Words making the headlines – Fake news

Fake News!

The phrase ‘fake news’ started to appear in news headlines last year and has now entered the dictionary. Here’s the definition from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Fake news is:

“false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”

The term fake news is used a lot by some politicians. When they say that a news report is fake news, they mean it contradicts their beliefs and so they don’t want other people to believe it. They have a different view of the situation and want to promote that view. Instead of giving evidence to support their view, the politicians try to discredit  the original new report by calling it fake news. Very often, it isn’t important to these politicians whether the news is true or not.

When a politician claims something is fake news they rarely criticise the content of the news report directly. Their aim is to call the writer and publisher of the report a fake. In other words, they’re calling them a liar. Of course, this is also an attack on anybody who accepts the truth of the original news report. The implication is they are stupid to believe it and, therefore, those who don’t, such as the politician and his supporters, are more intelligent.

Although fake news is a fixed phrase it’s not the only word that we use when we talk about attempts to deceive people. There are words such as false, forged, counterfeit, and fraudulent. For example,

The document had a forged signature at the bottom.

Last week I found a counterfeit pound coin in my wallet.

He was arrested for submitting a fraudulent tax return.

We can also use the words fake and false to describe these situations.

He made a false claim that it was his signature.

The pound coin was a fake.

The tax return contained false information.

While we’re taking about words that mean fake, let’s look at some words that mean the opposite such as true, real, genuine and authentic. For example,

Read the article then decide if each of these statements is true or false.

I prefer documentaries to dramas. I like to hear the stories of real people.

The art expert declared that the painting was a genuine Rembrandt.

There’s a new restaurant in the High Street. They serve authentic Malaysian food.

So, what’s the opposite of fake news? It’s just news, of course.

Listen to Barney reading the text.

Download this recording.

By Barney


Making contact – social language

Airport conversation

Social conversation is important to help get to know people and to build relationships.

Part 1


Listen to this conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences? That sounds great, thanks.
Have you been before? I’m a technical manager for IWB.
What do you do? No, I haven’t.
Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch? No, I came last year when it was in Budapest.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi, I’m Julie. Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences?

B: No, I came last year when it was in Budapest. I’m Susan by the way. Have you been before?

A: No, I haven’t. I’ve just started working in medical technology.

B: What do you do?

A: I’m a technical manager for IWB. I’m responsible for technical support in Eastern Europe. What about you?

B: Oh, I’m with BTC. I was in technical support, but I’ve moved into project management.

A: Maybe you could suggest a couple of useful sessions for me?

B: Yeah, sure. Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch?

A: That sounds great, thanks.


Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There are three parts:

  • I’m with BTC. = this says what the present situation is
  • I was in technical support, = this says what the past situation was
  • but I’ve moved into project management. = this says what has changed

Now, use this structure to write a sentence about you that says;

  • what your present situation is
  • what your past situation was
  • what has changed.


Part 2


Listen to this second conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Did you have a good flight? Paul hasn’t.
When was that? He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months.
Has everyone else arrived for the meeting? Not too bad.
How long has he lived there? It was last year.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi Brian. Did you have a good flight?

B: Not too bad, Peter. At least it was on time.

A: That’s good. I’ve had problems with RiteFlite in the past.

B: Oh? When was that?

A: It was last year, on a trip to Buenos Aires.

B: Really? I’ve always wanted to go there.

A: Well, we had a fantastic time apart from the flight.

B: Anyway, has everyone else arrived for the meeting?

A: Paul hasn’t. He called 20 minutes ago to say his train was delayed! It’s typical, isn’t it? The person who lives closest is the one who’s late!

B: Oh really? I thought he lived in Norwich.

A: Not any more. He’s moved to Richmond.

B: Ah. How long has he lived there

A: He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months. He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work!


Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There’s a question about an unfinished time:

  • How long has he lived there?

The answer has two parts:

  • He’s only been there for 3 or 4 month. = an unfinished time = the time he’s lived in Richmond
  • He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work! = a finished time = the time he moved

Here are two questions with the same structure:

  • How long have you lived here?
  • How long have you worked there?

Write answers about you.


Part 1

Julie and Susan don’t know each other. They are meeting for the first time.

They are at a conference.

Part 2

Peter and Brian know each other. They are colleagues.

They are at an airport.


By Louise and Barney

Do you know the rules of making small talk? Watch our video.


If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you need practise social language in English? Send us a message.


‘Growing’ your business

A crop of tomatoesStrawberry plants bearing fruit

Did you know, when we talk about business, we use a lot of idioms connected with gardening and growing?

How many garden and growing idioms can you find in these short conversations? Can you guess what they mean?

Listen to each conversation then try the exercise. The transcripts and answers are at the bottom of the page.


How many garden and growing idioms do you hear?

Money for advertising

The new contract

The interviews

Office closure


Can you match the idioms to their meanings?

1 plough money into a  to produce a result (especially after a long period of hard work)
2 perennial problem b  to separate out (a smaller group from a larger group / people who are less suitable from those who are more suitable)
3 bear fruit c  to go into a different direction/ business area
4 dig out d  to put (a lot of) time/money into a project
5 a crop of e  to result from
6 weed out f  to find something you have not used or seen for a long time
7 stem from g a group of people who achieve something or become known for something at the same time (eg graduates)
8 branch out  h  something which always exists, never seems to change

Transcripts and answers

WeedsCrop of applesa spade

Money for advertising

A: How was the meeting?

B: Well, the Board want to plough more money into advertising, but I think we should be spending it on getting the products right first!

A: Hmm, I know what you mean. It’s a perennial problem:  increase advertising without having any new products or develop new products but lack the budget to promote them!


The new contract

A:  Did you hear we got the Strathco contract?

B: That’s great – all that hard work has finally borne fruit.

A: Yes, I’ll have to go back and dig out the research I did right at the beginning  of the process – over a year ago!


The interviews

A: Have you finished all the interviews?

B: Yes, just did the last few this morning – there’s a really strong crop of graduates this year, so we’ve got lots of good candidates.

A: That’s good to hear –how many are we taking?

B: Only 10, so I’ve now got the difficult job of weeding out the less suitable ones.


Office closure

A: Have you heard they’re closing the Leicester office?

B: Yes – their results have been pretty bad for the last couple of years, haven’t they?

A: Yeah, I think it all stems from relying on one or two big clients and when they lost those contracts….

B: You’re right – we should make sure that doesn’t happen here.

A: Yes but we could also branch out into other areas of business …….



1d 2h 3a 4f 5g 6b 7e 8c


By Joy


If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you want to learn English idioms? Send us a message.


Words making the headlines – tax

The last word making the headlines was election and when there’s an election on, there’s one topic that is sure to be discussed. That topic, of course, is tax – should we be paying more or less and what should our governments spend the money on?

Everybody knows what tax is but be careful with the pronunciation of the plural form. Taxes/tæk.sɪz/ has a short /ɪ/ vowel sound in the second syllable. If you make this sound too long, people could think you are saying taxis /tæk.siːz/. That would be very confusing!

taxis /tæk.siːz/

Here’s a story from the website of the Guardian newspaper about the election promises of one of the major British political parties, the Labour Party. The story is about income tax, the tax that we pay on the money we earn from our jobs.

Other types of tax are:

Corporation tax – the tax that companies pay on their profits

Value Added Tax (VAT) or Sales tax – the tax on goods and services we buy every day.

The article also talks about tax revenue. This is the total amount of money the government collects from taxpayers: you and me.

The Labour party also promises to deal with tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is when people and companies use loopholes in the law to avoid paying some or all of their tax. Don’t confuse this with tax evasion which is when you just don’t pay your tax. Tax evasion is against the law and you can go to prison if the authorities catch you.

Here in Britain, the Labour Party says it will raise taxes by increasing the tax rate for the richest people. In the USA, President Trump wants to cut taxes, especially for business.

Paying tax is something we all have to do whether we like it or not. However, everybody seems to like talking about tax. In fact, Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said,

‘There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.’

See how many of these words you can use next time a conversation in English turns to the subject of tax.

If you would like to suggest a word from the news for future blog posts, please use the comment box.

Listen to Barney reading this text.

By Barney

Words making the headlines – election

Polling card

The next word in our occasional series about newspaper vocabulary is in headlines everywhere. It’s election /ɪˈlek.ʃən/.

Let’s start with the definition. The Macmillan English Dictionary says an election is

an occasion when people vote for someone to represent them, especially in a government.

We’ll come back to the word vote in a moment but first let’s focus on different types of elections.

Last year, the people of the USA voted to choose a new president. That’s what we call a presidential election. The people of France are currently doing the same.

There are other types of elections; one for every level of government. In the UK this month, we have local elections in some parts of the country, including Stratford. This is when we vote to choose the people to represent us at a city or county level.

BBC election newsAnd we also have a general election in June. A general election is to choose the representatives to go to the national parliament. In the UK, we call these people Members of Parliament or MPs.

Right now, we’re now in the middle of the election campaign. The newspapers, television and radio are full of interviews with candidates from the different political parties and reports about what they promise to do if we vote for them.

This year’s UK general election is a snap election. This means that, instead of waiting for the official 5-year parliamentary period to end in 2020, the UK Prime Minister suddenly decided to call an election at very short notice.

What about the word vote /vəʊt/? We often use it as a verb, for example:

Who did you vote for?

However, newspapers sometimes use it as a noun which means the same as election, for example:

The results of the June vote will influence the Brexit negotiations.

There are lots of other words connected to elections but we’ll deal with them another time.

If you would like to suggest a word from the news for future blog posts, please use the comment box.


Practise your listening. Click on play to hear Barney reading this text.


by Barney

Story writing project – travel vocabulary – part 4

Here is the fourth part of our story writing project based on your suggestions. We’ve highlighted the useful travel vocabulary in part 3. Look out for linking words and phrases in part 4.

You can read parts 1 and 2 here.

~ My trip to Paris ~

Part 3: Passport control

Passport control - picture from the UK Border Force
Passport control

Luckily, thirty minutes was just enough time to go through the security check and passport control because the queue was short.  At the security check, I opened my bag and took out my smart phone, my e-reader, and my toilet bag and put them into a tray. The security people passed the tray through their x-ray scanner. I walked through the metal detector and it made a “beep” sound!

“Oh, dear. It must my belt,” I said. I took my belt off, put it in another tray and then I went through the metal detector again. This time there was no sound.

I collected my things from the trays and put them back into my bag. Now all I had to do was go through passport control and get on the train. I started looking in my bag for my passport. Where was it? I remembered putting it in my bag at home but now I couldn’t find it.

What was I going to do?

Part 4: The lost passport

I looked in my bag for a while, however the passport was nowhere to be found. I put my hands on my hips and looked up at the sky. I was so upset!


At that moment, I noticed something in my pocket. “Here it is!” Fortunately, the passport was in my trouser pocket. I remembered putting it there after I went through the metal detector. I felt so relieved and went towards the passport control.

Since the queue was not so long, my turn came quickly. I handed my passport to the officer, he inspected it then gave it back in a matter-of-fact manner. In the end, I went through passport control without any problems.

Now I needed to check which platform I should go to. I tried to ask one of the station staff. But, they started speaking to me in French!

Many thanks to Taichi for this part of the story.

Go to Leave a Reply at the bottom of this page and tell us what should happen in part 5.

Stratford Teachers Pub Quiz

The Old Thatch Tavern pub in Stratford upon Avon – drawing by Barney Barrett

Pubs are an important part of British culture.

How much do you know about the language of pubs?

Test yourself by watching our new video.

There are six questions. Use the comment box at the bottom of this page to tell us how many you got right.

Of course, the most important thing we do in the pub is make conversation. Watch our video on the rules of small talk for advice on how to start and keep a conversation going.

Video by Barney with  Joy, Louise, Simon, and Stephen. Cheers to Emily and Stephen for also adding their voices.


If you have any questions about this, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in learning more about British culture and the English language, send us a message.