Hey there! This is TOP episode 47: Learn English With U2 ‘One’

My name’s Ola and I am an English teacher. This podcast is for you if you want to start speaking English fearlessly. I help people fight the fear of speaking, become confident, fluent and independent. 

In this episode, you’ll practise speaking and in turn boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar and improve your pronunciation. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Hello again! Thank you for being here. Today we’re going to expand your vocabulary but also to see some grammar elements put into practice. The song I’ve chosen for this episode, ‘One’ by U2 is a massive piece in the history of pop music. It’s number one on the Nation’s Favourite 100 Lyrics published by VH1. Sony created a list of most popular songs of all time and ‘One’ is number 5 on it. The song was covered by Johnny Cash and Joe Cocker. There’s a version with Mary J. Blige, released in 2006. It was a huge success, becoming one of the best-selling songs ever. What a success. Let’s break down today’s episode.

First I’ll tell you a little story behind the song, how it was created. Then we’ll jump right into the lyrics, we’ll go through them all, line by line. I’ll give you plenty of time for repeating each and every line. Slowly and with understanding. 

We’ll have a break every four or so lines, to explain words, grammar. We’ll look closely into items which are useful and practical, things you might use in a real conversation. I’ll also give you extra sentences to repeat. Sentences with similar or different meanings to the original one, taken from the song. 

I really hope you’ll enjoy it! When you’re done with the whole episode go to teacherola.com/47 and grab a wee..  (?) and grab a weird worksheet? No, a free worksheet I’ve prepared for you. It’ll allow you to test your memory and listening skills. It’s just the lyrics with a  few gaps for you to complete.  And it’s available at teacherola.com/47.

The song was written in 1992 in Berlin. U2 experienced huge success at the end of the 80’ and they found themselves at a critical point. The band was divided. There were significant differences among the members of the band, not going into details let’s just say that they were considering ending the whole project called U2. 

That moment of division, insecurity, broken dreams and so on turned into one of the biggest hits in their career. Suddenly the inspiration just sort of hit them and they played this tune. Just like that. Everything was almost gone and then out of nowhere this tune arrives. Everybody in the room knew from the very moment there’s something special about that piece. They felt it was going to be massive. 

So, it’s a story of a break up. Anger, disappointment, disillusion. But in the end, there’s no one to blame, that’s life, it just kinda happens. There’s hope though. We have to move on, start again, maybe in a different way but certainly something can be build on it. On those ruins.

Now, let’s listen and repeat the lyrics together. Line by line, as always. Here we go: 

Is it getting better

Or do you feel the same?

Will it make it easier on you now?

You got someone to blame

Is it getting better – here I wanted to steer you attention to grammar. It’s present continuous tense, and the reason why we use it in such sentences is because we want to express how the situation is changing. It’s dynamic, it’s changing all the time, it’s not constant. For example:, and now listen and repeat:

It’s getting late.

You’re getting taller and taller every year.

The weather’s getting better.

Will it make it easier on you now – to make something easier on someone and to make something easier for someone. Are these two phrases the same? They’re really really close, but not the same. If you make something easier for someone you simply help someone. If you make something easier on someone, it might be something you caused, you contributed to. It’s something hard for that person, you want to assist them in getting over it. Listen and repeat: 

They want to make it easier for patients to be treated at home.

In order to make it easier for our readers, we’ve created a list of contents.

I never told him about my illness to make it easier on him.

Coming back to the lyrics:

You say one love, one life (One life)

It’s one need in the night

One love (one love), get to share it

Leaves you darling, if you don’t care for it

Leaves you, darling, if you don’t care for it – to care for something or to care for someone means to look after somebody who is sick, or very old or very young. Somebody who needs it. Like love. It’s fragile and it needs care, attention, you have to care for it. Listen and repeat extra sentences:

They moved home to care for their grandchildren.

He cared for her more than she realized.

Baby, I care for you.

Next verse:

Did I disappoint you?

Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?

You act like you never had love

And you want me to go without

Did I disappoint you? – to disappoint someone means to make somebody feel sad because something that they hope for or expect to happen does not happen or is not as good as they hoped. We see this phrase in the past simple tense here. It’s because it’s past. It’s done, it can’t be changed, just past. 

Listen and repeat:

Did I disappoint you?

Are you disappointed?

How disappointing!

leave a bad taste in your mouth – it’s an idiom meaning: to give someone a negative impression, a bad feeling or memory. Examples:

The fact that he lied to you just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It was a very nice hotel, but something about it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Ok, let’s move further, stay with me, you’re doing great! Here we have the next verse:

Well it’s too late, tonight

To drag the past out into the light

We’re one, but we’re not the same

We get to carry each other

To drag the past out into the light – to drag something out means to prolong something. Make something last longer than necessary.

Here, it’s a different meaning. The past shouldn’t be dragged out into the light. It shouldn’t be talked about, because it’s pointless, it’s too late to do just that. It should have been left where it belongs – the past.  Listen and repeat:

Let’s not drag out this discussion—we need to reach a decision.

I don’t want to drag this meeting out too long

We get to carry each other – to carry something or someone means to support the weight of somebody/something and take them or it from place to place; to take somebody/something from one place to another. Listen and repeat:

He was carrying a large bag.

The plane was carrying 100 passengers.

She carried her baby in her arms.

Have you come here for forgiveness?

Have you come to raise the dead?

Have you come here to play Jesus?

To the lepers in your head

Have you come here for forgiveness? – present perfect tense. Have you come here for forgiveness? You are here now, you’ve just come. And that’s the link between past and present you need for  the present perfect tense. You are here now. So, why have you, why have come here? Bear in mind that ‘come’ is an irregular verb. Come – came – come. The third form should sound exactly like the first one. So, have you come here? Let’s repeat sentences:

I have come here for forgiveness.

Have you come here for the present?

to raise the dead – to raise somebody from the dead means to bring them back to life, make the living again. 

To the lepers in your head – a leper is a person suffering from leprosy, a disease that causes painful white areas on the skin. It’s very infectious. And the second meaning of a leper is a person that other people avoid because they have done something that these people do not approve of, a person who is ignored or despised, rejected, like an outcast. Listen and repeat:

His views have made him a social leper.

They treated me as if I was a leper.

Listen and repeat the next verse of the song:

Well, did I ask too much, more than a lot?

You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got

We’re one, but we’re not the same

See we hurt each other, then we do it again

See we hurt each other – I chose this word for the sake of its pronunciation. It should be pronounced with a long /ɜː/ sound. /hɜːt/, /hɜːt/. Let’s see this word in other examples:

Did you hurt yourself?

My back is really hurting me today.

My shoes hurt—they’re too tight.

Charlie bit me and it hurts!

And it’s still hurting!

Coming back to the lyrics:

You say love is a temple, love is a higher law

You ask me of me to enter, but then you make me crawl

And I can’t keep holding on to what you got, ’cause all you got is hurt

love is a higher law – once again I picked a phrase just because the pronunciation here is challenging. Love is pronounced with /ʌ/ sound, whereas law is pronounced with a long /ɔː/ sound. /lʌv/,  /lʌv/, /lɔː/, /lɔː/. A bit counterintuitive, I know, I feel you. Listen just practice:

Love is a higher law.

This company violated the law.

No one is above the law.

then you make me crawl – to crawl is to  move forward on your hands and knees or with your body close to the ground. Listen and repeat:

Our baby is just starting to crawl.

She crawled under the fence.

And I can’t keep holding on to what you got – to hold on to something means to keep holding something, stick to something. Listen and repeat:

Hold on and don’t let go until I say so.

You should hold on to your oil shares.

The very last verse, there you go:

One love

One blood

One life

You’ve got to do what you should

One life

With each other

Sisters and my brothers

Here you have it. Great work, thanks again for tuning in and bearing with me till the end. 

Take this episode one step further and download the worksheet with a task. It’s available at teacheola.com/47. Play the song, listen to Bono and complete the missing words. Check out the transcript it’s also there. Teacherola.com/47

If you know someone who likes learning with Music, learning English with Music or someone who is a fan of U2 spread the word and let them know about me! 

Now, I have a question. Did you like this episode? What other songs would you like to listen about?   Leave a comment on my website. Or send me a message. 

In the next episode, we’ll be finally dealing with mixed conditional sentences. Make sure to subscribe and do not miss it!

Have a great week, till next time, happy learning, take care, bye bye!