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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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I always think little of commas, for that I haven’t learnt its importance. Hope your next lesson will throw light on my unknown.

03:05 AM May 22 2018 |


United States

Hello Everyone, I want to inform you that my next lesson will be on “The Importance of a Comma” which can make a vast difference in the meaning of a sentence. I’ll post it when it’s ready. Please stay tuned.

03:32 PM May 20 2018 |


United States

Thanks, WobblyJoe for your splendid additional explanation and examples of the meaning of Double-talk. It’s beneficial for the learners of English to hear explanations from another native speaker. Your contribution is appreciated!

11:48 PM May 12 2018 |



United States

oh, and…“You have to do what you have to do”  is correct and proper English.

“You gotta do what you gotta do” is incorrect English, but VERY common.

They mean the same things.

10:08 AM May 09 2018 |



United States

Double talk is hard, but it’s the language of politicians and corporations.

Some of my favorites…

From a company: “Chrysler announced the implementation of an alternative career enhancement program for 5,000 workers”- (they were fired)

From a state government: “Staff members do not have chauffeurs, they have aides who drive” – (that is a chauffeur)

From an individual, in this case Spiro T Agnew, vice-President of the USA who was forced to resign during a bribery scandal: “I admit that I did receive payments during the year 1967, which were not expended for political purposes and that contracts were awarded in 1967 and other years to those who made such payments and that I was aware of such payments…I stress, however, that no contracts were awarded to contractors who were not competent to perform the work, and in many instances contracts were awarded without payment of money by the contractor.”

(In plain English- “sure I took bribes, but not all the time and only from qualified people.”)

Good luck everyone, this subject is hard for everyone because the speakers are intending to speak on two levels. 

As Mr. Alston has noted, double talk can either send a message “between the lines” or it can be many words that say nothing in order to avoid a question directly. 

Every language probably has it’s own word for double talk, because I suspect every government on earth speaks that language sometimes.  

09:08 AM May 09 2018 |


United States

Hi Amira, thanks for explaining your answer; also, it gives me an opportunity to explain the question. Take the question “You have to do what you have to do” at face value and not necessarily that someone is speaking it to another although in reality that would be the case. I hope this doesn’t confuse anyone.

In regards to the meaning of “Double-talk” it is simply someone saying a lot of words that doesn’t amount to anything meaningful. It’s called “Double-talk” because it is speaking an answer that isn’t a direct answer to the question.

I hope this helps.

12:31 AM May 09 2018 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hello, Mr. Alston,

In an attempt to explain my previous answer, I thought the speaker wanted to mislead the asking person by saying they have to do what they have to do which implied that the speaker doesn’t actually know what is it that they have to do, that’s why I guessed it would be an example of a double-talk. 

Thank you for your generosity Mr. Alston.

01:36 PM May 07 2018 |


United States

Double-talk Explanation:

Double-talk is using many words to hide the truth or mislead to cause confusion of the message. You can read examples in the original topic lesson dated May 2, 2018.

Is the following sentence, “double-talk?” Answer yes or no. If no, please explain your answer.

“You have to do what you have to do!”


The sentence above is not an example of “Double-talk” even though the main thought is repeated twice. The reasons that it is not Double -talk is as follows:

1. It is not a paraphrase in the negative of the message.

2. It is communicating two of the same thoughts to two separate matters separated by the word “what.”

It could be said another way, “You have to do what is necessary to that which is necessary.”

Finally, a very informal way of saying it would be: “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

I hope this lesson will help to identify “Double-talk.”

Thanks for your answer.

12:07 PM May 07 2018 |


United States

Hello Amira and welcome. You are absolutely correct and it’s a good example of using the statement “You have to do what you have to do;” however, revisit the definition of “Double-talk” and let us know what you think. I plan to answer a little later this weekend.

10:56 AM May 05 2018 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hi again Mr. Alston,

As far as I get it, I think this sentence “You have to do what you have to do” is a double-talk. And I think it can be an answer to a question like “What do you think I have to do about it?

04:02 PM May 02 2018 |


United States

Topic: Double-talk (Double-speak)

Everything that is spoken should not be taken at face value. There are many ways to camouflage the truth through creative ways of selecting certain words, phrases, and tone of voice. Tactics such as embedding messages “between the lines” “dog-whistling” or various code words can mislead the unknowing but is perfectly clear to those who can receive the message.

“Double-talk” is from the word “Double” which means “twice” and “talk” which means “speak”. Therefore, the word “Double-talk” means to speak twice (or more) about something. It is a method of speaking many words that are unclear and does not answer the question or misleads the listener from the truth. For example:

1. What time is it?

Answer: It’s the same time it was yesterday but I think it may be a little later than that, I’m not sure, but it could be.

2. A voter asked a political candidate, “What will you do about raising the salaries of school teachers if you’re elected?”

Answer: We’re very proud of the dedication of our school teachers and they are some very fine people. I’m a firm believer in recognizing their talents and how they spend their personal time to help struggling students. Without a doubt their students will excel in their careers because of the splendid examples of their teachers.

3. The company is restructuring and as a result will become more efficient, fiscally responsible, and more conducive to being a good corporate citizen.

Answer: Many employees will be laid off (fired).

You can see from the examples that the questions were not answered but many words were spoken or the truth was hidden in a multitude of words.


Is the following sentence, “double-talk?” Answer yes or no. If no, please explain your answer.

“You have to do what you have to do!”

09:22 AM May 02 2018 |


United States

The “Formal English versus Informal English” lesson has been posted.

10:52 PM Nov 27 2017 |


United States

Amira, you’re welcome. The strategy you used for learning formal and informal English has been right on point. In addition, your participation on Englishbaby also adds to your knowledge and experience in English. Carry on!

01:02 AM Nov 21 2017 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hello Mr. Alston,

I used to believe formal and informal English are developed separately. And had quite a quarrel how to develop each alone.

After I had left school, my focus turned to be entirely on learning and using the informal language, so it’s my formal side of language that needs to be worked on more often for further career prospects, of course along with my informal Enlgish.

One way of working on formal English is to keep up with news websites like BBC and CNN in addtion to reading academic books of course.

Thank you so much Mr. Alston for your caring and generosity in receiving and answering our questions :)

04:17 AM Nov 20 2017 |


United States

Formal English versus Informal English:


There are many categories of English, for example: Academic English, Business English, Conversational English, and Everyday English which is common to both British and American English.

Although Formal and Informal English are similar in the fact that both are English, there is a vast difference in interpreting the meaning of various words and phrases. In addition, there can be some overlap where an expression can be either formal or informal depending on the context and manner in which the communication is expressed.

Therefore it depends on the intent of the learner which category of English to pursue. It is my hope that this lesson will help you to spend your time wisely in learning English.


A. Formal English

Formal English is standard textbook English and is used in Education, business and with people you do not know. It does not include contractions, slang, idioms, abbreviations, and phrases which is spoken and written in an official or serious environment.

Concerning contractions, this is when you combine two words into one. For example, the word “don’t” is used instead of “do not.” Consider the following sentence to compare the difference between formal and informal English.

Formal English: ”Do not stare at the sun during an eclipse.”

Informal English: ”Don’t stare at the sun during an eclipse.”

B. Informal English Definition

Informal English is everyday English that is personal, casual, and used among friends, family and in general conversation with people you feel comfortable with. This is the part of learning English that is likely to give English learners difficulty.

Since formal English is what is taught in schools informal English is what actually is spoken in everyday life with the exception of professional environments. However, it is a combination of formal and informal English that will help you to become fluent in English.

If formal English is the only English studied, then the learner will become very good at reading, writing, and understanding written English but may be confused in understanding spoken English.

How to Determine Which English to Learn

It is helpful to identify your reason for learning English which will help you to get the most benefit from your studies.

1. For school- If your purpose for learning English is to be able to pass English tests in school or attend school abroad, and then Academic English is where you want to spend most of your time learning. This is formal English.

2. For business- If you need to learn English for your employment in a company where you interact with English speaking people, then you’ll want to spend time learning Business and Conversational English. This is a combination of Formal and Informal English.

3. Studying abroad in an English Speaking Country- If your plan is to study in an English speaking country then it’s the same as living as a resident in the country coupled with the challenge of study. In this case, you’ll want to spend time learning Academic, Conversational, and Everyday English if you want to be successful.

4. Visiting- If you simply want to visit an English speaking country, Conversational English would be sufficient to be able to understand and communicate on a basic level.

5. Change Countries- If you are planning to become a citizen of an English speaking country then Conversational and Everyday English should be sufficient. However, if you plan to be employed in a professional work environment, especially in the medical field, Academic and Business English would serve you well.

6. For personal knowledge- This is a fun part of learning English because you don’t have the pressure to meet someone’s expectation. In this case, spend time learning basic grammar (formal English), read magazines, news reports, TV, movies, song lyrics, comments, Englishbaby lessons and engage yourself by using what you learn. Don’t be embarrassed to make mistakes but cultivate a challenging “can do” spirit.

7. Pen pal- If you want to learn about another culture and practice English, find a pen pal to communicate and develop your written English. http://www.penpalworld.com/

Always use caution and don’t give personal information such as an address.


Formal English is the foundation of the English language that has been modified and abbreviated to express thoughts in a shorter fashion resulting in informal English.

Don’t be discouraged to think you have to learn two languages but rather think of it as adding to your formal English studies to help you to become complete in your knowledge of the language.

Keep it simple, don’t try to learn the whole English dictionary but make it a goal to use what you know and grow from there.

Case-in-point, Englishbaby post lessons regularly but very few people make any comments or even click to like the lessons. I encourage you to become more engaged and be  proactive in your learning of English. 

If you don’t use it (English), you’ll lose it; try to improve in this regard. Your efforts will be rewarding.

This lesson is dedicated to Amira who requested it, thanks Amira for your suggestion.

02:19 AM Nov 19 2017 |


United States

David, you have given some helpful observations about improving one’s English by listening and not trying to translate word-for-word. In addition (as with learning anything) you start small and grow in knowledge on a consistent basis. We learn by doing, experience is the best teacher. 

Thinking in English and using it at every opportunity in a natural non-academic way is beneficial to becoming fluent. Intense grammar study can be confusing and counter-productive. I would venture to say most native speakers do not even know a lot of grammar other than the basics. Keep it simple and enjoy learning English. 

Thanks for your contribution.

09:05 PM Nov 01 2017 |


Iran, Islamic Republic Of

Hi dear ,

i have an experience in iranian english language teaching . the bigest problem is students suppose they must translate any words one by one in a sentence. You now it is not possible because some words may have not the fix and suitable  meaning in source language and vice versa. I think any learner must listen to the target languge (english) for some times (at least 12month) .i belive , that any baby is born by a tabula rasa (white board) about languge and baby dont speak at the first of his/her living  , and his/her duty is just to listen and after this period .baby start to speak . so learner must pay attention more in listening. 


david siahpoosh 


United States

The “What to Say in English When You Don’t Know What to Say” lesson has been posted.

09:20 AM Oct 28 2017 |


United States

“What to Say in English When You Don’t Know What to Say” 

Amira, thanks for your feedback on the lesson. I agree with you that it is important to train the ears to listen to different people and take note of the sound of the same word.
I welcome your suggestion about writing a lesson on formal and informal English and intend to write it. Thanks a bunch.

06:08 PM Oct 23 2017 |

La Princesse de la vie


That’s a good point to discuss Mr. Alston. I think one must train their ears to listening English, all types of dialects, and of course must speak more to get used to speaking.

Some people are good readers, but poor speakers. they get brain freeze just because they’re not used to speaking the language although they have it.

Thanks Mr. Alston for the topic.

I’d like to suggest that you make a post about formal and informal language and how to improve each of them away from the other. 

Thanks again :)

08:16 AM Oct 23 2017 |

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