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The English We Speak

Intermediate level

Curate's egg

Episode 220404 / 04 Apr 2022


Sometimes things aren’t completely bad – they have some good qualities too. Neil and Jiaying use an informal phrase for this very situation.


Hello, I’m Jiaying. This is The English We Speak.

And hello, I’m Neil. Hey Jiaying, we’re all thinking about going to that new restaurant for lunch. Do you want to come?

No thanks. I went the other day and once is enough.

Oh, you didn’t enjoy it? Was the food bad?

It wasn’t terrible – it was a bit of curate’s egg!

What’s that? The restaurant only sells eggs? That sounds a bit rubbish!

No Neil. I said it’s a curate’s egg. We use the expression ‘curate’s egg’ to say that something is partly good, and partly bad. We often use it to describe something bad, but say it has good elements.

So when you said the restaurant was a curate’s egg, you were saying it wasn’t a great experience. What was wrong with it?

I’ll tell you after we listen to some examples of this phrase.

That new film is a curate’s egg. Great action, but the story and acting were awful.

The day ended up being a bit of a curate’s egg. It was nice to see my friends, but after the car broke down and I got wet in the rain, I wasn’t happy.

I think her new novel is a curate’s egg. It has moments of brilliance, but overall it felt a bit of a let-down.

This is The English We Speak from BBC Learning English. We’re talking about the expression ‘curate’s egg’. We use it to talk about something that has both bad and good qualities. Like when I said that restaurant was a curate’s egg.

Yes! What was wrong with it?

Well, for one – the food was a curate’s egg. It tasted nice but the cooks were so slow that the food was cold. Then the waiters were nice, but they kept dropping things.

They sound a bit of a curate’s egg as well.

Yes – and finally the decor. It was really vibrant and bright which was nice at first, but after a while it gave me a real headache.

It sounds like the whole experience really was a bit of a curate’s egg. I think I’ll suggest somewhere different to the team.

Good idea! Bye Neil



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