Learn English with Friends

Learn English with Friends: Everything You Need to KnowLearn English with Friends

Here are four phrases from Friends Season 1 Episode 2 Scene 3:
  • Be through with
  • That would be
  • See…
  • Ball up
In this scene, while Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe are watching TV in Monica’s room, Monica is cleaning up her room very hard because her parents are going to visit her.
Joey has a glass in his hand. Monica asks him, “Are you through with that?”
To be through with [something] means, to be finished using or doing something.                                                                      I am through with working these late hours. I’m quitting my job.
  • When you are through with the newspaper, please put it in the recycle bin.
To be through with [person] means, to want to end your relationship with that person.
  • Shani is angry with Yam. I think she is through with him.
  • Rachel was through with Shlomo, so she didn’t marry him.
Monica is cleaning the house and sees a small ball of paper. She asks, “Whose little ball of paper is this?” Chandler says, “Oh, uh, that would be mine.”
[something] would be means [something] is. We use this pattern to emphasize the answer, often when we are upset or defensive when someone asks us a question.
  • Shani: Do you want to date my friend Jenny?
  • Yam: That would be no.
  • Lior: Should I tell Cathy I want to break up with her?
  • Dikla: That would be not good.
Chandler continues speaking saying, “See, I wrote a note to myself, and then I realized I didn’t need it, so I balled it upand…now I wish I was dead.
See is used as a conversational topic marker. See is used in a conversation when the speaker wants to emphasize that the listener should pay careful attention to what is said after see.
  • Later in this episode, Barry says to Rachel, “See, about a month ago, I wanted to hurt you.”
  • See, I think we should move our vacation plans to next year.
Ball up is a phrasal verb and means to put something or oneself in the shape of a ball.
  • Chandler balled up a piece of paper.
  • balled up the aluminum foil that came with this sandwich.
  • My cat balled herself up and went to sleep on the sofa.

To illustrate how to actively watch a TV show, let's look at a short clip from the popular series Friends, 
you can also view on YouTube by clicking on this link.Image via NBC / Wikipedia
Step 1: Write It Down
Nothing makes the words stick in your memory like actually writing down what the characters are saying. Often times, being able to see what the characters say will help you follow the dialogue better, as well as help you memorize certain phrases for your own future use.
For beginners, try watching the episode with English subtitles (available on Netflix and YouTube), and using them as a guide when you don’t catch everything that the characters are saying. However, one of the hidden benefits of TV being available on the Internet is that you can quickly and easily rewind a given scene as many times as you’d like! Therefore, if you don’t understand something, you can listen to it again and again until you have your a-ha! moment, and everything becomes clear.
Once you’ve written down some dialogue, you’re ready to get to the meat of active listening: the analysis.
 Step 2: Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
Are you ready for some active listening? Click the link above to get started! This time, I’ll write down the dialogue for you, and we’ll analyze together. You’ll discover that we can already learn a great deal from just the first ten seconds of the scene:
 Ross: Come on, you guys, we’re sorry! Our subway broke down!
Chandler: That’s a lie! You went to the game — I can see Joey’s hand!
Ross: For the love of God, take it off!
 In this three small lines of dialogue, we can already see two useful and common phrasal verbsbreak down and take (something) offThe phrasal verb break down is used to when machines or vehicles stop working properly — like Ross’s subway, which caused him to be late. And to take something off means to remove an article of clothing. In this case, Ross is telling Joey to take off his foam handwhich are sold at baseball games.
We also see a colloquial expression, for the love of God. This phrase is used when you are exasperated or frustrated, and you’re pleading with somebody. For example, you might say to the characters on Friends, For the love of God, speak more slowly!”
 Later in the scene, Rachel suggests that they eat a dish that Monica had put into the oven earlier that day (start at 0:43 or click here):
 Monica: You touch that and you’ll be sorry!
Chandler: I’d listen to her. The vein is bigger than I’ve ever seen it!
First, we can see that Monica is angry. In this scene, she’s using expressions — You’ll be sorry! — that are popular for making threats. “You’ll be sorry!” is a synonym of another common expression when threatening somebody: “You’ll regret it!”
If you’re listening closely, you’ll notice that Chandler says, “I’d listen to her”, which contains a contracted version of the modal wouldThis is an excellent example of using would to give advice. When Chandler says, “I’d listen to her,” he’s really using a second conditional construction like the following: “If I were you, I’d listen to her.” However, in spoken English, it’s not necessary to include “If I were you”.
Finally, when Chandler talks about Monica’s vein (which presumably appears due to her anger), he provides a great instance of the present perfect tense in action. By combining the present perfect (I have seen) with the adverb of time (ever), he emphasizes the fact that, in that moment, Monica’s vein is bigger than it has been at any other moment in time. Scary!
 At the end of the scene, Joey tries to make amends by apologizing to Monica and Chandler (start at 2:01 or click here):
Joey: Hey listen, guyswe feel really terrible.
Chandler: He’s doing that weird eye contact thing. Don’t look at him!
Joey: C’mon, guys! We want you to know we’re very, very sorry. Right guys?
Here, Joey is making an apology, and uses some very common language to express regret: We feel terrible and We’re very sorryYou’ll often hear people say these phrases when they are apologizing for something.
Something else you’ll notice is that Joey uses the word guys to refer to all of his friends — even Monica and Rachel, who are women. English does not have an official second-person plural pronoun, so English speakers have to get creative. In many dialects of English, “guys” is used to refer to a group of people in the second person, regardless of their gender. For instance, on a Friday evening, you might ask your friends, “Hey guys, what are we doing tonight?”
I want to make one final point about pronunciation. Chandler tells Monica to not look at Joey: “Don’t look at him! Don’t look at him!” However, in spoken English, the pronunciation of at him gets shortened — Chandler omits the “h” and “i” sounds, and ends up saying something that sounds like, “Don’t look at’m!” This type of word reduction is exceedingly common in casual spoken English.
 Step 3: Use the Language in Real Life
In just a two-minute clip, we’ve learned about verb tenses, modals, phrasal verbs, using 'a' & 'the'personal pronouns, adjectives & adverbs - AND making threats, expressing regret, and some popular colloquial expressions. Not bad, eh?
NOW, it’s time to reap the benefits! Now that you have your new vocabulary and grammar points written down in front of you, it’s time to use them with your English-speaking friends. If you’re giving advice to a friend, try using the modal would to tell them what you’d do if you were in their place. Try talking about the best movies that you’ve ever seenor the most interesting places that you’ve ever visited. By actually engaging with the language that you learn in TV shows, you’ll be sure to memorize it. 
Actively watch an episode of TV as often as you can, and observe how quickly your English will progress!

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