TV series English: Handmaid’s Tale

As you know, I love teaching English with TV series, and one of my favourite series right now is Handmaid’s Tale. Today I have for you something very special – a lesson from the very last episode!

Spoiler alert! I try not to be specific about the events, but you might get some hints about the plot. So if you aren’t up to date with the episodes – you might want to catch up with watching before you read this lesson!

The whole lesson will be based on one line:

“Cheer up! Fred and Serena are toast, and you just got away with murder. All in all, not a bad morning.”

This is what Commander Lawrence says to June in season 3, episode 12.

In this one line, there is so much great English happening, that I just had to pause watching and write it down, to be able to write to you about it!

The first thing: “cheer up” – an intermediate phrasal verb. This simply means “stop worrying, smile, be happy.” So, when your friend is sad, you can tell them: “Cheer up, I’ll get you some chocolate!” To a pessimistic colleague, you could say: “Cheer up, it’s Friday already!” Or, about yourself: “Ice cream always cheers me up.”

Second, the advanced idiom “to be toast,” which means “to have serious problems, especially when you’re punished.” In this situation (spoiler alert!), Fred and Serena are in a hard situation, which gives us hope for them being punished for their wrongdoing in the foreseeable future. You can use this phrase when you’re up to something mischievous, like you’re using your husband’s credit card without him knowing: “If he finds out about it, I’m toast.” Or a cat that just ate your ham might think to himself: “If my human finds out I ate their meat, I’m toast. I’d better run!”

Third, “get away with murder” – an upper-intermediate phrasal verb which means “do something bad and not be punished for it.” When your friend’s kids are spoilt, you can say: “They can do anything they want, they always get away with murder.” Or, when your boss favours a pretty blonde secretary, you can say: “Zuza is the boss’s pet, and she’ll always get away with murder.”

But, in this episode, the “murder” part is a bit more literal (dosłowna), as you’ll see… 😉

Last but not least, “all in all” – a nice expression which means “to sum up,” “generally speaking,” or “on the whole.” When evaluating a potential boyfriend, you might think: “He’s handsome, smart, rich – all in all, not a bad candidate!”

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See you next week!

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