English Pronunciation Guide to English Street Names
Summary: English Pronunciation Guide
Today we have an English pronunciation guide on the English vocabulary used when travelling or giving/taking directions.
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Audio Transcript: English Pronunciation Guide to English Street Names
Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Today let’s do some vocabulary, which you’ll come across if you’re visiting or living in the UK and which will also serve you as an English pronunciation guide. So if you’re trying to understand, or to find street addresses in English, this podcast will help you as an English pronunciation guide as well as helping you learn useful vocabulary. If you’re in the UK and you’re trying to find an address, this will be useful. It’s also a bit of a look at some British culture – we like owning property, owning houses in the UK – so our addresses are important to us.
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Noticing what streets are called
When I was in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that rather like Strasse in German or Rue in French, many Dutch street names end in Laan or Straat. This word Laan, spelt L-A-A-N, presumably has the same origin as our English word ‘lane’, L-A-N-E. And it’s easy to see that Straat, spelt S-T-R-A-A-T is the same as our English word ‘street’, S-T-R-E-E-T. So that set me thinking – in English, there are a lot of words, which you will find in UK postal addresses, which denote a type of street or road. But you can’t necessarily use them interchangeably. Interchangeably means swapping one for another, as though they’re the same. These words do mean broadly the same thing – a road or a street, but each one sets up a slightly different expectation, a slightly different picture in your head of the type of road or street. So let’s have a look at names for streets – typical UK addresses – and what the typical English person might expect given the particular word used. So an English pronunciation guide and guide to the type of vocabulary that we use here.
Whenever I have to go somewhere and I’ve not been before and I’m driving, I’m a big fan of Google Street View. It means that you can go and have a preview of what the place looks like, so that when you arrive, it’s already familiar and you’re in the right place. But if you just had a look on Google Maps for any town in the UK, you’d see a variety of names for roads, for rows of houses, where people live and which form part of their postal address. So a postal address – means that this is what you’d write on the envelope if you wanted to send a letter or something through the post to the person. So I’ve just had a look and the following words for streets were evident in the area where I live.
List of street name vocabulary
So those are the words that we’re going to look at. And UK addresses are by no means restricted to these ending words, but they are fairly typical these words – and you’d find addresses which use these words in any English speaking country, like America, Australia, New Zealand or Canada. I actually looked at Google Street View, or at Google (street) Maps for these countries, just to check and they use the same words as we do.
So ‘street’ first of all, S-T-R-E-E-T – that’s probably a word you know, and you’ll probably be familiar with number 10 Downing Street, as being one of the most famous addresses in the world. Current incumbent Theresa May – but not clear how much longer for! If you think about the street system in New York, it’s a grid and it’s number based – so you have 8th Street, 9th Street, 10th Street, 11th Street for example. If the word ‘street’ has any association at all, it is possibly that the roads in a town or city which are called ‘street’, tend perhaps to be the older ones, the ones built longest ago. So this could mean they’re a bit run-down or could mean that they have the nicest architecture. It depends where you are.
I don’t think there are many companies building houses now, who would call the new residential addresses something ending in ‘street’. Street is quite old-fashioned but famous streets can have an association – so in London, Fleet Street is associated with newspapers, Harley Street associated with doctors and Carnaby Street associated with fashion.
Road and Drive
What about the word ‘road’, ROAD? Again it’s probably a word that you know. It’s fairly neutral and there are a lot of street names in the UK which are called ‘something something road’. Think ‘Abbey Road’ as in the Beatles Album. The only association here - if it’s a road, you’ll definitely be able to drive down it in your car. A road is usually more main, bigger than a street. ‘Street’ suggests a small, ‘road’ implies bigger and busier. Similarly the street name ending ‘drive’, D-R-I-V-E is also very common. If it’s called a ‘Drive’, it wouldn’t actually make sense, would it, unless you can actually drive your car down it? Famous drives? What about Mulholland Drive in Southern California?
Avenue and Boulevard
Next ‘avenue’, A-V-E-N-U-E. Well, this one is French in origin from the word ‘avenir’, to arrive. So we would expect an avenue to be quite a wide road, residential, that means full of houses, rather than office buildings – and probably tree-lined. So ‘Avenue’ is quite a popular choice for house building companies to use. It conjures up a nice image of roads with mature trees running down either side. If there was a row of trees, with no road running between, you could still refer to these as an ‘avenue of trees’. Big country houses would have an avenue or row of trees running up to their main entrances. ‘Boulevard’ is also used quite a bit in some cities. Another French word in origin, a Boulevard, B-O-U-L-E-V-A-R-D, means quite a main road, and again probably tree-lined. It’s a bit posher, than your average road, usually, if it’s a boulevard. Except perhaps the BOULEVARD PERIPHERIQUE, which is the road which runs around Paris. Not quite so posh. I hope I’m not offending any fans of the BOULEVARD PERIPHERIQUE there?
What about the word ‘lane’, L-A-N-E, which I’d linked to the Dutch word Laan? Well, in the UK, a lane tends to be a country road. So if you’re imagining a lane, it would perhaps be narrow and windy, lots of bends in it. There may not be two sides to the road. So if you’re in your car and someone else is coming the other way, on a lane, you might have to pull over at a passing place, to let them by. There may not be many road markings on a lane and you might encounter cows or sheep if it’s a proper country lane. But many roads in the suburbs are called ‘Lane’ - it suggests it’s nice and green. I’d like to live in a lane, I think.
A Close is a Cul-De-Sac
What I do live in, however is a Close, C-L-O-S-E. This street name ending is beloved of new house developers. A ‘close’ tends to mean that the road is a cul-de-sac, so there’s another bit of French that we use in English. A ‘cul-de-sac’ means a road which has a dead-end – there’s no way through, you reach the end and you have to turn around and come back. The word ‘cul-de-sac’ in French, C-U-L D-E S-A-C means literally ‘the bottom of a sack or bag’.
Ways and Bypasses
If a street name ends in ‘Way’, W-A-Y, then that is often a major road. It may be what is called a ‘dual carriageway’ - so that on each side of the road, there are two lanes to drive in. Possibly two lanes full of traffic then, if you’re in the UK. So ‘Way’ means a bigger road. And if it’s got the word ‘Bypass’ at the end, B-Y-P-A-S-S, that’s probably not a residential road, probably not a road with houses on it. ‘To bypass’ also can be a verb – and it means when you take a route around something. So you might have a heart bypass for instance, when the blood in your heart is re-routed, a different direction past a blockage. So there is a verb ‘to bypass’ meaning to get around something a different way. But here it’s a noun. And if it’s not a heart bypass, then a bypass usually means a road, which goes around the outside of a town, rather than through it. We build bypasses to try and speed up the traffic, and stop traffic problems affecting small towns. So you’re probably not going to have a house whose address is a bypass, but you will see roads on a map with that name.
If the address that you’re trying to find, or you’re staying at ends in terrace, T-E-R-R-A-C-E, then a terrace means a row of houses all joined together. If you know the long-running TV soap Coronation Street, then the houses on Coronation Street are in a terrace. These are also called ‘terraced’ houses. If you’ve got houses which are just joined to one other house, which is quite common in the UK, then these are called ‘semi-detached’. So that’s two stuck together. And if a house which stands alone, it’s not joined to any other house, this is called a ‘detached’ house.
OK, last one now. What about if you live in a Crescent? Crescent is spelt C-R-E-S-C-E-N-T and the word means something which is, I guess, the shape of a French croissant. Or we might talk about a ‘crescent moon’ - when the moon is not full. So if you come across the word ‘crescent’ and it means a road, then it’s a road usually, which bends round to form a half-circle. Crescents often form a half circle and then join another road in two different places – each end of the crescent joins the same road. The most famous crescent in the UK, is probably the Royal Crescent in the city of Bath, B-A-T-H. Really beautiful Bath Stone houses, 30 of them, built in a curving terrace. Built in the Georgian era – and very elegant.
So there you are. Some useful vocabulary for you and an English pronunciation guide when you need to find an English address or an address in any English speaking country. It’s an English pronunciation guide to give you a head start when pronouncing English addresses – at least these bits will be familiar to you. But also gives you an idea of the type of place someone lives, when you see their address.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Knowing The English For Getting From A To B Is Important
Giving and receiving directions are a common interaction for new English language learners. It may be your going for a job interview, maybe travelling on holiday, or your job involves travelling. At some point you will need to ask someone for directions or get asked to give directions and if you listen to this lesson, you will do just fine.
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