Tag Archives: Vancouver

Funny English!

There are two joke types that came up in conversations at work today: “Knock knock” jokes and “Roses are red…” jokes. These both have a specific format, so let’s learn how to be funny in English!

Knock knock jokes need two people to participate.

Person A: Knock knock!

Person B:Who’s there?

Person A: [name]

Person B: [name] who?

Person A: [joke with name!]

Person A: Knock knock?

Person B: Who’s there?

Person A: Isabel.

Person B: Isabel who?

Person A: Isabel necessary on a bicycle? (Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?)

The best knock-knock jokes have a pun (a joke made from the sound of a word, not the meaning) that involves the name.

“Roses are Red” jokes are based upon a poem structure. The first two lines are always the same:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

After this, you add two more lines about something funny. The rhythm and the rhyme should match the first two lines.

I’m learning English,

And so are you!

We put the joke together like this:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

I’m learning English,

And so are you!

Most Canadians will be familiar with these kinds of jokes. Ask your homestay family or your Canadian friends to tell you some and post them here!

Yeah, right!

We say it a lot. But did you know that you might be sending the wrong meaning?

“Yeah, right” is most often used in sarcastic comments by advanced English speakers:

  • Jay: Marcelo, did you know that my test score was better than yours?
  • Marcelo: Yeah, right. You can’t beat me! I got 100% plus three bonus marks.

However, most students use it to show agreement:

  • Livia: Amy, we are meeting at Pizza Palace at 5:30 tonight, right?
  • Amy: Yeah, right. See you tonight.

The problem comes when you speak to your Canadian friends. You think you are agreeing with them, like Amy above, but they think you are being sarcastic, like Marcelo’s example. To be safe, say either “yeah!” or “right!” to show you agree. You’ll be easier to understand and people will think you are more polite.

  • Naja: Does class start tomorrow at 9:30?
  • John: Yeah. See you then!
  • Simon: Right. Don’t forget your homework!

Confusing Words: Late and Lately

“Late” is not the same as “lately.”

Late is the opposite of early. They are both adjectives, and must modify nouns.

  • “James will be late today. He will arrive after the meeting begins.”

Lately means recently, or close to now. Lately is an adverb.

  • “I’ve taken a lot of classes in English lately.”

Lately can also move around in the sentence, like other adverbs:

  • “Lately, I’ve taken a lot of English classes.”

Memorable Moments

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about former students, why I teach, and my classes. It brought to mind so many situations, people, and feelings, but two former students really stand out.

The first is a participant in our internship program. He had come from a successful business background – completed an MBA, started and sold companies before coming to Canada – and was looking to start an international career. He had a 45 minute interview with 7 directors at a sports team, and he said it was the hardest thing he had done for school. He was accepted, and had a fantastic time with the team. I like this story because it shows accepting challenges and striving to improve oneself. My student could have stayed at home and started another company, but he chose to take on the challenge of working in English. And not at a restaurant from his country, either! Being part of his success makes me proud to teach.

My second memorable student came from a successful job as a professor, teaching surgical techniques, in a large country. He realized that his lifestyle was not one that his children could achieve, because the population was increasing rapidly and jobs would become scarce, so he moved his family to Canada. To support his family, he worked as a taxi driver. His English, he said, wasn’t strong enough to enter the medical field, and he didn’t have time to improve it. When I met him, this was 10 years in the past. His children were in high school and his wife was able to work. His wife and children were fluent, but his English was still very basic. Twelve hours a day driving a taxi doesn’t leave much time for English classes. He told me “My children don’t speak my language, and I don’t speak theirs. We can’t speak as anything more than a taxi driver and a customer, but I want them to know more of me. They will never know the poems I can write in my language, but I can meet them in theirs.” His sacrifices for his family, and then his desire to change his life again,  really made him stand out to me. My satisfaction from seeing him pass his IELTS test is a reason I do this job.

I’m sure my colleagues have similar stories. What memorable students do you have?

Grammar Grab Bag

Progressive tenses are also called continuous tenses.

“Agree” is a verb, not an adjective. A common mistake is to say: “I am agree with you.” Just say “I agree with you.”

“Should” and “had better” are both modals used to give advice. “Had better” has a stronger meaning. “Must” is stronger than both of them, and is used for regulations, obligations, or requirements.

– James, you should park underground. (mild suggestion)

– James, you had better slow down. The road is very icy and we might have an accident! (strong suggestion)

– James, you must stop at the red light. (strong obligation or requirement)

Receptive and Productive Vocabulary

Your receptive vocabulary is made up of the words that you understand. Your productive vocabulary is made up of the words you use on a regular basis. For most people, their receptive vocabulary is much larger than their productive vocabulary.

Trying to learn vocab quickly? Start by using words that you recognize more often. Notice your favourite words, and make an effort to use synonyms instead.

Vocab: Condominium and Apartment

A condominium and an apartment are the same physical space, but the apartment is for rent. You buy a condominium.

“Condominium” is quite formal, too. Casually, most people will just call it a “condo.”

In England, people will call an apartment a “flat.” This is uncommon in Canada.

If you live in a house that is divided into two or more apartments, we call them “suites.” It’s pronounced the same as “sweets.” The lower suite is sometimes called the “basement suite” or the “garden suite.”