• Alex

English Dialogues Ep.2: Ryan's Cab Ride (audio included)

This dialogue series is intended to help students see English in context. While studying aspects of language individually is helpful, it doesn't always reflect how real conversations sound and develop. By following this series, students can practice real language, which uses a variety of structures and vocabulary.


Each dialogue is divided into two parts:


1) The bare dialogue (always read and listen to this first)

2) A closer look at the language in the dialogue


I hope you find this useful. Whether you're studying alone or with someone else, it helps to read the dialogue out loud, and to practice set phrases such as "Sure did."


Episode 2: Ryan's Cab Ride

Note: This dialogue uses many phrasal verbs from 100 Practical English Phrasal Verbs.


The dialogue

Ryan has just hailed a cab. He is going to meet his friends at a restaurant downtown.


Ryan: Good evening.


Driver: Evening. Where to?


Ryan: Uh, Pacifica Bistro on Main and Cedar.


Driver: The seafood place, right?


Ryan: Yeah. That's the one. You been?


Driver: No, but I've heard good things. I'll getcha there in about 20 minutes. (the driver starts driving)


Ryan: Sounds good. Sorry, but could you turn the radio down? I feel like we're talking over the music a bit.


Driver: Sure. Sorry about that. (the driver turns down the volume on the radio) My ears aren't what they used to be.


Ryan: Happens to all of us. So, are you originally from here?


Driver: No, I grew up in Chatterton. It's about an hour north of here.


Ryan: Small world! I've got some family up there, too. Nice place.


Driver: Yeah, but it's got nothing on the big city, you know?


Ryan: I know what you mean, but there's something to be said about a small town. You go back there often?


Driver: Once in a while. Just to see my folks. You?


Ryan: I'm actually going up there this weekend.


Driver: Oh, nice. Hope you have a good trip.


Ryan: Thanks.


A closer look

Ryan has just hailed a cab. He is going to meet his friends at a restaurant downtown.

"Cab" is an accepted synonym for "taxi," and is a short form of "taxicab." It is most commonly used in the US, particularly in the New York area. To "hail" a cab, means to wave your arms in the street to get a taxi driver's (or "cab driver's") attention.


Ryan: Good evening.


Driver: Evening. Where to?

"Evening" is a short form greeting of "Good evening." This is also true of "Morning" and "Afternoon," which are accepted short form greetings of "Good morning" and "Good afternoon." Next time you're watching a movie or television show, see if you can hear a character simply say "Evening," "Morning," or "Afternoon" as a greeting.


"Where to?" is a shortened form of "Where would you like to go?" or "Where are we going?" It is used by the driver of a vehicle. While it is often used by taxi drivers, it can be used by anyone driving a vehicle who's asking the passengers where they're going. For example, if you're in a car with your friends and your friends suddenly realize they're hungry and want to get lunch from a drive-thru restaurant, if you're the driver, you can say, "Sounds good. Where to?" In this scenario, you're relying on your passengers to pick a lunch location.


Ryan: Uh, Pacifica Bistro on Main and Cedar.

If you want to say that a place is "on the corner of street X and street Y," you don't have to say the words "on the corner of." You can simply say "On street X and street Y."


Driver: The seafood place, right?

The driver wants to clarify the restaurant that Ryan wants to go to. He has heard of Pacifica Bistro before, and he just wants to confirm that it's the seafood restaurant he's thinking of. You can use the tag "right?" when you want to clarify or confirm what a person is talking about. You can use it with noun phrases, as in "The seafood place, right?" or with statements that you want to double check, such as "She's his mom, right?" or "They're moving next year, right?" In these cases, "right" simply replaces longer tag questions like "isn't she" and "aren't they."


Ryan: Yeah. That's the one. You been?

"That's the one" is a useful response to say "Yes, that is the person, place, or thing I am referring to." For example, "Do you mean the ice cream shop at the mall?" "That's the one!" / "Wait. Is that the town with all of the big animal statues?" "That's the one!" / "Isn't he the guy who ate three large pizzas in 45 minutes?" "That's the one!"


"You been?" is a short form of "Have you been?" This is a common question in spoken English when you want to ask if someone has been to a place before. You can expand it to something like "You been there before?" or "You been before?" or "You been there?" Just make sure the intonation of your voice rises at the end of the phrase, so the listener knows you're asking a question.


Driver: No, but I've heard good things. I'll getcha there in about 20 minutes. (the driver starts driving)

"I've heard good things" is a way to say "I have read or heard positive things about the person, place, or thing we are talking about." For example: "Have you seen his new movie?" "No, but I've heard good things." / "I haven't met his girlfriend yet, but I've heard good things." / "Have you ever had a Chicago style pizza?" "No, but I've heard good things."


"I'll getcha there in about 20 minutes" is a way of saying "I'll get you there in approximately 20 minutes" or "I'll transport you there in approximately 20 minutes." Another common construction with this idea is "I can getcha there in..." The spoken contraction "getcha" is used in both American and British English.


Ryan: Sounds good. Sorry, but could you turn the radio down? I feel like we're talking over the music a bit.

"Turn the radio down" means to reduce the volume of the radio. "Turn down" is a separable transitive phrasal verb that means to reduce the intensity of something. It often refers to the intensity of sound or temperature. For example, "Could you turn the heat down? It's too hot in here." / "The water is already boiling. You can turn down the stove."


In this context, to "talk over" something means to talk at a louder volume than something else in the same area. For example: "Sorry, I can't hear you! Could we talk somewhere else? I don't want to talk over the sound of construction noise!" (maybe there is a construction team fixing a city road, and their tools are very loud) / "Why do you keep talking over me?!" (in this case, a person keeps interrupting you and speaking louder than you)


Driver: Sure. Sorry about that. (the driver turns down the volume on the radio) My ears aren't what they used to be.

You can say something "isn't what it used to be" to mean it is not as effective or strong now as it was in the past. It can also simply mean that things are different in the present than they were in the past. In this context, the driver is saying that he listens to the music at a loud volume because he can't hear it very well if it's at a low volume--because his ears are not as sensitive as they were in the past. You can use this saying in many contexts, such as the following: "30 million euros for Ronaldo?! He's a great player, but he's not what he used to be." / "They were a great company before, but they're not what they used to be." / "The internet isn't what it used to be." What is something about your body that isn't what it used to be? (ex. "My lung capacity isn't what it used to be.")


Ryan: Happens to all of us. So, are you originally from here?

"Happens to all of us" is an encouraging way to say "Don't worry about it. That happens to everyone." In this conversation, Ryan is trying to be kind by saying that everyone's ability to hear gets worse as they get older. Another common variation of this response is "It happens to the best of us," which means it happens to good people and bad people alike.

What else is something that happens to all of us?


Driver: No, I grew up in Chatterton. It's about an hour north of here.

In this context, "grow up (in)" is an inseparable transitive phrasal verb that is used to talk about the process of becoming an adult in a particular area. "Grow up" can be expanded to refer to and is often used to discuss the places and/or experiences a person had as a child, or to talk about the process of maturing. For example: "I grew up in Islamabad." / "I grew up believing in unicorns." / "She grew up in a single-parent household." / "He's my best friend. We grew up together."


Ryan: Small world! I've got some family up there, too. Nice place.

"Small world" is a response which simply means "It's a small world." It can be used when you discover that you and someone you know have something in common that is surprising. For instance: "Wait. Derek Henderson is your dad? He was my gym teacher in grade 6! Small world!" / "I had swimming classes with your brother when I was a kid. Small world." / "What a small world! We both grew up in the same small town but didn't even know it!"


"Up there" and "down there" are phrases used to discuss a place you have already introduced in the conversation, and which you want to refer back to. You can use "up there" or "down there" depending on the place's geography relative to your current position, but some native speakers just use whichever one they feel like using in the moment, and don't worry about the geography. Here are some examples: "Oh, you're from Minnesota? I used to go to school up there." / "I haven't been to Calgary in a long time. What's it like down there these days?" / "I think she misses her hometown. She hasn't been up there in a long time."


Driver: Yeah, but it's got nothing on the big city, you know?

If something "has got nothing on" something else, it means the second something is better in many ways. Essentially, there is "nothing" the first something does better than the second something. In this case, the driver is saying that his hometown, Chatterton, is not nearly as impressive as the big city he's in now. Here are some other examples of this idiom: "Why would Rita choose to be with Derek instead of you? Derek's got nothing on you!" / "My old phone's got nothing on my new phone." / "If you think Toronto's big, just wait until you visit Tokyo. Toronto's got nothing on Tokyo."


Ryan: I know what you mean, but there's something to be said about a small town. You go back there often?

If "There's something to be said" about (on the topic of) or for (in favour of) something, it means it has some advantages or attractive characteristics. It's like saying something is noteworthy or that is has positive things you can say about it. It is sometimes used when someone is comparing two things. For instance: "Renting an apartment might be cheaper, but there's something to be said about owning your own home." Here are some other examples: "I love driving, but there's something to be said about riding a bike in the city." / "The Nintendo Switch is an older video game system now, but there's something to be said for its longevity."


As discussed in episode 1, "You go back there often?" is an example of a yes/no present simple question with "You" as the subject that cuts off the auxiliary verb "Do," as in "Do you go back there often?" This is common in casual spoken English. Other examples include, "You wanna eat?" ("Do you want to eat?"), "You need anything?" ("Do you need anything?"), etc. This is also possible with the verb "to be" and adjectives. For instance: "You tired?" ("Are you tired?"), or "You sure?" ("Are you sure?").


Quick note: "go back" is an intransitive phrasal verb that means "to return." "I need to go back home," "That was a cool place. We should go back one day!"


Driver: Once in a while. Just to see my folks. You?

"Once in a while" simply means "sometimes." "My folks" refers to "My parents."


Ryan: I'm actually going up there this weekend.

Here is "up there" again! This simply refers back to the town of Chatterton.


Driver: Oh, nice. Hope you have a good trip.

"Hope you have a nice trip" is just a shortened form of "I hope you have a nice trip." The verb "hope" is often used without the "I" subject in cases like these. "Hope you like it." / "Hope you enjoy your day." / "Hope it's not too long." / "Hope you get what you want." This could be confused with the imperative, meaning "I want you to hope that you have a good trip," but hope is so rarely used in this way that the confusion is rare.


Ryan: Thanks.


Did you enjoy episode 2 of the English Dialogues series? Let me know in the comments, and please tell me how I can improve similar posts in the future.


Finally, this dialogue used some phrasal verbs from my first book, 100 Practical English Phrasal Verbs. It has only high-frequency phrasal verbs, over 900 examples, and only the most current usages. I made it with English learners and teachers in mind. Take a look and let me know what you think!

Until next time, I wish you success in your studies.

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