Hi, I'm Vanessa from SpeakEnglishWithVanessa.com.
Do you know how to use the word unless?
Let's talk about it.
Are there any words in English that you think, "I understand it when she says it, but I just
can't use it."
Maybe one of those words is the word unless.
If it's difficult for you to naturally use the word unless, this lesson is definitely
I like to call the word unless a lynch pin word.
These are two lynch pins.
If you take out that pin, it's bad news for your machine, it's not going to work, it's
probably going to fall apart.
The word unless is a lynch pin word in your sentence.
If you take out that word, your sentence doesn't have much meaning.
Your sentence kind of falls apart, so you need to know how to use it accurately.
Native English speakers use lynch pin words all the time.
Words like happen, actually, unless, though.
If you'd like to learn how to use some more of these lynch pin words, you can check out
the videos I made up here featuring those words.
It's your lucky day.
All right, let's get started on how to use the word unless.
Imagine this wonderful scenario.
I've invited you to come over to my house for dinner at 6:00 PM.
I'm going to make one of my favorite winter soups because it's a chilly day.
It's a great day to eat soup, and you're really excited.
Nothing is going to stop you from coming.
Well, except what might stop you from coming to dinner at my house?
Think about this.
You might say, "I'll come over to your house unless I get sick."
Maybe at the last minute, all of a sudden you get sick, and you call me and say, "Oh,
I'm sorry I can't come."
Okay, that's an unusual scenario.
Hopefully that won't happen at the last second, but this is an exception.
You think, "Nothing is stopping me from having dinner at Vanessa's house.
I am going to come no matter what.
Well, there is an exception, unless I get sick."
We could also reverse that sentence and say, "Unless I get sick, I'll come over to your
house for dinner."
We can put it at the beginning of the sentence or at the end of the sentence.
This exception can be moved.
Today we're going to look at some positive sentences, some famous quotes that use unless,
some negative sentences and some questions.
Do you think that we can use the word unless in a question?
You'll have to wait till the end of this lesson to find out.
Let's start with some positive sentences.
Have you ever been on a blind date?
I haven't, but I have some friends who have been on dates with people who they met online,
which is pretty common nowadays.
Usually you can tolerate a two hour dinner with pretty much anyone.
You can have a conversation even if it's not the most amazing experience, but let's imagine
that one of your friends is extremely picky.
Your friend might say to you, "I'm going to leave the date unless he has a Ferrari.
It doesn't matter if he's nice, friendly, kind, handsome.
Only if he has a Ferrari will I stay."
Your friend is kind of planning in advance to leave the date unless he has a Ferrari.
That's kind of a crazy example, but you get the idea.
A couple of months ago, I started to volunteer in an organization called the Free Forest
If you live in the US and you have kids, you should check it out.
Check it out online to see if there's a branch near you.
It's a lot of fun.
The basic idea is that, kids and parents go to nature and have free play for a couple
It's just a chance to be in nature.
The kids can play together and build their sense of curiosity and independence, but there
is an exception.
We need to go if it's raining, if the sun is shining, if it's snowing, but we also have
some fair rules.
One of those is, we'll meet up unless it's negative 10 degrees.
We just decided that this is too cold and especially in the area where we're from, this
isn't typical weather, so a lot of people don't have the right clothes for that kind
If it's negative 10 degrees, we will cancel our meetup.
This is really unusual.
This is an exception, so we could say, "We will meet up unless it's negative 10 degrees."
Do you love studying English?
Will nothing stop you from continuing to study English?
Well, I bet there's one thing that will stop you.
You might say, "I will continue studying English unless the world ends."
If the world ends, we'll have more problems than finding time to study English, right,
so this is the exception.
I will continue studying English forever.
There's an exception, unless the world ends, that's the exception.
Now, let's take a look at a couple of famous quotes using our lynch pin word unless.
The first quote is by Albert Einstein and he says, "Nothing will end war unless the
people themselves refuse to go to war."
He's saying that war will always continue.
Nothing will stop war, but there is an exception, unless the people themselves refuse to go
If there are no soldiers, there will be no war.
This is kind of an idealistic phrase, but it's quite deep and insightful.
He's kind of putting the responsibility on the people to stop war, instead of putting
that responsibility on the politicians.
If this is a interesting idea to you, I recommend listening to the song Universal Soldier.
This is an older song and there's a great cover by Donovan on YouTube.
You can check it out and listen to this great song talking about peace in the world.
The next quote is by Dale Carnegie, a great motivational writer.
He said, "People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they're doing."
Here the rule is all people rarely succeed.
It's unusual for people to succeed, but the exception is, when you have fun with what
you're doing, you will succeed.
I'm curious if you agree with this idea.
If you don't enjoy learning English, can you succeed?
Can you reach your goals of passing an exam or speaking confidently or understanding movies?
Do you agree that you need to enjoy what you're learning in order to succeed?
Let me know.
The next quote is by Dr. Seuss, who is a well loved children's book author.
In one of his books, his character, the Lorax says this quote.
The Lorax says, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get
better, it's not."
You see that he used unless at the beginning, that's fine.
It's a little less common in casual conversation, but this is a quote from a book character.
What does this mean?
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot.
He's putting responsibility on us.
Each individual has the responsibility to care about problems in the world.
When we care individually, then changes will happen, but if we don't care, nothing's going
Nothing's going to get better, so we need to care.
We need to take action.
It's our choice.
It's up to us.
This is difficult, but it's good motivation.
All right, let's move on to some negative sentences.
Each of these sentences has the word not in it.
"You can't improve unless you study," so you need to study.
The first half of this sentence is negative and the second half is positive.
"You can't improve unless you study."
The first half is negative, you can't, and the second half is the goal, the motivation.
You need to do this unless you study, so you should study.
"I wouldn't eat bugs unless I had to."
In what situation would you eat bugs?
Have you ever eaten bugs before?
Maybe if you were starving, if you had no other food.
This sentence is saying, the only situation in which I would eat bugs is an absolute necessity,
if I had to.
You can say, "I wouldn't eat bugs, well there is an exception unless I had to."
The end of this sentence is kind of cutoff.
You could say, "I wouldn't eat bugs unless I had to eat bugs," but we don't need to repeat
eat bugs, so we can just cut off that last part and say, "Unless I had to," unless it
was an absolute necessity.
My son won't go to sleep unless I tell him a story or two stories or three stories or
Before my son goes to bed, he needs for me to tell him a story or for my husband, Dan,
to tell him a story.
This is a requirement for sleeping for him.
At the beginning we have a negative part, my son won't go to sleep.
Well there's an exception unless I tell him a story.
I need to tell him a story for him to go to sleep.
Now let's go onto the question form.
Can you use the word unless in a question?
Take a look at this question and see how you feel about it.
Can you say, "Will you meet up unless it's minus 10 degrees?
Will you meet up unless it's minus 10 degrees?"
This is not used.
Instead, when you're asking a question, you need to use another expression that means
the same thing as unless.
For questions we need to use if plus not to make it a more natural sentence.
Let's take a look at a couple of examples so that you can see the question and then
you can see the answer form.
"Will you meet up if it's not minus 10 degrees?
If it's not minus 10 degrees?"
This is great.
When you're asking a question we're going to use if and not.
"Will you meet up if it's not minus 10 degrees?"
You can answer this question in two different ways.
You could just repeat that same sentence structure.
"Yes, we will meet up if it's not minus 10 degrees."
You can use that exact same sentence structure, but if you want to use our keyword today,
unless, you could say, "We will meet up unless it's minus 10 degrees."
You've got some options for answers, but for the question you need to use if plus not.
Let's look at a couple others.
"Would you eat bugs if you didn't have to?"
Here we're using if plus not and not is actually part of a contraction.
Did plus not becomes didn't, so you might ask, "Would you eat bugs if you didn't have
to like just for fun?"
Well you could say, "No, I wouldn't eat bugs if I didn't have to."
Okay, you're using that same sentence construction or you can use the word unless and say, "I
wouldn't eat bugs unless I had to."
Or what about this question?
"Will you keep studying English if the world doesn't end?
If the world doesn't," that's using not here, "end?
Will you keep studying English if the world doesn't end?"
"Yeah, I'll keep studying English if the world doesn't end," so same sentence construction.
You're just mirroring what was in the question.
Or you could use the word unless and say, "I will keep studying English unless the world
Is this true for you?
Let me know in the comments.
Let's do a quick review so that you can practice these sentences with me.
I want you to say these sentences out loud to train your pronunciation muscles to practice
Also to help you remember how to use the word unless naturally.
Are you ready to speak out loud with me?
Let's do it.
"I'll come over to your house unless I get sick.
I'll keep studying English unless the world ends.
People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they're doing.
You can't improve unless you study.
I wouldn't eat bugs unless I had to.
Will you meet up if it's not minus 10 degrees?
Would you eat bugs if you didn't have to?"
Great practice, and now I have a question for you.
Imagine that your friend says, "It's so cool that you're learning English.
I want to try to, what should I do to improve my English skills?"
Well, you need to give them some good advice about improving their English, so I want you
to finish this sentence.
You won't improve your English unless you practice every day, listen to real English
What's some advice that you would give to your friend?
Write a comment below answering this question and finishing the sentence as naturally as
Thank you so much for learning English with me, and I'll see you again next Friday for
a new lesson here on my YouTube channel, unless the world ends.
Talk to you later, bye.
The next step is to download my free ebook, Five Steps to Becoming a Confident English
You'll learn what you need to do to speak confidently and fluently.
Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more free lessons.
Thanks so much.