Last updated at 16:33 GMT, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Wake up and smell the coffee!

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In this week's programme, Li receives a text message from Jen to "wake up and smell the coffee". What does she mean? Find out more in The English We Speak.

pouring coffee

Why does Jen ask Li to wake up and smell the coffee?

The script for this programme

Jen: Hi I’m Jen and with me today is Li. Did you get my text message this morning?

Li: Hi Jen, yes, and I’ve brought everything you mentioned.

Jen: What, I didn’t ask you for anything?

Li: I’ve got you this great alarm clock and I’ve made this lovely pot of coffee – would you like a cup?

Jen: Er… No thanks… But Li, I didn’t tell you to bring anything today.

Li: You did. Look – you said : “The boss asked to see you in his office… I think you need to wake up and smell the coffee!”…

Jen: Yes…but…

Li: So I’ve brought some coffee and an alarm clock for when I see the boss, to show him I can wake up and smell the coffee.

Jen: I didn’t mean it literally. When we say ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ in English, it means that you need to pay attention because you’re missing something that’s really obvious.

Li: So when you tell me to “wake up and smell the coffee,” you think something’s going on that I don’t realise.

Jen: Exactly. Let’s hear some examples:

  • Wake up and smell the coffee – she doesn’t want to go out with you!
  • My girlfriend wants me to buy her some diamond earrings, but I’ve got no money, she really needs to wake up and smell the coffee!


Li: So if this man’s girlfriend needs to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, she needs to realise he can’t afford to buy her the earrings she wants.

Jen: Now you’ve got it!

Li: Ok, so in your text you said that I need to wake up and smell the coffee because the boss wants to see me?

Jen: Yeah…

Li: So you think I’m missing something…

Jen: Think about it… he said he loves your work, he is always talking about how talented you are, how he wants to reward his staff…wake up and smell the coffee, Li!

Li: I just don’t know what you are getting at.

Jen: I mean I think he’s going to give you a pay rise.

Li: Really! Wow, that would be fantastic! I never would have thought I’d get a pay rise, he must think I’m really good!

Jen: Well, don’t forget me if you suddenly become really rich.

Li: Of course I won’t forget you.

Jen: You can buy me something nice.

Li: I’ll tell you what – I’ll buy you a coffee!

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