Lesson 190: Boil Down To | English Phrasal Verb | Phrasal Verbs

Lesson 190: Boil Down To | English Phrasal Verb

Boil Down To English Phrasal Verb

In this lesson, you are going to learn how to use the English phrasal verb ‘Boil Down To’ and the meaning of it is to be the main reason for something. The examples we have created for you will show you the right way of using this in context.


Phrasal Verb: Boil Down To

by Real English Conversations | Phrasal Verb Course

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Phrasal Verbs Lesson: Boil Down To 

Alternative Meaning: to summarize main reason for something or the most basic part of something.

Example 1:

  • This problem boils down to bad communication between the management and employees.
  • This problem summarizes to the bad communication between the management and employees.

Example 2:

  • If I had to boil it down to the highlights of the trip, I would say it was surfing and seeing the carnival.
  • If I had to summarize the highlights of the trip, I would say it was surfing and seeing the carnival.


The English Phrasal Verbs Course

Learning phrasal verbs from a list is not the best way to do it. You need to learn the meaning of phrasal verbs through the context of a situation. In our English phrasal verb course, you will get two examples using the phrasal verb in each lesson. Once you have studied 10 lessons, you can test your knowledge using the English phrasal verb stories.

The phrasal verb stories are the key to helping you understand the verbs that have multiple meanings and to comprehend what the phrasal verbs mean when you hear them. To learn more about the course and see an example of the lessons you will receive Click Here.

Please share this lesson if you thought it was helpful and leave a comment below using an example if you want to receive a correction 🙂

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Is Guessing a Skill When Learning English??

learn english and guess

Accept that Guessing is Okay when Learning English

Taking a guess is like taking a chance. You never know if you made the right choice until it is too late. Guessing feels like you are taking a tiny risk that might be wrong…

Perhaps that is why you feel uncomfortable ‘guessing’ what things mean when you hear them in English or you feel afraid to say a word that seems right even though you have never heard it before. This is a natural part of learning English and having to take those chances trying to use English with real people.

I like to think that being good at guessing can help you to learn English faster in certain areas.


Perfectionists + Learning a Language = Impossible

The key to fast learning and making progress with languages is to study things and do activities that are challenging. Nothing too difficult, but challenging, with the goal of trying to learn something new in the process.

The ‘problem’ is that challenging activities can be difficult to understand perfectly… and you might not have a teacher around to ask questions to. In these cases, you have to guess.

Here is the question: Are you ‘learning’ English PROPERLY even if you don’t understand everything PERFECTLY?

The quick answer is YES!


learning english in the classroom

Learning English in the Classroom versus Learning Independently

The big difference between learning English in the classroom versus learning English by yourself is that you are often without the guidance of a teacher. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

When you study independently you may doubt that you are learning the language correctly because you often have to guess what something means. This is a very important skill to have for having conversations with people

There is a normal period between the beginner and advanced level where you don’t understand everything. Especially when you start working on intermediate lessons when you are ready to progress from the beginner level.

In that period of time… you feel like you don’t understand very much of anything.


Is Guessing like Cheating?

Skill to Develop #1: Learning to guess or make predictions of the meaning based on context

For someone that has come from a classroom learning environment, ‘guessing’ what something means can feel like you are cheating or like you are not learning something fully.

Making predictions about a meaning when you are studying a language is an essential skill to advancing. More importantly, it is developing the ability to be comfortable with ‘not knowing’ if it is 100% correct.

What makes languages interesting is that they are understood even though the language doesn’t always follow the rules. Native speakers have learned grammar rule exceptions, expressions, and everyday colloquial communication by simply guessing the meaning from context and accepting their meaning. You can do the same thing too.

learning english translator tools

Learning to Use the Right Tools 

Skill to Develop #2: Learning how to use several different translation tools and websites very well

If Google Translate is your #1 translation tool…. pay attention, you need help!

You need to learn how to use other translator tools that are much more accurate and most importantly, start trusting your own knowledge of English.

Let me explain…

The accuracy of google translate is horrible. I mean, it is useful in some cases but it truly is my last resort for trying to figure out what something means.

The first skill is recognizing what part of the sentence you need to understand:

  • Is it a single word?
  • Is it a phrase?
  • Do you think it’s an expression?
  • Is it a weird grammar thing you’ve never seen before?

Depending on the answer, you need different translator tools (which is a completely different topic…) To get a list of my favorite translators and tools to use for Learning English click here.


To successfully understand a sentence, follow this order:

  1. Use and apply the knowledge you already have about English. Don’t doubt it, it is likely correct!
  2. Look up individual words you don’t know for their meaning.
  3. If there are a series of words together that don’t make sense, check if it is a phrase by using a translator like using context.reverso.net.
  4. If you still don’t understand the sentence or one part is hard to figure out… then use google translate.

Where and Why I Seen Fast Progress

After YEARS of studying Spanish (14 years to be exact…) I was only at a beginner level, maybe pre-intermediate. I was tired of being a beginner and I decided to figure out what I needed to do in order to reach the next level.

I had a couple of skype conversations… which was brutal! I could not understand anything a native speaker said to me and what was worse, I couldn’t understand what they were writing either when we would text chat 🙁

Desperate to understand something and quickly respond, I used Google Translate. During those first conversations, I was often guessing what the person was saying to me based on a very bad translation.

At the end of each conversation, I would look at the sentences they typed to me in the text chat and try to analyze the meaning of each sentence. I quickly learned how to see ‘phrases’ like: however, meanwhile, for the most part, etc.

Skype text chat learning English

I also realized almost all the vocabulary that I knew was completely useless in everyday communication. So, I added all the new words, phrases and verbs to a list to study for later.

Within about 2 months, my language skills went from a useless beginner to conversational intermediate student. I could understand more in conversations because I had learned the right words and I became really good at guessing the meaning of something based on the words I could understand. I continued to study real conversations from a website I found and I continued to see progress!

This is where the idea for Real English Conversations came from. I realized that English students did not have a good resource to study everyday American English conversations. There were lots of scripted conversations, but there was nothing natural and enjoyable to listen to. Now I’m showing you the tips and tricks I learned while teaching myself another language so you can improve your skills faster.

Building Confidence with Your Guessing Skills

I don’t believe a perfectionist will learn English (or any language) very well. They will be too busy trying to memorize verb tables and grammar to see the benefit of being incorrect or not understanding something perfectly. Learning a language must be a nightmare for a perfectionist…

Don’t loose sight of the real reason you are learning a language. It is to be able to communicate with people. Real people.

People do not always speak properly and you will continue to hear new words and phrases every day. Guessing will become a skill you need to use and be comfortable with.

Guess when you need to. It’s okay if you aren’t correct. You are still learning!

Do you consider guessing a skill? Leave me a comment if you prefer to know things PERFECTLY or if you are okay with understanding the general idea.

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Listen Deeper to Improve Your English Listening Skills


Advice for How to Improve Your English Listening Skills

A surprising amount of people have problems with their English listening skills… or any language that they are learning.

I am definitely one of them.

For me, listening did not come naturally and I didn’t realize that I had a problem until I had reached an intermediate level in my target language. I want to share with you the biggest mistake I think you might be making when it comes to progressing your listening skills faster to be able to finally start enjoying the American English movies, television series or even native speakers in an everyday English conversation.

You’ve Gotta Go Deeper!

If you’ve been to our website, you will know that we have a very popular podcast that features casual English conversations about different topics. Great for listening practice, right?

Our listeners are making one serious mistake with their good intentions of improving their English listening skills… they just aren’t going deep enough to really make a difference in their listening skills. I know that most English learners like to listen to an audio once or twice, then they move on to something else that is new and exciting.

The fact is… you won’t see significant improvement with your English listening skills by consuming new content all the time.

Your ears still can’t hear the words and phrases it didn’t recognize the first time and you still don’t know the words you couldn’t hear. Your listening skills are going to improve at a snail’s pace (very slow) if this is your plan of action to improve your listening.

Trust me, there is a faster way and you don’t need to listen to the SAME audio 100 times to see a huge results.


A Bit of Training to Improving Your Listening Skills

Being dependent on subtitles and transcripts reminds me of a deaf person watching a movie. The difference is that you CAN hear and you have to ability to understand the movie without subtitles with a bit of training, where as the deaf person will continue to need the subtitles. You have a choice to change your listening problem is my point.

With a bit of work and focus you can improve your listening skills to the point where you can truly enjoy English audio without the scripts EVEN IF you need them for now. Reading while you are listening is twice as much work and half as much fun. 

When you have weak listening skills, transcripts are a key part of your listening training. Especially if you don’t have a native speaker handy to tell you every 2nd word you can’t hear…

The fact is that you cannot hear the words. Speaking from personal experience, listening to the same audio clip 100 times doesn’t help me. If anything, my brain gets more confused trying to guess what in the heck I am listening to!

This is where transcriptions are essential and where I will explain the need to go deeper with your English listening skill development and get the most out of each piece of audio you take the time to listen to and study.


Take Your Listening Deeper

Let’s pretend you are listening to an English conversation and you can only understand 50% the first time. It is going to seem like you have a general idea about the topic but you doubt your understanding and are a little hesitant to explain what the conversation is about to another person. You might have a difficult time remembering what you just heard as well.

After listening a second time, you feel like you know about 60 or 70%. Which is great, you seen some improvement without a transcript!

But… why is that other 30% not important to you? You’ve already listened to the audio twice and you only seen a small improvement. Each time you listen without the tools you need you will see less improvement each time.

30% that you are ignoring or you cannot hear is:

  • New vocabulary
  • Unfamiliar sounds your brain is still filtering out as ‘unimportant’
  • Grammar you can’t understand at the speed of speech
  • And an adjustment to the new accent of the person you are listening to

The thing that you don’t realize is that everything you learn from one audio will be transferred over to other audio you hear. Once you train your ears to understand the most common words, you will hear them again and again in new audio… which helps you to understand the next audio better. The same is true for comprehending grammar and building your recognition for new accents.


english listening skills

How Vocabulary Affects Listening

If you don’t know a word, you won’t know means when you hear it. 

Lack in vocabulary can be a major reason why you aren’t understanding what you hear. Of course, you should be focusing on the most common words that are used in everyday speaking. Where do you think you are going to find the most common words in spoken English?? Well, probably in everyday conversations

To figure out if you have a problem with vocabulary all you need to do is read a transcript without the audio. If you feel that you know most of the words but you don’t understand the audio without a transcript perfectly, you likely have a problem with your brain filtering out ‘new’ and ‘foreign’ sounds.

The Filter Between the Brain and Your Ears

Ohhhh, the filter. If you have never heard this before, let me explain it to you.

listening filter coffeeYour ears are constantly hearing sounds around you but your brain is usually very good at telling you which ones are important. For example, if you hear the doorbell, you will instantly be alert and know you need to go to the door right away because someone is there waiting for you. On the other hand, the dog barking outside is just background noise that you only hear for a moment of two throughout the day.

The filter kind of works the same with languages. Your brain recognizes the sounds from your native language and allows these sounds to be registered as important. Once the sounds are recognized, the brain can move onto connecting the sounds to make words and finally, a complete idea.

Foreign sounds in a new language can be filtered by your brain as ‘unimportant’ just like the barking dog outside or the fan blowing in the background. Even though you are trying really hard to hear these English sounds… your brain is literally ignoring them which is why you probably have a hard time repeating something you didn’t hear very well.

Train Your Ears to Learn the New Sounds when Listening to English

Get some audio and a transcript. It’s time to get to work. You can download a full English conversation on our website.

Listen to a short section of audio. If you cannot understand what you hear, read the transcript and listen again. If it is still hard, slow down the audio and make sure you can hear every single sound. Here’s a video about how to slow down audio using two popular audio players.

Don’t feel stupid if you need to listen again and again to a section of audio that only has 5 or 10 words. Sometimes native speakers are talking quickly and it takes longer for your brain to process the sounds when they are really fast. The more you listen to the same audio (with the transcript as your assistant), the audio will become clearer and clearer.

man-909049_1280A secret tip: Listen to the same audio the next day.

I have found that I can understand audio that I have studied much better the next day.  My brain automatically understands words I was struggling to hear the day before without any extra effort. I think overnight while you sleep, your brain processes the new things that you were telling it to pay attention to. Then, the next time you hear those sounds, your brain is not ignoring them!

Comprehending Fast Audio and Complicated Grammar

Processing the audio that you hear at a normal speed is a different listening skill altogether. In the same way that you use transcriptions to assist you with recognizing new words and sounds, you can use them to assist in listening comprehension.

Close your eyes and listen to the audio. When there is a part that you do not understand very well, look at the transcript and try to figure out what it means. Pay attention to the grammar and sentence order too. You should be able to hear and be processing all these little details while you are listening.

I recommend focusing on your listening comprehension separately as an independent activity with the goal of having a deep understanding of what you are hearing.  


burn the english transcript

Throw Away that Transcript!

The moment that you can stop using the transcript, you need to stop using it. Once you feel like you have mastered a section of audio or you have improved your listening as much as you can, it is time to only listen to the audio.

The purpose of having a transcript is only for understanding what your ears cannot recognize on their own. This is the absolute key with using transcriptions and subtitles!

If you are depending on the subtitles, you need to be rewinding that section of the movie again and again until you can hear what the actors are saying without using the subtitles.

Stop being lazy when you are listening and you will start seeing results! In a very short period of time you will notice you hear more and more of everything you listen to. Go deeper with your listening and do activities that are going to make a difference when you are trying to improve it.

Please leave me a comment below to tell me what you thought about this article. Have I convinced you to go deeper with your English listening to get to your goals faster?


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