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Bài 1: The Experiment

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  1. 1 The Experiment

Phần 31

The Experiment is a collection of short series that are a little different to our usual programmes - but still help you improve your English.

Our seventh series, What They Really Mean shows how misunderstandings can be caused when people say things indirectly. Each episode shows you how to avoid these misunderstandings.

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Bài tập 1

What they really mean: Questions as warnings

Are you really wearing that hat?

Mark can't understand why Chloe is asking about his hat. She's trying to warn him about something - but he just doesn't understand. Watch the video and learn how to tell when someone's questions are trying to warn you.

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Claire
Sometimes the things people say don’t mean what we think they do… and that can lead to misunderstandings. Thinking about context is essential if you want to understand what people really mean. Mark’s not very good at this, but luckily I’m here to help him work out what people really mean.

Chloe
Are you really wearing that hat?

Claire
Of course Mark is wearing that hat – it’s on his head. So why is Chloe asking him that question? Any ideas? Let’s watch and find out.

Mark
Well, I’ll be off to Dave’s party.

Chloe
Oh right… Where did you get that hat?

Mark
I just picked it up at the market…

Chloe
Have you looked in the mirror?

Mark
Well, of course – it means that I can really admire my new hat…

Chloe
Are you really wearing that hat?

Mark
Well, it’s on my head isn’t it? So yes, I am wearing this hat… Well, I’m off to the party.

Chloe
What’s up?

Mark
Everyone was laughing at my hat – they said it looked ridiculous… Why didn’t you tell me?

Chloe
But, I tried…

Mark
You did? I don’t understand. I don’t understand. Chloe said that she tried to warn me, but all she did was just ask me some questions…

Claire
No, Chloe did…  those questions she asked… they weren’t really questions.

Mark
What do you mean?

Claire
These were questions used as warnings. Chloe wasn’t looking for an answer – in fact the answers were obvious – she knew that he was wearing that hat; she could see that he was looking in the mirror. She was just trying to draw your attention to the hat – and it’s a lot politer than saying “take off that hat it’s ridiculous!” Now, these questions are written in the same way as normal questions, so to spot them try  asking yourself this: Is this information that the other person really needs? Are the answers obvious? Listen for their tone of voice, questions that are used as warnings often use the same intonation as a statement. Listen to: “Where did you get that hat?” and “Where did you get that hat?” In this case, Chloe was warning about his hat looking silly, but they can be about lots of different things – the weather, time, people’s ideas – you’ll see some more examples at the end of the programme.

Mark
I feel like I want to try that again…

Chloe
Are you still off to Dave’s party?

Mark
Yes – I’m off now.

Chloe
Are you really wearing that hat?

Mark
You don’t think it’s a good idea?

Chloe
Erm... I’m not sure it’s your colour.

Mark
Oh, um. Maybe I’ll leave it at home then.

Chloe
Are you not taking a coat? Are you still here? Are you serious? Are you leaving? 

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What are questions as warnings?
Sometimes questions are used to warn people - that's what Chloe was doing here. She used the questions to get Mark to realise that the hat he was wearing looked silly.

How are they formed?
When questions are used as warnings, they are formed in the same way as any other question.

What are these questions for?
It may be clear that the person asking the questions does not need to know the answer of the question. They may already know the answer, or it may be obvious.

Is tone of voice is important?
Yes. When questions are not genuine requests for information, they often have the same intonation as statements.

Examples

'Are you wearing that hat?' could mean 'I don't think wearing that hat is a good idea.'
'Have you looked in the mirror?' could mean 'That hat looks silly.'
'Are you not taking a coat?' could mean 'It's cold.'
'Are you still here?' could mean 'You'll be late.'
'Are you serious?' could mean 'I think that's a bad idea.'
'Are you leaving?' could mean 'I think you should stay.'

To do

Try our quiz to see how well you've learned today's language.

 

Questions as warnings

4 Questions

Choose the correct answers

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Downloads

You can download a transcript of this episode here.

End of Session 31

Join us in Session 32 of The Experiment for more of What They Really Mean. This time, we'll be looking at how suggestions can be used as instructions. 

Here are all of our Experiment series videos.