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British English terms & phrases you will hear when studying English in the UK

Have you ever watched a British tv show or movie but had difficulty catching some of the vocabulary or phrases even though the main characters were speaking English? Strange, right? This situation is especially familiar to those who learned English as a second language and that are not so familiar with ‘British English’ terminology.

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While you study English in the UK you will make many friends and some of them will likely be native British English speakers. So in order to avoid awkward situations where you don’t understand what the other just said (and that will happen for sure) we put together a short list of commonly used terms and phrases in British English. Some of them will be only one word, but some will actually be an entire sentence that is completely different from the one you used to use. So let’s get started.

I’ll give you a bell

Let’s say for example that you’re planning a gathering with some of your fellow students and ‘British’ friends. One of your ‘British’ friends is not sure if he will make it on time (or at all) and he drops you the ‘I’ll give you a bell’ sentence. Don’t worry, you won’t be getting an actual bell or he will drop you one on your head. “I’ll give you a bell’ or ‘Give me a bell’ is a colloquial term for ‘I’ll give you a call’ or ‘I’ll call you.’. We aren’t sure why they use the ‘bell’ word. Maybe it has something to do with Alexander Graham Bell (notice the last name) who was a Scottish-born scientist who patented the first practical telephone.


You’re having a great time with your friends and one of them suddenly realizes that he has an important deadline tomorrow and he jumps up shouting ‘Blimey I have a deadline by tomorrow!’. ‘Blimey’ is very commonly used for expressing surprise or ‘shock’ and it’s very similar to ‘My goodness!’.


When you’re in a retail store or boutique you can hear women saying ‘I don’t really fancy this jumper’ but what you should understand is that ‘Fancy’ doesn’t always refer to something being stylish or ‘popular’ but it can also refer to ‘I don’t really like this jumper’.

You know your onions!

Practising speech with native English people is very useful when you’re studying English. After all from who will you learn best if not from those who speak it every day? A useful communication method is debating/discussing various topics. When you have proven your point and defended your ‘case’ some of the participants might say ‘You know your onions!’ but what he really meant is to admit that you are knowledgeable in that area.


In communication, you will often hear the phrase ‘He is a Scouser’! You might think this is a place/town somewhere in the UK. Well, you’re wrong. Scouser is a general term for people who live (or are from) Liverpool. The name is short for ‘Lobscouse’, which was a Scandinavian stew eaten by the sailors who visited the port. Local families adopted the dish, and the name stuck.


Let’s say that you feel a bit hungry and you would like to eat something but nothing big like a 3 or 4-course meal. Instead of asking your English friends ‘Would like to grab a bite’ you can ask ‘Do you want to grab a nosh’. Sounds different but it’s the same thing. A snack between two meals.


After a ‘nosh’ the same friend offers you to go sightseeing with him. Who would turn down a chance like this?! Absolutely nobody! One of your stops is the London Eye which has a pretty good view over London. You will be absolutely amazed or as the British say it “Gobsmacked’ and when you’re on top feel free to express yourself with ‘Blimey’, ‘Wicked’ or ‘Brilliant’.

Off to Bedfordshire

When you study English in the UK make sure you have plenty of things to do all day and that the majority of those things you do help to improve your language skills. After an eventful day you will feel pretty ‘Knackered’ (or tired) going ‘Off to Bedfordshire’ (going to bed) will be ‘Easy Peasy’ (easy).

These are just a few terms and phrases that we picked for you, however, there are plenty more. In case you stumble upon some of these while studying English in the UK, please do share them with us!

Damian breen
Damian Breen Managing Director

Damian spent some 22 years living and working in various different countries in Africa and the Middle East, for several different leading international airlines, in senior country and regional manager roles.