Let’s get cracking! = ¡Vamos a empezar!
Gramática: Can / can’t
Can I ask you a question?
You can speak Spanish. Reza can speak a bit of Valencian.
Can you play any musical instruments? – Yes, I can.
Can, like could, should, would, may etc son modal verbs (verbos modales).
El can se puede emplear para hablar de la habilidad y también para pedir las cosas “Can I have….?)
Can I have a biscuit? Can I have a cup of tea? Can I help you?
John can be quite cold sometimes. (possibility)
It can be wet in Valencia sometimes. (possibility)
This postcard can’t be from Bob. (impossibility)
Practicar el ‘can’ para pedir las cosas aquí.
Vocabulary Corner: Clothes
Reza is wearing jeans and a very nice striped shirt. Craig is wearing nice linen shorts.
trousers (UK) / pants (US). pants (UK) / shorts (US), waistcoat (UK) / vest (US), panties (US) / knickers (UK), tights (UK) / pantyhose (US),
to wear (llevar puesto) “He’s wearing a blue coat” / to put on clothes / to get dressed / To take off clothes (quitar la ropa)
training shoes (UK) / sneakers (US) – zapatillas deportivas
Practicar el vocabulario de la ropa en inglés aquí
Hay una lista de ropa en nuestra sección de vocabulario aquí
Phrasal verb: to set off
SET has many uses in English. Set off means: to begin a journey – “We set off at 6 o’clock.”
to set off also means to activate something: “I set off the alarm.” “Young children sometimes set off car alarms in the street.”
Set off can also mean to start an emotion. “The picture sets her off crying.”
Set off also means destacarse “The white background really sets off the person in the picture.”
/cloves/, a suit /soot/ – traje = suit (noun) “it suits you” (Te va bien)
“It fits you” (it’s the correct size) – Does this fit me?
tracksuit (chandal), slippers – “Where are my slippers?”, (a pair of) shoes – high-heeled shoes, striped (con rayas), blouse – “Your a big girl’s blouse!” (You’re too soft).
Reza’s Top Tip: use the negative (adj/adverb) to be indirect/polite
“Well, it isn’t the best thing I’ve seen”, “It doesn’t look that great.” “I’ve seen you looking better.”
“It wouldn’t be my first choice.”, “It’s not bad.”
The music in this podcast is by Pitx. The track is called See You Later – licensed by creative commons under a by-nc license at ccmixter.org.
Si quieres mandarnos un comentario sobre este podcast o una pregunta sobre la gramática, la pronunciación or el vocabulario de inglés, Mandenos un email a firstname.lastname@example.org
FULL TRANSCRIPTION (kindly contributed by Angélica Bello from Madrid)
C: Hello! And welcome to another episode of Aprender Inglés con Reza & Craig, episodio seis. Hello Reza.
R: Hi you Craig, how are things?
C: Things are pretty good! Have you had a good week?
R: Yeah! Not bad. And you?
C: Yeah! Pretty good! Let’s get cracking! How do you say that in Spanish? Get cracking, vamos allá, vamos a empezar?
R: Vamos allá.
C: Vamos allá con la gramática esta semana.
R: The grammar eh? Well, I want to focus on the word can and the negative can’t. Let me ask you a question Craig…can I ask you a question?
C: Off course you can.
R: Can you speak Russian?
C: No, I can’t.
R: You can’t speak Russian.
C: I can’t speak Russian.
R: But you can speak Spanish.
C: Badly, my Spanish is terrible but I can get by, I can manage with my Spanish. Can you speak Spanish?
R: Yes, more or less, more or less. Craig…
C: Can you speak Valenciano?
R: A little bit, un, un poquet.
C: Un poquet
R: Un poquet, un poco, un poquet. Can you play the piano Craig?
C: No I can’t. I can’t play any musical instrument.
R: Can you sing?
C: Only in the shower.
R: Aha, the Mickey Mouse song…I heard you sing that before.
C: I can’t, I can’t sing. I’m not gifted with a nice voice, not at all. Can you sing? because you are very musical.
R: I used to be in a choir actually.
R: Yeah, but now I must have lost it. In the meantime I had a few Ducados and possibly a few carajillos, and that hasn’t help.
C: Can you, can you play any musical instruments?
R: I can play the violin, I used to play a lot better, but now I’m not great to be honest, but I can, I can.
C: So you can read music!
R: Yes I can.
C: Now Craig, you would’ve noticed we’ve been using can, can’t, for different reasons. Eh, listeners, if you recall what I said to Craig, can I ask you a question? I used can, can I ask you a question? Now, don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with the microphone, I’m not making a big effort to pronounce the word can. I’m not saying /caaaan/ I ask you a question? I am saying can I ask you a question? Because, that’s the normal way to pronounce the word can in a question, quickly, there is not emphasis on it. And Craig then, he can answer me yes you can or no you can’t. Now in his answer he will stress the word can or can’t, so when you got a question or even a positive form like…
C: I can, I can swim.
R: I can swim, you don’t stress the word can, is a weak form. Can you swim? I can swim. But in your answer, do stress the word can if is positive or can’t if is negative. Say yes I can or no, I can’t.
C: La respuesta corta se pone más énfasis en la pronunciación de can y can’t. Yes I /caaan/.
R: Exactly. And the word can’t is always stressed, I can’t swim. Always stress the negative can’t, but in a positive sentence, I can swim, don’t stress the word can. Stress the verb afterwards, stress the word swim. So, to recap, positive I can swim, negative, I can’t swim.
C: Have you noticed Reza with Spanish speakers is very difficult for them to identify the positive can and negative can’t? And I think it’s because most native speakers don’t pronounce the T at the end of the negative can’t.
R: That’s right Craig, so when people say for example I can’t swim, I don’t know if I pronounce the T or not very. I can’t swim. But you understood that as a negative, because you are a native speaker, and the reason you understood that is negative, even though my pronunciation of T was not clear, letter T, because I stressed the word. I said I can’t swim. So, because there was stress on can’t, you knew ah! it must be negative because he stressed it. If I said to you I can swim, that would be positive because I didn’t stressed the word can, I stressed the word swim. So you would immediately know that to be a positive sentence. This is why foreigners often confuse native speakers, because they wrongly stress the word can, we think they are saying a positive sentence but they’re…sorry, we think they are saying a negative sentence I should say, but they are trying to be positive, so is very confusing.
R: Do get the stress of can and can’t right.
R: Then Craig, what about…
C: Otra cosa. Un momento, un momento, otra cosa! Lo que digo yo a mis alumnos muchas veces, el can, la pronunciación de can y can’t. Can’t tiene el sonido vocal más largo.
C: Aunque no escuchas la T final, puedes saber que es negativo por lo largo que es el vocal, caaan’t.
R: That’s right!
C: Yes I can, no I can’t.
R: Is a longer vowel sound.
C: Same sound as car, car.
R: Yeah, that’s right. That’s a very important tip as well. Now, so there is the pronunciation on the basic use of those words, but what about the function of the word can or can’t. Well, I’m sure most of the listeners already know that we call these words like can, can’t, could, couldn’t, should are modal verbs. Modal verbs are tricky, because they tend to have more than one meaning. I started our conversation Craig, I asked you can I ask you a question? I was asking for permission.
R: Puedo, permission, yeah? And you gave me your permission. And then, if I want to ask you, can you swim? Or, can you speak Russian? Or, can you play the piano? I’m not asking about permission, I’m asking about your ability.
R: Are you able to speak Russian? Are you able to play the piano? That’s also can. So can can be permission, or it can be ability. Also, Craig, you know, we’ve been speaking for quite a while now, if you don’t mind saying me so, I’m getting a bit thirsty, can I have another cup of tea, please?
C: Yes off course Reza, I’ll put the kettle on.
R: Thank you very much. I just requested another cup of tea, Craig makes a very good cup of tea by the way, listeners. Is thirsty work speaking all day on podcast. I requested a cup of tea. Can is for request, can I have a cup of tea, please?
C: So you think that I can make a good cup of tea, I have the ability…
C: …to make a good cup of tea.
R: Aha, and Craig, I’m…I’m a little bit peckish…
C: What’s peckish?
R: A bit hungry, tengo hambrito, hambrito, peckish a little bit of hunger there, and…anything that go with that tea?
C: Do you fancy a biscuit?
R: Aha! So you are asking me if a want a biscuit, you are saying do you fancy a biscuit? Or, you could have said can I offer you a biscuit?
C: Reza, can I offer you a biscuit?
R: Now that you mention it Craig, I don’t mind if I do.
R: There you go listeners, another use of can, is for a request and the opposite of a request which is an offer, can I help you? Can I offer you a biscuit? So can request, can offer. Here is another use of can, here is a sentence: John can be very cold sometimes, but not always, sometimes he is friendly. Let me repeat that: John can be very cold sometimes, but not always, sometimes he is friendly. So can there, he can be very cold, that means, there is a possibility.
C: Or he has a tendency to be.
R: Yes but the word can shows that is only a possibility, sometimes you need him, and he’s friendly. Often when you meet him he is unfriendly, so it’s possible he would be unfriendly when you meet him, he can be unfriendly. Let’s take Valencia where we live. As you know Valencia is a sunny Mediterranean city, however it can be wet here at times, especially when we get la gota fría.
C: And it can be quite cold this time of year, early in the morning, after the sun goes down, it can be a bit chilly.
R: It can be, but it can be hot, it can be cold and it can be hot.
C: It can be very hot.
R: …In November, they are both possible, there is a possibility of both. So can also shows that something is a possibility. The opposite of can we said is can’t, the short form of cannot. What about if I say to you I received a postcard from Cuba. But is unsigned…this unsigned postcard from Cuba, it can’t be from Bob because he is in England.
C: And it can’t be from your mum because she lives in Belfast.
R: Exactly. It’s from someone who is in Cuba at the minute, so it can’t be my mum and it can’t be Bob.
C: Who can it be from?
R: I’ve no idea because is unsigned. So the word can’t, there the negative, is showing impossibility. Well I know it can’t be my mum, I know it can’t be Bob, they’re eliminated from my possibilities, they are impossible. Can’t, impossibility.
C: So can’t can also be used for the functional possibility of probability, that’s another use of can’t.
R: Exactly. So Craig there are the main uses of can and can’t, there are a couple more specialist things but I don’t want to overdo it, I don’t wanna give too much information out for today, because I will only confuse listeners. So let’s leave can and can’t there for today.
Vocabulary corner (10:40)
C: Moving on to vocabulary, vocabulary corner, I thought this week we’d look at clothes, especially the differences between American English and British English when we speak about clothes.
R: Craig can I just interrupt you a minute to say something?
C: Off course.
R: Can I …
C: Yes you can!
R: Can I complement you on your rather attractive linen shorts?
C: Thank you very much!
R: You’re welcome.
C: Now I’m wearing shorts, what are you wearing?
R: I’m wearing rather dirty looking jeans I’m afraid.
C: You wearing jeans…uhm…trousers, now that’s a British English word.
C: Do you know what the Americans call trousers?
R: Don’t they say pants?
C: They do, they say pants. Now here is a possible point of confusion; pants in American English are trousers in British English, but pants in British English are the, it’s the underwear that you wear beneath or under your trousers. However, in American English pants are …
R: What we call trousers in British English.
R: Yes! In American English.
C: Pants in British English are shorts in American English. So an American man, an American man wears shorts under his pants.
C: Isn’t that confusing?
C: Ok? So, again, trousers British English, pantalones, in American English, as you said, pants. But pants in British English…how do you say that in Spanish, calzoncillas?
C: Calzoncillos. So pants in British English, the underwear, in American English are shorts, and off course, shorts in British English are what I’m wearing at the moment, so I’m not…
R: Can I tell the listeners again they’re a very attractive linen shorts.
C: I’m not…I’m making a tea in a minute, you get your biscuit! I’m wearing…I’m not doing this podcast in my underwear, I’m wearing shorts, which in British English are… shorts in Spanish.
R: So, how do Americans say what we call shorts in British English?
C: Oh, here they are very boring, they just say shorts.
R: Aha, but that could be underpants as well, then.
R: That’s…it’s a bit confusing.
C: How would you know? How would you know? You go into a shop in the US and you ask for a pair of shorts, you don’t know what you’re going to get! Another interesting difference in vocabulary…chaleco. Chaleco in British English would be…
R: Well, I’d say waistcoat.
C: Yeah! Waistcoat, but in American English it’s a vest.
C: V-E-S-T, is a vest. So, if you wear a suit, traje, in America you wear a suit possibly with a vest…but in British English you would wear a waistcoat, and your jacket. However, vest in British English is what many men wear under their shirt or under their T-shirt, which in Spanish que lleva tirantes, I don’t know if there is a special word for vest in Spanish, but it’s…
R: Como una camiseta pero sin mangas.
C: Sin mangas, con tiritas, sin mangas.
R: Listeners we have to admit we don’t know the word. You’ve called us out. Camiseta sin mangas.
C: Send us an e-mail and we’ll check it online. But yeah, also if you do sport in the summer, you would possibly wear a vest in Britain. And for ladies, ladies wear panties in America, and nickers in the UK.
R: Craig I am a bit worry, you are going to get us an X-rating, don’t go much further there.
C: I don’t, I don’t, I don’t usually go much further than the knickers!
R: And tights in British English are what ladies wear under the skirt. The Spanish word would be…
C: Medias, thank you. Medias are tights in British English, and in American English pantyhose. Yeah, so American ladies wear pantyhose. And obviously the verb to wear, you wear clothes which is llevar o llevar puesto, he is wearing a blue trousers, he is wearing a black suit. And the phrasal verb to put on, poner ropa. So in the morning I wake up and I put on my T-shirt, I put on my clothes, I get dressed in the morning.
R: So Craig, first you put on the clothes, and then after that you are wearing them.
R: You put them on first and when they are on, you are wearing them.
C: Yeah, so first I put the clothes on and then I am wearing them.
R: To stop wearing them, what do you do?
C: Another phrasal verb…
R: What’s that?
C: Take off. I take off my clothes before I go to bed and I take off my clothes before I have a shower. Is take…
R: There you are going to get us an X-rating with all this taking off.
C: Showers and panties and vests and yeah, I know.
C: X-rated podcast.
R: Can I just assure the listeners, we are fully-clothed while doing this podcast, fully-clothed.
C: No animals have been molested during the making of this podcast.
- We are fully clothed…but if you saw Craig linen shorts, you would be, you would be very…find yourself provoked let’s say.
C: By the way, you are wearing a very nice striped T-shirt today Reza.
R: Oh! Thank you very much.
C: It’s very summer, is very nice, blue, black and striped, and very, very fashionable.
R: Thank you very much. Craig I got another question for you… I think you know more American English than me, you spent more time there. For a type of footwear I would say trainers or training shoes, but Americans say something else, don’t they?
C: You put me on the spot, I nearly said pumps, but pumps in American English are high heel shoes that ladies wear. So may be in Britain we’d say pumps, sometimes a slang for training shoes. I think Americans say sport shoes.
R: I think I’ve heard a word before, something like sneakers?
C: Oh sneakers! You are right! You are absolutely right!
R: Is not zapatillas deportivas ?
C: It is. Sneakers. Are you wearing your sneakers today Reza?
C: Are you wearing your sneakers?
R: Sure I am!
Phrasal verb (17:46)
C: Reza, what’s the phrasal verb for this episode?
R: The phrasal verb for today is set off.
C: Set off.
R: Now the word set listeners may thing they are not that familiar with the word set. However, let me tell you, if you’ve a look at the word set in a dictionary, you would find that it is an extremely common word in English.
C: Yeah. There are many pages on set in the dictionary…
R: Many, many pages, it has many, many meanings. Today, we are just going to focus on a phrasal verb set off and a few of its meanings. So, set off is very commonly used for journeys. To set off on a journey means to begin the journey, for example, we set off to Benidorm at six o’clock in the morning. That’s what we started our journey, set off.
C: Because we are recording this podcast in my flat at the moment and you arrived here, you got here at eleven o’clock…
R: That’s right.
C: And you live in the center of Valencia and I live at the beach…
R: At the beach.
C: So, what time do you set off?
R: I set off about thirty five minutes before I arrived.
C: Thirty five minutes, you set off about twenty five past ten?
R: That’s right!
C: Ah ok.
R: That’s set off, start the journey. Another meaning of set off could…is the general meaning of to activate something. For example, I accidentally set off the alarm.
R: I hit the alarm button accidentally and dingl, dingl, dingl, dingl, set off the alarm, I activated it.
C: Have you seen these young kids running along the streets in big cities hitting cars on purpose, they hit cars, they push cars, to set off the car alarm.
R: Just for fun?
C: Just for fun.
C: They set off the car alarms by hitting the cars as they run passed.
R: Viewers, don’t do that, we do not endorse that at home. Another, another meaning of set off is to start an emotion. I better give an example for this, is quite tricky. My sister often cries when she sees a picture of her old friend who died many years ago. The picture sets her off. A picture sets off. Because her friend is dead now and they were very close. So the picture starts an emotion in her, it sets her off.
C: Starts her crying. Es un ejemplo de cuando puedes poner un objeto entre el verbo y el artículo. Porque no puedes decir set off her. Tienes que decir it sets her off.
R: Yes, always put the pronoun, nearly always sorry, put the pronoun in the middle, her in the middle. The phrasal verbs. Another meaning of set off, not so common perhaps, is to make a good accompaniment or background for something. Let me give you an example. The white background really sets off the figure in the picture. So if you can imagine a figure, a person, a single person in a picture, and behind them it’s only white. So the white background really sets off the lone figure, it makes them stand out, there is another phrasal verb. Stand out, destacarse.
C: Destacarse. So I could say that your old jeans really set off that wonderful T-shirt you’re wearing.
R: Exactly, they make a beautiful background to it, thank you very much. Well Craig, that’s the phrasal verb for today, set off.
C: Set off!
C: Well, let’s set off on another pronunciation journey, and because we were speaking earlier about clothes, let’s look at some pronunciation connected to clothes, and let’s start with the word clothes, because that’s difficult for some Spanish people. Many of my students say /clodes/.
C: I suggest you imagine the T-H is a V, una V, so it’s much easier for Spanish speakers to just say clothes. And it’s much clearer than /clodes/. So clothes. It’s more difficult to put your tongue between your teeth and make the /z z/ sound of clothes. And also make it voiced from the throat. So just imagine a V there, clothes.
R: And there better be careful they don’t say cloths which is another meaning, isn’t it?
R: Cloths, trapos. Cloths with no E, just C-L-O-T-H-S, is the plural of cloth, trapo?
C: So there is a vowel sound is different /ɒ/ for cloth and /əʊ/ for clothes. Cómo se dice traje en inglés?
R: How do you say traje, suit.
C: Suit. So it can be a noun, a suit. I wear a suit for work. But suit can also be a verb.
R: Can I say oh god! you got me!
C: Go on! you, you use the example, you, you…
R: Well, it just came to me Craig, I was looking at once again at your linen shorts and I thought, suits you Sir.
C: Suits you!
R: Suit you Sir.
C: I think your T-shirt really suits you. It looks good on you. So if something suits you, the verb…te veo bien…
R: Te va bien.
C: Te va bien, te va bien, it suits you. Now don’t confuse to suit with to fit, because suit is the appearance of the clothes on the person and fit es el tamaño. So, Reza, do these shorts fit me?
R: They are perfect fit. Perfect fit. They are just right for your waist, not too big, not too small.
C: They are my size. So if something is your size it fits you, and the negative, it doesn’t fit you. And the question, does this fit me? Chandal, what is chandal?
R: Chandal, track suit.
C: Track suit. So another use of suit in chandal, track suit, track suit top or track suit bottoms, track suits trousers. Another difficult word for Spanish speakers sometimes, and we had this word before, when we looked at the S sound. The shoes you wear at home, in your house…slippers, slippers.
R: Not eeeesleepers.
C: No eeeesleepers, just slippers. Where are my slippers? under the bed. I remember with words like jeans, glasses, shoes, slippers, plural words connected with clothes use a pair of. Or just the plural with no article, so is wrong to say a slippers, a shoes, a glasses, you must use just the word, where are my shoes? I bought some new slippers, or a pair, a pair of shoes, a pair of slippers. High heeled shoes, con tacones, high heeled shoes. And striped, is another difficult word to pronounce. Reza’s T-shirt is striped. Tiene rayos.
C: Tiene rayos.
R: Stripe, rayo.
C: Tiene rayos.
R: Oh, raya!, sorry, raya, tiene rayas, está rayado.
C: Tiene rayas, striped shirt. And finally, a man wears a shirt but a woman wears a…
C: Blouse. B-L-O-U-S-E, another difficult word for Spanish people to pronounce sometimes, blouse. That’s a lovely blouse you’re wearing.
R: Craig, I heard an expression many times in my life, not often directed on me, perhaps you’d like to explain to the listeners, a big girl’s blouse. Can you explain that to the listeners?
C: I think is a northern expression, I haven’t heard that for years, a big girl’s blouse. Doesn’t it mean a little…not effeminate, but not very manly?
R: That’s it! So it’s an expression used for men, not for women, and if you say to a man you are a big girl’s blouse, that means you are too soft.
C: You are too soft.
R: You are like a big girl, you are not a real man.
C: Have a pint of beer, don’t drink these half pints, you have a big glass of beer you big girl’s blouse.
_______________________________________________________________________________________Top tip (26:54)
C: Reza, what’s your top tip this episode?
R: Very quick tip today, ahhh simply this. English speakers like to generally be polite and indirect. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but it’s true. So, my tip is use language to be polite or indirect most of the time by using negatives. Let me explain myself. Imagine someone was wearing clothes that I didn’t really like, and they ask me, how do I look in these clothes? Especially, especially a girlfriend or a wife you know, that’s we’re get into a very dodgy territory, they say, how do I look in this new dress? Well, you are a very brave man if you say to that woman you look awful. I would advise you to say something like this: well, it isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen you in, for example, or it doesn’t look that great. So I’m using a negative verb with an adjective to be polite, so rather that saying it’s terrible, it’s awful, I’m saying it’s not great or well, it isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen you in or, I’ve seen you looking better, something like that, avoiding a direct answer is very common in English.
C: You could say if someone cooked you some food you didn’t like, I woudn’t choose this, perhaps, or I wouldn’t…
R: Wouldn’t be my first choice perhaps.
C: It wouldn’t be my first choice, I wouldn’t have chosen this myself.
R: Yeah, or Yeah, or another thing is, is it good, did you like it? Mmm, it’s not bad, is a very safe bet. You didn’t say it was good, but you said is not bad. That’s very common in English.
C: I think is also an example of how different British people are from Americans, because if you ask an American how are you? They say awesome! yeah men, phantastic! Wonderful, unbelievable!
C: And a British person would say ah, no bad.
R: Yeah, in that case I think is more because we don’t like to seem too dramatic as well. So instead of saying I feel phantastic, say oh! Really, really not bad at all. That will do, we don’t want any excess.
C: We are very understated.
R: Understate things, yeah, that’s right.
R: Well, that’s it, that’s the tip Craig.
C: Thank you very much, and thank you to all our listeners, and remember, please write a review, escribe una pequeña reseña if you like this podcast en inglés on iTunes, y así mas gente puede encontrar el podcast y podemos crecer un poco la audiencia. So thank you for listening, and I will see you in the next episode.
R: See you then!