Unit 1: Shakespeare Speaks
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Session 19

William Shakespeare and actor Thomas Swann have a disagreement. Can Bess the barmaid make Thomas see sense, or will he refuse to budge an inch? We explore the phrase not budge an inch and introduce some useful responses for when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.

Session 19 score

0 / 13

  • 0 / 5
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 4
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 4
    Activity 3

Activity 3

I'll do it my way!

I will not do it like that!
When people are asked to do something they don't want to do, they often dig their heels in and become very stubborn - like Thomas Swann. But sometimes it's good to stand your ground and refuse to budge an inch.

To do

Listen to these people. Someone is asking them to do something they don't want to do. Do they refuse to budge an inch, like Thomas, or do they back down and agree to do it?

Do the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

I need you to stay at home this evening and help me with some cleaning

No way! I've already made plans for tonight!


Oh go on, please come and watch that new musical with me this evening!

No, not even if you paid me!

I was thinking... we should go camping again this year. We haven't been for years!

No, it's out of the question! I got bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes last time you made me sleep in a tent!

Why don't you train to become a teacher - I think you'd be really good at it!

No, not in a million years - I hated school, I don't want to go back there!

Please can you work late tonight? I know you've made plans but we really need you.

Oh go on then, but this is the last time!

Will you be able to pick me up from the party later? The trains aren't running that late and...

Oh I suppose so, but make sure you don't keep me waiting this time.

The last two speakers gave in and agreed to do what they were asked. The other speakers all stood their ground.

To do

Now listen to the dialogues again while you read the transcript. Practise saying the phrases in bold. Pay attention to the intonation - for phrases one to four, remember to sound determined - and dig your heels in!

How did you do?
Did you managed to sound stubborn? Well done, if you did. You are now ready to refuse to do things!

Next it's time to practise the phrases you learnt with a fun quiz.

To do

Try this fun quiz to find out how stubborn you are!

There are no correct answers - but be honest! The more ✔s you receive the more willing you are to back down - and the more ✖ s you receive, the more stubborn you are.

The score you are given at the end will reveal how stubborn you are.

How stubborn are you?

4 Questions

Answer the questions to find out how stubborn you are!

There are no correct answers, but your score will tell you how good you are at standing your ground!

Click the hint button if you need help to remember the vocabulary.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

How did you do?
3-4 points. You know when to back down
0-2 points. You are very stubborn and won't budge an inch!

Over to you

We'd like you to tell us about a time you refused to budge an inch. 

  • why did you stand your ground?
  • what did you say?
  • how did people react?

Email your story to us at learning.english@bbc.co.uk. Make sure you write not budge an inch in the subject line and in your email too. Try to use some of the other phrases from this lesson too. Unfortunately we can't give individual feedback, but we do read every email, and we’ll publish our favourites here or on our social media sites. 


Ia Tabagari, Georgia

       What  about  the  time  when I  refused  to  budge  an inch ? When  I  was  a  teenager  I  believed  that  nothing  compared  to  a  good  character (moral  strength , depth  of  thought..).And  that  was  why  I  stood  my  ground  when  my  niece , who  was  always  ready  to  give  me some tips , told  me :,,Ia , you can’t  compare  apples  and oranges .You  are  the sort of  person  who  doesn’t  care  about  her appearance .   Of  course , I  agree  with  you   but  we  are  humans  and  imagine  how  important  the first  impression  is  to  the  people  who  haven’t   known  you  yet. Don’t   you   know  that  clothes make the man ? That was enough for me  to dig  my heels  in .” No  way !  Judging  people  by  their  clothes ?  that’s  out  of  the question ! “,I  said. But  she was  strong-minded  and  after  setting   the  example, after  realizing  the meaning ,what  I said  was ,,Oh , go on then “.

Jean Marie Petit

A conversation, some years ago, between Henri and I (JM). Henri was reading the financial pages of a tabloid.


I say! Hey! JM, have you seen this ad? They offer a 25% return on any deposit on they bank account in this foreign country. What a deal! I know you have some cash, are you interested? 


No way! It sounds too good to be true.




Have you ever heard of scam, con artists and gullible people?


I suppose so...but I am so interested I put a third of the money in the deal, go on then! it is a bargain.


Not even if you paid me!


How stubborn you are! 


I am just strong-minded, not easily influenced by a bunch of escrocs sheltered in a lawless country. I stand my ground and advice you to turn the page. 


Just a small amount of money, to begin with


It is out of the question! You are bothering me, Henri. I think you are the one who is stubborn, I had another word in mind but I prefer to be polite.


Later, may be?


No, never in a million years. I refuse to budge an inch for such a stupidity.

I saw him, last year, living under a bridge near La Seine, begging passersby for a coin or two:

"It is not for drinking, just to speculate, please!" 

"No way" they murmured, without even looking at him.

Vincenzo Peccerillo, Italy

Some years ago I was going to buy my house in Rome. Following a two-month negotiation, I and the seller had reached an agreement upon the price. Sadly, before the signing of the contract I was asked to pay more money than established... In my view this was out of the question, because all the arrangements had already been made! I said I would not budge an inch. I had already given a look at another house for sale in the same building, so I was well aware that I had an alternative option. The seller was surprised at my firm refusal. I kept digging my heels in... Eventuallly, she backed down and complied with our agreement!


End of session

That’s all for now. But don't worry - we'll be back again soon. Return to these pages to find out more about William Shakespeare's life and work - and to learn a useful new English expression. In the meantime, go to our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages for more fun with English!

Session Vocabulary

  • For more great Shakespeare content visit our partner,The OU


    Not budge an inch

    The phrase not budge an inch is used these days to describe objects that won't move, and also people who won't change their minds. 

    Example sentence

    That stupid dog refused to move. I kept pulling on the lead, but he wouldn't budge an inch.


    Extra vocabulary

    an inch
    2.54 centimeters


    the battle of the sexes
    the fight for power between men and women

    change something wild so that it is easier to control

    describes a person who refuses to change their ideas or behaviour 

    not easily influenced by others 

    stand your ground
    refuse to change your opinion or behaviour, even when other people disagree with you

    dig your heels in
    refuse to change your ideas or behaviour

    back down
    admit that you are wrong

    No way!
    Definitely not!

    not even if you paid me!
    I would never do that, even if you gave me a lot of money

    it's out of the question
    it's impossible; I won't let it happen

    never in a million years 
    absolutely never

    oh go on then
    I agree to do or allow something that I didn't want to do before

    I suppose so
    I agree to something that I am not certain or happy about


    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University


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