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Queen Elizabeth isn't very happy today! We show you how to use the phrase spotless reputation from William Shakespeare's Richard II - and bring you some useful expressions for talking about both good - and bad - reputations.


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Spotless reputation - or damaged reputation?

It's not easy to maintain a spotless reputation - one wrong move can tarnish your reputation forever. So, we're going to look at some useful phrases to describe good and bad reputations.

To do

Look at the expressions below - are they describing a good reputation or a damaged reputation? Try the quiz to find out if you are correct.


Now try the quiz to find out if you are correct and to find out more about these phrases.

A good or bad reputation?

5 Questions

Do the phrases describe someone / something with a good reputation - or a bad reputation?

Excellent! เยี่ยม! แย่หน่อย! คุณทำคะแนนได้:
x / y

A good or bad reputation?

5 Questions

Do the phrases describe someone / something with a good reputation - or a bad reputation?

Excellent! เยี่ยม! แย่หน่อย! คุณทำคะแนนได้:
x / y

Well done if you worked out the meaning of all the phrases. We hope that means that your own reputation is spotless

Over to you

Now we'd like to hear from you. Do you believe that it is important to have a spotless reputation? Why / why not?  What kind of things can tarnish someone's reputation and give him / her a bad name?

Email your story to us at learning.english@bbc.co.uk. Make sure you write ‘spotless reputation' in the subject line and in your story too. Try to use some of the other phrases from this lesson also.

Unfortunately we can't give individual feedback, but we do read every email, and we’ll publish our favourites here or on our social media sites.


Ia Tabagari, Georgia

Whatever  country  we  are  from,  whatever  colour  our skin is ,we all  have one  thing in common: we all need a spotless reputation. My   lectrice   gave me a good example  of  its importance when we asked  her  what   it  was  like  working  in  Germany .She had  worked as  a  lectrice  for  many  years  there. And this is what she said:” If you want to work there,your reputation depends on what sort  of person you are, who you are. So working there makes me feel good. But here everything  is  different   because  everyone respects me as  the  minister’s wife.” To be honest ,her words were very profound .So ,,if you want a thing done well ,do it yourself”.

There must be so many ways to damage someone’s reputation.I can imagine the terrible situation in which  the war-weary people were. For example, an   envious   rival  is  going  to  put traps in your way ….Who is trying hard  to give you a bad  name. So  that  you  lose  your face  and your name is mud .This  is  the question of crime and punishment .

At last, there is  one  song  which  expresses  my  feelings  about  this  topic:,,Logical Song”(written and composed by  Roger  Hodgson).In fact ,it’s even  more harder  in  our digital world to comprehend yourself truly - who you are. I ‘m  sure  that  everyone  has  something special  because  of that he or she is  unique. So there is no need to damage someone ‘s reputation. Let’s  listen to this song and I  believe we can  find  the answer to the last question, really.

Jean Marie Petit

A spotless reputation is important but you have to stand up for yourself to keep it clean. As long as you are a public figure or simply a successful person, be aware that some people might be looming in the dark to tarnish your reputation. Even if you are squeaky clean, the first step you take to appear in public, in any social network or to be confronted with the media, you take the risk to get a bad name. Any good  track record you might have could protect you against some universal stupidity, not talking about jealousy, cowardice or simple wickedness. But let's be positive, people who want to give you a bad name are a minority and often, themselves, lose face.

Omega Crawley

To maintain a spotless reputation,as far as I'm concerned,can be a tough task for human beings,depending on how strictly we define the word 'spotless'.

As Confucius put it,'Men are not saints;how is it possible that they have no faults at all?'Even the slightest blemish could tarnish one's reputation,especially those who are highly respected.For instance,sportsmen get their reputation ruined when verified to have taken drugs.Presidents get a bad name for making an unwise decision.Manufacturers lose face if their products are found of poor quality.

Undoubtedly,a bad name would destroy both one's career and relationships and therefore,people are willing to have a good track record at any cost.

Tina Zhang

Yes, I do believe it is very important to have a spotless reputation. Because as being a good person, I do have to behave in a good way, like help people when they are needed or saying the words in an appropriate way. But sometimes, being a nice person isn't that always good, like when we communicate with a bad guy, we don't need to treat him as a good man, sometimes we need a little evil side of mind to protect us ostensibly.

I was thinking that saying bad words may tarnish someone's reputation, but nowadays, I think everyone may say it for stressed-out, so I think this is fine as a group-up but not for children. Bully weak and small , steal money or something and even kill someone else, that was really awful and truly bad for someone's reputation, we have to fight for our reputation because everyone knows you from it, if we lose face for some reason, as a stranger, they won't care the reason, they just know you are not a good person indeed.

my story is about my old classmate, he is so enthusiastic about helping others, everyone likes him. When he was in need for help, we all liked to give him a hand as we can. Because of his spotless reputation, I think no one won't like him in person.

there is another one of my classmate, he was a good person as I knew, but there was a rumor about that someone saw he was cheating on the exams, when I knew it, I was so surprised about him, I don't think he as that way, but now his name is mud as he cheating, I don't think I can trust him anymore, even when he works hard on the test and get a high score, I will doubt it, does he cheat again on the test?

so it really makes sense that spotless reputation is really important to everyone's life.

Rashad, Egypt

Even though it's very important to have a spotless reputation, sometimes it can be deceiving; some people pretends to be so good in front of people, like the vicar in Jamaica inn, so we have to be more accurate to judge the people, not just from his or her reputation whether it good or bad.

I think the most things that can tarnish any one reputation are Lying in the first place, careless and deceiving.

I'm sorry for being late at this time and I hope it won't tarnish my reputation.

Juan Carlos, Colombia

unfortunately those days in differents parts of word, many people don't worried about their  reputation. Many Presidents, Mayors, Senators are accused to get bribes to favor the interests of different companies or persons and We don't protest for this.

If somebody will be working at the government or another differente place his reputation  should be spotless. At the politic have a good track record is a good characteristic to select the best aspirant for the Presidency or Mayorality. That is important because it is a warranty  that he or she is  squeaky clean to govern.

At the other hand  if  the person elected had a damaged reputation for his past actions, probably his government won't be good.

End of session

That’s all for now. We hope that after this episode our reputation is still squeaky clean, and that you'll come back to these pages soon to find out more about William Shakespeare's life and work - and to learn a useful new English expression. In the meantime, go to our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages for more fun with English!

Session Vocabulary

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    Spotless reputation

    These days, the phrase spotless reputation describes a person or organisation that has a good, clean character and behaves decently and honestly.

    Example sentence
    Another athlete caught taking drugs? I'm surprised at this one though – she always had a spotless reputation.


    Extra vocabulary

    the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the king or queen

    plot (verb)
    to make a ​secret ​plan to do something ​wrong or illegal

    to be spot on
    to be completely accurate or correct

    to hit the spot
    to be exactly right

    to tarnish someone's reputation 
    to damage someone's reputation

    to have a good track record
    to have a good reputation, based on the things that you have done

    to be squeaky clean
    to always behave in a completely moral and honest way

    someone's name is mud
    describes someone who has a bad reputation or who people are angry with

    to lose face
    to lose your status and the respect of others 

    to give something / someone a bad name
    to damage the reputation of something / someone


    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University


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