Don’t make me laugh!


The script for this programme

Jennifer: Hi I’m Jennifer and this is The English We Speak. In this programme, we teach you about English words or phrases which you might not find in the dictionary. Here comes Feifei.

Feifei: Hello Jen, hi everyone. Hey, Jen, I have some news for you.

Jennifer: Oh yes, what is it?

Feifei: I was standing next to the water cooler, when I heard the boss talking. He said that he is going to give everyone at work a holiday! For free!

Jennifer: A free holiday?

Feifei: Yes, I’m sure that’s what he said.

Jennifer: Oh, don’t make me laugh!

read more…




To carry a torch for someone

A man carrying the Olympic torchA man carrying the Olympic torch outside the BBC’s offices in White City, London. Photo by BBC Learning English

Today’s Phrase

If you carry a torch for someone, it means you are in love with them.

For example:

John has carried a torch for Jane for years but she doesn’t seem to notice.

‘George is such a nice guy, isn’t he?

You carry a torch for him, don’t you?

No! Well yes actually… is it obvious?’

Don’t confuse it with

To carry the can means to take the blame for something.

For example:

The boss is so lazy but when there’s a mistake I always have to carry the can for him.

Interesting fact

The Olympic torch relay passed through White City, which was the site of the very first London Olympics held in 1908. The stadium was demolished in 1985 and BBC offices were built in its place. A plaque on the wall marks the place where the stadium’s finishing line was.

A big deal – Expression


A card dealerA dealer shuffles a deck of cards during the World Series of poker in Las Vegas. Photo: AP/ Julie Jacobson

Today’s Phrase

The phrase a big deal is often used to describe a situation of great importance.


It’s obviously a big deal to her to get a promotion first because she can move up in the company faster than anybody else in the team.

I just couldn’t understand why they quarrelled so much over the colour of a picture frame – it’s not a big deal!

Take note

big no-no describes something that should never be done or should never have been done.


Wearing jeans is a big no-no in a posh restaurant.

Arriving late and leaving early is a big no-no at our workplace.

Interesting fact

The earliest known playing cards are from 9th Century China. The widely-used French design of today has 52 cards and four ‘suits’: clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades.

To have a big mouth – Expression


Holi One festival in Cape TownA man is covered in coloured corn flour powder at the Holi One festival in Cape Town. Photo: Mark Wessels/Reuters

Today’s Phrase

If you have a big mouth it means that you are loud, like to gossip and can’t keep secrets.


Jimmy has a big mouth. Yesterday I told him that I am leaving the company and today everybody knows about it.

I could never be a spy. I have a big mouth!

Take note

The expression be all mouth, often found as ‘be all mouth and no trousers‘, is used to describe someone who talks a lot about doing something but never actually does it.


I bet you haven’t asked your boss about that pay rise you talk so much about; you are all mouth and no trousers!

Interesting fact

Inspired by the original Holi Festival in India, Holi One Festivals have travelled around the world to South Africa, Germany, the US and Singapore. Thousands of people, dressed in white, come together to share in music, dance and celebrate a new season.

Hole-in-the-wall – ???

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Hole-in-the-wall is one of those phrases where you get a lot of words hyphenated, if you wrote it down: hole-in-the-wall, being used as a single word, as a noun. “‘I’m going to the hole-in-the-wall”‘ you might say or “‘I’m getting some money out of the hole-in-the-wall”‘. Well you can see what it means, it means an automatic cash dispenser – one of those installed in the outside wall of a bank or some other money-giving organisation.

It’s British colloquial; it’s not used as far as I know in the States, or in Australia, or anywhere, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it spread a little bit – always written with hyphens. Very unusual to see phrases of this kind and sentences being used in this way, as single words. But if you listen out for them, you’ll find them – especially being used as adjectives. Have you heard people for instance say “‘he’s a very get-up-and-go-person”‘? Now there’s the sentence ‘get up and go’. To say a “‘get-up-and-go-person”‘ means somebody who’s got lots of oomph inside them, lots of enthusiasm. Or if I give you a “‘come-hither-look”‘ – a “‘come-hither-look”‘: come here – come hither. Another phrase being used as an adjective.

You can try them out as a sort of game. “‘Who do you think you are?”‘ is a common enough expression – so you can make it an adjective and say “‘he gave me a who-do-you-think-you-are sort of look”‘. Make it even longer if you want: “‘he gave me a who-do-you-think-you-are-and-why-are-you-looking-at-me sort of look”‘ – but there is a limit to the length you can make an adjective. Don’t go on for too long, you’ll run out of breath!

Extra information

Katherine, Chicago, IL, USA writes:
In his explanation of “hole-in-the-wall”, Professor Crystal says that it means an ATM, and the term is not used in the United States. It’s true that we don’t use hole-in-the-wall to describe an ATM. But we do use it to describe a small, modest, and out-of-the-way place, like a diner or a rundown cafe.

For example: “My apartment is just a hole-in-the-wall, but my rent is so low I can’t complain.”

“Instead of going to a fancy restaurant, let’s visit some family-owned hole-in-the-wall.”

The Hole-in-the-Wall is a nightclub in Austin, Texas; a community theater in New Britain, Connecticut and a place in Wyoming that once served as a hideout for the legendary gunmen Jesse James and Butch Cassidy.

Graham from Australia adds:
The term “hole-in-the-wall” for an ATM is in common use in Australia. It appeared to derive, or at least to gain common recognition, from an early television advertisment, in which the boss’s secretary pops out to the bank after closing time for cash. When she returns with the cash he asks how she got it and she replies that “I just punched a hole in the wall of the statewide building society”. The term soon became pretty universal here.

The adverbs in English

The adverbs and the adjectives in English

Adverbs tell us in what way someone does something. Adverbs can modify verbs (here: drive), adjectives or other adverbs.

Adjectives tell us something about a person or a thing. Adjectives can modify nouns (here: girl)or pronouns (here: she).

adjective adverb
Mandy is a careful girl. Mandy drives carefully.
She is very careful.

Mandy is a careful driver. This sentence is about Mandy, the driver, so use the adjective.

Mandy drives carefully. This sentence is about her way of driving, so use the adverb.


Adjective + -ly

adjective adverb
dangerous dangerously
careful carefully
nice nicely
horrible horribly
easy easily
electronic electronically
irregular forms
good well
fast fast
hard hard

If the adjective ends in -y, change -y to -i. Then add -ly.
happy – happily
but: shy – shyly

If the adjective ends in -le, the adverb ends in -ly.
Example: terrible – terribly

If the adjective ends in -e, then add -ly.
Example: safe – safely


Tip: Not all words ending in -ly are adverbs.

adjectives ending in -ly: friendly, silly, lonely, ugly
nouns, ending in -ly: ally, bully, Italy, melancholy
verbs, ending in -ly: apply, rely, supply

There is no adverb for an adjective ending in -ly.

Use of adverbs

to modify verbs:
The soccer team played badly last Saturday.

to modify adjectives:
It was an extemely bad match.

to modify adverbs:
The soccer team played extremely badly last Wednesday.

to modify quantities:
There are quite a lot of people here.

to modify sentences:
Unfortunately, the flight to Dallas had been cancelled.

Types of adverbs

1) Adverbs of manner

2) Adverbs of degree

3) Adverbs of frequency

4) Adverbs of time

5) Adverbs of place

How do know whether to use an adjective or an adverb?

John is a careful driver. -> In this sentences we say how John is – careful.

If we want to say that the careful John did not drive the usual way yesterday – we have to use theadverb: John did not drive carefully yesterday.

Here is another example:

I am a slow walker. (How am I? -> slow -> adjective)
I walk slowly. (Ho do I walk? -> slowly -> adverb)

Adjective or Adverb after special verbs

Both adjectives and adverbs may be used after look, smell and taste. Mind the change in meaning.

Here are two examples:

adjective adverb
The pizza tastes good.
(How is the pizza?)
Jamie Oliver can taste well.
(How can Jamie Oliver taste?)
Peter’s feet smell bad.
(How are his feet?)
Peter can smell badly.
(How can Peter smell?)

Do not get confused with good/well.

Linda looks good.
(What type of person is she?)

Linda looks well.
(How is Linda? -> She may have been ill, but now she is fit again.)

How are you? – I’m well, thank you.

One can assume that in the second/third sentence the adverb well is used, but this is wrong.
well can be an adjective (meaning fit/healthy), or an adverb of the adjective good.

Use the adjective when you say something about the person itself.
Use the adverb, when you want to say about the action.

Adverbs – Summary
The comparison of adverbs
The position of adverbs in sentences
Adverbs of frequency
Adverbs and adjectives have the same form
Adverbs, where the basis is not the adjective
Adverbs – two forms
Exercises: Adjectives and adverbs

The Queen of Sheba

Anna and Denise from English at Work


Anna is still getting used to how things work in her new job. She turns to her colleagues to ask for help, but upsets Denise by sounding too bossy.

  • Polite requests

This episode looks at language for making polite requests.

Phrases from the programme:

I was wondering if you could do something for me…

Would you be able print out a file for me?

Could I have it within ten minutes please?

Could you possibly help me with the printer?

Would you mind writing your email later?

  • Listening Challenge

What reason does Tom give for being too busy to help Anna with her printer?

The answer is at the end of the pdf script.