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Inside The Language

Inside The Language

Date: Sep 26 2011

Topic: Conversational English

Author: englishteacher24/7


Inside the Language – Lesson No. 1

Learning English can be challenging and the beginning is to learn the basic Parts of Speech which will provide the rules of the language. In many countries, English is the native language and others it’s taught in junior and high school.

This structured study is necessary and the teachers are limited by time and the vastness of the language. My area of teaching English is to focus on the area that is not taught or is only taught by way of mentioning it. The side of English that is not taught is as large or larger than the structured parts of English.

This side of English is an area that doesn’t have any rules and many times cannot be understood by using logic. This is what I call “Inside the Language” which I will attempt to reveal to you in a brief lesson.

The areas I’m speaking of are comprised of the following:

1. Figures of speech- Using words in a distinctive manner to guide or mis-guide the listener. The titles below can all be placed under this name.

2. Puns- A word or phrase that has a double-meaning and used to allude the listener. William Shakespeare was known to use puns in his plays.

3. A play on words- Using puns to express a thought that has a double meaning.

4. Phrases and Idioms- Using a phrase to express a thought. Examples: A pretty penny (something was expensive), a drop in the bucket (a small contribution to the amount that is required.)

“An idiom is a phrase where the words together has a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words.” (UsingEnglish.com)

5. Homophones (homonyms)- Words that are spelled differently but have the same pronunciation sound. Example: Night /knight, bear /bare, hear/here

6. Personification- A figure of speech in which an inanimate object is used having human qualities. Example: “The ocean screamed in it’s fury!”

In this example, oceans don’t have a voice to scream, but the word “screamed” is used as if it were a human. In other words, the waves of the ocean produced a loud sound.

7. Euphemisms- Substituting an offensive or less desirable word for a non-offensive more desirable word. Example: Instead of saying a person died, you could say they passed away or a pre-owned car instead of a used car.

On this side of learning English, you will have to:

1.  Expose yourself to reading informal English materials.

2.  If possible speak to native speakers.

3.  Write down expressions you hear and make it your goal to learn the meaning.

Step-by-step you will increase your knowledge and you’ll see your improvement over time.

Lesson No. 2 will be: Determining the mood of the speaker


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United States

“Small Talk” “Chit-Chat” and “Shoot the Breeze” Meanings:

Communication is not always formal; there are times when you’re just “casual talking.” During these times, it is necessary to go with the flow of the conversation.

Small talk, chit chatting and shooting the breeze are all casual talking, however, there are some subtle differences and over-lapping between them as is described below:

1. Small talk- This is when you are in the company of someone and you both are finding something to talk about which is polite conversation about non-controversial things, oftentimes while you wait for a common reason.

For example, let’s say you and someone or group of people are somewhere waiting for the start of something and you start talking to each other to use the time until what you’re waiting for occurs.

The topic of discussion will likely be on unimportant non-controversial things that avoid offending the people present, especially in a social setting. Small talk can be among people that you know or among complete strangers. Grammatically, it is a noun and is not commonly used as a verb.

2. Chit-Chat- This is conversation about trivial non-important things bordering on gossip, usually among people that know each other. Grammatically, it can be used as a noun or verb. Adding “ing” to a word changes it to a verb. Below are a couple of examples of Chit-Chat as a noun or verb.

As a Noun: ”Jill, I don’t have time to chit-chat right now.”

As a Verb: “Jill, I can’t stand around chit-chatting right now.”

Note: To turn nouns into verbs you have to construct the sentence to allow the use of the verb and add “ing.”

3. Shoot the breeze- This idiom means to talk in a relaxed way about things that are not important, possibly for a lengthy period of time typically with someone you recently met.

Grammatically it can be used as a noun or verb depending on how you construct the sentence. Below are a couple of examples:

As a noun: ”If we go to visit my wife’s grandfather, we will shoot the breeze for hours.”

As a verb: ”My wife and I have been shooting the breeze with her grandfather for hours.”

As you can see, these three phrases are similar but also are different. As you get “inside the language” of English you’ll be able to add to your overall knowledge of English as it is actually used.

The main goal is to be able to communicate and understand English on this level and become fluent in English. Feel free to add your comments and/or ask any questions you may have about this topic.

04:57 AM Jul 24 2017 |


United States

Hello Juste, thanks for your inquiry for my newest upcoming forum “English Fluency Blueprint.” I hope to have the introduction posted by this weekend.

01:08 AM Jan 26 2017 |

1 person likes this




Hello Alston, we are waiting your newest forum ! :)  

10:33 PM Jan 24 2017 |


United States

English Listening Practice: If you are able to watch CNN International today, it would be good practice to listen to the Inauguration ceremony of President Donald Trump. Record some portions on your digital voice recorder and play it over and over until you understand what they are saying. This is a good exercise leading into my upcoming English Fluency Blueprint forum. Stay tuned.

06:58 PM Jan 20 2017 |


United States

I posted a video on tips for English Fluency on my profile page. My newest forum “English Fluency Blueprint” is coming. I’ll post it when it’s ready.


08:52 PM Jan 16 2017 |

1 person likes this


United States

Thanks for inquiring about my upcoming forum “English Fluency Blueprint.” I’m in the process of developing it and will post it as soon as possible. I ask you and others to check back periodically. It should be a fun project.

07:05 PM Jan 12 2017 |




Hello, maybe could you sent a link your a new forum, because I can’t find it. 

12:53 PM Jan 11 2017 |


United States

I’ve decided to write a new forum this year titled: “English Fluency Blueprint” that will present strategies, tips, information sources, etc. to help those whose goal is to achieve English fluency. Stay tuned.

03:47 AM Jan 08 2017 |


United States

I am thinking about starting a new forum this year with the goal of achieving English fluency. My decision will be based on the interest of the readers.

If you are supportive of this, please make a comment that you would like this type of forum and will support it with your participation. Otherwise, if there is no interest, I will not invest my time to launch it. My decision is based on your positive responses.

08:39 AM Jan 05 2017 |

1 person likes this


United States

My observations and thoughts: Acquiring English is a better method than “learning English.” Children acquire English without a textbook or formal English education. They soon learn what words to use to meet their wants and needs and intuitively construct sentences. Before kids start school they are already fluent in English, albeit on a child level.

Most of the emails I receive from people requesting help communicate that they can read and write English but have trouble speaking English and to a lesser extent listening and understanding spoken English.

The question is “why?” The answer is they are not using the language on a regular basis; therefore, their foundation is book knowledge of English.

If the goal is fluency in English, you should be speaking to someone every day in English. If that is not possible, then 2-3 times per week or at least once per week on a conversational basis without the stress of learning grammar rules.

Grammar is a two-edged sword, it is necessary on a basic level otherwise it is like studying a driver’s education book with an expectation of knowing how to drive a car. The only way to learn how to drive a car is to start driving a car and make corrections along the way. The bottom line is experience is the best teacher.

Finally, it is necessary to get inside the language to learn the language that is off the beaten path. This website will help to accomplish that goal.

08:25 AM Dec 29 2016 |


United States

Hello Justina thanks for your feedback. Concerning your request of more examples of the phrase the ”dog whistle” is as follows:

The dog whistle is usually a political method to talk to a certain group of people incognito (disguised) while appearing to be innocent. It actually is a “play on words” that says one thing but when challenged the person vocalizes, “No I didn’t mean that.”

1. “Law and order” - On the surface, it looks innocent to support the laws of the land and punish lawbreakers. However, because of the history of injustice in the US, it can actually mean to get tough on minorities and others.

2. ”States Rights” - It seems reasonable to support the rights of the states in the US, however when this term is used it can mean to support the states position to rebel against the federal government.

3. Barack Hussein Obama – This is President Obama full name, but the Dog whistlers will be sure to include his middle name (Hussein) to make light of his name.

4. Make America Great Again - There’s is nothing wrong with a country wanting to be great, most if not all countries aspires to be great. However, by adding the word “again” turns it into a dog whistle because it places the country at a time when Caucasian men dominated society and everyone else left out. The supporters of President-elect Donald Trump support this ideology.

5. Criminal illegal aliens - Using this phrase makes all undocumented people as criminals and is applied to Mexican people and not Canadians or people illegally entering the US through the Canadian border.

All of these dog whistle phrases require the listener to read between the lines that are not part of the target audience.

I hope this explanation helps.

One final point, all US citizens do not embrace the ideology of those using these dog whistles to communicate. 

05:36 AM Dec 21 2016 |




Hello English teacher!

The lesson on “Reading the lines” a very practical, could you give more examples with “the dog whistle” ?

12:47 PM Dec 19 2016 |


United States

Lesson on “Reading between the lines:”

Before diving into the meaning of this lesson of “Reading between the lines” it is necessary to review some basic facts about speaking or writing.

Types of English Communication:

1. Literally - In English there are several ways to communicate a message. The primary method is communicating in a literal sense. The words mean what they mean and the recipient of the speech understands the intended meaning.

2. Figuratively - This is when you use figures of speech to communicate a message. For example, “The trees are singing as the wind blows through their branches.” In this statement, the trees are not literally singing but a metaphor is used to describe the wind blowing through the tree leaves. The area of “figures of speech” is a vast study within itself; therefore I only mention it here for the sake of the lesson.

3. Between the lines - This is when someone says or writes something but hides the true meaning which has to be correctly interpreted by the listener. It is a way to send a message to someone without directly saying it.

Reading between the lines

This is being able to understand the “between the lines” message. For example, let’s say that two co-workers attended a company social event together and after an hour one of them wants to leave. Instead of one saying to the other person in the presence of many people “let’s go” one of the two people may instead say “don’t you have to go home and remind your mother to take her medicine?”

This gives the person a reason for leaving rather than just leaving because you don’t want to be there. It very well may be true or maybe not, but the point is to understand the meaning of reading between the lines. The range of this aspect of speaking or writing covers a broad area of ethics.

The Dog Whistle

A literal dog whistle is a device used by a dog owner to call a pet dog. It has a high frequency range that a human cannot hear but the dog can.

This fact has been used as a language strategy (phrase) to speak a message to a subset of a group of people within a group. The intent is to use acceptable language to the main group of people but with a totally different meaning to the subset of people within the group.

For example, during the 2016 US Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of running a “dog whistle” campaign. That is, he was using topics and phrases that appealed to his followers but on the surface seemed innocent.

This is “reading between the lines” on steroids.

This method can range from euphemisms to untruthfulness. Therefore, be careful what you read, be discerning about the context, and be a careful listener to be able to “read between the lines.”

06:33 AM Dec 18 2016 |


United States

Fatemeh, I thank you for your feedback and expression of appreciation. I came across this information on the word “Up” which I thought the readers would benefit from.

It reveals a part of English that seemingly doesn’t make sense but nevertheless it is weaved into the language and we use it without even thinking about how we use this word.

Anyway I hope it will help students of English.

I intend to post my explanation to Lesson No. 86 on the “Do You Understand This Dialogue” this week. Thanks for your participation on that forum as well.

08:54 PM Nov 14 2016 |

1 person likes this


Iran, Islamic Republic Of

WOW!! very interesting lessons Alston! Thank you for all your top lessons, I really enjoy.

I UPdated my UPs :)

05:33 AM Nov 12 2016 |


United States

A lesson on the use of the word “Up” has been posted, it has many meanings.

09:23 AM Nov 10 2016 |

1 person likes this




i advise this website

share pictures,videos include chat with penpals ! (=

05:40 AM Nov 10 2016 |


United States

The Word “Up” Has Many Meanings:

There is a two-letter word in English that perhaps has more meaning than any other two-letter word, and that is the word “UP.”
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we waken in the morning, why do we wakUP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. 

At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable of the proper uses of UPlook UP the word in the dictionary. In a desk size dictionary, the word up, takes UP almost one-fourth the page and definitions add UP to about thirty.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets UP the earth. When it doesn’t rain for a while, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now.

As you can see, English can be rather confusing and illogical. However, if you are exposed to these type of word meaning and learn their context, you will understand the intent of the speaker.


08:10 PM Nov 09 2016 |


United States

Lesson on “Catch Phrases

What is a “Catch Phrase?” First, let’s define what a “phrase” is.

We can better understand what a phrase is by reviewing what a sentence is.

Simply put, a sentence expresses a complete thought using a subject and a predicate. A subject is the topic of the sentence and the predicate is what is said about the subject by using a verb or sometimes the predicate is the verb (a verb expresses action.)

Example of a basic sentence:

“The student went to school.”

Subject=Student     Verb=went  Predicate=went to school   

This basic sentence communicates a complete thought, i.e. “The student went to school.”

A phrase is a group of two or more words that communicates a concept or thought without using a subject and verb.

Examples of phrases:

“A piece of cake” “Until the cows come home” “Laughing all the way to the bank”

Meaning of these phrases:

A piece of cake= Something that is easy to do.

Until the cows come home= Doing something for a long time.

Laughing all the way to the bank= Doing something that results in making a lot of money.

Now let’s go on to the lesson on “Catch Phrases”

A catch phrase is a phrase that catches someone’s attention and becomes widely and repeatedly used. Often-times it is started by someone of notoriety (famous).

For example:

“On with the show” “Make my day”  ”Make no mistake” “Back to the future” “Bring down the house” “Stay tuned” “Yes we can” “Got your back” “Kicked to the curb” “Thrown under the bus”

These catch phrases are commonly used, for example President Obama often uses the catch phrase, “Make no mistake.” President Reagan used a phrase from a movie and coined the catch phrase “Make my day!”

The meaning of “Catch” means a phrase that “caught on” or in other words means to have been accepted and recognized to have a certain meaning.

Donald Trump coined the catch phrase “Make American Great Again”

Senator Bernie Sanders coined the catch phrase “A future you can believe in”

Hillary Clinton’s catch phrase is “Stronger together”

Catch phrases can overlap into a slogan or slang category.

Hopefully this lesson will help you to understand everyday English as we go Inside the Language.

Stay tuned!

12:07 AM Aug 21 2016 |


United States

Amira, “Bingo!” You aced them all. Your 3 examples of the different type of questions were excellent. I’m delighted to know that your research paid off in giving you an understanding.

09:44 PM Jul 17 2016 |

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