British English – Floors

One very important difference between British and American English that Japanese people need to learn is how we number the floors of a building.

Like in Japan, in America the ground level floor (地面と同じレベルの階) of a building is called the “first floor” (1階), but in British English we call it the “ground floor”. Therefore in British English what is called the second floor (2階) in America is called the “first floor” and the third floor (3階) is called the “second floor”

This is also true in most European countries, so it is an important point to learn. You don’t want to make a mistake when you are in a building with many floors like a hotel or apartment building. Elevators (or “lifts” in British English) have a button marked “G” for “ground floor”.

This chart chart may help to make it a little clearer:

3階   3rd floor2nd floor
2階2nd floor1st floor
1階1st floorGround floor

However, what is even more confusing (ややこしい) is that both British and American English use the same system to talk about how many storeys (何階建て) a building has. Therefore a 3 storey (3階建て) building in America has a first floor, second floor and third floor, but in the UK it has a ground floor, first floor and second floor…

Learning Vocabulary: -ed / -ing adjectives

There are many pairs of adjectives (形容詞) that describe emotions (感情を表す) in English, with one word ending in “-ed” and the other ending in “-ing”. They are very useful words but students are often confused (混乱する) about how to use them.

One example is the set of words “bored” and “boring”.
The -ed word bored is used to talk about how a person feels (人の感情):
He is bored – 彼は退屈しています。

The -ing word boring is used to talk about the thing (or person) that causes the emotion (感情の原因):
The lesson is boring – 退屈な授業です。

Instead of saying “I am bored”, students sometimes make a mistake and say “I am boring” which would mean 「私はつまらない人です」…

To remember how to use these words correctly (正確に), it may be useful to understand their roots (語幹).
All of the -ed / -ing adjective pairs come from verbs (動詞).
For example bored and boring come from the verb “bore” (退屈させる).

Bored is the past participle (過去分詞) of bore and so the phrase “He is bored” could be directly translated (直訳) as 「彼は退屈させられている」.

Boring is the present participle (現在分詞) of bore and so the phrase “The lesson is boring” could be directly translated as 「授業は(彼を)退屈させている」.

Here is a list of a few more useful -ed / -ing pairs:


Summer in the UK

In the UK the school year ends in July and so the longest holiday of the year is in the summer time – usually about 6 weeks.
Because of this many families go on holiday at this time. In the UK it is generally easier for workers to take time off and so many families go on holiday for a week or even two weeks. Many people go somewhere in the UK, but foreign destinations are also popular, especially nearby European countries like France and Spain.

NOTE: In British English “go on holiday” means “go on vacation” (旅行する)

As the summer season in the UK is quite short, people like to take advantage of (うまく利用する) the warm weather as much as they can by doing things outside. Popular activities include doing barbecues, going on picnics and visiting the beach. The sea is very cold in the UK but people still like to go swimming. Another traditional activity that children enjoy at the beach is building sandcastles (砂の城).

The traditional summer sports in the UK are cricket and tennis and the most famous tennis competition in the world Wimbledon is held in London each year in July.

Some traditional summer foods include strawberries and cream, desserts made with summer fruits and cucumber sandwiches. British people also love ice cream and it is sold everywhere in the summer time. There are even ice-cream vans (アイスクリーム移動販売車) that travel around to sell ice-cream in towns and popular tourist spots.

Though British summer is getting much hotter recently (the record temperature in 2019 was 38.7°C…), the UK is not humid (蒸し暑い) like Japan and so is relatively comfortable (快適) even in mid-summer. The days are also longer (with the latest sunset being at around 9:30pm) and it is much cooler in the evenings than in the daytime.

Frequency Phrases Part II

In my last post I introduced adverbs of frequency (頻度を表す副詞) and this time I would like to introduce a few extra phrases to help you talk about how often you do something.

Last time I introduced fairly vague (曖昧な) words like often or sometimes, but if we want to be more concrete (具体的) we can use the words once, twice, 3 times etc. After these words we usually add a single time period like “a week” or “a month”, for example:

I exercise once a week – 週一回運動します
I eat out twice a month – 月2回外食します
I go on a trip 3 times a year – 年3回旅行します

Note: if we want to say something like 「2か月に1回」 we have to use a different phrase. In this situation we would say “once in 2 months”.

If you are talking about how long you did something for (時間・期間) you can also say things like:

I sleep 6 hours a night – 毎晩6時間寝ます
I work 5 days a week – 毎週5日働きます

We can use other counters (助数詞) to make many different combinations. For example:

I drink 3 coffees a day – 1日コーヒー3杯を飲みます
I watch 2 films a month – 月2回映画を見ます (直訳:毎月映画を2本見ます)

Another useful word is every (毎_), which we use when we do something regularly (定期的に). For example:

I read the newspaper every morning – 毎朝新聞を読みます
I go shopping every weekend – 毎週末ショッピングします
I play tennis every Tuesday – 毎(週)火曜日にテニスをします

Adverbs of Frequency

In this post I would like to introduce a very useful set of words; namely adverbs of frequency (頻度を表す副詞).

Here is a list of the most common adverbs of frequency in English:

100% Always (いつも)
↓ Usually (普段)
↓ Often (よくする)
↓ Sometimes (時々)
↓ Occasionally (たまに)
↓ Hardly ever (めったにしない)
0% Never (全然しない)

These words are especially useful for talking about your lifestyle or everyday routine (日常生活). For example:

I always wake up at 6am.
I usually have rice for breakfast.
I often go shopping after work.
I sometimes watch a movie at the weekend.
I occasionally go on a trip with my family.
I hardly ever drink coffee.
I never eat cheese.

When you want to ask someone about their lifestyle or routine you can use the question, “How often do you _ ?” (どのくらいの頻度でしますか?). For example, “How often do you exercise?”

Note 1: you have to be careful with the phrase hardly ever. In English this is grammatically positive (肯定文), but in Japanese it would be translated as a negative phrase (否定文):

I hardly ever drink coffee → コーヒーはめったに飲まない。

Note 2: You also have to be careful with word order (語順). Adverbs usually come after the verb (動詞の後) in English (for example – “I walk slowly“), but these adverbs of frequency usually come before the verb (動詞の前).


Tanabata literally translates (直訳) as “The evening of the seventh”, but is often called the Star Festival (星祭り) in English.

It is based on the Chinese Qixi Festival and celebrates the meeting of 2 divine (神聖な) lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi (“the weaver girl” – 織り手 – and “the cowherd” – 牛飼い – in the original Chinese story).

These characters are represented by the stars Vega (ベガ) and Altair (アルタイル). In the story of Tanabata these lovers are separated by the Milky Way (天の川) and are only allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.

In modern Japan the most common way of celebrating the festival is for people to write their wishes on strips of colourful paper (短冊), which are then hung (つるされる) on a bamboo (笹) “wish tree” with other decorations. You can see these decorations in many different places like schools and shopping arcades.

Every year we display a small bamboo tree at our school and ask students from the kids classes to write their wishes. The wishes are usually about what the students want to be in the future and this year there were many interesting jobs, including a midwife (助産師), a dolphin trainer (イルカ調教師) and a YouTuber(ユーチューバー). Other wishes included wanting to get rid of hay-fever (花粉症を治す) and wanting to be taller (もっと背が高くなりたい).

For me Tanabata is interesting because we can see the same stars in the UK as in Japan, and we also decorate trees at Christmas time which creates a similar atmosphere.

Learning Vocabulary – Parts of Speech

In my last post about building vocabulary I talked about learning groups of words. Another good way to build vocabulary is to learn different parts of speech (品詞) based on a key word.

For example if we start with the base verb (動詞) “surprise” (驚かす), we can make many other words by changing the part of speech:

(be) surprised (形容詞) – 驚いている
(be) unsurprised (形容詞) – 驚いていない
surprising (形容詞)- 驚くべき、予期しない、意外な
unsurprising (形容詞) – 驚くほどではない、驚くに当たらない、予想できる
surprisingly (副詞) – 驚くほどに、驚いたことに、意外にも
unsurprisingly (副詞) – 驚くことなく、当然

Surprise can also be used as a noun (名詞), so in the end from one key word you can make at least 7 other new words. The meanings of
words are of course all connected, but have slightly different nuances and so are very useful to learn as a set.

Another common pattern using a verb as a base word is when we add “-er” to a verb to make an agent noun (動作主), for example:

play player – 選手、プレーヤー、演技者など
work worker – 働く・作業をする人、労働者など

There are also sets of words we can make using adjectives and nouns as bases:

happy (形容詞) → happily (副詞) → unhappily (副詞)
happy (形容詞) → happiness (名詞) → unhappiness (名詞)

friend (名詞) → friendly (形容詞) – unfriendly (形容詞)
friend (名詞) → friendship (名詞)

Using the hints above, next time you learn a new word try checking the dictionary to see if you can find different parts of speech to make connected words.


In Japanese, English (katakana) words are regularly abbreviated (短縮・省略される), but often in different ways to native English so you need to be careful.

One example is “air-con” (エアコン), which in English would be shortened to AC or A/C. We often abbreviate words by using initialism (頭文字語) like this but using longer parts of the words like in Japanese is much rarer. (NOTE: “cooler” (クーラー) is also Japanese English (和製英語) and means something different in English).

However there are some exceptions (例外) especially in slang (スラング、俗語). For example “rom-com”, which is short for romantic comedy. Another example is “sci-fi”, which is short for science fiction, when in Japanese the initialism SF is usually used.

Abbreviations of longer words and phrases are also common in Japanese, such as「コンビニ」 or 「デパート」, but these would be impossible to understand in native English (both are missing the key word “store”…).
We would always need to say the full word or phrase, i.e. convenience store or department store. Instead of shortening words like this natives may use shorter slang words.

On the other hand, some words in English are shortened in ways that may seem illogical (非論理的な、不合理な) to non-natives. One example is refrigerator which is shotened to “fridge” in English and not refridge (also notice that an extra “d” was added to the shortened word). Another example is influenza which is shortened to “flu” in English and not “influ” (インフル) like in Japanese.

If you want to know how a word is usually abbreviated in English
you can often find the answer in the dictionary or by doing a web search.

Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday

Mother’s Day (母の日) in Japan is celebrated on the same day as in America (the second Sunday in May – 5月の第2日曜日). It was started over 100 years ago as a national holiday to honour mothers (母を祝う).

In the UK it is also known as Mothering Sunday. It was originally an old Christian tradition not directly connected with mothers, but slowly developed into a celebration similar to modern American Mother’s Day; a day when children give gifts to their mothers.

As it is based on the Christian calendar, Mother’s Day in the UK is a “movable holiday” (移動祝日) like Easter and is celebrated on the Sunday 3 weeks before Easter (復活祭の3週間前). This year it was celebrated on 22nd March in the UK. Because I am in Japan I always forget to call my mother in the UK on Mother’s Day…

In both the US and UK it is traditional to give a gift of flowers to your mother, and like in Japan carnations are the most popular. Children often
make home-made gifts and cards too, and sometimes serve their mothers breakfast in bed (朝食を作ってベッドまで運んであげる).

Kodomo no Hi

Kodomo no Hi is usually translated in English as “Children’s Day”, though
as most of the traditions are connected with boys I think you could
also call it “Boys’ Day”.

Like Hinamatsuri, it is celebrated each year by families to pray
for the health (健康) and happiness (幸福) of children, especially boys.

We can introduce some of the traditional Children’s Day decorations and foods like this:

  • koinobori – carp streamers (or sometimes flags or even windsocks)
  • kabuto – a samurai helmet
  • yoroi – samurai armour
  • kashiwa-mochi – sticky rice cakes filled with red bean paste (あんこ) and wrapped in oak leaves (柏の葉)
  • chimaki – sticky sweet rice wrapped in an iris (アヤメ) or bamboo (笹) leaf

Language note:
The word “koi” in English is usually used to mean colourful koi (錦鯉). We also sometimes say “koi carp”. If we just say “carp” many people imagine plain-coloured, common carp (真鯉、鮒など).