Session 4

Vocabulary: 12 uses of 'pay'

Sit back and enjoy the story of The Piper of Hamelin and learn 12 different ways to use the word 'pay'

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Activity 1

The Piper of Hamelin part one - 6 uses of 'pay'

A story of broken promises and revenge
The English word pay has many meanings and uses. In this session, we bring you BBC Learning English's own version of The Piper of Hamelin - and we've found many different ways to use the word pay in it. 

To do

As you watch part one of the story, listen out for the different uses of the word pay - and decide whether this summary of the story is correct or wrong:

  • The town of Hamelin is full of rats, but a girl has offered to play music to remove all the rats from the town.

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Hello, I'm Darren. The story I’m going to tell you is one of broken promises and revenge… How a town, saved from a terrible plague of rats by a mysterious stranger, refuses to pay up, and so pays a heavy price.

Hamelin was a peaceful town on the banks of a wide, deep river. People were wealthy and life was comfortable. For some, like the mayor, it was too comfortable – he grew greedy on the town’s profits and neglected his duties. Bins overflowed in the streets and alleyways as rubbish wasn’t collected. People were so busy making money that they didn’t pay much attention… until one day when the rats arrived.

They came out of the gutters and sewers in droves. They were huge and black with red, bulging eyes. And there were hundreds of them… everywhere. They scurried across the pavements… swarmed through the gardens… and then they entered the houses.

"Do something!" the people asked the mayor, but he was a bit stupid as well as greedy, and didn't have any ideas. He was in a meeting at the town hall, when suddenly the door was flung open and a young girl strode in.

Her velvet jacket was threadbare and covered in patches. Around her neck she wore a pipe. "I can help you", she said in a strange accent. Everyone looked at her, astonished. "I can get rid of the rats", she said. But you will have to pay me well - and in gold coins!" The mayor laughed – he didn't believe her.

And then something quite extraordinary happened. She picked up her pipe and started to play… a simple tune, but mesmerizing. And from behind the curtains, from under the floorboards, came the rats, drawn as if by magic.

The girl stopped playing and turned to go. The mayor hesitated. He hated parting with money. "It’s a gamble," he thought, "but it could pay off."  "Wait", he said. "Get rid of the rats, and we’ll pay you handsomely." The piper nodded. "It’s a deal."

We’ll leave the story there. In the next part, find out if the strange piper does get rid of the rats - and whether the mayor keeps his side of the bargain. Bye for now.

To do

How was that? The summary was correct.

Were you paying attention? Have a go at our quiz to check you know the first 6 uses of pay.

The Piper of Hamelin - the story so far...

4 Questions

Let's check your understanding of the story - and the words and phrases with pay. Decide whether each statement about the story is true or false. Look at the vocabulary box if you need help.

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It's time to find out what happens next - and to learn some more uses of pay! See you on the next page.

Session Vocabulary

  • pay up (C1)
    pay money that is owed

    pays a heavy price (C2)
    suffers terrible consequences

    pay attention (B1)
    watch or listen carefully

    pay (A1)
    give money in exchange for goods or services

    pay off (B2)
    be successful after taking a risk

    pay handsomely (C1)
    give a lot of money in exchange for goods or services