Understanding Grammar: Obligation & Permission
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Rich and Jack are talking about being home and rules and routines they ask their children to follow and rules they had to follow when they were kids. They focus on grammar and the language of obligation and permission. Your task is to share rules that you agree and disagree with. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Before you listen, have a look at some of the more difficult words and phrases you will hear:
Language of obligation and permission.
Jack: Hello my name’s Jack
Rich: and I’m Rich and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rich: We recommend that you listen to this podcast on the Premier Skills English website because that is where we have the transcript, language examples, activities, quizzes and a discussion page to help you understand everything we talk about.
Jack: However, if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can leave answers to our questions in the review section. We do read all the reviews and would love to hear from you.
Rich: Don’t forget that we have our football English podcast called This Week that you can listen to at the start of every week. In this week’s episode called keepy-uppy I attempt to do the toilet roll challenge.
Jack: That’s 10 kick-ups with a toilet roll. Have a look at the video and see if Rich manages to do 10 or not. It’s on the homepage now.
Rich: In last week’s podcast, we spoke about working from home. We looked at words and phrases connected to creating your own workspace, productivity and physical and mental health.
Jack: If you want to complete this lesson, you need to go to our homepage, click skills, click listen and click podcasts. It’s called Learning Vocabulary: Working from home.
Rich: In this week’s podcast, I’m going to speak to Jack about the new rules connected to staying at home that are now in place in Spain and the UK.
Jack: Many people have to stay in their homes at the moment and follow special rules when they go out so we’re going to do three roleplays that will introduce lots of language connected to rules and regulations.
Rich: Our main language focus this week is on grammar and the language of obligation and permission. After each roleplay, we’ll look at some different language connected to this.
Jack: Your task this week is to tell us two rules that you agree with and two rules that you disagree with
Rich: Before all that though, we need to look at last week’s football phrase.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Jack: If you didn’t hear our football phrase last week we’re going to give you one more chance to guess now.
Rich: The phrase was ******* ******. I like this phrase because the two words rhyme together. The phrase describes the player who plays in goal when they are doubling up as a defender. Manuel Neuer is a great example of a ******* ******. He often plays outside his penalty area and cleans or clears up any defensive problems!
Jack: We’ll give you the correct answer at the end of the show when we give you a new football phrase.
Rich: The first listener to get it right last week was Liubomyr from Ukraine. Congratulations again Liubomyr! A few more of you got the right phrase, too.
Jack: A big well done to Mario and Marco Zapien from Mexico, Elghoul from Algeria, Ahmed Adam from Sudan, Lakerwang from China, Hayato from Japan, and Jonathan714 from Hong Kong.
Rich: If you want to hear your name in next week’s show you need to write the answer in the comments section on the Premier Skills English website or the review section on Apple Podcasts.
Jack: We’ll give you the answer at the end of the show and we’ll have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Introduction to Conversation
Rich: Many of you will be listening to this podcast from home and in many places that is where you have to stay at the moment.
Jack: Yes, the coronavirus or covid-19 crisis is a problem in lots of countries and we all have to make some changes.
Rich: Jack’s in the UK and I’m in Spain and were are currently under lockdown and wanted to start this podcast by asking how all of you are. We really hope you are all keeping well and safe.
Jack: We’re going to start off this week with a conversation between the two of us about the virus but we want as always to help you with your English.
Rich: So as you’re listening, we want you to answer one question. The question is: What rules do we mention?
Jack: So, we’re both under lockdown now. What’s happening in Spain? How are you all doing?
Rich: We’re fine but it can get a bit stressful not being allowed to go out. The kids have been off school for two weeks now. They’re not allowed to go, well, they can’t go to be more precise because the schools are closed.
Jack: Schools have been closed here in the UK for a week now. Well, they’re not closed but only children of key workers can go - all other children are being made to stay at home.
Rich: Nearly everything is closed here. Restaurants, shops, cinemas, football stadiums - you’re only allowed out to go to the supermarket and the chemist’s and to go to work only if you have to and if you can’t work from home.
Jack: Lots of businesses are letting their staff work from home but lots of people can’t and lots of businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs. I’ve even heard of some businesses making people go to work even though they don’t have to because they could do it from home. It’s a bit of a nightmare.
Rich: They should let people stay at home or the government should make them close if you ask me.
Jack: Best to be optimistic though - we could find some kind of cure and this could all be over in a couple of weeks.
Rich: Good to be realistic too though, Jack!
Jack: Before you heard that conversation we asked you what rules we mentioned. Well, the main rule is that we’re not allowed to go out of our homes at the moment.
Rich: You’re not allowed to, you mustn’t, you must, you have to, you can’t … all this type of language is connected to obligation and permission and this is the language we’re focusing on in this week’s podcast.
Jack: You’re going to hear three roleplays and after each roleplay, we’ll look at some language connected to obligation and permission.
Rich: Here’s roleplay number one. We’re talking about when our kids go to bed. While you listen we want you to answer one question. Who is more strict with their bedtime routine? Jack or me?
Jack: Did you watch the match last night?
Rich: I tried but the boys wouldn’t let me - they wanted to watch Garfield’s Greatest Adventure.
Jack: What do you mean? The match didn’t kick off until 845. What time do you let your kids stay up till?
Rich: It depends - we don’t really make them go to bed at any specific time. It depends on the day and what we’ve done. If it’s the weekend they’re allowed to stay up later and if they’re being good I might let them stay up later, too.
Jack: Really? Wow! You mustn’t get any time to yourselves if you’re letting them stay up so late. We’ve got a routine in place. The boys go to bed at 700 every day - no exceptions.
Rich: No exceptions. That sounds a bit strict. You’re like a Sergeant Major. Attention! Do you march them to bed?
Jack: No but I think they’d enjoy that. No, our boys must get into their pyjamas, they must brush their teeth, they must wash their faces and wash their hands a lot, of course, and then they have to get into bed.
Rich: And then they have to go straight to sleep.
Jack: No, we’re not really in the army. When they’ve done all that, I have to read them a bedtime story. Sometimes they’ll make me read two or three!
Language Focus 1
Rich: We asked you a question before the roleplay. We asked you who you think is more strict at bedtime with their kids.
Jack: Well, I suppose it’s probably me. I wouldn’t call it strict though - we just have a routine in place that the kids know and enjoy and it gives us some time to ourselves at the end of the day.
Rich: Yeah, maybe I should stop letting my kids go to sleep on the sofa!
Jack: Let’s look at some of the language in that roleplay. Let’s focus on the words must and mustn’t to begin with. We used these a few times in the roleplay.
Rich: We use must for very strong obligations that have been imposed by someone in authority. In the roleplay, this was a parent - either me or Jack.
Jack: I tell my children that they must brush their teeth and they must go to bed at seven. The other day, I got a text from the UK government that said ‘You must stay at home!’
Rich: We’re seeing this use a lot at the moment. People must stay at home. You mustn’t go out. The authority is the government or maybe the police.
Jack: Mustn’t is used for things that are not permitted. Like Rich just said, you mustn’t go out.
Rich: Other similar phrases that you often see are things like you mustn’t smoke on public transport or you mustn’t walk on the grass in public parks. It is not permitted to do these things.
Jack: But If I say to you that you mustn’t smoke it’s not because it’s not permitted.
Rich: That’s because it can be used for very strong advice, too. You really mustn’t smoke - it’s really harmful.
Jack: It’s like shouldn’t but much stronger. You can use must in a similar way. You really must go and see that new film! It’s not an obligation - it’s strong advice.
Rich: In the roleplay, Jack said you mustn’t get any time to yourselves which is a completely different use of must - it’s a modal of deduction. We'll talk about this use in another podcast.
Jack: Have to can be used in a similar way to must - as a strong obligation. My kids have to go to bed at seven or they have to brush their teeth.
Rich: It’s also useful to remember that we can’t use must in the past so we use had to for strong obligations.
Jack: So in the present, you can use must or have to and mustn't...
Rich: but in the past you can only use had to.
Jack: Another important thing to remember is that the negative of have to - don’t have to has a very different meaning to mustn’t.
Rich: You mustn’t leave the house means it’s not permitted to leave the house but you don’t have to leave the house means there is no obligation to leave the house - you can stay or leave - it’s up to you.
Jack: You’re now going to listen to roleplay two. We’re talking about the amount of time we allow our kids to watch TW every day. While you listen we want you to answer a question:
Rich: Who thinks more screen time is a good thing? Me or Jack?
Rich: What do you usually do after work?
Jack: Because I work from home, I usually like to take the kids out. Take them to the park for a bit, get a bit of fresh air and even a bit of exercise.
Rich: Yeah, it can be pretty tiring running around after a six-year-old or kicking a ball with a nine-year old. I have to up my game I think. By the time he’s 10, he’ll be faster than me!
Jack: You can’t do that at the moment. The kids aren’t allowed out in Spain - not even for exercise.
Rich: I know, you guys are lucky you’re allowed out once a day. My kids are getting much more screen time than they’re used to.
Jack: Yeah, it’s difficult being in the house all day. When they were at school we let them watch TV for 30 minutes when they got home because they were tired but now …
Rich: I know what you mean - mine would be allowed to watch while I was cooking tea and a film at the weekend.
Jack: And now the kids are getting sent school work to do online and there are online classes and everything.
Rich: Yes, my eldest son needs to look at a screen much more now than he did just a couple of weeks ago.
Jack: It’s all educational though so maybe not that bad. Better than just letting them watch Garfield.
Rich: Garfield? Is that about a cat? I’d never let my kids watch that.
Language Focus 2
Jack: We asked you a question before the roleplay. Who thinks more screen time is actually a good thing?
Rich: Well, it was actually Jack but as long as it’s educational and not just Garfield cartoons!
Jack: Let’s look at some more language connected to obligation and permission. In the roleplay you just heard, we used the structures allowed to and not allowed to a lot.
Rich: For example, I said that kids aren’t allowed out in Spain at the moment and I told Jack that he was lucky because his kids are allowed out once a day.
Jack: We use allowed for permission and not allowed for prohibition.
Rich: These structures are similar to can and can’t for permission and prohibition. Kids in Spain can’t go out - they are not allowed. Kids in the UK can go out once a day - they are allowed out once a day.
Jack: We often use allowed in passive forms. Listen to these examples from the roleplay:
Rich: My kids are allowed to watch while I cook tea. Children are not allowed to leave the house.
Jack: Rich said that his son needs to look at a screen much more because he’s at home. We use need to if something is necessary.
Rich: We said earlier in the podcast that we can’t leave the house but we can if we need to go to work or if we need to go to the supermarket.
Jack: But we are being told not to go out if we don’t need to. We use don’t need to when something is not necessary.
Rich: You’re now going to listen to roleplay three. We’re talking about curfews our parents set when we were kids. While you listen we want you to answer a question:
Jack: Who usually broke their parents’ curfew? Rich or me?
Rich: Are you getting bored in the evening now you can’t go out with all this quarantine stuff?
Jack: Haha! To be honest, not that much. I don’t tend to go out as much these days. Once the kids are in bed I’m absolutely shattered. I’m much more likely to settle down in front of the TV and watch a series. I’m really enjoying Better Call Saul at the moment.
Rich: Binge-watching! I think there’s a lot of that going on right now. It’s weird not being allowed out though. I don’t go out that much either but I have that urge to go out because I can’t.
Jack: Well, you’d better not. You could get arrested or fined by the police.
Rich: Yeah, yeah I know. Everything’s closed anyway. It reminds me of curfews my parents gave me when I was a teenager.
Jack: Did you have to be back home by a certain time?
Rich: Yes, always. They made me come home ridiculously early. I wasn’t allowed out after nine until I was 21!
Jack: I think you might be exaggerating there. My parents were always a bit more relaxed about letting me go out and the time I was home.
Jack: Well, maybe I was supposed to be back by 8 but I’d always be late. I don’t think they noticed.
Rich: School nights were the worst. I remember having to be home at seven! All my friends were allowed out until at least eight! I remember my mum saying you’d better be back by seven or you’ll be grounded!
Jack: Grounded! Not being allowed out - that’s what it’s like now. It’s not like a curfew because we’re not allowed out at all. We’ve been grounded by Covid-19!
Language Focus 3
Jack: We asked you a question before the roleplay. Who usually broke their parents’ curfew?
Rich: It was Jack. He said he was supposed to be home at eight but he was often late.
Jack: Let’s look at some language from that roleplay. In all three roleplays we’ve been using let for permission and make for obligations.
Rich: Jack said that his parents were always relaxed about letting him out. This means they gave him permission to go out - they allowed him to go out.
Jack: We’ve used quite a few examples of let in the roleplays. Have a listen to these three examples from earlier:
Rich: Number one: What time do you let your kids stay up till?
Jack: Number two: When they were at school we let them watch for 30 minutes when they got home.
Rich: Number three: It’s better than letting them watch Garfield.
Jack: We can use the word make for obligations. In the roleplay you just heard, Rich said that his parents made him come home really early. They forced him to come home - he had no choice - it was an obligation.
Rich: We often talk about one person making another do something. A teacher might make students do extra homework or a neighbour might make you pay if you break a window playing football.
Jack: There were another couple of useful phrases in that roleplay. I said I was supposed to be back by eight when talking about the curfew my parents set for me.
Rich: Be supposed to is used to talk about what should be done and what is expected. Listen to these examples:
Jack: Why are you so late? You were supposed to be back by five.
Rich: What are you doing up? You’re supposed to be in bed!
Jack: A similar phrase is had better or had better not. I said in the roleplay you’d better not go out or you’ll be arrested and Rich said his mum used to say things like you’d better be back by seven or you’ll be grounded!
Rich: We often use had better as a warning or a threat.
Jack: That’s enough language for now but we’ve got more examples and activities for you to check your understanding on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: Your task this week is to tell us four rules. Two that you agree with and two that you disagree with.
Jack: We want two of the rules to be rules you have to follow now and two of the rules you had to follow in the past.
Rich: You might want to talk about the rules connected to the coronavirus, rules at school, work or university.
Jack: Or you might want to talk about the rules your parents gave you when you were a child or teenager.
Rich: We’d also love to hear about any rules that you thought were a bit silly or funny!
Jack: And, of course, we want to see you using some of the language of obligation and permission we used in the roleplays.
Rich: Write all your answers on the Premier Skills English website or Apple Podcasts in the review section if that’s where you listen to us.
Jack: It’s your turn with the football phrase this week, Rich.
Rich: Yes, it is but before I give everyone this week’s phrase I wanted to remind people about our new football vocabulary series called Premier Vocabulary. This is a series of mini podcasts where you learn football English one phrase at a time.
Jack: You can find all our Premier Vocabulary episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and on the Premier Skills English website. On the homepage click on words and Premier Vocabulary. Right, let’s hear this week’s football phrase.
Rich: This week’s football phrase is just a word so the football word is ******. It means to change direction suddenly. When a player hits a powerful shot the ball often ******* in the air which makes it very difficult for the goalkeeper because the ball is moving around all over the place. One free-kick I remember is by Roberto Carlos for Brazil - the ball ******** so much it seemed to defy the laws of physics.
Jack: Let’s see who can get the phrase. Before we leave you we also need to tell you last week’s football phrase. The answer was sweeper keeper.
Rich: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Jack: If you have any questions or comments or suggestions for the podcast or anything football or English related, you can leave them on the website in the comments section, on social media, on apple podcasts or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rich: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. You've already looked at these words at the top of the page. Now, look at how Jack and Rich used them. Do you understand all the words in bold?
We’re both under lockdown now. What’s happening in Spain? How are you all doing?
The kids have been off school for two weeks now.
Well, they’re not closed but only children of key workers can go - all other children are being made to stay at home.
You’re like a Sergeant Major. Attention! Do you march them to bed?
Once the kids are in bed I’m absolutely shattered.
I have to up my game, I think by the time he’s 10, he’ll be faster than me!
Binge-watching! I think there’s a lot of that going on right now.
I don’t go out that much either but I have that urge to go out because I can’t.
It reminds me of curfews my parents gave me when I was a teenager.
I remember my mum saying you’d better be back by seven or you’ll be grounded!
Being at home
Rich and Jack started the podcast by talking about their current experience of being at home and under lockdown due to Covid-19. RIch is in Spain where people are only allowed out to go to the supermarket, pharmacy or to go to work if it is not possible to work from home. Jack is in the UK where there are also restrictions although people are still allowed out once a day for exercise. There are a lot of new rules and regulations in force and Jack and Rich focus on this language of obligation and permission connected to this in the podcast. Here are some new rules and the language Rich and Jack look at in bold:
Many of you will be listening to this podcast from home and in many places that is where you have to stay at the moment.
Children are not allowed to go to school, well, to be more precise, they can't go because the schools are closed.
In the UK, schools are not closed but only children of key workers can go - everyone else is being made to stay at home.
Must & Mustn't
We use must and mustn't for very strong obligations. These obligations are often imposed by someone in authority. Must is followed by the infinitive without to. At the moment, lots of new rules are being imposed by governments but rules are often imposed by parents and teachers, too. Have a look at these examples:
The other day, I got a text from the UK government that said ‘You must stay at home!’ - 'you mustn't go out'.
I tell my children that they must brush their teeth and they must go to bed at seven.
My teacher told me that I must do my homeowork.
Mustn't is used for something that is not permitted but it can also be used for strong advice. Look at these examples. Which is example describes something that is not permitted and which is strong advice?
The sign says you mustn't smoke on this bus.
You really mustn't smoke - it's really bad for your health.
It's important to remember that must has no past form so when we are speaking about strong obligations in the past we use had to:
I always had to be home by seven when I was a kid.
Allowed & Not Allowed
In the roleplays, Rich and Jack used the structures allowed and not allowed a lot:
Kids aren’t allowed out in Spain at the moment and you're lucky because your kids are allowed out once a day.
We use allowed for permission and not allowed for prohibition. These structures are similar to can and can’t for permission and prohibition.
Kids in Spain can’t go out - they are not allowed. Kids in the UK can go out once a day - they are allowed out once a day.
We often use allowed in passive forms. Listen to these examples from the roleplay:
My kids are allowed to watch while I cook tea.
Children are not allowed to leave the house.
Make & Let
In all three roleplays Jack and Rich used let for permission and make for obligations. Here's an example of using let which Jack said in the podcast:
My parents were always relaxed about letting me out.
This means Jack's parents gave Jack permission to go out - they allowed him to go out. Have a look at three further examples:
What time do you let your kids stay up till?
When they were at school we let them watch for 30 minutes when they got home.
It’s better than letting them watch Garfield.
Jack and Rich also used make for obligations. Here's an example of using let which Rich said in the podcast:
My parents made me come home really early.
This means Rich's parents forced Rich to come home - he had no choice - it was an obligation. We often talk about one person making another person do something. A teacher might make students do extra homework or a neighbour might make you pay if you break a window playing football.
Rules & Regulations
In this week’s task, we want you to share four rules with us. These rules can be both serious and silly!
Rule 1: Something you must follow at the moment that you agree with.
Rule 2: Something you have to follow at the moment that you disagree with.
Rule 3: Something in the past you had to do which you agreed with.
Rule 4: Something in the past you weren't allowed to do and made you unhappy.
Try to use some of the language of obligation and permission which Rich and Jack introduced in the podcast.
Write all your answers in the comments section below, and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!