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- Many / Much / A lot of / Lots of

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- So / Very

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- Sum / Amount

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- Deny / Refuse / Reject / Decline

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- Dedicated / Devoted

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- Accident / Incident

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- Fire in Anger

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- Archenemy

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- Large / Big

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- Foot / Feet

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- Afraid

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- 'Such as' / 'as such'

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- Quite

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- 'Made of' / 'made from'

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- Can we not?

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- Horrible / Horrific

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- Acting / Acting as

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- Standard / non-standard English

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- False friends - effective/efficient

Maria in Hong Kong
question





A question from Maria in Hong Kong:

My question is - which of the responses is correct:
When somebody asks me how tall I am, what should I say?
I'm five foot tall, or I'm five feet tall?

Foot / Feet




Answer




Ask about English

Rachel Wicaksono answers:

Thanks for your question, Maria. It's an interesting one because of the differences between the way we write and the way we speak.

As you say, 'feet' is an example of a measurement for height, length and distance. 'Feet' is a non-metric measure, unlike 'metres' and 'centimetres' which are metric.

Other non-metric measures, which we can use for distance, are:
'inches', 'yards' and 'miles'. For example:
"It's a mile from my house to the centre of York, so it only takes me 20 minutes to walk there."

Other non-metric measures, which we use for weight, are:
'ounces', 'pounds', 'stones' and 'tons'.
For example:
"I weigh fourteen stones, seven pounds. That's fourteen and a half stone! I really need to go on a diet."


Non-metric measures are still widely used in the UK, especially for personal weight and height, and for distance. But some things are changing. Most people now use metric litres rather than non-metric gallons for volume. For example, we buy orange juice and petrol by the litre.

Most people also use Celsius rather than Fahrenheit for temperature, for example:
"Today, the temperature in London is 18 degrees Celsius, so you'll be fine in just a
t-shirt!"


Most older British people still use 'feet', rather than 'metres', to describe their own, and other peoples', height. They might say, for example:
"He's just like his dad; he must be at least six foot tall."

However, in an old passport of mine, issued in 1987, it states my height in metres. I suppose that's because metric measures are used here in Europe. The US, on the other hand, uses non-metric measures.

But listen to that example again:
"He's just like his dad; he must be at least six foot tall."

You're absolutely right about 'five foot tall'; if you're talking to someone or writing and don't need to be formal, saying that you're 'five foot tall' is fine. However, to say you are 'five feet tall' is correct and is probably safer when you're writing in English.

Maria, you don't have to tell us your real height, but if you really are five foot tall, you may be interested to know that you are the same height as the Australian singer Kylie Minogue and the Columbian singer Shakira! However, there does seem to be some confusion over Shakira's height, with some sources saying that she is 'four foot eleven' and others claiming she is 'five foot two'.

Shakira, if you're listening to BBC Learning English, perhaps you could contact us and let us know!

So I hope that's helped, Maria.

Maria:
Yes, I would like to thank BBC Learning English and all of the staff and everyone!


Rachel has taught English and trained teachers in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Japan and the UK. She is an IELTS examiner and a trainer and assessor for the Cambridge ESOL Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. Currently, Rachel works at York St John University where she is Head of Programme for the MA English Language Teaching and the International Foundation Certificate.





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