Session 3

British public signs

Do this... don't do that... In this article, a visitor to Britain tells us about her experience of being surrounded by public notices telling her what to do. You'll also find a few -ed and -ing clauses in the article.

በዚህ ክፍል ያሉ ክፍለ ጊዜያት

ክፍለጊዜያት 3 ነጥብ።

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Public notices: Are you talking to me?

Do you pay attention to road signs? Do you even read them? Here in Britain there are plenty and they say a lot about the British way of life. And lucky for you, sometimes they even include examples of participle clauses!

To do

Read BBC Learning English producer Grace's article about public notices. She's from Brazil, so many British signs seemed strange to her at first. As you read, look for the answer to this question: Where can you find a sign that sounds especially 'dull'? The answer is at the bottom of the article.

ፅሁፉን ያንብቡና ቀጣዩን ክንውን ይሞክሩ

Part 1
You're never alone in Britain – the streets talk to you. They're a bit like a mother. I live in London now. But as a new visitor I noticed lots of signs, guiding my tentative steps on my first ventures into town – watching over me as I crossed the street safely. "Look left", "Look right", "Crossing not in use". They came in handy for people like me who weren't used to cars driving on the left – I'm part of the 65% of the world population who come from a country with right-hand traffic. They say that before the industrial era, horses kept to the left so riders could draw their swords. Now drivers just raise an angry eyebrow if you dash into the traffic.

Part 2
As you get to know more about British life and the routines of this wonderful city, you start to notice a change in the advice given. Signs which you only half-noticed before suddenly seem to be directed at you. "Bicycles attached to these railings will be removed", "No parking in front of these gates", "Private property – trespassers will be prosecuted", "Smoking area - please keep this area tidy and discard cigarette ends in bins provided". The guiding tone has become more of a warning – could this be the "adolescence" of your life in the city? You're no longer a baby with a guiding mother. Just don't step out of line.

Part 3
The variety of public notices doesn't stop outdoors. And this being Britain, you'll find politeness everywhere. Go into a pub and there's a message from the manager: "Please do not ask for credit as refusal often offends". Well, this makes you check your wallet straight away. Go to the toilet after a few beers and... another warning: "Polite notice: keep the toilet clean". It's difficult to avoid the image of your angry mother with one hand on her waist, waiting to strike if you make the wrong move. In my experience, when someone highlights the fact that they are being polite it means they are seconds away from rage. Remember: toe the line!

Part 4
People enjoy sharing funny signs on the internet. 'Boring' is the name of a community in Oregon, US. It's named after William H. Boring, who began farming there in the 1870s. But it would be hard not to laugh when you pass a road sign saying "Boring – Oregon City – Exit 1 Mile". Maybe Boring is actually a really exciting place and you'd be missing out by not going there?

Name coincidences apart, signs can say a lot about people's lives in a particular area at a particular time. A sign I saw a few years ago at Kabul's international airport had a picture of heavy weapons, warning that they were not allowed into the country. In Mexico, a public notice telling me what to do in the case of earthquake sent shivers down my spine. A big billboard in Angola's capital, Luanda, banned street vendors from the area and mentioned severe penalties. It was surrounded by… busy street vendors.

Part 5
Public notices have an important role in society. They're often an essential part of 'Health and Safety' regulations. Sometimes they state the obvious, but nobody wants to be prosecuted if someone gets hurt. "Warning – authorised personnel only", and "Persons entering these premises must comply with all safety regulations", say notices at a building site near where I live.  

We're bombarded by messages all the time and sometimes we miss a few. Are we really paying attention to all these signs? To make sure we still heed them, a few years ago authorities in Middlesbrough, in north of England, did an experiment by installing CCTV cameras and loudspeakers beside public notices. If you didn't respect the "Don't throw litter" sign, a voice from the loudspeaker would say: "Please pick up your rubbish!" It would even tell you where the nearest bin was. And this being Britain, the voice would also say afterwards: "Thank you for using the bin".

I told you, you're never alone around here.

Answer to our question:
The place where you would find a 'dull' sign is Boring, in Oregon in the US. 'Dull' and 'boring' are synonyms - they have the same meaning.

To do

Here are some more questions to check how much you understood.

"Please don't forget to do our quiz, thank you"

7 Questions

Choose the best answer to each question. The first two relate to participle clauses.

እንኳን ደስ ያለዎ ሙከራውን አጠናቀዋል
Excellent! Great job! መጥፎ እድል ነጥብ አስመዝግበዋል :
x / y

End of Session 3

Did you do well in the quiz? If not, do try again. Join us in Session 4 when Neil and Finn play a fun game about crazy laws - and find out where it is illegal to get a fish drunk!

የሰዋሰው ክፍለ ጊዜ

  • Participle clauses

    Present and past participles can be used to avoid repetition and join sentences together.

    Present participle examples

    I was shaving. I cut myself
    I cut myself shaving.

    I was sitting on the sofa. I was watching TV.
    I was sitting on the sofa watching TV.

    We're in the studio. We're recording 6 Minute Grammar.
    We're in the studio recording 6 Minute Grammar.

    Past participle examples

    The dog that was hit by the car wasn't hurt.
    The dog hit by the car wasn't hurt.

    Cars which are parked here will be clamped.
    Cars parked here will be clamped.

    Bikes which are chained to this fence will be removed.
    Bikes chained to this fence wil be removed.

Session Vocabulary

  • tentative
    unsure, careful

    new activities, often dangerous

    came in handy
    were convenient



    people who enter a place without the owner's permission

    officially accused of a crime

    throw away

    period when a young person develops into an adult

    step out of line
    break the laws or rules

    arrangement to pay later

    makes people upset

    toe the line
    behave as expected

    state the obvious
    say something everybody knows

    land and buildings belonging to someone

    comply with
    obey, follow

    (here) faced with so many questions or messages that you can't deal with them

    pay attention to

    (Closed-circuit television) a system used for monitoring and security and not for public entertainment