Last updated at 08:52 GMT, Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Crystal clear

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Li is finding the instructions for building a wardrobe confusing so Rob is lending a hand. Will he find them crystal clear?

nuts and bolts

You'll need some of these if you're building a wardrobe

The script for this programme

Li: Welcome to The English We Speak, I'm Li and with me is Rob. Hi Rob.

Rob: Hello Li.

Li: So Rob, thanks for offering to help me build my new wardrobe. It's come in a hundred pieces and I don't know where to begin.

Rob: No problem Li, I'm happy to lend a hand. I'm great at building furniture!

Li: Good because the instructions seem to be so confusing. This bit here… doesn't fit… here.

Rob: Let's have a look. Give it to me. Let's have a look at these instructions. Yes, simple, it's crystal clear!

Li: Crystal clear? The instructions are crystal clear? Rob, my wardrobe may look fancy but there are no crystals in it.

Rob: I know that. I just mean the instructions are obvious – they are simple and clear to understand. If we say something is crystal clear we simply mean it is absolutely clear. Is that clear?

Li: It is. You mean it's easy to understand. I suppose, literally it means as clear as a crystal?

Rob: Exactly. Let's hear some examples of this idiom in action:

  • The man's directions were crystal clear and we arrived at the station early.
  • Mum made it crystal clear that we wouldn't be going to the party.

Li: So in those examples, crystal clear was used to mean extremely clear or easy to understand. But Rob, what I can't understand is why you find these instructions crystal clear and I can't?

Rob: That's easy – you had them upside down.

Li: Silly me!

Rob: But if you just put that piece of wood in there… and put a screw in there… and hook the doors onto there… your wardrobe will be complete. Is that clear?

Li: Crystal clear!

Rob: Good. But as I'm here now, I'll finish it for you. (Noises of Rob building wardrobe) There you go… what do you think?

Li: (Tapping the wood) Yes, it seems quite solid… oh no…

(Wardrobe collapse)

Li: Oh dear. Now I know what is really crystal clear.

Rob: Oh yes, what's that?

Li: I will never ask for you to help me build a wardrobe again. Is that clear?

Rob: Crystal!

Both: Bye.