Talking about travelling and commuting in English

Talking about travelling and commuting in English

One of the mistakes that most beginners make when learning English is that they tend to focus on the vehicle or the mode of transportation. They always say “by car” or “by plane” or “by foot“. In the most extreme of cases, they say things like, “I go travelling with my car.“, which in English sounds just as clever as, “I go travelling…with my feet“.

Of course the speakers of other languages don’t find this to be unusual. In many languages, I go travelling with my feet is a perfectly good sentence. No one laughs. In this case, English is different. In English, we can say we went by car, on we got there on foot, but if we do, it’s because we want to emphasize that there is something extreme and unusual about the way we travelled there.

Examples:

 

The 4×4 broke down in the middle of the desert. Luckily, some of the people who lived in the desert helped us and were able to make it to the other side on foot.

or

We left L.A. on Monday morning and we arrived in Boston by lunchtime on Tuesday. By car?! Wow! That’s impressive!

How English speakers talk about travelling and commuting

So, if English speakers don’t say, we went by boat, by bike, by metro, by horse, what do we say?

Generally, we tend to focus on the verb. In most cases, the verb indicates which mode of transportation or vehicle we are using, so we never have to say it.

Example:

 

Tim: How did you get to work today?
Nigel: I drove.

 

In the example above, Nigel doesn’t have to say, “I drove a car.”, because most people only drive cars. If Nigel is a bus driver or a chauffer, he might have to be a bit more specific. Notice also that Nigel doesn’t have to say I drove my car. If we do drive, the car the we usually drive is a car that we own. Not always, but usually.

 

So, what about other forms of transportation? How do English speakers talk about them?

 


Talking about modes of transportation

These are the most common types of transport.

 

Mode of transport What people say Logic
by foot (to) walk, run we can only do these things with our feet
by taxi, train, bus, ferry, metro, and the elevator(the lift (GB)) (to) take (took) It’s public transportation. We “take” public transport. * special: You can also say that you catch (caught) any kind of public transport and if you fail to catch an intended public transport vehicle, you can say that you missed it, e.g. “I missed the train.”
bicycle, motorcycle, *bike, quad, jetski, waterski, snow mobile, horse (to) ride (rode) These modes of transportation all require the same bodily position – with one leg on each side of the vehicle. Operating a vehicle this way is called riding as in horseback-riding.
by boat (not a canoe, kayak or row-boat) (to)sail Originally all boats had sails so this is the verb we still use today. But we use it for all boats, not just the ones with sails. Even giant aircraft carriers or oil tankers
plane, airplane(US)/aeroplane(GB), helicopter, space shuttle, space ship (to) fly (flew) Planes fly, so when we use a plane for transportation, we say, we “fly”.
by car, tank, or any other vehicle with wheels that YOU are operating. (to)drive (drove) The logic is that you are controlling the power and the direction of the horses in front of you. The strength of engines is measured in horsepower. Managing the horses in this way is called driving. Although this is an ancient way of thinking, this is why we say we drive a car.
by small boats: canoe, kayak, row-boat (to) canoe, kayak, row these vehicles are so unique, they get their own verb.
by skateboard, hoverboard (to) skateboard, hoverboard, ride (rode) these vehicles also have their own verbs, or you can use the verb ride although you don’t have to operate them in the same way you operate a bicycle.
by surfboard (to) surf If you can travel by surfboard. Wow!

And now?

With the terms above, you should be able to talk about most basic types of transport and you can also sound more natural. So remember to use I traveled/travelled by + (vehicle), less than 10% of the time, and try not to use it in the first sentence that you use in order to talk about a particular mode of transportation unless you are saying that there was something really special about it.

 

If you liked this post, please share, by clicking the share button on the right.


Talking about fruit & veg in English

talking about fruit and veg in english

Talking about fruit & veg

Talking about fruit and veg can differ a lot from country to country. Is a tomatoe a vegetable or a fruit? Is a Niçoise salad a vegetarian dish? It’s a good question for debate. I won’t settle the debate, but I will list a bunch of fruit and veg you can use to describe the fruit and veg itself or a dish that uses the fruit or vegetable.

 

Pronunciation: One important thing – for beginners

 

How many parts (syllables) does the word “vegetable” have? If you said 3, you’re right! Many English learners pronounce the word with 4 syllables. The last part of the word should not sound like the word “table”. Instead, it is pronounced, /ˈvedʒtəbl/ or VEDGE T’BL.

 


What about the people who only eat vegetables or choose not to eat meat or animal products? They are called:

  • vegetarian:
  • a person who doesn’t eat meat

  • vegan:
  • a person who doesn’t eat meat + doesn’t eggs, cheese, honey or other animal products

 


Green vegetables

Here are the names of some green veggies.

 

Vegetable
lettuce (US), salad (GB)
cucumber
asparagus
broccoli
peas
bell peppers
celery
pickles (US) – pickled cucumbers
gherkins (GB) – pickled cucumbers
pickle (GB) – pickled vegetables
brussel sprouts
courgette (GB), zucchini (US)
green beans
kale
spinach

Colorful vegetables

Here are the names of the most common non-green veggies.

 

Vegetables
tomatoes (technically, this is a fruit)
onions
pumpkins
aubergines(GB), eggplants(US)
red & yellow bell peppers
beets
cauliflower
mushrooms
capers
turnips
rhubarb
olives (green, black)
squash
corn (US), maiz (GB)

talking-about-fruit-and-veg-in-english-2

What about fruit?

Talking about fruit may not be as controversial as talking about vegetables. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because the sweetness of fruit makes it less political. One of the most interesting things about fruit is that what a person considers normal in their country may be exotic in another. In the United States, cranberries aren’t so special, but many of us have never seen physalis or sandorn berries which are common in other countries. Below is a list of the most common fruits.

Fruit & fruits

Note: Fruit can be singular or plural. If we talk about “fruit” as in “I like fruit.”, it means, I like fruit in general. If I say, “I like fruits.”, it may mean, I like 2 fruits (e.g. bananas and oranges), but I might not like the rest.
 


Here are the names of some of the most common fruits.

 

Fruit(s)
banana
apple
orange
grapefruit
lemon
lime
clementines
tangerine
peaches
pineapples
strawberry/ies
cherry/ies
blueberry/ies
blackberry/ies
raspberry/ies
grapes
pomegranites
mangos
watermelons
cantelopes
honeydew melons
avocados
coconuts
cranberry/ies
figs
dates
kiwifruit
passionfruit
plums
papayas
pears
starfruits
persimmons
plums
dragonfruit
pomelos
nectarines

What happens now?

With the terms above, you should be able to talk about most basic fruits and vegetables. Stay tuned for my next blog where I tell you how to talk about starches, flavours and cooking methods. There will also be a few quizzes.