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Last updated at 17:09 BST, Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Bits and bobs


Neil has lots of 'bits and bobs' to pack for his holiday, but Feifei thought Neil was taking someone called 'Bob' with him. What does Neil mean?

Messy table

Neil needs to pack all his bits and bobs

The script for this programme

Feifei: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. I'm Feifei.

Neil: (Sounding distracted) Yeah, Hi, I'm err, Neil.

Feifei: Neil, what are you doing? Can we record this programme please?

Neil: Yes, sure, just a second. (Talking to himself) I still need to call the bank, turn off mobile data roaming, finish this script, buy mosquito repellent…

Feifei: What are you talking about? We need to record this programme!

Neil: Yes, I know, just a minute. (Carrying on talking to himself) need to pick up the Euros, check-in, pack the bag…

Feifei: Neil! What on earth are you talking about?

Neil: Sorry Feifei. I'm trying to sort out some bits and bobs before I go on holiday tomorrow.

Feifei: Bits and bobs? What has Bob done? Why do you need to sort out Bob before you go on holiday?

Neil: No, no. I don't mean I need to sort out 'Bob'. The word 'Bob' here is not a person.

Feifei: It's not a person? So what does 'bits and bobs' mean then?

Neil: In English, we use 'bits and bobs' to mean small things, or many different types of little jobs.

Feifei: Ah, so what you meant was you had a lot of small things to sort out before you go on holiday?

Neil: Yes, that's right. Now let's hear some examples.

  • A: What are you doing tomorrow?
  • B: Nothing special, just a few bits and bobs.

  • Mum: Alex, can you tidy up all your bits and bobs?
  • Son: OK.

  • A: Have you been to the shop round the corner?
  • B: No, I haven't. Is it good?
  • A: Aw, it's great – it sells all sorts of interesting bits and bobs.

Neil: Do remember 'bits and bobs' is an informal saying so we wouldn't use it in a formal situation.

Feifei: Neil, what about the phrase 'bits and pieces'? Is it the same as 'bits and bobs'?

Neil: Yes, 'bits and pieces' is another informal way of saying 'lots of small things'.

Feifei: I see, so they are the same, thank you. (Panicking) Oh no, it's 7 o'clock. I need to go!

Neil: But we need to finish recording the programme…

Feifei: You can finish it Neil. I have to get all the bits and bobs for the party tonight before the shops close! Bye…

Neil: Err, OK. Well, maybe we can just finish it tomorrow? (Talking to himself again) I have got the visa, still need buy travel insurance and a guidebook. Ooh, must remember to ring my mum…


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