English Inversion #1: Why? When? How?


Only by swimming with sharks will we overcome our fear of them.
Photo by Michael Liao on Unsplash

One of the first things you learn when you start learning English is the word order in sentences. The subject comes before the verb

                    SUBJECT                                  VERB

                                            you                                              learn
                                            you                                              start
                                            The subject                               comes

Then, you learn that question word order is different.  Usually, the auxiliary verb comes before the subject. This is called INVERSION because we invert the subject and auxiliary verb.  

Question word order:
Have you ever swum with sharks? Why are people afraid of them? What do you think? Will we ever overcome our fear of sharks?

                                          VERB                                        SUBJECT

   have                                           you                      ?
   are                                              people                ?
   do                                                you                     ?
   will                                              we                       ?

We can use Inversion in sentences which are not questions:

Only by swimming with sharks will we overcome our fear of them.

Rarely have I seen such a weird lipstick advertisement!

You can continue with your English studies and never use Inversion in sentences. That’s perfectly okay. However, if you are preparing for a Cambridge or IELTS exam or other exams or situations where you need to demonstrate an extensive use of English, you will be expected to know about Inversion.

Let’s start with why and when. After all, if you don’t know why we use Inversion, you won’t know when to use it.


Inversion is mainly used for EMPHASIS. The expressions used (never, rarely, no sooner, only then, etc.) have much more impact when used at the beginning of a sentence than the more common pronoun subject, especially as most of  them are negative.

Negatives are more dramatic. Consider negative contractions: don’t, won’t, can’t, haven’t, etc. They usually have strong stress in English whilst positive contractions: I’m, he’ll, she’s, we’ve, I’d, etc. usually have weak stress. 



Rarely have I seen such a weird lipstick advertisement!
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

INVERSION is used 

1. to emphasize the uniqueness of an event,

2. to stress how quickly something happened after something else had been completed, 

3. to clarify a situation, and

4. to sound more formal.

INVERSION is also used:

5. after clauses beginning with ‘nor’.


                     

Compare the Inversion examples below with the standard sentence examples. Try to imagine how much easier it would be for the speaker to stress words like: NeverRarelyNot until … (than: I … We … People … When)

1. to emphasize the uniqueness of an event

Never have I been so relieved to see anyone in my life!

Standard sentence:
I have never been so relieved to see anyone in my life.

Rarely does someone simply return to “business as usual” after seeing a Matt Church presentation’.

Standard sentence:
People rarely return to “business as usual” after seeing a Matt Church presentation.

Seldom am I impressed with
Hollywood celebrities.

Standard sentence:
I am seldom impressed with
Hollywood celebrities.

Hollywood celebrities seldom impress me.


2. to stress how quickly something happened after something else had been completed

Scarcely had I finished cooking when the guests arrived.

Standard sentence:
I had scarcely finished cooking when the guests arrived.

No sooner had we started the meal than someone knocked at the door.

Standard sentence:
We started the meal and immediately someone knocked at the door.
As soon as we started the meal, someone knocked at the door.

Barely had I served dessert when everyone started checking their phones!

Standard sentence:
When I served dessert, everyone started checking their phones.
As soon as I served dessert, everyone started checking their phones.

Can you detect the sense of exasperation that the speakers in the Inversion examples feel? The emphasis is on the timing more than the subject.


Barely had I served dessert when everyone started checking their phones!
Photo by jwlez on Unsplash

3. to clarify a situation 

Note how the sentences with Inversion have a sense of urgency whilst the standard sentences are more casual.


Only then did we realise what was possible!
Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Only after she won the gold medal in the 400-metre dash did Cathy realise the enormous pressure she’d been under.

Standard sentence:
It was only after she  won the 400-metre dash that Cathy realised the enormous pressure she’d been under.

On our trip to Milan, Italy we saw fantastic Green Buildings. Only then did we realise that cities could be environmentally responsible and resource-efficient!

Standard sentence:
It was only when we saw the Green Buildings in Milan that we realised that  cities could be environmentally responsible and resource-efficient!

Little was Henry aware of the damage caused by his thoughtless actions.

Standard sentence:
Henry was not aware of the damage caused by his thoughtless actions.

4. to sound more formal


Had I known you were in town, I would have invited you! Photo by Lanty on Unsplash

Had I known you were in town, I would have invited you!

     Standard sentence:
     If  I had known you  were  in  town,  I        would have invited you! 

Had they understood your situation, they might have helped you.

     Standard sentence:
     If they had understood your situation,       they might have helped you.


5. after clauses beginning with ‘nor’

I don’t believe in scarcity, nor do I believe that the grass is greener on the other side.

Standard sentence:
I don’t believe in scarcity and I don’t believe that the grass is greener on the other side.

I haven’t been to Japan, nor do I expect to visit there in the near future.

Standard sentence:
I haven’t been to Japan and I don’t expect to visit there in the near future.

✳✳✳  ✳✳✳   ✳✳✳

HOW do we use INVERSION?

…… to be continued.

This post is quite long enough! I will continue in my next post. Meanwhile, you can try to get used to the Inversion examples I’ve given above before I explain the rules and structures. 

I have found a song Never Ever by ‘All Saints’ which features the lines:

Never ever have I ever felt so low …
Never ever have I ever felt so sad …
Never ever have I had to find …

I suggest that you listen to the song until these clauses are locked into your long-term memory! It won’t take long. There is a lot of repetition. Click here for the YouTube video.

Subscribe above to receive an email when I post my next Inversion lesson.

✳✳✳  ✳✳✳   ✳✳✳

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, Grammar, IELTS, Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Leave a comment

English Idioms in Pictures #6

Click on the picture below to find out the meaning of the idiom HANGING BY A THREAD. Once on the site,  you can click on Follow at the bottom of the page to receive more pictures and explanations of idioms FREE.




Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Snack — Vocabulary in Chunks

Vocabulary in Chunks

[DW English]

Vocabulary to learn after watching the video :

  • Edible delicacies
  • The sea decides what’s on the menu
  • Right on the beach among the palm trees
  • They are making a curry with fresh vegetables and fish
  • Spice Island
  • Fillet the fish
  • Oriental influence on Zanzibar’s cuisine
  • Hungry diners
  • Regular customers here for years
  • It’s typical of the area
  • Culinary delight


Visit Zanzibar

View original post

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Videos, Vocabulary | Leave a comment

English Songs for Easy Listening & Learning English

I would like to introduce you to a brilliant musician and a wonderful human being:

Sixto Rodriguez


Sixto Rodriguez

I usually use songs on this website to explain grammar, but today, I’m encouraging you to just listen to and enjoy a superb song-writer with a remarkable voice. You can hear every word he sings clearly.

Listening to music you like while reading the lyrics is surely the easiest way to improve your English! Sing along with Rodriguez as you listen. Your listening will improve. Your pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar will also improve. Maybe your mood will improve too?

I have picked out my favourite Rodriguez songs and linked to the YouTube videos with lyrics. Just click on the song titles. There are plenty more for you to discover if you enjoy his music. Keep in mind that punctuation and spelling in YouTube videos are not always correct.

 Sugar Man              Sugar Man Remix  


 Street Boy              I wonder  


 I think of You              Forget It  


 I’ll Slip Away      Spanish and English subtitles


In 2012, a fascinating documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, was made about the life and music of this extraordinary man. On February 24, 2013, Searching for Sugar Man won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards. It won a total of 40 awards worldwide.

To watch the trailer, click on the picture below. Click on  http://sugarman.org  to go to the official Rodriguez website. Enjoy!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

Posted in Elementary (Level 2), Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs | Leave a comment

How Can I Improve My English Speaking?

I recently received an email asking for advice from an English learner in India. I receive a lot of similar requests from students in various countries so I decided to post my reply here. I hope my advice can help you in your English-learning journey.

Firstly, the email from Sainath:

 Hi Madam,

Greetings of the day………..

My self sainath from India… Thanks for helping us.
I have started learning English but vocabulary is not at all good.
Can you help me. 
And my friends are suggesting that, if we speak with some native speaker only then we will get the English is it true? If is like that then please suggest me any on line course are there where i can interact with people directly.

Next, my reply:

Dear  Sainath,


First of all, I don’t believe that you need to speak to native English speakers to be a successful English speaker. Most English speakers in the world speak English as a second or third language, just like you. 

There is no one ‘true’ English accent. The important thing when you speak is that people can understand you. I tell my students that they don’t have to ‘lose’ their accent. They just have to speak clearly. 

In India, you have many excellent English speakers to interact with. I don’t see the point in paying to speak to people online. To improve your pronunciation, watch English TV and repeat phrases you hear. I would recommend the TV news every day. I know the news can be depressing so if you really don’t want to watch it, choose a TV series that you enjoy. If you find TV shows too difficult, try the videos on Youtube. 

I have some videos on www.marysenglishblog.com. Just write in the search bar: Learn English through Comedy, and Easy Listening. The Easy Listening videos are for Elementary level, so if you want higher levels, go to YouTube and type in new english file intermediate or  english file pre-intermediateHowever, Elementary level listening is very helpful when you want to listen and repeat.

I study French and I watch the French news every day (no subtitles). Even though it’s difficult and the news presenters speak quickly, they speak very clearly. I also learn a lot of important vocabulary.

You need to commit to the same TV show or video every day, or Monday – Friday, and then watch it. Don’t use subtitles with news programs as they are very inaccurate. 

Secondly, watching TV is a natural way to learn everyday vocabulary. Another way is to listen to, and sing, songs. It’s best to learn vocabulary and grammar in context. I have many excellent songs on my website, most of them with grammar explanations. I would recommend that you start singing! English is a timed language and singing with a singer will force you to use the correct syllable stress. Learning grammar while you sing is an added bonus.

Finally,  Sainath, if you can understand my advice, your English is better than you think! I was very impressed with your letter. It shows a very good standard of English.

I hope my advice is helpful. If you Subscribe to my website, you will receive an email every time I write a new post. All free of course. Good luck!



Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Speaking & Pronunciation | Leave a comment

MODAL VERBS – What are they? How do we use Modal Verbs?

1. There are only ten Modal Verbs.

2. Modal Verbs are easy to use.

3. Modal Verbs are very useful.


“You should only eat eggs laid by free-range chickens. Chickens should not have to spend their lives in cages.”
Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash.com

1. There are only ten Modal Verbs:

*will,  *shall,  *might,  *may,  must,  can, could, would,  *should,  *ought to
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

*Some of these Modal Verbs have similar meanings:

Shall is similar to will. Shall can only be used with subjects ‘I’ and ‘We’.
Shall is more formal and not as common.
♦ I’m afraid that I shall not be able to attend the wedding.
Shall we dance?

Might and may have the same meaning when talking about possibility.
♦ We might need to buy more beer for the party.
 ♦ We may need to buy more beer for the party.   

In the past, may was used for permission,
♦ May I leave the room, please?
but this is unusual now. We usually ask,
Can I leave the room, please?

Should and ought to have the same meaning.
♦ You ought to have known better!
♦ You should  have known better!
You never need to use ought to but it’s good to know what it means if you hear or see it.

2. Modal Verbs are easy to use. The rules are simple.

Modal verbs are always followed by a Base Infinitive (except when they are used for a short answer – Yes, I can. No, I shouldn’t. etc)  For example:

Infinitives with TO Base Infinitives  
To be

To go

To make

To take

To try

To learn

To buy








I should be more careful about what I eat.

I might go to the cinema this weekend.

John could make more money if he worked harder.

I would take a holiday if I needed one.

You must try a little harder if you want to impress me.

Will Maria ever learn all this grammar?

People can buy eggs laid by free-range chickens in most supermarkets.

To make a negative statement, simply put ‘not’ or ‘never’ after the Modal Verb.

Modal verb not, never Base Infinitive
He should

I might

I could

I would


You must









eat so much fast food.

go to the party.

surf like Mick Fanning!

be able to punch a shark like Mick Fanning did!

swim outside the flags.Image result for surf lifesaving flag ≈≈≈  Image result for surf lifesaving flag

forget what I have told you!

have to spend their lives in cages.


I would never take such a risk!…… Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

3. Modal Verbs are very useful.

∗ Modals tell us about the speaker’s  mood  or opinions. (mood = modal)

(∗ The twelve tenses tell us about facts, or actions – now, in the past, or what we think will happen, in the future.)

Have a look at the photo above of a tight-rope walker and then at the following use of modals. See how they provide information about the speaker’s opinions and feelings, not facts or actions.

♦  He might have fallen!  / He could have fallen!

♦ He must have been scared.

♦ He must be an idiot or a hero, or both!

♦ No-one should take such risks.

♦ His family would be furious if they knew.

♦ He will have an accident one day!

None of the above sentences are about facts or real time. We don’t know that those things are actually happening, have happened or will happen.

Only the last sentence ∼ He will have an accident one day! ∼ uses one of the twelve tenses: Future Simple – will have. When you think about it, the future is not real, is it? We know the past happened, we have the present, but the future is about predictions, promises, spontaneous decisions, and schedules, all of which may or may not result in action or fact.

However, we all need a way to talk about the future and we know it’s not real yet. In English, we use WILL for future predictions, promises and spontaneous decisions.

The following sentences provide information about real facts and describe actions by using some of the twelve tenses. Unlike with Modal Verbs, we have no idea how the speaker feels or what his/her opinion is. These are simply the facts.


♦  He didn’t fall.                                  

♦ He wasn’t scared.

♦ He is never scared.

♦ He has often taken risks.

♦ He is always taking risks.

♦ His family don’t approve of his lifestyle.

♦ He loves his life.

Features of Modal Verbs

♥ They never change their form (spelling). How good is that!
NO subject  + verb agreement.        NO 3rd person ‘S’.        NO ‘ed’.        NO ‘ing’. 

♥ They are always followed by a Base Infinitive. See above notes. 

♥ They express the speaker’s opinion or feelings about:

possibility We might go the party.
obligation I must not forget to renew my passport! 

You must obey the speed limit.
(Government rules often omit ‘must’. They simply have a picture of an infringement to show a rule or law that ‘must’ be obeyed.)

prohibition You cannot smoke here.  
necessity While on holiday, they must take malaria pills every day.
ability He’s only three but he can swim really well!

He has been training for years for the Olympic Games. He must  be determined.

You can‘t possibly be tired! You’ve just been on a month-long cruise! You would have had plenty of rest!

At work: Oh no! Where’s my lunch? It’s not in my bag. I prepared it last night. I must have left it at home! I could have left it on the kitchen bench or my husband might have taken it by mistake.

The Modal ‘must’ is quite interesting in that English students often think that ‘must’ is only used for prohibition and obligation. However, native speakers rarely say ‘ You must … ‘ Instead, we say ‘You need to … ‘ and ‘You should …’ For example, I don’t say to my students, “You must watch the news tonight, or, You must do your homework.” I say something like, ” You really need to do revision if you want to remember what you’ve learnt today. If you want to improve your listening skills, you should watch the news.”

The most common way we use the Modal Verb ‘must’ is for speculating: saying what we believe is or was or has been true, as in the examples above.


I’m pretty sure it must have rained the day before you came.

There is a song by ABBA which perfectly demonstrates how we use ‘must’ for speculation. The song, ‘The Day Before You Came’, is entirely about how the singer remembers her past. In particular, she thinks about how boring and predictable her life was before she met her lover. She knows that she followed the same routines every day, so she sings:


I must have left my house at eight because I always do.

I must have read the morning paper going into town (on the train).

I’m pretty sure it must have rained the day before you came.

She believes that she is reporting facts about her life. However, perhaps one day she fell asleep in the train and didn’t read the morning paper. Perhaps one day her watch was wrong and she left her house at five minutes past eight.

When we are reporting past facts, we use past Tenses which are real. Of course, we can’t remember every little detail about our pasts, so we say what we believe must have happened, or what would have happened, or what might have happened, or what could  have happened. We use Modal Verbs!

Click on the video below to watch and listen to this very helpful song! I hope you enjoy it enough to listen a few times so that you will remember the structure: 

Modal + have + past participle

For more information and practice exercises on Modals for Speculation click here and here.

For the song lyrics with the Modal Verbs of deduction highlighted:

Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3) | Leave a comment

Learn English Speaking FREE with TalkEnglish.com

I have found a great website for all of you who are learning English and want to speak fluently!

TalkEnglish.com  provides material for conversations in levels from Basic to Advanced in the following categories:


Regular Daily EnglishRegular Daily English Regular English LessonsLearn what to say and how to say things in daily conversations.

Business English Business English LessonsImprove your English fluency in a business and office setting.

English Listening English Listening Lessons: Improve your listening skills with fun questions and answers. Basic, Intermediate, & Advanced Listening Lessons

English Basics English Speaking BasicsBasics of English Speaking for beginners using common expressions. 

This section is created for English beginners who need help to understand the basics of speaking English.  We will use very simple phrases and expressions to help you with your English speaking.

There are currently 90 lessons with over 900 audio files in the English Speaking Basics Section.  Once you are familiar with the basics of English speaking, you can move to other categories such as Regular English Lessons.

English Grammar Basics of English Grammar: Build basic grammar skills pertaining to English speaking.

English Vocabulary Idioms and PhrasesLearn idioms and phrases that are hard to translate.

English Speaking Interview Interview English LessonsPrepare for any kind of interview conducted in English and gain confidence.


There are hundreds of lessons at TalkEnglish.com, with audio files, which are structured to give you practice in all three areas of reading, listening, and speaking  at the same time.

I hope that you find this website helpful and user-friendly.



Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Beginner (Level 1), Elementary (Level 2), ESL Teachers, Grammar, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), TOEFL, TOEIC, Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Leave a comment

What’s the difference between anywhere, nowhere, & somewhere?

When do I use: any, anyone, anybody, anything, anywhere? What does any mean?  


There are three ways we usually use any:

1. In questions   

2. In negative sentences     

3. In positive sentences when it doesn’t matter

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

1. In questions: any = one or more / a small amount or more                                                    

Do you have any questions?
          (one question or more than one)
♦ Is there any dinner left for me?
          (a small amount of dinner or more – ‘dinner’ is uncountable)                
♦ Did you know *anyone at the party?
          (one person or more)
Is there anything you need?
          (one thing or more)
♦ Are you going anywhere for your anniversary?
          (one place or more)

When we ask questions with any, we don’t know the answer. We don’t know if the answer will be ‘none’, ‘one’ or ‘fifty’; ‘none’, ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’. Any does not refer to something specific: specific questions, specific food, specific people, specific things, specific places. No, no no. We don’t know if our work colleague is celebrating his wedding anniversary by going away. Maybe he is going to celebrate with a romantic dinner at home. We don’t know his plans for his anniversary, if any, when we ask, Are you going anywhere for your anniversary? 

(* The following pairs of words have the same meaning: anyone & anybody; someone & somebody; no-one & nobody; everyone & everybody.)

When we ask questions with some, we think that we know the answer. We see someone obviously looking for something. We ask, “Are you looking for something? Can I help?” They are not looking for just anything. They are looking for something specific.

We discover that our work colleague is going away for his wedding anniversary. We ask, “Are you going somewhere romantic?” We know that he is going somewhere specific and we want more information.


Are you going somewhere romantic?  …… https://unsplash.com/@hellolightbulb

2. In negative sentences: not any = not one, none, nowhere, no, nothing

♦ I don’t have any questions.
          (I have no questions. Questions? I have none. Not one.) 
♦ We didn’t know anyone at the party!
          (We did not know one person at the party, not even one!)
♦ I don’t need anything.
          (I need  nothing, not one thing.)
We are not going anywhere for our anniversary. 
          (We are going nowhere, not one place.)
♦ There isn’t any beer in the fridge!
           (There is no beer, none, not one bottle.)
♦ There wasn’t any food left after the party.

          (There was no food left, nothing.)

Not any is specific, definite. We can also use never with any. Never = not ever. 

♦ We never have any fun!

♦ I will never tell anyone your secret.

♦ We never go anywhere exciting.

♦ I’m throwing out these old clothes. I’ll never wear any of them again.


3. In positive sentences when the person or thing or place we are referring to is not important or it just does not matter

Any in these kinds of sentences is also not specific.     

♦ You may ask any question you like. = It’s not important what you ask. Ask your questions, one question, ten questions; it doesn’t matter.

♦ Q. Can I bring some friends to the party?
  A. Bring anyone you like! = It’s not important. Bring your mother if you like. Bring all your friends from work. It doesn’t matter who you bring. 

Take me anywhere! In her song ‘Anywhere‘, Rita Ora wants to go away, anywhere. It isn’t important where. It only matters that she goes away with the man she is in love with. Click here to watch the video.

I’ll do anything! You can play any position you want! Charlie Brown desperately wants Snoopy to come back to the team. He’ll do anything for him; it’s not important what Snoopy asks for. He can have it. He can choose any position he wants. It doesn’t matter which position; he can have it. 

English students sometimes use any when they should use some or other quantifiers.

♦ At my new school, I have made any friends.
♦ I have any money.
♦ We have any dogs.

This is a mistake. As I have explained, any is not specific; the number and amount is unclear. It could be one or a lot. How many friends have I made? One, two, fifty? How much money do I have? A little, a lot, millions? Remember that we use any in questions because we don’t know the number and amount and we are trying to find the answer. In positive sentences, we know.

♦ At my new school, I have made some friends.   
♦ I have a little money.
♦ We have two dogs.

The music group Keane sings a song ‘Somewhere only we know’. It’s about a place known only to the singer and his partner. It’s a specific place, not just anywhere. Click here for the video with lyrics.

So remember that if you want to use any in positive sentences, only use it when it’s not important or doesn’t matter. 

For practice exercises, click here  and here.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Posted in Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs | Tagged | Leave a comment

Beyond Drunk: 25 English Expressions you need to know.

An ideal way to practise your English is in social situations. If you are in an English-speaking country, you will need some basic vocabulary for when you are invited to a party or social event. Let’s start with the different kinds of parties and social occasions that you might be invited to: 

    Parties    

A typical party

We all know what a party is, don’t we? What you are likely to hear if you are invited to one, is something like “We’re *having a party on Saturday. Wanna* come?”  (*It will sound like ‘wanna’, but we are actually saying ‘want to’.) Take something to drink.

* We have parties, we have barbecues, we have drinks, and we have get-togethers. We DON’T make parties, barbecues, etc.

*  We go to parties: “I went to a wild party last Saturday!” 

*   We are at parties: “I saw you at Emrecan’s party last Saturday.”


2. A farewell party   

‘Farewell’ is an old word for ‘Goodbye’. We have farewell parties when people are leaving a workplace or a school (perhaps an English language school), or leaving their home to go travelling. You are likely to hear something like “We’re having a party for Fernando on Friday night. Wanna come?”  Take something to drink.


3. A housewarming party

We have housewarming parties when we move into a new house or apartment. If you are invited, you should take a present: something for the new home, like a plant. You should also take something to drink.

I’ve always liked this expression. I like the thought of warming a house so that it’s comfortable for the new inhabitants. However, the origins of this expression, which  are medieval, are more elaborate.



People like to spend their free time with friends and work colleagues, sometimes meeting for a drink and snacks, or a coffee. You could be invited to:

4. A barbecue

I’m sure you’ve seen ‘BBQ’. This is the written abbreviation only! Don’t say “I’m going to a B-B-Q”. Say the complete word “barbecue”. Also, you are going to a ‘barbecue’ OR a ‘party’, never a ‘barbecue party’. ‘Barbecue party’ sounds childish.

If you are invited to a barbecue, ask “What should I bring?” Sometimes the hosts are happy to provide all the food and they will say “Nothing” OR “Don’t bring anything.” Sometimes they will tell you to bring your own meat and they will provide the salads.


Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash.com

They don’t always tell you to bring something to drink, but always assume that you should!  If you don’t drink alcohol, bring bottled water or soft drink (coke, juice, etc). If the hosts are providing good quality food, like steak, fish, chicken and/or desserts, it would be appreciated if you took a gift for the host; for example, chocolates or some wine.


5. A get-together           

A get-together is more casual. You would hear “We’re having a get-together after work/class on Friday” or “We’re getting together after work/class on Friday”. The get-together may be at the pub or at someone’s home. It it’s at someone’s home, you know what to do: take something to drink!             


6. Drinks 

There are times when you hear “We’re going for drinks (or for a drink) after work/class.” That usually means a casual invitation to join friends, classmates, or colleagues at a local pub or bar. It’s common in English-speaking countries to have a drink or two or three and not eat anything. It’s perhaps not a great idea to drink without eating something but the custom of ‘going to the pub for a drink’ has been around for a long time. 




 Expressions 


7. BYO      

Bring Your Own alcohol. You may have noticed that I suggested (insisted) that you take something to drink when invited to a party or social gathering. It is not acceptable to go to a party or someone’s home for a meal and drink their alcohol. It may be a normal custom in your country that the host provides everything but it is not the custom in Britain or Australia or New Zealand. I’m not sure about the USA, but you should definitely find out if invited to dinner or a party there.

When going to a barbecue, you may be told to “BYO everything”. This means that you should take whatever you want to eat and drink. You may have to cook the meat yourself. Plates, cutlery, and glasses will be provided.


8. “What are you going to be drinking?”

Now, we come to the serious stuff: planning the night ahead, working out what to buy at the bottle-shop to drink later with friends.


9. “Cheers!”

This is a common way to express good health and wishes  to your drinking companions, usually clinking glasses with everyone.


10. “It’s your shout.”

It’s your turn to buy drinks for the group. If you are drinking with a group of people and they take turns to buy drinks for you, don’t leave before you have bought a ‘round’ of drinks for them. If you don’t want to buy drinks for the group, tell them at the beginning that you will just buy your own.


11. “I’ll have one more.”

In response to “Another drink?” Another one?”


12. “We *partied all night. / We saw the sunrise. / We saw the sun come up!”

We had a fantastic time. Great party!  (* ‘Party’ can also be a verb.)


 Expressions for when you drink too much! 


13. A hangover

A sick feeling or condition that comes after drinking too much alcohol at an earlier time

We get hangovers, we have hangovers, and we suffer from hangovers.


14. “I’m never drinking again!”

A promise to ourselves which lasts until the next party when we get drunk again


15. “I feel like death!”

A really awful hangover


16. “I feel like my head is going to explode!”

A really awful hangover. Our head does not explode and we will probably feel like this again in the not-too-distant future.


17. to drink like a fish

If someone ‘drinks like a fish’ it means they drink an excessive amount of alcohol.




    ☕ Talking about food ☕   


Expressions for eating out (not at home) include:

18. “Let’s grab a bite to eat.”

This doesn’t usually mean at a restaurant; maybe at a cafe or take-away (U.S. ‘take out’). 


19. “Why don’t we get some share plates / tapas?”

This means sharing plates of food in a restaurant. 


20. “What do you feel like?”

Discussing where to go, what kind of restaurant or cafe everyone would like.


21. “I feel like a steak …/ something cheap … / something healthy …”

 In response to “What do you feel like?”


22. “Hello. We’ve booked a table for two people. The name is Carvalho.”

This is what you could say when you arrive at a restaurant at which you have made a booking/reservation.


23. “Hello. Do you have a table for two? We haven’t made a booking.”

This is what you could say when you arrive at a restaurant at which you have not made a booking.


24. “I’d like a glass of the house red/white please.”

House wine is usually a basic wine that the restaurant has bought in bulk and can offer at an inexpensive price. 


25. “Can we have the bill please?”

You sometimes have to ask the waiter for the bill!



Further Reading: 

How to ask people to join you for a special event & practice dialogues.

◊ Let’s celebrate! (words and phrases for parties)

Eating out vocabulary & practice dialogues.


Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary | 2 Comments

English Idioms in Pictures #5

Click on the picture below to find out the meaning of the idiom  COLD TURKEY. Once on the site,  you can click on   Follow by Email  at the bottom of the page to receive more pictures and explanations of idioms FREE.cold turkey


Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Intermediate (Level 4), Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | 1 Comment