” every single day you know what the weather’s going to be like. Instead, in in, over here, we, we wake up, we don’t know what it’s going to be like and we look forward to it, we prepare for it.
Luke: Ok, so it makes your life interesting.
Chris: Yeah, it makes it, makes it interesting.
Luke: But do you really look forward to rain?
Chris: Rain, you need rain to cool you down.
Luke: Ok Chris: And you need the windy weather to cool you down. But, it it it, when you’re hot, when it’s hot weather, you know, you can’t. You can’t cool down.
Luke: OK
Chris: You can’t. You’re always, you’re always agitated. You always get, you always get, erm, I dunno [don’t know].
Luke: Sort of… you get stressed because the heat is so… You know, when it’s so humid and hot you get stressed out and then when the rain comes everything cools down, you can relax and…
Chris: Yes, it’s less stressful, yeah.
Luke: Right.
Chris: And, you know, you look forward… Especially… And when it’s raining, you get to relax indoors. You get to relax indoors, watch a bit of TV, or do your own thing, whatever it is you do.
Luke: Yeah
Chris: But, I think people need to be more grateful of that over here. They complain too much.
Luke: Ah, ok. Alright, well thanks very much for all of your interesting comments Chris. I’m sure that all my students will be interested, err, to learn what English people really think…
Chris: And I hope they take it into account, what I just said about the weather.
Luke: Ok, thanks very much!
Chris: Ok, thank you, see you later…

That’s it! Listen to the podcast to hear me explain and talk about some of the things Chris said. What do you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

27. British Weather (Lots of exciting vocabulary!!!)

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Lots of weather vocabulary and natural expressions to describe the weather. The weather is one of the most common topics of conversation. Imagine you’re doing business with someone from another country, and you have to make smalltalk. What can you possibly talk about? THE WEATHER OF COURSE! Learn some natural expressions to describe the weather and practise your listening at the same time.

Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for learners of English around the world. Use it to learn vocabulary, British English, grammar, phrasal verbs, idioms and all that kind of thing! Luke is a professional teacher with over 8 years of experience. He is also a workaholic who can’t stop teaching English for free, even when he’s on holiday. This podcast is all about the weather.

Hello everyone. I can’t write a transcript for this whole episode. It’s just too much work for me. I’m on holiday and I can’t spend the whole day writing at my computer! I need some time off! Anyway, it’s good practice for you to just listen without reading everything at the same time. Trust me – I’m an English teacher. If you always have to read and listen at the same time you will never develop proper listening skills, so please – just listen to the podcast and try to understand what I’m talking about – you do not need to understand every single word I say. Listen to the podcast 3 times. By the third time you will understand more, and you will have developed listening skills. If you have questions, please email me and I’ll do my best to answer them. The email address is:

Instead of a full transcript (which you shouldn’t rely on anyway) here are the items of weather vocab which I use and explain in this podcast. I’ve included explanations and examples for you. Aren’t I nice to you? I am, aren’t I? Aren’t I?! he he he… ;)

Weather Vocabulary which I use in the podcast:

Rain (noun or verb) – “it’s raining” “There’s not as much rain in London as I expected”
light rain / heavy rain (noun) – “expect heavy rain over the next few days” “there might be some light rain later”
a shower (noun) – a short period of rain “Expect a few light showers during the afternoon”
a downpour (noun) – a period of really heavy rain – “There was a big downpour this morning – did you see it?”
it poured down (verb)- it rained really heavily – “It absolutely poured down last night!”
drizzle (noun or verb) – rain which is made of lots of small, light rain drops – “It’s drizzling outside”
it’s spitting (verb) – it is just beginning to rain, so there are a few little drops of rain coming down “It’s spitting outside – I think it’s going to start raining”
to get caught in the rain (verb phrase) – to get wet in a rain shower which you didn’t expect – “I had to go to the shopping centre because I got caught in the rain and I didn’t have an umbrella”

Wind (noun) – “The wind was blowing really loud last night”
windy (adjective) – “it’s really windy at this time of year, isn’t it?”
a breeze (noun) – a nice, soft wind – “The ocean breeze keeps you cool if you live near the sea” “There’s a lovely breeze blowing through the open window”
a storm (noun) – a period of really bad weather with lots of rain, wind and sometimes thunder and lightning – “Don’t go outside tonight, there’s going to be a big storm”
a gale (noun) – a strong wind storm – “it’s blowing a gale out there!”
a hurricane / typhoon (noun) – a severe storm with very strong winds – hurricanes happen in the western Atlantic ocean, typhoons happen in the western Pacific ocean – “there are lots of typhoons in the autumn in Japan”

Snow (noun and verb) “it’s snowing outside! Look look!!” “the snow is falling all around” “it doesn’t usually snow heavily at this time of year”
to settle (verb) – to land on the ground and stay there without melting – “25cm of snow settled on the ground overnight”
a blanket of snow (noun) – a covering of snow on the ground – “When I looked out of the window there was a blanket of snow covering everything!”

Cold (adjective) “It’s really cold isn’t it?”
chilly (adjective) – quite cold – “Ooh, it’s a bit chilly today isn’t it?”
freezing (adjective) – very cold – “it’s absolutely freezing today isn’t it?” “I was freezing cold last night”

Hot (adjective) “hot today, isn’t it?”
mild (adjective) – a little bit warm – “Mmm, it’s quite mild for this time of year, isn’t it?”
warm (adjective) – pleasantly hot, but not too hot – “it’s nice and warm in the sunshine today”
boiling (adjective) – really hot – “have you been outside? it’s absolutely boiling today! I’m sweating…”

Humid (adjective) – hot, with lots of moisture in the air – “it’s really humid and uncomfortable in Japan in August” – humidity (noun)
muggy (adjective) – humid – “it’s hot today, but it’s so muggy too…”
close (adjective) – humid – “it’s really close today, don’t you think?”
sticky (adjective) – humid and uncomfortable, your skin feels sweaty and your clothes ‘stick’ to you – “it’s really sticky and horrible today”
stuffy (adjective) – the air in the room is not fresh – “it’s really stuffy in here, let’s open the window shall we?”

Cloud (noun) – “look at all those dark clouds in the sky” – cloudy (adjective) – “it’s a bit cloudy today. Do you think it’s going to rain?”
overcast (adjective) – the sky is covered with a layer of cloud and you can’t see the sun or the sky – “it’s so overcast today – it’s depressing, isn’t it?”
fog (noun) foggy (adjective) – cloud which is close to the ground, so it is hard to see – “if you are driving, please be careful in the fog tonight” “it’s really foggy out there tonight, so be careful when you’re driving”
mist (noun) misty (adjective) – a light fog close to the ground, usually in the morning or at night – “London looks mysterious when it’s covered in mist in the mornings”
“There isn’t a cloud in the sky” – the sky is clear
“There are some patches of blue sky up there – I think it’s clearing up”
“By the afternoon we should have a lovely clear blue sky”

Sunshine (uncountable noun) “We had plenty of bright sunshine on holiday”
to catch the sun (verb) – to get a little bit sun tanned or burned – “wow, you’ve really caught the sun today. Look at you, you’re quite burned”

Other weather vocabulary:
hail (noun and verb) – frozen rain – “there was a big hail storm this afternoon, did you hear it? They were quite big hail stones”
sleet (noun and verb) – a combination of rain and snow – “I’m not going outside, it’s sleeting. It’s horrible!”
cosy (adjective) – warm and comfortable inside, when it is cold outside – “it’s so lovely and cosy here in bed with you. Let’s stay here all day.”
grey (adjective) – cloudy and overcast – “it’s so grey and miserable today”
miserable / depressing / grim (adjectives) – it makes you feel sad and unhappy – “the weather in January is so miserable/depressing/grim”
a draft (noun) – cold air which comes though the window or under the door – “can you feel that draft coming through the window? I need new windows!”
frost (noun) – a thin layer of ice which covers everything in the morning – “I had to spend 15 minutes scraping the frost off my car windows this morning”
a heatwave (noun) – a period of hotter weather – “the summer heatwave is going to continue for another week!”
a thunderstorm (noun) – a storm which involves thunder and lightning – “did you hear the thunderstorm last night – it woke me up at 4AM”
thunder (noun) – the noise which lightning makes – “did you hear the loud thunder last night?”
lightning (noun) – flashes of light caused by electricity jumping between clouds and the earth – “wow! Did you see that lightning!” “Don’t play golf in a thunderstorm – you might get struck by lightning”
mouldy (adjective) – when something (usually food) gets covered in mould, which is a kind of fungi which grows on rotting food – “you have to keep your clothes dry in rainy season, in order to stop mould growing. You can use silica gel to absorb the moisture”

That’s it folks!

Bloody Weather!

26. Are you a good learner of English?

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Hello everyone. I’m really glad so many of you liked my Notting Hill Carnival video. I’m planning some longer ones which I will produce and upload soon. Before I do that, I hope you enjoy this one which is about being a good learner of English.

I was thinking about all the learners I have met, and what made some of them ‘good learners’. I realised that it was their attitude towards learning, and towards life in general, that affected how they learned the language. I thought it would be good if I wrote some statements that a good learner of English might say. You can just think about these statements. Can you relate to them? Are they true for you? Try repeating them to yourself. It will help you if you really believe them! It’s good for your attitude, and that’s good for your English.

Here are the statements I wrote, and which I read out in the podcast. Thanks a lot, and keep listening!

1. English is not just something I know, it’s something I can do. It’s no good if you can just learn words, and just understand what people say – it doesn’t stop there. English is not just something I know, it’s something I can do.

2. I love using new words that I’ve learned. New words to me are like golden coins which I collect and then use later. (cheesy!)

3. English is part of my personality. There is no separation between the English language, and me. We exist together. It’s not separate from me, it’s part of me. When I use English, it’s my language too.

4. I might not think in English every day, but I know that English exists in my sub-conscious and it helps me to understand and to communicate effectively.

5. I feel like a better person now because I can do more with English.

6. I know that I don’t need to learn everything in one go. I’m becoming a good speaker of English every day, bit by bit, step by step.

7. English gives me the freedom to become a different person when I use it.

8. I love to really listen and investigate the English that I hear. When I study something in English, I feel like a detective solving a puzzle.

9. Because it’s a mental challenge, learning English is a really good way for me to keep my brain fresh and young.

10. English gives me an opportunity to take risks, and I know that when I take risks I learn more quickly.

11. English is frustrating sometimes, but I enjoy the challenge. And what is life if it isn’t a challenge?

12. I like to ask questions because if I don’t ask, I don’t learn.

13. I don’t just need English. I’ve learned that I want English too.

14. We’re all individuals, and we have our own unique ways of learning English. I like discovering my own particular learning strategies and then using them.

15. I am a bit embarrassed by my mistakes sometimes, but I see them as a great opportunity to learn.

16. I like learning English with others, because it makes me feel like I’m part of a group of people who are sharing the same experience as me.

17. I love the variety, colour and history of the English language. It’s amazing to see how people in history have used it for so many things, and when I use English I become part of that long tradition.

18. Speaking English is a physical action. I don’t just use my mouth to do it, I use my whole body.

19. The culture of the English language is different to my first language. So it’s fun to think and act in a new way when I speak English.

20. English liberates me. It gives me the freedom to communicate with everyone, and connect with the whole world.

21. Oops – I missed this one! I got the numbers wrong… It should be: I know that if I had the time, I could master this language.

22. I enjoy finding out about things I love in English. I use the internet to help me to do this. I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts in English, for fun.

23. Sometimes English is confusing for me, but I can make sense of it if I have time.

24. The journey is the best part, not just the destination. This is true in English, but also in life.

25. Actually, I do use English well and I do communicate in English every time I use it. So, really, I’ve already started speaking English and I’ve already started communicating in English effectively.

26. I’m a brilliant, and special person because I listen to Luke’s English Podcast, and I know that Luke’s English Podcast is probably the best way of learning English in the whole world!

I realise that some of these statements are quite cheesy. Cheesy is quite a difficult word to explain. Here’s a list of explanations of what cheesy means:

-it has been said many times before and so now it sounds quite silly, boring or tiresome
-it is too sincere, and so it sounds ridiculous
-it is old-fashioned, or out of date
-it is over-emotional, or sentimental

Here are some examples of things that are cheesy:
-The emotional happy endings of Hollywood films
-The predictable things that Hollywood heroes always say, like James Bond making a joke about killing a bad guy with a telephone cable, and then the telephone ringing, and Bond saying “I’m afraid he’s a little tied up at the moment”, or when Arnold Schwarzenegger says “I had to let him go” after he drops a man off a building
-80s rock bands with big hair and spandex jump-suits (e.g. Van Halen)

Actually, the word ‘cheesy’ is such a big concept that I could do a whole podcast episode on it!

Notting Hill Carnival – 40 Phrasal Verbs

Learn 40 Phrasal verbs in this video! Also, learn about London culture at the Notting Hill Carnival 2009. Luke’s English Podcast is a FREE service for people learning English as a foreign language. Use this podcast as an entertaining way to learn English, pick up vocabulary, understand grammar and develop your pronunciation. Each episode is about a different topic, and includes a different language point. This episode is about phrasal verbs (a popular area of vocabulary), and is my first real video podcast, or ‘vodcast’. I hope you like it. Email me your comments, suggestions and feedback here:

The phrasal verbs are all in this transcript. You can find them and then read definitions below the transcript.

Luke: Hi everyone, this is Luke. Hello, and today I’m going to the Notting Hill Carnival. You probably know about Notting Hill from the movie with Hugh Grant, which looks a bit like this… But the Notting Hill Carnival is a slightly different view of Notting Hill, and it looks a bit like this… It’s the biggest carnival in Europe. It happens every year. It’s a Caribbean carnival so you get lots of Caribbean music, Caribbean food, Caribbean culture, and I’m going to take you, my video camera in order to just video the event and give you an idea, give you a flavour of what the Notting Hill Carnival is all about.
So I went out and I got some cash out of the bank, and I got on the bus and I paid with my Oyster card, which I’d just topped up. And I went to the back of the bus, and I got a seat and waited for the bus to take me to the carnival. There’s Notting Hill. You can see lots of people at the end of the street, and it’s just hotting up at the moment. That’s Notting Hill Gate.
I’m in Notting Hill now, and I got stuck in traffic on the way here. The bus took ages because there was so much traffic. I got stuck in traffic for a while but I’m here now and I’m just walking through Notting Hill. The police are here and they’ve blocked offlots of the streets so that cars can’t drive through. So all the streets are just for pedestrians now. So I’m just walking through Notting Hill with everyone, and I can hear some music in the distance, and I’m going to go and meet up with my friend Raph. So, here we go.
So, you have to queue up for toilets at the carnival because there aren’t many toilets around. That’s a bit annoying. There’s a typical street in Notting Hill, and that’s a typical little shop that you might come across if you walk around. There’s one of the musical floats playing a kind of Caribbean music. I don’t know how that child is still asleep, because it’s very noisy. You can see so many people, so many kinds of people at Notting Hill Carnival. And lots of police as well. There’s Raphael in the distance, waving at… waving and pointing at me. He’s with his girlfriend. Yeah, there he is, doing, like, a crazy dance, because he’s a crazy guy. Here’s Raph. He’s a bit surprised to see me I think.
Raphael: Mr Multimedia! How’s it going buddy, you ok?
Luke: You can pick up lots of nice food from barbecues on the street. Lots of, kind of, Caribbean food like jerk chicken. And this is Portabello Road, which is the main road in Notting Hill. And more musical floats, with people dancing on them, and extremely loud music. They have huge speakers, which pump out very loud music. I’m not sure which flag that is, but it’s one of the islands of the Caribbean I think. These people got covered in red stuff. I don’t know what that stuff is, but they got completely covered init. Lots of police again, just looking after everyone, making sure that we’re not doing anything wrong.
Katherine: Hi, I’m Katherine and I’m loving Notting Hill Carnival.
Liam: I’m Liam Foster from Sunderland in the North East [of England] and I’m loving London at the moment.
Holly: Hi, I’m Holly.
Liliana: Hi, I’m Liliana.
Luke: Very loud music. You can hear the bass. So strong.
Raph: My hair’s shaking!
Luke: Not the best place to bring a bicycle, I think.
Luke: So, what do you think of carnival?
Holly: Erm, it’s rammed.
Luke: It’s rammed.
Holly: It’s rammed. No, I like the music, and the loud sound systems.
Luke: Yeah, isn’t it a bit…
Holly: The colours
Luke: The colours, yeah yeah. Is it the first time you’ve been to carnival?
Holly: Yep.
Luke: Okay, alright. Err, great, thank you. Do you usually carry two beers?
Holly: All the time.
Luke: Really?
Holly: Yeah. It’s the best way to live.
Luke: So, it’s not just a carnival thing.
Holly: No, every day.
Luke: You’ve always got two beers, ok. Ok, is that…? Ok, thanks.
Holly: You were gonna ask another question then and you couldn’t!!
Raph: Check out the chopper.
Luke: Check out this big chopper. The police are, like, cracking down on… well, crime. Even using a chopper. So what’s happening Raph?
Raph: As you can see the area’s quite packed. Erm, and it’s just like basically just like loads of floats and everything going past. A bit of police action up top, erm, and everyone’s just drinking loads of, err, Red Stripe, and whatnot. It’s sort of like a carnival staple, if you will.
Luke: Any phrasal verbs, perhaps?
Raph: Check out the Red Stripe!
Luke: Check it out, yeah. Do you need… Do you usually have 4 Raph?
Raph: Erm… Nah, it’s not, it’s not absolutely necessary to erm, see off four beers or anything, you know? But, maybe later on I’ll just like, get a few more down, you know?
Luke: Yeah, crack open a couple more later…
Raph: Exactly, you know, err
Luke: How does it feel having the camera right in your face, like this?
Raph: It’s quite close

Luke: So, you’re the sergeant, are you?
Sergeant: Yes
Luke: So, how many times have you done carnival?
Sergeant: This is my 25th carnival
Luke: Really? So what’s it about? What’s carnival all about?
Sergeant: It’s about culture, it’s about people enjoying themselves, it’s about everyone having a good time in a good atmosphere, erm, just partying on. It’s the second largest carinival in the world. We could learn a lot from Rio. We could, sort of like, have it more organised, but it’s the spontaneity. It’s the nature of the event.
Luke: Ok. Is it… it’s the second largest in the world is it?
Sergeant: Yes
Luke: I didn’t know that. I knew it was the largest in Europe. Do you normally have any trouble?
Sergeant: Only minor, but then you have trouble at any large public gathering.
Luke: Yeah, ok, thanks very much.
Sergeant: No problem

Luke: So, can I interview you then? So, what’s carnival all about guys? What’s it all about for you?
French guy: So, an English boy, so French boy…
Luke: Huh?
French guy: So, French boy…
Luke: You’re French?
French guy: Yeah
Luke: Where in France are you from?
French guy: From Paris
Luke: Ah, did you come here today?
French guy: Yeah
Luke: Just for the carnival?
French guy: Yeah
Luke: Really? How many times have you been to carnival? Is it your first time?
French guy: First time
Luke: So, what do you think? [They blow their whistles!!]
Luke: Yeah?
Someone off screen (in French): Ca va bein?
Luke: Ok, have a good time yeah…

Luke: Hello, hi, just get everyone in, hello. So, what’s carnival all about for you guys? What’s it all about?
Pirate guy: I dunno, coming onto the street, having a bit of fun, I dunno, not having a massive race riot
Pink hat guy: You sound like a tory
Luke: Not having a massive race riot
Pirate guy: Yeah, definitely. It is, that’s that’s the history of it.
Luke: Have you dressed up today?
Pirate guy: Err, what are you saying?
Pirate girl: It’s so we can spot each other. This is my normal clothes, but we can see him from very far away because he’s in pink.
Luke: Right
Pirate guy: He’s very boring, he never makes any sense though.
Pink hat guy: I dunno who you’re teaching English to, but do they have fake tan in wherever they’re from?
Pirate girl: Yeah, my fake tan went very very wrong.
Luke: That’s fake tan?
Pirate girl: But it tastes really really good
Luke: What’s it made of?
Pirate girl: Chocolate
Luke: Ah, ok, lovely. Ok, well, have a great time.
Pirate guy: You too man. Good luck with the EFL
Luke: Nice one, thanks a lot, bye!

Luke: Err, what do you think of carnival?
Rabbit: I don’t think about it
Luke: You don’t think about it
Rabbit: I don’t think about it, I’m just a f*cking rabbit, man.
Luke: Are you enjoying it?
Rabbit: Err, in a way.
Luke: Have you had any carrots?
Rabbit: People, they are so greedy. They didn’t give me one.
Luke: They didn’t give you any?
Rabbit: Nah
Luke: You can get carrots, right, if you just go in that direction there’s loads of carrots.
Rabbit: Yeah, sure man.
Luke: Ok, have a good one, bye!

Luke: So, you can just see lots of people dancing, walking along Portabello Road, in all their different costumes and things. All sorts of weird and wonderful people, like this guy. This is Bongoman.
Luke: Hey, err, what’s your name?
Bongoman: Oh, I’m Bongoman
Luke: Sorry?
Bongoman: I’m Bongoman
Luke: Bongoman?
Bongoman: Yeah
Luke: Where are you from Bongoman?
Bongoman: Africa
Luke: From where?
Bongoman: Africa
Luke: Africa, okay. So, err, what’s carnival all about for you?
Bongoman: It’s all about peace and love, being together, and sharing love for one another.
Luke: Yeah, nice. Ok. Is that… how does the bongo fit into all of that?
Bongoman: Oh, through African roots culture going back centuries, so…
Luke: Yeah, like the rhythm, the heart beat, all that… Thanks a lot
Bongoman: I’d like to say to my fans, I love you all. Part of my soul is with them. If they’re watching, or if they’re watching on YouTube or Facebook, here’s to them – I love you all, my fans. Keep supporting me all the way. Love you.
Luke: Cheers man

Luke: Thanks Bongoman. I’ve no idea who Bongoman is, but he may be famous on YouTube. These people were completely covered in Chocolate. Someone had a big load of chocolate and they were throwing it at everyone. She’s doing a kind of carnival dance. And that woman got chocolate on my face.
Luke: They got me! Argh!

Luke: Hello, what are your names?
Girl 1: Gem(?)
Girl 2: My name is D’Arcy(?)
Luke: What’s carnival all about? Are you enjoying it?
Girls: Yeah we are enjoying it, very nice.
Luke: Do you live in London?
Girl 2: Yeah, we live in London, we live in South East London, yeah
Luke: Oh yeah? So what is carnival all about for you?
Girl 2: Sorry?
Luke: What’s it all about? What’s the main… thing?
Girl 1: We are in London just as tourists, because we are not English speaking, we are French and…
Girl 2: We come just for the carnival
Luke: Right, so what do you think of carnival then?
Girl 1: Very good.
Girl 2: Very good. It’s very nice, maybe we will come back next year.
Luke: Ok, thanks very much!

Luke: That man tried to hit the camera out of my hands.

Luke: What’s carnival all about man? What’s it all about?
Rastaman: All about? It’s a festival, it’s ????? man. Alright? Everybody enjoy themselves, do everything. Enjoy yourself, ???? ?????
Luke: Right, thank you

Luke: Right, I had no idea what he said, didn’t understand a word of it actually. You can see Popeye and Olive Oil having a good time, enjoying the carnival. Much taller than I expected.

MC: Where’s the beer crew!? Stella Artois! Budweiser! Fosters!

Luke: All the jerk chicken there. Massive barbecues with people chopping it up there on the table. Very tasty it is. It’s quite spicy.

Luke: What’s your name?
Ella: Err, my name is Ella.
Luke: Err, how’s the fest… how’s the carnival?
Ella: Pretty good, it’s pretty busy.
Luke: Yeah, have you been here before?
Ella: Yeah, two years ago
Luke: Okay, is this one better or worse than the last time?
Ella: Err, I think better. I’m with more people, so it’s better.
Luke: Ok, alright. What’s carnival all about?
Ella: Err, I don’t know. Partying. I’m sure there’s like, some historical reason, but…
Luke: What’s it about for you?
Ella: I dunno, having a laugh, getting drunk in the daytime. What about you? What’s it for you?
Luke: The same – having a good laugh, listening to the music, getting into the sort of community spirit of it, and all that. Yeah. Okay, thank you…

Luke: I’m an idiot because I didn’t get her phone number. I should have tried to chat her up, but I didn’t.

Koreans: Hello!
Luke: Where are you from?
Koreans: South Korea!
Korean Girl 1: He is North Korea!
Luke: What do you think of carnival?
Korean Girl 2: Sorry?
Luke (shouting): What do you think of the carnival??
Random guy: Yeah!!! Hypnotic brass dot net! Yeah yeah! What’s up maan? What’s up?
Korean Girl 2: Very nice!
Luke: What do you think of carnival?
Korean Girl 2: Very nice!
Luke: Very nice?
(North) Korean Guy 1: This carnival is wonderful, yeah!
Luke: Yeah, brilliant. Nice one, cheers.
Korean Girl 1: You are very nice!
Luke: Cheers

Luke: You can see St. Luke’s Mews, err, named after me actually. It wasn’t really, erm, yeah. So the Spanish tapas bar was open, but the Japanese café was closed. Typical. It’s very difficult to squeeze through the crowds at the carnival. There’s so many people, it’s difficult to squeeze through. … See, more people dancing in the street. Getting down. Another massive speaker. Very very loud. Seriously loud music. And, erm, you see all the people, kind of, getting down, grooving, dancing, blowing their whistles. It’s just a great party in the street. I mean, normally these streets are very quiet, very nice places, but during carnival they just become crazy parties, with everyone just dancing and drinking, it’s great fun.

This here is, erm, Miss Dynamite, and she’s actually quite famous in the UK. She’s got a recording contract. So you can see she’s getting everyone into it. That’s basically the end of this carnival video. After this, my tape ran out. I had no more tape left. It ran out, so I had to leave a final message for you.

Luke: Ok, erm, I’m just in a toilet now, in someone’s house, someone I don’t know. Erm, the sun’s gone down, the carnival’s going crazy out there, completely insane, so I’ve run out of tape, so that’s the end of this, that’s the end of this video, so ciao, peace, rastafari…

So, that’s the end of the video. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, there are loads of phrasal verbs in the whole video. So, did you manage to spot all the phrasal verbs? I’ll give you a list of the phrasal verbs in this video, at the end of the video, but of course you’ll have to listen to Luke’s English Podcast again in order to find all the meanings. I’ll actually explain all of the phrasal verbs and give you definitions for all of them. Every one that has appeared in this show, in this video, okay? So, what you should do now is watch the video again and try and pick up all of the phrasal verbs, ok?
That’s it, bye bye bye bye bye bye byebybybye

What is a phrasal verb?
It’s a verb which is made of two or more words. A verb and one or two particles. Particles are prepositions or adverbs. E.g. To get on with someone. ‘get’ is the verb, ‘on’ and ‘with’ are prepositions, or particles. (to get on with someone means to have a good relationship with someone – e.g. “I get on really well with my brother. We’re good friends”)
There are 2 types of phrasal verbs: Literal ones and idiomatic ones.
The literal ones are quite easy to understand. The meaning of the phrasal verb is not too different to the meaning of just the verb in the phrase. The particle just modifies the meaning slightly, or is used to connect the verb to a noun. e.g. I know about the Notting Hill Carnival ‘Know about’ is very similar to ‘know’, but slightly different. E.g. I know Tom Cruise (I know who he is), I know about Tom Cruise (I’ve read about him, I know information about him).
Idiomatic phrasal verbs are the difficult ones because the meaning is different from the individual words. E.g. to give up smoking (to quit smoking)
The meaning of the word ‘give’ and the phrase ‘give up’ are completely different.

So, when you see a verb + particle combination (phrasal verb), think about if it is a literal one or an idiomatic one. Luckily, almost every phrasal verb in this video is a literal one (yey!).

Here’s the list of phrasal verbs, and a brief description of their meanings:

  1. To know about something – you have information or knowledge about it. You might have read about it, or heard about it from someone.
  2. To go out – to leave the house, and go outside. It also means to leave the house to go to a pub, bar or club.
  3. To get some cash out – to withdraw money
  4. To get on the bus – to enter the bus
  5. To top up your Oyster card – an Oyster card is an electronic bus/train card. To ‘top it up’ means to put money onto it.
  6. To wait for something – this just means to wait, but we always use the preposition ‘for’ to add an object
  7. To hot up – to become more exciting, busier and more active. E.g. “The carnival is hotting up!”
  8. To get stuck in traffic – to be delayed in a traffic jam. E.g. “Sorry I’m late, I got stuck in traffic”
  9. To walk through somewhere – to walk from one end of an area to the other end. E.g. “I’m just walking through Notting Hill at the moment”
  10. To block off the street – to stop people entering or exiting the street. The police do it with ‘road blocks’. “The police have blocked off the street”
  11. To drive through the street – to drive from one end of the street to the other end. “People can’t drive through the street”
  12. To meet up with someone – to meet someone, usually in an informal/social way. “I’m going to meet up with my friend Raph”
  13. To queue up for something – to wait for something in a line/que with other people. To stand in a queue for something. “You have to queue up for the toilet”
  14. To come across something – to find something while you are walking somewhere, or while you are doing something else. E.g. “I was surfing the internet and I came across a really good podcast about The Beatles.”
  15. To walk around – this means to walk, but not to one destination, just to walk to various places in an area without a specific destination. E.g. “You might come across shops like this when you’re walking around Notting Hill”
  16. To wave at someone – to shake your hand in the air to someone (in order to say hello)
  17. To point at someone – to use your finger to bring attention to someone
  18. To pick something up – to buy it, get it, take it. E.g. “You can pick up loads of nice caribbean food at the carnival”
  19. To pump out music – to play music really loud. E.g. “The speakers were pumping out music until 2AM”
  20. To get covered in something – to have something all over you (it’s passive). E.g. “They covered me in chocolate. I got covered in chocolate.”
  21. To look after someone – to protect, care for someone. “The police are here, just looking after everyone”
  22. To check something out – to look at something “Check out the helicopter!”
  23. To crack down on something – to try to stop something happening, to become strict on something. Usually the government or the police do this. E.g. “The police are cracking down on drug dealing”
  24. To see something off – to eat or drink something completely. To finish eating or drinking something. “You’ve already finished off two beers!”
  25. To get something down – to eat or drink something. “I’m going to get a couple more beers down later”
  26. To crack open a beer – to open a beer! ‘Crack’ is the sound the can of beer makes when you open it.
  27. To party on – to continue partying
  28. To come out into the street – to leave the house and go into the street
  29. To dress up – to put on special clothes (smart clothes, or fancy dress)
  30. To think about something – to consider something. ‘about’ is the preposition we use to connect ‘think’ to an object. You can also say ‘think of’ something.
  31. To go back centuries – to have a long history (hundreds of years). “The roots of African music and culture go back centuries”
  32. To come back – to return to this place again. “I think I’ll come back next year”
  33. To hit something out of your hands – to make someone drop something by ‘hitting’ it while they are holding it. “That man tried to hit the camera out of my hands”
  34. To chop something up – to cut something into pieces with a knife, sword etc. “These people are chopping up the jerk chicken”
  35. To chat someone up – to talk to someone because you think they are attractive, and you want to make them fancy you. Hopefully, you’ll get their mobile phone number, or you’ll be able to go on a date with them, or kiss them… “I should have tried to chat her up”
  36. To name something after someone – To give someone/something the same name as someone else. E.g.”I was named after Luke Skywalker because my parents are big Star Wars fans.” [that’s not actually true, they don’t love Star Wars (IV – VI) as much as me…]
  37. To squeeze through a crowd – to walk through a crowd of people by making your body smaller. “It’s really hard to squeeze through the crowds”
  38. To get down to the music – to dance to the music “Look at all the people getting down!”
  39. To get people into something – to encourage/make people enjoy something “Miss Dynamite really got everyone into it!”  n>
  40. To run out of something – to use all of something, so you have nothing left. E.g. “I ran out of fuel, so I couldn’t drive all the way. I ran out of water in the desert, and I died – that’s why I’m in heaven now, doing a podcast, in heaven, yes, silly example, sorry.”

That’s it, bye bye bye bye bye bye byebyebyebyebyyeyeyeyeyeyyey eye eye eye eye eye eye eye

24. Music Idioms

Learn some music-related idioms. Full Transcript available below.

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Learn English! Some music idioms for you to use. Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for everyone in the whole world to use. Download the podcast, listen, laugh and learn. Get new vocabulary, listening practice, pronunciation drills for speaking and some interesting cultural information. Email me at You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

This podcast is about music idioms. Idioms are difficult because they are fixed expressions. The individual words mean something different on their own. You have to learn the meaning of the complete expression. Here are some useful ones that relate to music in some way. You can use them to talk about anything.

The idioms:

  1. it rings a bell
  2. to pull out all the stops
  3. to play it by ear
  4. it’s music to my ears
  5. to be fit as a fiddle
  6. to face the music
  7. to change your tune
  8. to blow your own trumpet

Here are the transcipts of the badly acted dialogues (sorry about the terrible American accents):

A: Have you ever met Jack Miller?
B: Well the name rings a bell
A: He work in the Nakatomi Plaza
B: Oh yes, I remember. He was the guy who sealed the OCP contract. He wouldn’t stop blowing his own trumpet about it.
A: Yes, he kept going on about how he’d closed the deal, saying how Cyberdine were going to be the number 1 agency in the country.
B: Yeah, what a pain in the neck

OK guys! Summer is the busiest time of year for us. Lots of tourists with their £50 notes. What they really need, is London souvenirs. OK, so pull out all the stops this month. I want you to SELL SELL SELL. More British flags, more models of Big Ben, more photos of the Queen, more toy London busses, more postcards of punks, more Beatles T-shirts, more London Eye photos, more We Will Rock You tickets, and more umbrellas!!

A: Sir?
B: Yes?
A: It’s Miller. We’ve closed the OCP deal.
B: Oh, that is music to my ears! I can’t tell you how important it is to Cyberdine.
A: No sir, you don’t have to tell me.
B: Excellent!

A: Hey Miller!
B: Yeah?
A: Are you going into the OCP negotiation?
B: Well, yes I am.
A: Don’t you need your notes? Where’s your file?
B: Oh, I don’t really need them
A: How are you going to manage the negotiation without them?
B: Oh, I’ll just play it by ear

A: Well Miller…
B: Yes Doctor?
A: I’m pleased to tell you that you have a clean bill of health. You’re fit as a fiddle! It’s quite surprising really considering your age. I expect you have the body of someone half your age. How do you do it?
B: Well, just lucky I suppose
[terrible, unforgivable acting]

A: Hey Miller! The board is furious! They say you screwed up the OCP deal. They say Cyberdine is in jeopardy.
B: Damn it! Did they say anything else?
A: Yeah, they say they want to see you immediately. Time to face the music Miller.
B: I suppose so…

Serious APOLOGIES for the bad acting and for the slightly offensive American accent. I do like America, and mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery (apparently).

Here are the idioms and their definitions:

it rings a bell – it’s familiar, or it reminds me of something

to pull out all the stops – to do everything you can to achieve a result

to play it by ear – to improvise, to not follow a plan

it’s music to my ears – it’s exactly what I wanted to hear

to be fit as a fiddle – to be in perfect health

to face the music – to accept the negative consequences of what you have done

to change your tune – to change your opinion of something, and the way you talk about it

to blow your own trumpet – to go on about or boast about something you did well or are good at
That’s it folks! Cheers, bye bye bye bye bey bye bey bey bye bye bey bey bey bey bey

24. Music Idioms – Transcript

You are listening to Luke’s English podcast. For more information visit teacher (

Hello, folks and welcome to another edition of Luke’s English podcast. Now, the last podcast I did was about music festivals. So, I thought that I’d stick with the theme of music this time and teach you some music idioms.
Now, just a little note about idioms. Of course, an idiom is a kind of fixed expression that, you know, is used a lot in general conversation. Now, they are quite tricky because the meaning is difficult to understand. If you try to understand the individual words one by one in an idiom you probably won’t understand the idiom. It’s very difficult because the idiom as a whole has a different meaning to the individual words. So, for example if you look in a dictionary and try to understand the expression word by word you won’t understand anything. It’s got a different meaning as a fixed expression.

So, I’m going to teach you some idioms that are sort of related to music in some way and I’ve selected these ones myself, handpicked them to make sure that I was teaching you idioms which are actually quite useful because some of the idioms that you learn are not really useful.
There are so many that some of them are not used very often or are a bit old-fashioned and I think these ones are okay.

So, the idioms I’m going to teach you and you’ll be able to read all of these idioms with transcripts on the web page. So, the idioms of this….and I’m not going to tell you what they mean, yet. First I’m just going to read the idioms to you and then I’m going to read you little dialogues that include the idioms and then at the end I’m going to explain what the idioms mean. Okay?

So, the idioms then, one by one.

First on is: it rings a bell or that rings a bell. Right?
Next on is: to pull out all the stops- to pull out all the stops. To pull out all the stops
Okay? So that’s it rings a bell and to pull out all the stops.
The next one is: to play it by ear – to play it by ear. Right? To play it by ear. Right?
The next one is: It’s music to my ears – it’s music to my ears. Right? Okay?
The next one is: to be fit as a fiddle – to be fit as a fiddle – to be fit as a fiddle. Okay?
The next one is: to face the music – to face the music.
The next one is: to change your tune – to change your tune or to change your tune. Right?
And the last one is: to blow your own trumpet – to blow your own trumpet – to blow your own trumpet. Okay?

So, don’t worry if you don’t know what those idioms mean and don’t worry about trying to understand the individual words necessarily because sometimes they don’t really help you.

So what I’d like you to try and do now, is listen to these little stupid dialogues that I have written which I’m going to perform. They’re not very good dialogues and I’m not a very good actor but I’m going to try and perform the dialogues to you to make it more realistic or interesting. And as you listen to the dialogues try to notice the idioms that I’ve used and try and guess what they mean from the context of the situation. Okay? Don’t forget at the end I’ll explain what they mean. Alright?

So, I’m going to start with the first dialogue.
All these dialogues are in some way related to work, basically.

It’s a kind of work themed situation in which a man had to do a negotiation to win a contract, and what happened. Okay?

So, here we go. Here is the first part of the dialogue.

Have you ever met Jack Miller?
Well, the name rings a bell.
He works in the Nakatomi Plaza
Oh, yes, I remember, it was the guy who sealed the OCP contract. He wouldn’t stop blowing his own trumpet about it.
Yes, he just kept going on about how he’d closed the deal, saying how Cyberdyne were going to be the number 1 agency in the country.
Yeah, what a pain in the neck!

Okay, that was my first dialogue. I do apologise for the terrible acting but there is nothing I can do about it. I am not a professional actor. I am a teacher, so I’m just doing the best I can. Anyway, I hope you managed to catch the idiom there. It was to blow your own trumpet.
He said, he wouldn’t stop blowing his own trumpet about it.

Okay, the next situation, if you can imagine is like in a big souvenir shop in the centre of London in the summer time. Okay? And this is like a motivational speech by the sales manager of the souvenir shop. Okay? Here it is:

Okay, guys! Summer is the busiest time of year for us. Lots of tourists with their 50 pound notes. What they really need is London souvenirs. Okay? So pull out all the stops this month. I want you to sell, sell, sell. More British flags, more models of Big Ben, more photos of the Queen, more toy London busses, more postcards of punks, more Beatles T-shirts, more London Eye photos, more We Will Rock You tickets, and more umbrellas!!

Okay, so that was the souvenir manager and the idiom there was…oh, what was it? The idiom was there – the idiom there – uh, I can’t speak.
I’ll start again: The idiom there was to pull out all the stops. Right? Okay!

Now, the next one is back with the story of Jack Miller and the negotiation.

It’s Miller, we’ve closed the OCP deal.
Oh, that is music to my ears. I can’t tell you how important it’s to Cyberdine.
No, sir, you don’t have to tell me, sir.

Okay, I’m getting kind of embarrassed now because I realised that these little dialogues are just awful, I think. I am not very pleased with them. I think they sound terrible. My acting is awful and my accents are really rubbish. But I’m gonna keep doing it because I’ve started it now, so I’ve got to finish. Anyway! That idiom was: that’s music to my ears. That’s music to my ears. Okay?

Okay, here is the next dialogue! Here we go, more bad acting and even worse accents coming right up:

Hey, Miller
Are you going into the OCP negotiation?
Well, yes I am
Don’t you need your notes? Where is your file?
Oh, I don’t really need them.
How are you going to manage the negotiation without them?
Oh, I’ll just play it by ear

Okay, I think this is a pretty awful and embarrassing mainly because of my acting. I thought that I was a bit better than this but clearly I’m not. I’m rubbish in acting. But, that’s not important. The important thing is that you learn some English. Isn’t that right? I think so.
So, yeah, the idiom there was I’ll play it by ear, to play it by ear. Right? Okay!
So there are two more dialogues and here is the next one.
It’s in a doctor’s surgery, so our man, Jack Miller is going to the doctors to get a check up. Okay, so here it is.

Well, Miller
Yes, doctor
I’m pleased to tell you that you have a clean bill of health. You are fit as a fiddle. It’s quite surprising really, considering your age. I expect you have a body of someone half your age. How do you do it?
Well, I am just lucky, I suppose

More bad acting for you there. A kind of posh doctor character. Anyway! the idiom there was: You’re fit as a fiddle. You’re fit as a fiddle. Okay?

Now, here is the last dialogue and the last of my terrible performances. Here we go. It’s back to the story of Miller and the negotiation.

Hey, Miller, the board are furious. They said you screwed up the OCP deal. They say Cyberdine is in jeopardy.
Damn it! Did they say anything else?
Yeah, they say they wanna see you immediately. Time to face the music Miller.
I suppose so.

So, that’s the last dialogue. I hope you enjoyed the story of Miller and the negotiation and, yeah, sorry about the awful acting. Next time I’ll get, you know, Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and Christopher Walken to come and perform one of my dialogues.
I think maybe next time I’ll do Christopher Walken and Robert de Niro. I think that will be quite a good combination. So, anyway the meanings of those idioms …well, actually in the first dialogue there were two idioms. That was: It rings a bell and he kept blowing his trumpet. Right?

So it rings a bell means it’s familiar – I think I remember it. It’s familiar or reminds me of something. So, if someone says something like: Oh, do you know Jack Miller. And I say “the name rings a bell”. So, it’s like there is a little memory of it in the back of your head. But you can’t really remember it. It’s like a little bell ringing in the back of your head. So, his name rings a bell. Right? So, it’s familiar.

The other one in that first dialogue was to blow your own trumpet. To blow your own trumpet. And that’s basically to boast about how good you are. So if you keep going on about how great you are you are just blowing your own trumpet. Okay? Right!

In the next dialogue we had to pull out all the stops. To pull out all the stops. It was, okay pull out all the stops this month. And if you pull out all the stops it comes from….well, pull out all the stops means you do everything you can in order to achieve the results that you need. So, you kind of go full power into your work. You pull out all the stops. Now, that comes from old organs like church organs which use pipes and to get the loudest sound of your organ, you would pull out all the stops and stops are like little buttons that you can pull out or press in and they change the sound of the organ. So, if you pull all of the stops out it makes a really loud sound of the organ, so now we use the expression to pull out all the stops to mean to do something full with all our power. You know, to do everything you can in order to achieve the result, right?

Now, the other idioms like I just said: It rings a bell. Well, a bell is like a little thing you have at the top of a church. Ding, ding, ding, ding like that, okay? So it rings a bell. Like I said it rings a bell in the back of your head like a memory.

The other one is to blow your own trumpet. So, a trumpet is a musical instrument which you blow into. I am sure you know what a trumpet is. If you don’t know what a trumpet is I’ll play you a little bit of trumpet. I don’t play the trumpet but I’m gonna play you a little bit of someone else playing the trumpet. Here it is:

trumpet music

Okay, so that was a trumpet being played. That was actually Donald Byrd there. A great trumpet player. So, to blow your own trumpet means to go on and boast about how great you are. Okay? To blow your own trumpet.

Okay, in the next dialogue we had: That’s music to my ears, that’s music to my ears and if you say that when basically someone has said something that is exactly what you wanted to hear. It’s exactly what you wanted to hear. So, something that makes you very happy. That’s music to my ears. Okay?

Now, the next one was….let’s see….I’ll just play it by ear. I’ll just play it by ear and in that one Miller’s colleague said to him: How you are going to manage the negotiation without your notes and Miller said: I’ll just play it by ear. So, to play it by ear means that…eh….let’s see improvise you don’t follow a plan. You just react to whatever happens there. So, Miller is going to go into this negotiation without his notes. He’s not going to use a plan, he’s just going to react as things happen. He is just going to improvise. Okay? So the origin of that to play it by ear is a bit like: when you play a piano when you play a piece of music without music, without sheet music. You are not reading the music you are just playing it by ear. Okay? So, that’s where that comes from. At least we use that expression to say when you do something without planning, you just improvise. You play it by ear. Okay?

So, in the next dialogue, we had….you are as fit as a fiddle. And that’s what Miller’s doctor said to him. You are fit as a fiddle which means you are very healthy. You are in perfect health. To be fit means that you are healthy. You are —you know, you do lots of exercise and your body is in good condition. But if you are fit as a fiddle it means you are really, really healthy. And a fiddle is another word for a violin. So, I am not sure why they say fit as a fiddle. Why is a violin fit? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the strings are tight and it’s kind of …I don’t know, in good condition or something. But fit as a fiddle. Here we go.

And in the last dialogue we had: time to face the music, to face the music.
Now, if you face the music it means you accept the negative consequences of your actions. You accept like if you don’t… something that caused a really bad reaction you have to just accept that and just face it. For example when lots of people are angry about a decision you made and they are in a room and they are all angry, you just go in there and speak to them. You need to face the music. Right? Okay!

So, that’s it. Actually I’ve just realised, I realised something at the beginning of this podcast I said that I will teach you all of those idioms like it rings a bell, to pull out all the stops, to play it by ear, it’s music to my ears, you are fit as a fiddle, to face the music, to blow your own trumpet and to change your tune. But I didn’t explain to change your tune. I’ve just realised that.

So, basically you change your tune, you change your opinion of something. Change the way you talk about something. So, for example if maybe one month John always talks about – I don’t know – “U2, like the rock band U2 if usually he says: Ah, U2 are rubbish, they are boring, you know, they are not very good at music, their songs are really bad and Bono can’t sing and he’s really annoying. So, I hate U2” and when that’s what for example John says about U 2 and then, like the next day after he listened to one of their songs, the next day he says: “Do you know what, U2 are really good actually, yeah. I think, you know, possibly one of the best bands in the country in the moment. As a matter of fact, I’ve purchased 2 tickets and go to see them life in concert.” Right?
And you would say to him: “What are you talking about, John? You’ve changed your tune. I thought you hated U2.” Right? So, to change your tune is to change your opinion of something and to change the way you talk about something.

So, that’s it!
So, I hope those idioms are useful for you. Let me give you actually just a couple of drills for those …just drills for those idioms. Okay?
So, these are just sentences I’m gonna read to you. I’d love you to try and repeat them. It’s good practice for your pronunciation. Think about how all of the words in the sentences are linked together when I say them and try to copy it. Okay!

Here is the first one:
His name rings a bell.
We’ve got to pull out all the stops.
I’ll just play it by ear.
That’s music to my ears.
You’re fit as a fiddle.
Time to face the music.
You’ve changed your tune
Don’t blow your own trumpet

And that’t it for this episode of Luke’s English podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you’re using these drills to practice your pronunciation.
That’s it for me and have a very nice day.
Cheers buy, buy, buy, buy, buy

Hi, folks
You are listening to Luke’s English Podcast. That’s right, this is Luke. I’m just sitting here right now, playing the piano. I play the piano maybe three, four times a day. Sometimes, if I have the time and I’m not teaching English or doing a podcast. I came up here to start playing the piano. Kind of makes me feel good. I am sure it makes everyone else in the neighbourhood feel good. I know my neighbours particularly enjoy the piano playing all hours of the day. Sometimes they bang on the ceiling there, just out of pure enjoyment I think. They sure love it when I play the piano.
So, I just thought I’d play this short piece for you right now. Just to give you another side of my personality, ladies and gentlemen.
And I’ll be doing another podcast for you real soon so until then have a very, very nice week. I’ll catch you soon. Thanks a lot, good night!