Lou Reed: Perfect Day – a listening comprehension exercise


The Lou Reed song Perfect Day was recorded in 1972 but became really famous only decades later, when it was featured in the film Trainspotting.

Your task is to listen to the song and complete the lyrics. If you can’t find a word, you can ask for a free letter.

The difficulty of this exercise is below B2 level (intermediate).

You’ll find other tasks based on this song here later.

Dance Me to the End of Love by Leonard Cohen: a listening comprehension exercise


This Leonard Cohen song is not only beautiful but is also a good way to improve your listening skills. It shouldn’t be very difficult to fill the gaps as they are fairly common words – the tricky thing is to understand the whole of the song, but that should be a different lesson.

For now, it’s enough if you listen and complete the text:

The difficulty of this task is below B2 level – somewhere between intermediate and upper-intermediate.

There will be more tasks based on this song, so check back soon.

a-ha — Take On Me: a listening comprehension exercise


Norwegian band a-ha came out with a brilliant new version of their classic Take On Me. Your task is to listen and complete the text – you only have to choose from a list of words.

This exercise is around B2 level on the CEFR scale.

John Lennon: Imagine – a listening comprehension exercise


Imagine is probably one of the most famous songs ever written by John Lennon.

In this task you have to complete the lyrics of this song after listening to it – the good news is that you only have to choose the missing words from a list.

The difficulty of this exercise is around B2 level on the CEFR scale, which is approximately upper-intermediate level.

There will more tasks based on this song later, including vocabulary exercises too.

Ye Olde Pronunciation Question


This is something that I’ve wanted to share for quite some time but somehow there was always something else that seemed more important at the time. This is it:

pub sign Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

I mean the first word: ye. What does it mean, how do you pronounce it and where does it come from?

Actually, the answer is simpler than you’d think: it means the, and it is pronounced ðə (just like the word the when unstressed): It is spelled with a y because the Latin alphabet didn’t have a letter for the ð sound, and there was a time when the letter y was used to represent this sound.

OK, so this was the short version. Here is the slightly longer and more detailed explanation:

Old English had a letter called the thornþ. This was used for the sound ð, so what is today written as the, was þe in Old English. In handwriting (and in those days they only had handwriting, of course), þ and y looked very similar and were used practically interchangeably. After a time, the letter þ fell out of use and the sound ð got represented by the letters th instead.

But what about the word olde? Well, it’s just a clever way of making things look, well, old. Or archaic, if you will – because business owners believed that if they manage to make their shop (pub or any other business) look old, it will give the impression of being well-established and reliable, which should mean more customers. Some modern English words had an extra -e at the end in Old English, which people easily recognised as archaic. So pub owners started using the phrase Ye Olde [something] around the middle of the 19th century in the names of their pubs. The word old used to have a number of different spellings: alde, awld, auld – remember Auld Lang Syne? – and ole, but olde was not a frequent version at all. It didn’t matter: it became a popular phrase.

Yes, I know that this is still a somewhat simplified version but I didn’t think most people would want to read a chapter-length explanation of a two-letter word or a two-word phrase.

One final thing: ye was pronounced jiː when used as the second person plural personal pronoun; put simply: you when talking to more than one person.

Read these Wikipedia articles to learn more about the topic:

Ye (pronoun)

Ye olde

Ye form

Vocabulary exercises based on the U2 song One: drag, forgive, raise


We’ve had a number of exercises based on the U2 song One earlier, starting with a listening comprehension task, then a reading text on the background of the song, which was more of a vocabulary exercise, then two collocations tasks on the word blame, and a word formation exercise on the word disappoint.

The tasks in this post will help you learn how to use the words drag, forgive and raise.

The difficulty level of these tasks is slightly below B2 level (between intermediate and upper-intermediate).

There will be more vocabulary exercises based on this song.

Vocabulary exercises based on The River by Bruce Springsteen


All the vocabulary exercises in this post are based on the song The River by Bruce Springsteen.

Earlier we posted a number of exercises based on this classic song:

This post offers vocabulary exercises on the words haunt, aisle, curse and vanish.

There will be more vocabulary practice exercises based on this song.

The Beatles: Eleanor Rigby – gap filling


The famous Beatles song Eleanor Rigby has already been featured on EnglishFiles.com in a slightly more difficult task. This current exercise is easier as you only have to choose the words from a list:

The difficulty is around B2 on CEFR scale, or about upper-intermediate level.

There will be more exercises based on this song later.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole


The soundtrack of this version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow (originally from The Wizard of Oz) was featured in several films, commercials and radio shows, and the video was downloaded over ten million times.

Your task is to listen to the song and complete the text.

There will be more tasks coming later based on this song.

Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel – a listening comprehension exercise


cover of Peter Gabriel single Solsbury HillSolsbury Hill is an important song in Peter Gabriel’s career for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was the first song he published as a single after leaving his band Genesis, where he had been the lead singer since the start. Secondly, it is the song that he played the most often in concert: he included it in the setlist for every tour and played it no fewer than a total of 706 times to date.

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Peter Gabriel’s debut album featuring Solsbury Hill and he (or his team?) came up with a special idea to celebrate: they put together a montage of his live performances of the song. In the video below you can see six rather different Peter Gabriels playing the same song, from 1978 to 2013.

The listening task that follows is not very difficult in itself as you only have to choose the missing words from a list. Later you’ll find more tasks based on this song, most of them more difficult than this introductory one.

We’ll come back to revisit this song (and this video especially) since the lyrics should be interesting to look at more closely and also because this version contains a slightly modified version of the final verse.