Culture Surf is a corner of the internet set aside to help English learners (or anyone who’s curious) to learn more about American and Anglophone culture. We discuss song lyrics, regional slang, and a lot more. The point is to put focus on the fun side of language learning, which is the culture! Other topics like Geography and Movies are constantly being added. I’m always open to suggestions and questions to help you clear up what you want to learn. Come and discover more!
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In the Culture section, we have short stories and audios for practicing listening and learning informal English terms through Adventures of Charles. About Americans talks about American society and culture. In Lyrics “Explained” you can read song lyrics, listen to music, and learn about English world culture and slang through song lyrics. At the Movies looks at English world society by analyzing movies. Language Surf allows you to listen to the sounds of the world’s languages, from the most endangered to the most spoken.
For Geography, we look at the world’s English-speaking countries, their geographies, and cultures through the Actual English World. There is also a section for looking at cool places, galleries, and profiles of the world’s regions called Earth’s Face.
Existe também uma seção chamada Em Português para quem fala e deseja ler sobre alguns tópicos do site.
Lastly, Helpful Resources is a place where I share some resources like websites and videos you can use to improve (and enjoy) your English skills.
**Even if you already speak English, you can contribute by adding your own ideas, sharing about your own accent and culture, and helping others grow. Let’s build this together!
Adzera Atzera – Azera – Atsera – Acira an Oceanic language of Papua New Guinea, in the Austronesian family Hear More Languages Speakers ~ 30,000 Dialects of Adzera Central groupAmariNgarowapum YarosGuruf (Ngariawang)Tsumanggorun *Sukurum and Sarasira may be dialects or separate languages Listen Teaching About Prayer and Faith – Adzera (jesusfilm.org) See More Do you speak Adzera or have an…
Adyghe West Circassian – Адыгабзэ – кӀахыбзэ – Adıgabzə – k’axıbzə a Circassian language of Russia (Caucasus region) and Turkey, in the Northwest Caucasian family Hear More Languages Speakers ~ 575,900 Black Sea Coast Dialects of Adyghe Shapsug (Шапсыгъабзэ)North Shapsugs (Great Shapsugs, Kuban Shapsugs, Шапсыгъэ шху)Kfar Kama (Кфар Камэм ишапсыгъэбзэ)Temirgoy Shapsugs (Pseuşko accent, Кӏэмгуе-шапсыгъ)South Shapsugs (Small…
The craze of ancestry testing has swept the globe. Organizations like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have been on the receiving end of millions of spit samples for a time now. I sent mine in, you can believe. One of the most interesting parts of doing a test like this is learning your backstory. Not just of…
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Realm? What are we, crossing through the wardrobe of Narnia? It sounds a bit fancy, but Biogeographic (or Zoogeographic) Realms are a way that scientists have divided the world to connect its main biological and geographic features. The continents in all their glory can be a confusing and misrepresentative way to look at the world. We’ve discussed if Bio-Realms might be a better way to divide our planet before. Here, I want to go deeper into one realm in particular, including some of its main physical and cultural features. Don’t mind me, I just love geography–and biogeography, apparently.
The Nearctic Realm is a part of the wider “Arctic” Biogeographical Realm that stretches across much of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s Ne-arctic, as in “New,” because it’s in the New World. That is, the world that was unknown by Eurasians and Africans up until a recent point. That is, the Americas. Put together with the Palearctic (“Old World” Arctic), they can be called the Holarctic (or the whole Arctic!). The Nearctic happens to coincide with what most people think of when they picture “North America.” It includes everything in that continent starting from the Arctic — including Greenland — and goes down until we reach the tropics. In the Southwest, this cutoff is somewhere in the middle of Mexico, while in the Southeast, the cutoff is Central Florida.
Since we’re talking about the limitations of the realm, let’s look at the political geography. Only two countries take up the bulk of the Nearctic:
the United States
A good chunk of Mexico is in the Nearctic, though most of the country probably isn’t (it depends on definitions). Nearctic Mexico would be the deserts, shrublands, and temperate mountains in the north. The Kingdom of Denmark sneaks its way in by way of the massive constituent country, Greenland. France also has a piece by way of a tiny territory off the coast of Newfoundland called St. Pierre & Miquelon. Otherwise, that’s it!
Geography of the Nearctic
The Nearctic is known for having large, somewhat continuous biome types. Some major ones to remember are the Arctic tundra, Boreal forests / taiga, the Great Plains, the Nearctic (or North American) deserts, and the Eastern temperate forests. Much of those forests have been heavily urbanized or used for agriculture, but there are still some trees if you look. Oh, it’s not that bad.
The realm is home to tons of lakes, big and small, with the largest (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, etc.) being in the Great Lakes region. There are also some seriously long rivers here too, with some notable mentions being the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Yukon, and the Rio Grande.
Major mountain systems include the famous Rockies, the Pacific Ranges (or Cordillera), the East and West Sierra Madres, and the Appalachians. They are all very extensive too. The Rockies stretch from the Southwest United States up into Northern Canada. The Pacific Ranges basically run up the entire Pacific Coast. Depending on definition, the Appalachians go from the hills of Mississippi to the rocky shores of Newfoundland. Another big one is the Arctic Cordillera, a set of rugged mountains that stretch from Northern Labrador and Quebec all the way up to Canada’s Arctic Archipelago.
There are a couple of biomes that stand out from the rest of the realm. The Pacific Northwest is home to the biggest — or longest — temperate rainforest in the world. On the other end, Appalachia is home to pockets of temperate rain and cloud forests. A large section of the Gulf Coast, especially around Louisiana, is home to vast wetlands and swamps called bayous.
Another distinct area is Greenland’s Arctic desert (that’s right, they can be cold). That biome is a dry, snowy wilderness covered in snow year-round. Since we’re in the “Ne-Arctic,” the weather is just about everything but tropical. As we saw, it ranges from moist forests to dry prairies and arid deserts. Mediterranean climate is common in the matorraland chaparralshrublands of the West. Parts of the southeastern Nearctic aren’t quite tropical, but do have a humid subtropical climate. The main ecoregions include subtropical forests, temperate mixed and conifer forests, boreal forests, temperate and subtropical grasslands and plains, tundra, Mediterranean wood and shrublands, deserts, and even mangroves off the coast of Northwestern Mexico.
Ecology of the Nearctic
The Nearctic is home to many plants and animals. Some of the common big fauna are antelope (pronghorns), bison, wolves, foxes, bobcats, lynx, cougars (or mountain lions), deer, bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and musk oxen. There are also tons of rodents like rabbits, gophers, and squirrels, as well as beavers and porcupines. Armadillos, peccaries, and opossums came from further south. There are lots of bovids (cows) and horses too, but those were mostly introduced later. Camels, horses, and even a kind of cheetah were native to this region but endemic species have all died out.
Alligators are common in some parts, as are many other reptiles, amphibians, and everything else. Major birds are crows, cardinals, turkeys, and hummingbirds, as well as many owls, hawks, eagles, ducks, geese, condors, and pelicans. Different berries and flowers, as well as specialized desert, tundra, and temperate zone plants are also found here. See this article for some interesting flora in North America.
Let’s Get Some Culture … of the Nearctic
As I mentioned before, one of the cool things about Bio-Realms is how they kind of coincide with human cultural interactions too. The dominating cultures in this realm tend to be this “Neo-Anglo” culture of the North American variety (it’s quite different from Neo-Anglo culture in the Caribbean, for example), and a Latin American culture, also of the North American variety. Neo-Anglo culture is strongest throughout, especially in much of the U.S. and Canada. Still, Latino culture is strong in the Southwest of the region. This is mostly in Mexico (duh!), but also in bordering U.S. states and several urban areas throughout the realm.
“Neo-Franco” culture is strong in some areas like Canada, especially in Quebec province. It also has some influence in parts of Louisiana or St. Pierre & Miquelon, of course. Besides being a part of the same three countries, these areas are heavily influential in each other’s history and contemporary identities. They receive many immigrants amongst one another and share languages, slang, music, and cuisine across borders.
Indigenous cultures are also still around, though much subtler than in the Neotropical Realm. Their cultures are more visible in the Western United States and Mexico or rural Canada. This is also true of the Arctic where the many Inuit peoples have a distinct culture and identity. Match that with Greenland where there’s this funky mix of Inuit and Danish cultural cues.
We’ve come to the end of the Nearctic Realm, but there’s so much more to explore. What other cultural ties do the people of this realm share? Are there any other cool animals, plants, or geographic features you can think of in this realm? Had you heard about the Nearctic before? Tell us in the comments!
Follow if you enjoyed the article and feel free to read more posts. Thanks as always for stopping by. Sending you good vibrations. Peace!
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The USA? A cuisine? You’re kidding. This place definitely does have its own set of culinary forms and contributions. Or … The U.S. just steals its culinary forms from other traditions. Well, we’ve heard many sides of the argument before, and there’s a little bit of truth to either. Many travelers to the United States, foreigners watching American TV shows, and our very own U.S. citizens often get confused as to what the “cuisine” even is (if there is such a thing, of course). Here, I want to explore with you a bit of the influences behind American cuisine, and how that became a thing. Then we can take a brief — I do mean brief — look at the major cuisines-zzz of the United States. Ready to go?
The trouble with defining a uniquely American cuisine for most people is the fact that the country itself is literally a land of immigrants. There has been so much influence from other places that one might be inclined to think that the US just borrows its recipes from other countries, tweaking them slightly to appeal to American tongues. While that may be the case, this is typically what has happened in all world cuisines. For example, many European dishes rely heavily on potatoes and tomatoes, two ingredients originally from the Americas. Most of the world eats chicken, a fowl originally from South Asia. You start to get my point.
Specifically, for the United States as we know it (or them?), the cuisine was influenced by different waves of settlement. The Native Americans would be the first up. Known as the “three sisters,” indigenous diets were stapled by beans, maize, and squash. Add in the native turkey and you’ve almost got yourself a Thanksgiving dinner! Lots of other animals were consumed that aren’t such popular options nowadays like deer, elk, bison, rabbits, ducks, snakes, squirrels, turtles, possums, and alligators. Still, these animals are consumed in modern times, even if it gives me the creeps to think so. One group of native critters that have stood the test of time are crustaceans and shellfish. Mmm-hmm.
Europeans in general immediately made their impact on the local dishes. They would eventually introduce the meats that we know and love like chicken, pork, beef, and sheep (for those that like to eat Mary’s little lambs). With these creatures also came dairy and eggs, and subsequently every great dessert ever made! Grapes and wine were also a neat contribution. Throughout settlement, American colonists had a sweet spot for France and French culinary styles which they drew much inspiration. The Jewish communities and pretty much every other European community brought with them their own styles that would influence cuisine in the new country.
Upon arriving in the colonies, many people realized a greater need to hunt than on the typical European farms. They would also come to use more fats, oils, and butter than was customary (this explains a lot, actually). Colonists also brought grains with them that could be used to bake bread or make the popular whiskeys and beers. Molasses and syrup also became common, along with a sort-of-famous drink imported from the Caribbean: rum.
In the Southern states especially, African influences would hit even harder. Imports like okra, sorghum, sesame seeds, eggplant, watermelon, rice, and yams are just some of what was brought along with the early slaves. (*Some of these foods were also found in Asia but were imported first from Africa). Black cooks would also play a major role in the national cuisine since they were serving some of the best dishes available to the elites of the time.
All of these influences and more would go on to mix and shape a unique culinary style all to its own in the United States. As we said, the country is home to many regional cuisines within its borders. So, what are some of America’s cuisines?
Types of American Cuisine
New England is a section of the Northeast United States with a long, rugged coastline. The food there is most famous for its use of seafood, especially for having some of the best lobster anywhere. Clam chowder and lobster dishes like the lobster roll are considered originals from this region. Succotash is another original consisting mostly of lima beans and corn, both native ingredients.
New England cuisine is also known for its use of fruits and berries, with many popular sweets like pies, juices, and jellies being derived from both imported (strawberries, apples) and native produce (elderberries, cranberries). Muffins, specialized types of bread, and cookies (looking at you, chocolate chip!) were also popularized here before spreading to the rest of the country.
Besides keeping it kosher, this region loved its sweets, with many concoctions such as the New York cheesecake, American-style donuts, and milkshakes owing their births to this region. There’s also Philadelphia which most notably contributed cream cheese and the Philly cheesesteak, but also played a major role in the westward expansion of New York dishes. We can’t forget that Upstate New York would make one of the most beloved American dishes known to man: buffalo wings!
Staying on the “Middle” route, the Mid-West is a region that was settled by lots of Europeans. This might explain why German, Scandinavian, and Eastern Block influences are so strong there. Aside from the many dishes brought over from those European tables, one that seemed to stand out was the sausage.
Polish and German sausages (especially Bratwurst) take the cake in this part of America, and they have gone to take many shapes and sizes. Adding pickled veggies will get you the hot dogs so popular in these parts. The major cities here have their own unique styles of pizza (most famously Chicago deep dish) and barbeque (most famously Kansas City–St. Louis). Oh, and brownies apparently came from America’s wonderful heartland.
When referring to “the South” in any case, especially when it comes to food, there is no umbrella that can cover it all. The South is one of the richest and most diverse culinary regions in America, many claiming it is the only part of the U.S. that gives the country a unique culinary style. Still, they learned a lot from the Natives and Africans. Corn dishes like succotash, corn of the cob, cornbread, and grits all have their origins down here. As we saw earlier, melons, yams, okra, black-eyed peas, and rice also get the highlight from Africa.
Throughout the coastal South such as the Carolinas, seafood is considered a staple in the cuisine. But nowhere else, I dare to say, does seafood play a bigger role in the culinary ID than in Louisiana. Cajun and Creole traditions took heavily from French-Acadian, Afro-Caribbean, Spanish, and indigenous foods to make it its own unique thing.
There are way too many specialized dishes to name here, but many of them take advantage of the prevalent shellfish, crawfish, and regular fish of the region. The food is known for being one of the most flavorful and spiciest in all of the U.S. Cajuns love their cayenne pepper. Some of the most-known dishes include gumbo, jambalaya, boudin sausage, red beans and rice, and po’boys.
Florida & the Caribbean
Anyone who’s ever been to Florida knows how nice (or chaotic) the weather can be. It’s known as the only part of the contiguous United States with a tropical climate. This plus its proximity to the Caribbean has brought many fruits that simply can’t grow in other states. Immigrants have brought culinary styles from Cuba, the DR, and Haiti, among other flavors such as allspice, coconut, oranges, banana (plantains), Jerk, and curry.
Some of the tropical fruits available like soursop and mangoes are almost unheard of in other parts of the South, making Florida a standout. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico also add their own twist of flavors, being U.S. territories with tons of Spanish, African, and French influences too. The region is also a key location for seafood and for peppers like bell and habanero. It’s said the famous key lime pie was invented (or at least inspired) in the Florida Keys.
The American Northwest has two standout factors in its culinary styles. For one, the proximity to the Pacific gives it some unique fish and seafood not available in the East. The other is due to the fact that most of this region is wilderness, allowing for access to more big game. This is especially true for Alaska where animals like the ptarmigan, moose, and bison can be consumed more regularly than in other parts of the U.S.
I was also thinking bears and beavers, but I don’t know how often those get eaten. The Pacific Northwest is also famous for its extensive berry and hazelnut harvesting. And not to mention the major cities like Seattle and San Francisco that created many of the Asian-American dishes beloved around the country.
The Southwest is a huge area with tons of culinary styles and influences. The most prevalent of these is probably American Mexican food. From Tex-Mex to SoCal to New Mexico, each place has its own unique turn. Notably from Texans, we get iconic dishes like beef chili, queso dip, American nachos, taco bowls, and holiest of all, Fritos. Chimichangas are reportedly from Arizona, and New Mexico has lots of traditional dishes that put an American twist to north Mexican fare.
A constant in many of these is the use of tomatoes, peppers like chiles and jalapeños, cheese, corn, and beans. Salsa, tortillas, and guacamole are also part of the staple dishes. With influences like the Native American horno, a type of oven, other animals such as elk and even rattlesnake are consumed, likely in the boonies.
Still, beef and barbeque hold a special place here, with Texas having some of the most famous BBQ in the world. Burgers are also an important feature, the Southwest being home to the cheeseburger and many types of Mexicanized and Asianized burgers following soon after. California was pivotal in introducing many Asian foods to the country (as well as the concept of fast food). From Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, to Korean and more, these foods have gone to shapeshift into something truly American.
The Pacific Islands take up a special portion of American cuisine. Due to tropical weather and an abundance of seafood, this region has access to many foods otherwise not available in the rest of the country. Regional natives and tropical fruits like bananas, papayas, lemongrass, and sweet potatoes have all contributed. Alongside Samoan and Mariana traditions, Hawaiian food is of the most beloved in America as well.
Also paying due to imports like chicken and pigs, pork and ham are heavily associated with this region, as are pineapples. Asian foods and styles like poke (Hawaii original), tofu, soy, sushi, teriyaki, kimchi, and noodles like ramen are all part of the cuisine. Many American troops were sent to the Pacific during wartime as well, and canned foods like beans, meat, and SPAM are derived from those army rations.
One of the most popular cuisines not owing to a particular region of the U.S. is Mediterranean food. This is usually with a Middle Eastern flare and includes things like kebabs, hummus, shwarma, falafel, pita bread, and creamy salads. Desserts like rice pudding and baklava also have an impact on this food. Ethiopian and other African styles are on the rise due to increased immigration.
Indian food has been popular for a while with tikka masala, naan bread, lentils, and curry being some of the most popular items. South American barbeque styles like Brazilian churrasco and gaucho asado are gaining in popularity, as are exotic fruits like “acai” (açaí) or tubers like cassava (think tapioca). Pretty much everyone’s got a hand in this American pie.
**That’s it for now! I look forward to going more in depth with the distinct American cuisines in the future. What do you think? Were any of these shocking to you? Still don’t think the U.S. has its own cuisine? Let us know! And take care, as always. Peace 😉
In English, like in any language, we speakers have some funny habits when it comes to using the language. Hey, at least it adds some character, am I right? Today I want to dwell a bit on this thing we do when we contract a quantifier word with the word “of”. This is similar to what happens when we combine “want to (wanna).” But first thing’s first; what in the Anglo-ing world is a quantifier?? Well, quantifiers are words that indicate a quantity (no, really!) or in other words, an amount of something.
Contracting Quantifiers with ‘Of’
Some examples of this are: a little, a lot, many, some, a few
When describing an amount (or quantity) of something, some of these words are followed by “of.”
a lot of cake; some of the cake; a bit of cake
Keep in mind, this is not all the time. Many quantifiers and some of their uses don’t have an “of” after them.
some cake; a few cakes; many cakes
*“Some cake” and “some of the cake” can mean the same thing. Although, usually “some of the cake” sounds more specific (a piece of a specific cake) while “some cake” sounds more general (a piece of any cake)
When there is an “of” behind those quantifiers that need it, some speakers have a habit of combining the quantifier word with “of.” In this way, it forms a contraction.
There’s a lotta cake left in the fridge. (a lot of)
Do you want to take home somma this cake? (some of)
This is more common in speech and when people are talking quickly. This habit is not a rule though, and these words are almost never spelled in the contracted way except in very informal text. It is also not universal and not everyone has this habit. Still, it is fairly common and a good thing to be aware of, say, when you talk with native speakers or watch TV.
This plays into the larger trend of changing short words with the “shwa” sound (uh, like ‘of’, ‘to’, ‘the’) and just contracting them with a bigger word.
The most popular one of these you’ll notice in day-to-day speech will most likely be kinda. As a quantifier, it has about the same meaning as “somewhat” or “a little bit.”
I know, I know. This might seem like an odd question, but many out there wonder whether or not the U.S. really does have a culture. It’s debated by researchers and academics, even questioned by many Americans themselves. Well, you know I’m going to give you my opinion. But, what is culture in the first place?
All countries have one (there goes your answer right there), and most countries have specific regional cultures within them. Even many cities have different “cultures” depending on the side of town. This usually happens in a north-south and east-west frame. Think of, say, Eastern and Western China, East and West Russia, North and South Italy, or North and South India. The same differences happen in the U.S., where you get different cultures from north to south and east to west and diagonal and so forth.
Probably the reason many would question whether America or Americans have any culture has more to do with having a culture of their own. Since everybody knows it’s a nation composed almost entirely of immigrants, it’s easy to see why people might question whether the U.S. even has a culture in the first place. Especially for visitors, often the first things they see are Uber and Lyft drivers that can hardly speak English, a Chinese restaurant on the left, a Mexican restaurant on the right, an Indian bazaar, a building that looks just like any other in Europe or somewhere else.
A lot of that is just on the surface, though. First and foremost, we just need to look at the first nations within our nation. Native Americans were here before “America” was even a thing. They have used hundreds of languages to express their many musical styles, customs, dressing traditions, and cuisines. Many of the food items common in current American cuisines like corn, turkey, different berries, and tomatoes are homegrown, original to the continent. And indigenous art and design are still highly influential, especially in regions like the Southwest and parts of the Midwest.
The Anglos and other British settlers also had a chunk of influence. They brought their heritage, sure, but established a distinct set of folklore, musical styles, attire, and identity altogether. Generally those identities differed from North to South and urban to rural too, where differences in lifestyle, accent, and ideology would diverge those two parts of the country even more. Besides setting the foundation for the United States as we know it, they also gave the nation its main language, now the most prominent and influential version of English on the planet. (Brits, please don’t get mad at me!)
With all that going on, others from Europe like the French, Dutch, Swedes, and Spanish were all pushing their own traditions and styles onto the locations they’d settled. This left Dutch architecture in New York, Spanish architecture in California and Texas, and French architecture in Louisiana. It also gave way to celebrations like Mardi Gras, and the establishment of some of America’s greatest and most iconic cities.
The Africans that were brought over to the New World also made their cultural impact. From their influence on cuisine, especially in the South and Mid-Atlantic, they helped to produce and invent many of the nation’s most iconic and preferred dishes, several with ingredients from the ancestral continent. Lyrical storytelling and passing down vocal history allowed many to preserve their musical traditions. This continues to impact American and World music in a huge way till this day. With some of the most important black social leaders and intellects, African Americans have become some of the most recognizable and admired black individuals known all over the world. Many black people from other countries and colonies also had a huge impact on the nation’s ID. And America’s obsession with athletics, TV, and movies have helped to solidify that role.
Oh, and let’s not forget the many immigrants that came to establish their own unique cultures in the U.S. different from their home lands. I mean, Chicano isn’t quite Mexican, and Nuyorican isn’t quite Puerto Rican (even though Puerto Rican is still American, as much as Guamanian, American Samoan, Mariana, or Virgin Islander is). Just name all the religious sects and denominations that sought refuge here. Heck, many still were persecuted when they got here. Many of their traditional cuisines and customs have been modified to U.S.-style, but there are still places where their customs have been preserved like in their ancestral countries.
Just the Beginning
And that’s just looking at individual groups. I haven’t even begun to talk about consumerism and capitalism, the phenomenon of malls and suburbs, movie culture and car culture, skateboarding and surfing, baseball and basketball, football and the bashing of any other sport that claims to be football, Americana and jukebox nostalgia, hostility and hospitality, Broadway and Hollywood, Main Street and Middle America, country living and the urban rush, the woes of yards and pounds, love-hate feels about war and the admiration of military, the superiority complex and the self-loathing, “pulling up your bootstraps” and the mental health crisis, ranches and rodeos, guns and cowboys, hippies and hipsters, donators and volunteers, scammers and schemers, big enterprise and social media craze, an app for everything and a distrust in politics, religious fundamentalists and homegrown extremists, luaus and hula dancers, freezer food and barbecues, bison and bald eagles, conservative rules, and the sex, swearing, and drugs that never seem to get ruled out.
There’s a lot that makes America what it is, but one thing’s for certain; Americans do have a culture … but I’ll let others figure out what that culture actually is.
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Speed-racing, fast-flying, metal-clunking, oil-charged … these useful little machines called cars have a lot more to do with the English language than one might imagine. There are so many popular idioms and expressions that were inspired by these furiously fast vehicles. Whether for a compliment or a “total wreck,” this language has you car-lovers covered.
Below is a list of some expressions that were inspired by cars or driving. Most of these can be used in a literal driving context but also in a figurative way. It’s not a complete list at all, and there are many more expressions out there. Still, these are some that, in my life, seem to be the most commonly used. So let’s get the motor runnin’!
Oh, and I’ll be writing more lists about this topic in the future if you want to know even more phrases related to cars. So, stay tuned for that!
Total Wreck / Totaled
Let’s go ahead and start with one that I just used. A total wreck, whether for a car or in general life, is a complete disaster. Something has been destroyed and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any coming back. If you total a car, it’s totaled, and this has the same meaning as a “total wreck.” It’s “totally” destroyed … totally, man!
This word is used more specifically for cars, but can be used for other things if you want to get creative. A complete wreck is another option with the same idea.
Messed up car, messed up life
My life is just a total wreck right now!
Did you see? Max totaled his Audi the other day.
Getting things hot
Revving up an engine is to get it started, get it hot. You press your foot on the gas and get ready to run (as in driving, of course). It’s similar as a figurative expression, where it means to get really excited, get “fired up,” and start an activity with lots of power and energy. It’s also used as an adjective in the same way.
Passion from within
Cars are so noisy when they rev up their engines.
Be careful with Charlie. He gets all revved up at football games.
Take a pause …
Has someone ever been talking to you and you just wanted to stop them and change the topic? Well, you could have curbed them, which is doing exactly that. It usually means to stop something in order to change its course. Think of a car’s wheels hitting a curb.
An abrupt stop
Joey’s car got scratched when he curbed it last week.
Guys at bars always come at me with terrible conversations. I wish I could just curb them and move on.
That’s doing too much
This means going really fast, simple as that. It works in cars as much as in life situations. It generally has the context of doing more than one should or more than needed.
Breaking the limit
Is it okay to speed in Germany?
All his speeding through life is going to catch up with him someday.
In The Rearview
A look back
As in, in the “rearview mirror.” When looking in their “rearview,” someone can see what’s behind them. Outside of driving, something in the rearview or looking in the rearview has to do with being in the past. Usually we say it when something gets put in the past or when someone is focusing on their past.
Checking what’s past
Make sure to check in the rearview while you drive.
I used to work as a waitress, but that’s all in the rearview now.
No fuel for the fire
This is can also be expressed as “running on E.” On E literally means on empty, which happens when a car has no more gas in the tank. This is helpful to express when a car has an empty gas tank, or when a person has no more energy in their metaphorical “tank.”
Running on 0%
I got this new rental car, but the tank was already on E.
Messi looks so tired out on the field. He must be running on E by now.
When talking about cars, full throttle means the vehicle is moving at full capacity or is driving very quickly. Well, that’s about the same as someone doing something at “full throttle,” or with lots of enthusiasm, energy, and speed.
Full speed ahead
She loves to drive with her convertible at full throttle through the desert.
If you choose to do something in life, make sure to do it full throttle.
Like A Deer In Headlights
Caught you looking
Sometimes people say “headlamps,” but it means the same thing. Often said as a deer caught in headlights, this phrase intends exactly what comes to mind when you read it. Someone usually makes this look when they are caught doing something they shouldn’t be. They can be very shocked or even embarrassed.
Scared deer, scared baby
Have you ever actually seen a deer caught in headlights?
When Sean’s mom caught him stealing cookies from the cabinet, he was like a deer in headlights.
Hit The Brakes / Hit The Gas
Just press go … or stop
Hitting the gas or the brakes in a car means to push your foot on the gas or brake pedal to make the car go or stop. These expressions sometimes get used in other situations, like when you want a person to speed up or slow down. Pumping the brakes or the gas is another alternative, as well is pushing the brakes / gas. Although, the sensation is a little less “rushed.”
Advice for driving, dates, and driving dates
Never hit the brakes too suddenly. But when the light turns green, you need to hit the gas.
Jake tried to kiss me on our first date and I was like, pump the brakes! Now it’s been two weeks, and I wish he would push the gas!
Bring it in, sit it down
Parking, we know, is to pull your car over to the side of the road and leave it. Or, you can leave it in a parking lot. When someone says to park it, they usually are asking you to sit down. Sometimes it can mean to stop what someone is doing, too.
Pull over and leave it there
When you learn to drive a car, you must learn how to park it.
Hey, Jimmy! Come park it next to me.
He knows he was wrong. He should just park it and apologize.
A swerve (action) or to swerve mean to make a sudden and unexpected turn while driving. This is usually to avoid an obstacle in the road, like a tree branch or something. Figuratively, one can swerve to avoid a situation or person, mostly because they don’t like them. I think it can also be used to talk about making a sudden change in life or in movement.
This is part of where all those “skrrt” sounds came from in Trap and Hip Hop music these days, since car tires make a skrrt sound when they swerve.
Going around, literally
Why is this guy swerving? There’s nothing in the road.
Yeah, man. When Gina called me, I had to swerve.
Sometimes in life we have to swerve around and try something new.
Wheels and squeals
Car wheels roll, and that’s the idea behind this word. To roll can simply mean to drive, but it can also mean that someone is leaving or going, as if they were “driving” away. People also use rolling to mean that they are laughing really hard, as if they were “rolling” on the ground and holding their stomach.
Do you want to roll in my truck tonight, or are we taking dad’s?
After the party we can roll to my house.
Oh my God, that movie was hilarious! I was rolling the whole time.
Some people love to just get in their car and enjoy the ride. Cruising is driving low and slow with nowhere to go, but just having a cool time. Outside the car, it usually means the same thing but in a more general life sense. It can also mean to move through some situation really easily and smoothly.
Every Tuesday me and my cousins go cruising in our Chevys. Wanna come?
Everyone says how bad airport security is, but we just cruised through the last time.
Safety first … or not
Well, everyone’s got a different opinion on whether to buckle up their seatbelts or not. Whether you’re an all-the-time buckler or a never buckler, one thing remains consistent. Buckle up is also used to tell someone to get ready, because something big is surely coming.
Alright, Maddie. Let’s buckle up before we drive to school.
Buckle up, boys. This year’s vacation is going to be insane!
Riding / Rider / Ride Or Die
On the road together
Riding in a car or any vehicle can be lots of fun. Outside of that context though, riding might have to do with going together with someone, or being there for someone no matter what. A true and loyal companion. A rider or a ride or die also have these noble qualities.
It’s fun to ride in the back of a pick-up truck.
I’m going to get some pizza. Are you riding?
Yeah, Marcy is a rider too, but Janelle is my ride-or-die. We’ve been through it all together.
No matter how popular automatic transmission gets, there always seem to be enough manual cars to practice driving stick shift. When you change from gear one to two and so on, that’s shifting gears. Now that I think of it, you can “shift gears” in an automatic car too. Just change from park to drive and whatnot.
Okay, so shifting gears has a similar meaning in other contexts, too. Changing one’s situation or circumstance comes to mind.
Shifting gears can be hard for beginner drivers.
He was a great athlete before shifting gears and becoming an actor.
Pedal To The Metal
This is like putting your foot on the gas pedal as hard as you can, all the way to the floor. In a car, this means to drive as fast as you can. We tend to hear it a lot outside of cars too, since it can be used to tell someone to hurry up, give it all they’ve got, and put one’s full energy and effort into something.
Fast life youngsters
Did you see how fast Sarah was driving? She really likes to put the pedal to the metal.
Come on, son. Put the pedal to the metal and finish that homework. It’s almost midnight.
Also, here’s a resource I found useful for helping me write this article. They have plenty of cool car expressions!
**Thank you for reading. Great job coming to practice your English skills (or just for being curious)! Feel free to read similar posts here on the Blog, as well as share or comment. Can you think of other expressions that have to do with cars and driving? There are a lot out there. Well, drive safely, be careful, and happy learning! Peace.
Set the sails and off to the “Prince” of Canada’s provinces! Prince Edward Island is a place known for its red shores and soils, many lighthouses, Green Gables, and for potatoes, ostensibly. Let’s check out 11 of the cool features that make PEI special. But first, a quick profile.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: Quick Profile
Cities: Charlottetown is the capital and biggest city; Summerside is the second-biggest
Location: mostly on the island of Prince Edward with many smaller coastal and barrier islands; within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, part of the Atlantic Ocean; once in the traditional Mi’kmaq lands and then French Acadia, it’s now part of the Maritime and Atlantic provinces of eastern Canada
Climate: has a maritime climate with some continental features; long but mild cold season and mild hot season compared to more inland areas
Environment: north Atlantic forests with coastal beaches, dunes, sandstone cliffs, and marshlands; lots of agriculture and farmland
Name: named after British Prince Edward, the father of Queen Victoria; called Île–du–Prince–Édouard in French
Alright, so why is Prince Edward Island unique, then? …
1. Because of Green Gables
What is that?:
This is the setting of the classic children’s novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. She was also from the area which now has lots of historic points dedicated to the book and its author.
Places and features:
New London, Montgomery’s hometown; Avonlea, the fictional community in the book now set up for people to visit; Anne of Green Gables Museum, and more related sites
2. Because of Prince Edward Island National Park
What is it?:
This national park protects a large natural area of the PEI north coast. With an abundance of beaches, pretty shorelines, and boardwalks, it also contains parts of the interior like Green Gables.
Places and features:
Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a national historic site and very famous hotel on the north coast; Stanhope Beach; Cape Tryon, a cape with beautiful green and red cliffs and the Cape Tryon Lighthouse; Greenwich Beach, beaches with marsh boardwalks and cool sand dunes
Prince Edward Island holds an important spot in Canadian history for hosting the meetings that led to its confederation. Several sites on the island are dedicated to this prideful part of its heritage.
Places and features:
Confederation Landing, a waterfront park in Charlottetown with some historic boating sites and tours like Peakes Wharf; Confederation Centre of the Arts, an arts center in Charlottetown with exhibits and popular plays; the Confederation Trail, a cross-province trail that can be walked, biked, or sled across, it offers the best opportunities to enjoy the island’s rural scenery; Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge over frozen waters, it connects PEI to the mainland at New Brunswick
These are the small towns scattered throughout Prince Edward Island. Most of them have nice boardwalks, beaches, and wharves to explore.
Places and features:
Cavendish, home to several Green Gables sites, a famous ice cream shop, and cliffside shores; Victoria-by-the-Sea, also has a Seaport Museum; North Rustico, among many others
5. Because of its Many Beaches
What are these?:
Remember that PEI province is full of differentiated coastlines. These come in the shapes of rocky and sandy beaches, coastal cliffs, and also wetlands.
Places and features:
Basin Head Provincial Park, home to Singing Sands Beach whose sands “sing” when stepped on; Brackley Beach, with red sands and boardwalks, also the locale of Dunes Studio Gallery, a kind of art gallery with a café and restaurant surrounded by green garden settings; Red Point Provincial Park, fun for families; Cabot Beach
6. Because of Charlottetown
What is it?:
Charlottetown, as you know, is the capital and biggest urban area in Prince Edward Island. It’s also a center of culture and commerce with lots of historically significant sites dotted around. The city played a major role in Canadian confederation.
Places and features:
Victoria Park, a beautiful harborside park; Victoria Row, a popular shopping area with eateries and Victorian-era architecture; Prince Edward Battery; the Province House; Saint Dunstan’s Basilica; Beaconsfield Historic House, preserved Victorian home and museum; a series of mouse statues set up around the city
7. Because of the South Shore & Rocky Point
What are they?:
Well, one is the southern shore of the island, particularly south of Charlottetown. Besides more coasts and beaches, there are a number of towns and historic sites found down here, especially on Rocky Point.
Places and features:
Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst, a national historic site home to some of the earliest European forts and settlements in PEI, it was also a main port of entry for early settlers; Blockhouse Point Light; Argyle Shore, more pretty red beaches and cliffs; Point Prim, with the historic Point Prim Light Station
This area is the general eastern coast of the province. It combines a series of towns, parks, scenic shores, and most notably, lighthouses to light them all!
Places and features:
Points East Coastal Drive, the best way to catch the different places; Cape Bear, with a lighthouse and Marconi Museum; Wood Islands; East Point, home to one of the oldest operating lighthouses there; Orwell Corner Historic Village, preserving late 1800s country life
9. Because of its West Side
What is this?:
Here, I mean the western part of the island since everything else on this article has been further east. The west also has some of the prettiest coasts and settings, being either the starting or ending point of the Confederation Trail.
Places and features:
North Cape, more amazing scenery and coasts at the northwestern tip of the island, also part of the North Cape Coastal Drive; Cedar Dunes Provincial Park; the Bottle Houses, or Maisons de Bouteilles, a few homes made from recycled glass in a serene setting
10. Because of Summerside
What is it?:
Summerside is the island’s second-biggest city and one of its main cultural centers. It has several unique and intriguing institutions that distinguish it from the rest.
Places and features:
Acadian Museum; College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, it has exactly what the name suggests; the International Fox Museum & Hall of Fame, also has exactly what the name suggests, dedicated to preserving the history of attempted fox domestication and some noteworthy foxes; Eptek Art & Culture Centre
11. Because of the Culture
So Prince Edward Island is something else. It’s the smallest province but the most densely populated. From the native Mi’kmaq to Acadians to British settlers, this place has seen its fair share of people coming to tame it. Still, the rugged shores and amazing coastal landscapes prove that the wild can attract more than any civilized town.
And pretty towns with that classic North Atlantic, Victorian style are found throughout, showing how much fishing and boating have fed the people of this province. Let’s not forget that PEI is one of the crop-baskets for Canada, as small as it is, and it played a major role in the confederation of the country.
That’s why so many things reference that fact all over the island. Well, that and Anne of Green Gables, which is also referenced all over the place. Quiet hills and gusty cliffs still allow for haunted woods to scare us and for fantastical gardens to enchant our minds. Prince Edward Island is a magical place — sure, it can be a little cold and cloudy at times. PEI knows what makes it PEI, and preserving that has made them one of a kind.
**What else can you share about Prince Edward Island? Are you from there or have you visited? Tell us what you most like about it! Contact me to collaborate or to send a personal message at email@example.com. Feel free to read more posts on the site or on Earth’s Face. A special thank you to all the photographers for making their amazing work available on creative commons. Thanks for the support and keep being adventurous! Peace out people.
We’re here to look at a funny habit that many English speakers have. Sometimes we drop the “d” or the “t” sound in the middles or ends of words. This is more common if that “d” or “t” is next to another consonant, and especially if it’s between two consonant sounds.
“I can’t hear a thing you say.” Pronounced, I cann hear a thing you say.
“There’s going to be a band night this evening.” Pronounced, There’s going to be a bann night this evening.
Above, the “t” in can’t gets lost between a “nnn” and a “hhh” sound. The “d” in band gets lost between two “nnn” sounds. This doesn’t always happen as a rule, but it is common for many people.
The “d” and “t” sounds when next to consonants are already pronounced weakly in normal cases, so it wasn’t so hard to completely omit them. Still, the sound is not simply dropped, but usually, the sound before it gets a little stressed. Remember, that’s like the “n” sound in I cann hear a thing you say.
Taking other letters along
In some words, the “d” and “t” take some other letters away with them. This can be heard in some accents with the words don’t, doesn’t, and didn’t, among others. Watch how many sounds get dropped from these words.
“He doesn’t look like he knows what that means.” Pronounced, He ‘onn’ look like he knows what that means.
“Elvis also played the guitar, didn’t he?” Pronounced, Elvis also played the guitar, dinn’ he?
This might look pretty funny on paper, but it sounds smoother in speech. Again, not all English speakers have these habits when talking, but they can be noticed in several accents. This usually happens so that the words can come out easier since so many “d’s” and “t’s” right next to each other just don’t seem natural.
It’s some people’s way of making the speech flow better. Of course, lots of people may find these habits weird or think they’re uneducated, and there are plenty of those that do try to annunciate all their letters. This is just another habit that English learners may come across when they practice their new language.
Again, you guys, these provinces are too big. Here we’re going to take a look at Canada’s biggest province by area. Well, just the southern portion since it alone could be a whole province to itself. If you’re wondering why southern Quebec is so special or interesting, here are just a few reasons. Feel free to do further research, look at some pictures or videos, and explore these places for yourself! And if you’re from this place, please feel a whole lot of pride because it is unique, d’accord?
Awesome! Let’s get into it.
Southern QUÉBEC | Quick Geography
In Canada’s biggest province, southern Quebec is pretty small in comparison to the north. Still, it’s a lot more populous and just a bit warmer. This region is located in the southeast of the country, historically part of Central Canada. The capital city, also called Quebec, is located here, as is the province’s biggest city of Montreal. Quebec is predominantly French-speaking, and in the local language it is spelled Québec(pronounced Keh-bek).
The name comes from either Algonquin or Ojibwe and means “where the river narrows.” This refers to an area on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. The St. Lawrence, by the way, is the biggest and most important river in the province, being the point of introduction to many colonists and the main reason we have Canada today.
Surrounding the river are the St. Lawrence Lowlands, giving rise to the upper Appalachian Mountains in the south. North of these lowlands are the Laurentian Mountains which basically divide northern and southern Quebec. The region is mostly mixed and temperate forests with more piney forests in the highlands. It borders the U.S. to the south and east and contains a stretch of isles in the Atlantic called the Magdalen Islands.
1. Because of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine
These islands (Il-de-la-Ma-da-leyn), also called the Magdalen Islands in English, are set out in the Atlantic and are really a unique part of Quebec. This is mostly due to their brightly colored cliffs and beaches which look almost orange against the deep blue ocean. The hills above are green and dotted with regional architecture and lighthouses.
The best part is that not all the beaches and isles look the same, so different parts of the region have their own special style of cliffs, beaches, and caves. There’s a visitors center and ferries to get from place to place. It’s really a beautiful-looking location in the south of this massive province.
2. Because of the Laurentian Mountains
The Laurentian Mountains are considered the divide between northern and southern Quebec, yet they bring outdoor travelers all throughout the year. With beautifully scenic reserves and parks like La Mauricie National Park, Mastigouche, Papineau-Labelle, and La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, it’s easy to see why campers, hunters, and fishers flock out to these places to get a whiff of fresh air.
Sept-Chutes (Seven Falls) Regional Park is another one of these remarkable parks with mountains, canyons, and waterfalls of course. Probably the most famous place in these mountains is Mont-Tremblant. This town is traced by imposing mountains and colorful wooden architecture. It looks like a very magical place and has attractions for visitors throughout the year. The best is probably in winter when the area turns into a winter sports wonderland fit for skiers and snowboarders, amongst many other activities.
3. Because of nature in the East
Still sort of in the Laurentian area, the east of Southern Quebec is also stocked with natural beauty. This area is more influenced by the sea and it shows in its natural areas more than further inland. Especially mountainous and forested, places like Jacques-Cartier National Park or the Laurentides reserve are awesome sites for witnessing North America’s wildlife.
There you can find anything from owls to bears to moose and bison. To check out Canada’s marine mammals, the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park is perfect for catching sight of whales. They commonly go down to this part of the river to eat, and they make for an awesome sight in the calm waters between the high forested cliffs along the coast.
4. Because of Ville de Québec
Otherwise known as Quebec City, this is where it all started. Quebec is pretty famous for being one of the best examples of Europe and particularly France in North America. The best place to see this would be in Old Quebec. You have the Quartier Petit Champlain to walk through and really feel those Quebecois vibes and taste that delicious Quebecois food.
The area is full of iconic plazas, staircases, and historic sites like the Plains of Abraham and the Place Royale. There’s a hill with a citadel and preserved forts to learn about the province’s past. On the St. Lawrence coast is a boardwalk and promenade leading up to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, a luxurious hotel and probably the most iconic building in the whole city.
Further down the river are parks and beaches like La Plage-Jacques-Cartier Park and the botanical gardens. Important and beautifully designed culture centers like the Museum of Civilization and Quebec’s National Museum of Fine Arts are found in the city. Thinking of adventure, there are places like the Arbraska Chauveau area, a treetop adventure park with ziplining and other sylvan activities.
At the edge of Quebec is Montmorency Falls, a rushing waterfall taller than Niagara with observation decks and a bridge that takes visitors over the powerful waters. Speaking of waterfalls, another great one in the area is in the suburban city, Lévis (Leh-vee). Besides having some of the best views of Quebec from the other side of the river, it also is home to Chaudière Falls (Sho-dyehr). Really, the area is a great mix of history, urban life, and nature all wrapped into one.
5. Because of its other towns
Putting Quebec City and Montreal aside, Southern Quebec also has lots of other great towns that make it special. Trois-Rivières (Trhah-He-vyehr) is one of the larger cities with lots of cool colonial buildings and churches. It’s also home to the Forges-du-Saint-Maurice, the first successful ironworks in all of New France (French Americas) which can still be visited to this day.
Sherbrooke is another large town, home to pretty buildings and its own important museums like the Museum of Fine Arts. There are also good winter sports venues nearby with Mont-Orford being a key visitor site. Hikers can find swimming spots and scenic viewpoints to catch a glimpse of the rolling Appalachians all around.
Similar spots include Coaticook Gorge with its high bridge and Saint-Jérôme. This town has its own museums, churches, and pretty parks to enjoy winter activities too. And finally, there’s Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Sent-Jon-suh-He-shel-yu). Beyond having all the other cool stuff that Quebec towns are known for, it also is host to a big balloon festival. Beauty is just all around.
6. Because of Gatineau
Gatineau (Ga-te-noh) is a suburban city just across the Ottawa River from, well, Ottawa. Being so close to the capital, it has a reputation as a getaway point of leisure for politicians and civilians alike. Other than famous golf courses and casinos, the uniquely designed Canadian Museum of History is located here.
Probably the most interesting feature of the city though has to be Gatineau Park. And this isn’t just some park, I mean, it’s practically a woods wilderness on the edge of the city. It’s a massive park with lakes and rivers and has several high lookout points to take in the sweeping beauty. It’s especially pretty during the fall when the red leaves pop like in no other place in Canada.
Another cool feature is the Mackenzie King Estate which once belonged to a prime minister. It’s a set of buildings, bridges, and structures that look sort of like the ruins of an old civilization, yet they are still well-preserved. It’s a really cool place in Quebec with an eery yet enchanted feeling.
7. Because of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (Sent-Ann-de-Bo-pwey) is a town not far outside Quebec City. It’s especially famous for its Basilica and major convents, being a popular pilgrimage site for people from around the world. The town is conveniently close to awesome natural sites like Mont-Sainte-Anne.
The region is stacked with forested canyons and waterfalls too, like Sainte-Anne Falls and Sept-Chutes Falls (different from the other Seven Falls mentioned before). It’s also really close to the Île d’Orléans (Il-Doh-leh-an), or Orleans Island. It was one of the first places settled by the French in modern Canada and maintains much of its rural, pastoral identity from back then. Another good reason for Quebec’s specialness. Yep.
8. Because you can explore the region
Southern Quebec is known for lots of things. Being in a fertile section of Canada between two mountain ranges, wine has become one of its icons. Wineries are laced throughout, but one of the best spoken of is on the Brome–Missisquoi (Bhom-Mis-sis-kwa) wine route. There are a set of vineyards and wineries that’ll take visitors back to Quebec’s French roots, and I mean grape roots.
Another fruit Quebec is known for are its apples, and cider tours are also worth a taste. Lastly, the region is home to several Nordic-style spas where visitors can escape the cold (or become one with it). Saunas and thermal pools are just some of what’s offered, along with a white snowy backdrop. And don’t forget to get some famous Quebec maple syrup while you’re at it!
I don’t have to keep beating it on the head, but Southern Quebec is the French capital of Canada. This is where French identity, culture, and heritage have run strongest in North America. It is home to the most French speakers outside of France and some of the best examples of colonial French architecture and culture. Many learn English, but the vast majority have some understanding of French and recognize a French background.
Even within the nation, Quebec has a unique law system, religious traditions, its own recognized celebrities, artists, and literature styles. The Quebecois are considered a “nation” within the nation, and they truly deserve that denomination. The food here has been influenced by this tradition as well as by other immigrants, and the people are just as diverse as one can imagine in Canadian cities.
Home to iconic trends in fashion, cuisine, and preservation of nature as much as its history, this part of Quebec holds a special place in the nation’s heartland. It’s not just the nucleus of French-Canadian identity, but one of the main locations where the country got started. More than being simply French Canada, southern Quebec is Canada.
“They” is a common word, right? It is taught that “he” is for a male and “she” is for a female. If it’s me and you, then it is “we.” And if it’s multiple others, then it’s “they.” But English speakers have this funny habit of “they” that can be tricky for second-language students. “They” is often used to talk about one person. But normally, it is used to refer to a group of people whether all male, all female, and any other possible mixture of genders. Technically, it’s also used to refer to a group of nouns in general, but we’re focusing on people here.
There are a lot of people at the door, and they don’t look happy.
The tree was full of apples, but they all fell down
The Singular ‘They’
Informally though, “they” can be used to refer to just one person. That’s what we call “they” as a singular pronoun. This may be for a couple of reasons.
This can happen a lot in English because many professions and occupancies don’t denote a specific gender (e.g. teacher, classmate, student, doctor). In other words, we don’t know just from hearing the word if that person is a male or female.
At this point, it’s more a choice of respect for that individual, but this is probably the least common instance of using “they” for a single person.
He or She – She or He
Normally, the grammatically correct way to refer to someone whose gender is yet to be revealed is by saying “he or she/she or he.”
-“I met with my new doctor yesterday.”
-“Really? Were they nice to you?”
-“I met with my new doctor yesterday.”
-“Really? Was he or she nice to you?”
The same goes for the object position where it changes to “them.”
“What about your cousin? Are you going to the festival with them?”
“What about your cousin? Are you going to the festival with her or him?”
I’m sure this might sound really weird if you’re learning, but that’s what lots of English speakers do. It doesn’t quite look correct on paper, but this is a very common habit.
We also do the same for possessive cases, using “their.”
“One of my classmates left their bag in the lunch yard.”
“One of my classmates left his or her bag in the lunch yard.”
Using the Right Pronoun
Again, this is normally used when we don’t know the gender of the person or if we intentionally want to hide it. When we do know the person’s gender, then we use whatever the correct pronoun is.
Incorrect (assuming John is a male):
“What about your cousin, John? Are theytaking you to the festival?”
“What about your cousin, John? Is he taking you to the festival?”
Even though saying “his or her/her or his” is more grammatically correct, it sounds unusual or very formal to many English speakers, especially in a casual setting. It might be preferred in more formal settings though, like on the news, in business meetings, or in formal papers and articles. Otherwise, it’s completely normal to do this, even if grammar teachers won’t like it.
I wrote the examples as Habit and More Correct because saying “they/them” in this way is so common in English that it’s almost an accepted rule despite being technically incorrect. If you’re talking casually, I would urge you to use this form instead of “he or she/she or he” because it sounds very formal. It may be the better option for formal settings though, so keep that in mind. Don’t worry too much about it though. If you’re learning English, no one should hold it against you if you use one or the other.
“We hired a new employee at the company, but I still haven’t met them.” (gender is unknown)
“Your friend bought you flowers? They sound like such a sweet person!” (gender is unknown or is irrelevant)
“My son got a new principal at his school, but I still don’t know their name. They don’t start until Thursday though.” (gender is unknown)
— “My cousin started their new job yesterday.” — “Really? Is your cousin a he or a she?” — “Does it matter?” (gender is intentionally hidden)
“Dannika is my gender-fluid friend, remember? They’re a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” (the person in reference is gender-fluid, identifies as “they”)
**Thank you for reading and wanting to learn these fun English habits! If you want to read more on this subject, check out this article on APA Style. Read about other English-speaker habits on the Blog. As always, take care and keep up your studies! They will certainly pay off. Peace.