Views #1027 | Intermediate (B1)

Countries United

Shirley explains the terms United Kingdom and Great Britain and how they relate to Scotland.

Yuri: So, Shirley, we were talking about politics. How is the situation in your country?

Shirley: Well, you know I'm pretty much an on-the-fence kind of person and politics is not my forte. It's not something I like to get into a conversation about, so I'll just change the subject if that's alright. I'd like to tell you a bit about the United Kingdom. You know, I'm from Scotland and, you know, where is Scotland. I get this question so often. Is that in Norway? Is it a region of England?

So just to clarify, it's a bit complicated, but in the United Kingdom - the U.K - we have Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and then people know Great Britain.

Yuri: Yes, so I do.

Shirley: Great Britain is Scotland, England and Wales. To give the country it's full title, it's the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Norther Ireland. That's the full titl for the U.K. or Great Britain or GB, or England is just one country within four that are united. It sounds really complicated.

Yuri: Right, it's the biggest one right?

Shirley: England is the biggest country with a population of forty million. Scotland's about five million. Now, I correct myself. England is I think 49 million. Wales is about two million. Northern Ireland about two or three million, so in total the whole of the United Kingdom is about sixty million population.

How did that come about? Go back three hundred years or more even. England and Wales united over three hundred years ago and then Scotland was invited to join the union between England and Wales. Scotland agreed with actually many conditions. For example, one of the conditions was the money, the value of the pound. In Scotland, we have the Bank of Scotland pounds, and in England, it's Bank of England pounds. It's all the same sterling currency of the U.K. And it's very difficult in England to spend any money that's got Bank of Scotland written on it, even though it's all the same money. Anyway, that's another issue.

So, yeah, three hundred years ago, Scotland joined the union between England and Wales to become Great Britain and then I think early in the 1800's that's when Ireland joined. Of course now it's just Northern Ireland, and there's other history related to that. We could go on all day talking about how it became Northern Ireland. So yeah, so when people think of the U.K., they generally think the U.K. is England, but it's actually four countries

Learn Vocabulary from the Lesson



I'm pretty much an on-the-fence kind of person.

Most issues have two sides. A fence divides two sides. If you sit on the fence, you are not on either side. You are neutral or undecided. Here are a few examples:

  1. I am still on the fence about whether to quit my job.
  2. That guy always sits on the fence. He never takes a side.

not my forte


Politics is not my forte.

When you have a forte for something, that means you have special skill or talent or knowledge about it. When something is not your forte, that means you are not interested in it or are not good at it. Notice the following:

  1. Art is not my forte, so I never go to museums.
  2. Sports is not my forte, but I like going to big games.

change the subject


I don't like politics. I'll change the subject if that's alright.

When you change the subject, you stop talking about one topic and start talking about another topic. People sometimes ask to change the subject when they are talking about something they are not comfortable with. Here are a few examples:

  1. We talk about work too much. Let's change the subject.
  2. Not to change the subject, but did you see the moon last night.

just to clarify


Just to clarify, in the U.K. we have Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

When you clarify something, you make it more clear or easier to understand. We often use the phrase "just to clarify" to let the listener know we are going to quickly summarize what was said earlier so something is fully understood. Notice the following:

  1. Just to clarify, the bus leaves at nine and you must be here at eight.
  2. Just to clarify, you need to sign both copies, not just yours.

go on all day


We could go on all day talking about that.

When somebody goes on all day about something, that means they continue to do it for along time. It often refers to talking but can refer to other activities. Here are a few examples:

  1. I could go on all day talking about sports.
  2. She went on all day complaining about her job.

Vocabulary Quiz

on the fence • not my forte • change the subject
go on all day • just to clarify
  1. Now, , we all need to be here at ten and please bring your notes.
  2. I am still whether to buy a new house or just rent an old one.
  3. We could debating this so let's change the subject.
  4. Everytime I ask about his project, he tries to .
  5. Taxes are , so I hired an accountant.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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1027 Countries United
The United Kingdom and Great Britain.

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