How To Speak English Listening To Native English Speakers Ep 318

A photograph of a lady enjoying a breath of fresh air, used to help explain a popular English idiom.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 2017 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 11 min

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How To Speak English

Adept English is all about helping you to speak English quickly and fluently, just like a native English speaker. We have helped 100,000’s of students improve their spoken English through our listen and learn approach to speaking English.

One of the biggest problems with learning to speak English today is traditional English teaching is still using techniques from decades ago. You can walk into any English language classroom today and you will find 80% of the focus on reading and writing and maybe 20% on listening comprehension and speaking the language.

The actual time people spent listening to the language you intend to speak is hugely important, you will need about 10 times the comprehension of a language you intend to speak fluently in.

Being able to listen to English being spoken by a native English speaker and understand what is being said, quickly enough that you can understand and compose your spoken response, is the difference between enjoying a language and struggling to keep up with and being trapped in translation.

The better your listening skills, the more automatic your ability to speak. That’s why here are Adept English we spend ALL of our time listening to English and very little on reading, writing in English.

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 4 word phrases:

Up In The Air11
How To Speak English3
Hanging In The Air2
In The Air The2
In The Air And2

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: How To Speak English Listening To Native English Speakers

Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. If you want to learn how to speak English, then Adept English is here to help you with that. If you want to speak fluent English, Adept English aims to give you useful lessons about the English language, but also good listening material – like this podcast – which you can listen to a number of times, until you know all the words. So if you want tips to improve your English fluency, we are here to help you! Tips on how to speak English well – that’s our purpose and our aim.

Having a strong basic English vocabulary is important – and a base upon which to build the rest of your English language. If you feel that you need help with this, our 500 Most Common Words Course will help you take your learning further. Unlike the podcasts, where I introduce you to all kinds of words and vocabulary, our 500 Most Common Words course only uses those 500 common English words, the most common English words – no other words at all! So this course will help you build your confidence and ensure that there are no gaps in your basic vocabulary. You can buy this course on our website at

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English idioms with the word ‘air’

So one of the things I help you with is English idioms and we’ve not done any idioms for a while. So let’s do some idioms today around the English word ‘air’, A-I-R. Like with many other common words in English, the word ‘air’ has quite a lot of idioms associated with it. So I’m just going to choose 3 of them to talk about today. And I’ll give you examples to try to help you remember them. Here goes.


A breath of fresh air

So if I use the phrase, the idiom ‘A breath of fresh air’, then there is a literal meaning to that phrase as well as an idiomatic meaning. So ‘a breath’ first of all. So if I ‘take a breath’, you can hear it. This is me taking a breath….so what you can hear there, is a breath. So that’s B-R-E-A-T-H and it’s a noun. So the literal meaning – literal L-I-T-E-R-A-L – means ‘used in the basic, the usual sense’, as opposed to ‘idiomatic’ which means ‘used as an idiom’ – so there is extra meaning.

So the literal meaning of ‘a breath of fresh air’ – let me explain that first. Currently we’re in April 2020 and we’re under lockdown in the UK – we have to stay at home most of the time and we’re allowed out once a day to do exercise. So needing ‘a breath of fresh air’ is a very real feeling at the moment, when we’re stuck inside much of the time. Going for a walk, a run or a bike ride means ‘having a breath of fresh air’ quite literally. We would say ‘I’m just going out to get a breath of fresh air’. And it’s still quite cold in the UK at the moment, so we’d be breathing in air that feels cold and fresh.

Lots of oxygen in it. Another time where I might use ‘a breath of fresh air’ literally would be when I go up into my children’s bedrooms. My son and daughter are home at the moment, not going to college, not going to school because of the lockdown, and they’re on their computers a lot, in their bedrooms a lot. And let’s just say maybe they don’t always open their bedroom windows very much. So I say to them ‘Open your window, it needs a breath of fresh air in here! It’s like soup!’ So a breath of fresh air can be energizing, oxygen rich – a good thing in reality.

But we also use this phrase, this idiom to mean something more. If you say of someone ‘Oh, he’s a breath of fresh air’ – it means that he’s different, he’s a change from everyone else – and that difference is a positive one. We’ve got a positive feeling about this person who is different. It might be that you’ve got a new boss at work who has different ideas, who you feel is going to run things more effectively, who’s different from what’s gone before, so ‘My boss? She’s a breath of fresh air’.

It could be a piece of music, which is different from what you’ve heard before – or a person, whose music is different, who is ‘a breath of fresh air’, or in art, a painting that’s new and different. So when we say someone or something is ‘a breath of fresh air’, not only do we notice that they’re different, but we’re enthusiastic, we like the change – and it may indicate a way in which things will be better in the future. It’s a refreshing change and we like it. That’s ‘a breath of fresh air’.

In the air

If we talk instead about something being ‘in the air’, the meaning there is as though something is ‘hanging in the air’. Almost, if you can imagine this, like there are particles, tiny pieces hanging in the air. If someone is having a fire – or a bonfire, as we might call in in the UK, in their garden, often you will smell the smoke from the fire in the air. Tiny particles of smoke go into your nose and you smell them.

When we use this phrase ‘in the air’ as an idiom, we might say something like ‘Uh, there’s a very bad feeling in the air’. And the meaning here is that we’re sensing a bad feeling, we perceive a bad feeling, but it’s not something that people are talking about or acknowledging. It’s much more at the level of being felt, not spoken about. So there might be a feeling of fear ‘in the air’, or a feeling of anger ‘in the air’ perhaps.

No one is speaking about it, but you can feel it. ‘In the air’ can also be used positively – we might say for example right now ‘Spring is in the air’. So at the moment, in the UK, it’s been quite cold, but there are flowers in the garden, there’s blossom on the trees – there are lots of signs of spring. So ‘spring is in the air’. The phrase ‘Love is in the air’ – that’s actually quite any old song, isn’t it?! ‘Love is in the air’! Have a listen on YouTube, to see if you know it – it’s the sort of song which pops up in films and series sometimes! And someone might comment ‘Love is in the air’ if you can see that two people like each other!

Up in the air

Another phrase with air, which is just one word different from that one, yet has a very different meaning. We can say ‘up in the air’ and that’s entirely different. So we might use ‘up in the air’ in a literal sense. We might talk about planes for example being ‘up in the air’ – normally anyway. In these times, what’s really noticeable in the air above the UK is the absolute lack of planes. We live fairly close to Heathrow airport – and there are a number of busy smaller airports around where we live. So planes travel overhead regularly – that’s normal for us. But with most flights in the UK being grounded at the moment, it’s strangely quiet. You can hear the birds sing – it’s really odd. So there are literally not many planes ‘up in the air’ at the moment.


A photograph of a passenger airplane, something you don't see much of in the UK during the Wuhan virus lockdown.

©️ Adept English 2020

However, the idiomatic meaning of ‘up in the air’ is different. You can say of a situation, ‘It’s up in the air’, it means ‘It’s not been decided yet’. We don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s uncertain – it’s ‘up in the air’. So at the moment, we’re in a situation where many things are ‘up in the air’. We don’t know what’s going to happen with them. So for the airline industry in particular, not just in the UK but around the world, the planes are not ‘up in the air’ in any literal sense’, but the future of the airline industry is most certainly ‘up in the air’. Let’s hope that this lockdown situation doesn’t last too long-term and we still have an airline industry at the end of it.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

OK, so I’m going to stop there - you’ve more chance of learning and remembering three examples of idioms with the word ‘air’ than if I run through a list of 10 or 20! So remember, listening to lots of English is a really important part of how to speak English. Listen to this podcast a number of times, until you understand all the words!


Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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