Learn British English with Anastassia

Exciting Adventures in the English Language and Culture

Category: How To

How to: Part 1

Imagine the following situation:

A friend asks you if he/she can borrow your bike for a day. You don’t mind it. How would you let your friend know it’s OK for him/her to take your bike?

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Here’s a few options:

Sure, no problem at all.

Absolutely!

Yeah, go ahead.

It’s all yours.

Feel free.

Help yourself.

Take your pick!

P.S. Naturally, you can use these expressions in any other situation similar to the example given here.

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How to Say Thank You Like a Native

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Thank you is probably the most frequently used word in the UK. Britons pepper their speech with thank-yous so generously that the word has lost much of its meaning having turned into a sort of verbal smile, as in the following example, which is a typical dialogue between a cashier and a customer you’ll hear and get involved into a lot in this country.

– Do you need any bags?

– No, thanks.

– Would you like to pay in cash or by card?

– Card.

– Please insert it into the card reader and enter your PIN. Thank you. Here’s your receipt.

Thanks a lot.

– Have a lovely day! Bye-bye!

Thanks. You too. Bye!

It may sound ridiculous but, if you care what others think about you and your manners, you’d better overuse rather than underuse the magic word. Luckily, there’s actually more than one, so take your pick.

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How to Say Hello and Goodbye Like a Native

The very first thing you learn to say in any new language is, without doubt, how to greet people. And there’s a good reason for that – you can’t possibly strike up (=start) a conversation without saying hello first. Well, technically speaking, you can, but we don’t do that in polite society (=educated and well-mannered people).

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Hello is a universal greeting – it works at any time of day and in any situation, especially with people you don’t know well and older people.

Hello Mrs Smith. How are you today?

It’s also the word we use when answering the phone.

Hello. – Hi Jenny, it’s Katy. – Oh, hi Katy!

Hello there can be used to address either one person or a group of people.

Hello there! It’s ages since I last saw you. How have you been?

We also use it rather informally when writing to someone whose name we don’t know (or can’t remember!). For example, you want to buy something on Ebay but have questions to ask the seller. Hello (or Hi) there is a perfectly acceptable way of starting your message.

Then, there’s hi, which these days is by far the most popular greeting among native English speakers as it’s friendlier and less formal than hello. It’s used both in conversation in informal writing, i.e. emails and text messages, with family and friends, colleagues and clients, people who do things for us, such as shop assistants and waiters, and so on. The only restriction in its use is the age difference – don’t say hi to anyone who’s much older than you, unless you’re on intimate terms with them as I am with my parents-in-law, for example.

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How to correctly use the words ‘travel’, ‘journey’ and ‘trip’

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Of these four nouns the one that confuses English learners most is definitely travel.

Travel is used to refer to the activity of travelling in general. In this meaning it’s always uncountable, i.e. takes no article and is always singular.

His job involves a great deal of travel.

Her interests are history, art and travel.

Travel can be plural when it means journeys, especially abroad.

On their travels they met lots of interesting people, many of whom became their lifelong friends.

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How to Agree and Disagree

In English, agreeing and disagreeing with negative statements and questions is a bit confusing, if not counterintuitive.

Don’t you like apples? No, I don’t.

Here you express agreement with no – you agree that you don’t like apples.

– It’s not cold.

Yes, it is.

And here you contradict the speaker with yes – unlike them, you think it is cold.

The rule is to choose yes or no depending on your answer (yes if it’s positive and no if it’s negative) and not what it communicates (agreement or disagreement).

Didn’t you see the sign? No, I didn’t. (agreement but the answer is negative (I didn’t), therefore we use no)

You can’t afford this car. (Yes,) I can. (contradiction but the reply is positive (I can), therefore yes is used)

Hope you’ll never have trouble with this language point again. Did you just say “I won’t”? Great! And if you think you will, well maybe you should re-read this post.

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