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Last updated at 17:04 GMT, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Have your cake and eat it


In this week's programme, is Jen being rude to Li, or does this idiom have a different meaning to what she first thinks?


Can you have your cake and eat it?

The script for this programme

Jen: Hi! I'm Jen. And here's Li.

Li: (Sighing) Hi.

Jen: You seem in a bad mood, what's wrong?

Li: Take a look at this brochure.

Jen: (Reading) "Golden palm beach, Barbados. This resort boasts miles of unspoiled beaches, crystal blue waters and five star accommodation..." Is this where you're going on holiday, Li?

Li: Yes, I just booked it.

Jen: Well, you don't sound very happy about it, what's the problem?

Li: Well, it cost me £5,000!

Jen: That's a lot of money.

Li: I know, and I wanted to save my money so that I could get my bathroom decorated.

Jen: Why did you book a holiday, then?!

Li: I have to go on holiday - I haven't had a break for two years!

Jen: Well, that's ok, you've booked it now!

Li: But I really need to get the bathroom done too!

Jen: Well, you can't have your cake and eat it, Li!

Li: What do you mean? How did you know I had cake today? Are you calling me fat?! Do you think I should stop eating cake?!

Jen: Whoa! No, no, I'm not saying anything-

Li: Then why do you want me to stop eating cake?!

Jen: Calm down. I said, "You can't have your cake and eat it." We use this phrase in English to mean that you can't have something both ways.

Li: Oh. So you mean I can't spend my money and save it at the same time?

Jen: Exactly. Let's hear some more examples:

  • He's just got married, but he misses the single life. Well it's too bad – you can't have your cake and eat it!
  • I drank a whole bottle of champagne at the party last night, but now I feel sick - I've got the worst hangover ever. But I suppose you can't have your cake and eat it!

Li: The second example is good – you can't expect to drink a lot of alcohol without feeling the effects the next day: you can't have it both ways; you can't have your cake and eat it.

Jen: And you can't have your lovely holiday without spending a lot of money on it.

Li: I suppose you're right.

Jen: All this talk of cake has got my stomach rumbling, I feel really hungry now.

Li: There's a new cafe across the road which is selling little cupcakes, they look really delicious! We could go and get some after the programme?

Jen: I would love to, but I can't, I want to save my money to go out to dinner tonight.

Li: Oh well Jen, you can't have your cake and eat it. I'll just get one for myself!


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