7 Native English Phrases That Explain British Culture

There are some phrases in every language that tell you ALL you need to know about the culture!

Here are some which can help you understand British English speakers. They all describe different characteristics.

Pardon me!

Alternatives to this phrase are “I beg your pardon” and “Excuse me”.

We use these phrases mainly to be polite. For example, you can use one of these expressions if you accidentally bump into someone or push them, or if you want to get past someone.

We also say “Pardon me!” (or the alternatives) when you didn’t hear what someone said.

“Pardon me!”

Finally, we can say “Pardon me!” (and “I beg your pardon” and “Excuse me!”) when we’re angry with someone or when we want to disagree.

“Pardon me, but I don’t think you’re right.”
“I beg your pardon! Don’t swear at me!”

“I beg your pardon!”

No offence, (but…)

This is another polite phrase we use to mean that we don’t want to upset someone, but we’re going to say something that might sound rude.

“No offence, but you’re completely wrong about that.”
“I don’t think those trousers are very flattering. No offence.”

“No offence”

Get ideas above your station

British people are still quite aware about their social class. If you have / get ideas above your station, it means that you think you’re higher “rank” than you are.

(Some British people would be embarrassed if other people thought they were trying to show themselves as higher rank!)

“Don’t get ideas above your station. That military academy isn’t for the likes of you!”

Fancy a cuppa?

A cuppa = a cup of tea.

Most British people drink tea – a lot of tea! When you say “Fancy a cuppa?” you’re offering to make tea for someone, or a group of people. Most of the time, people will accept!

“Fancy a cuppa?”

What would the neighbours think / say?

Many people are concerned about what other people think of them. We don’t want to be considered in a negative way. So when you say this, you want to stop someone (in your family) from doing something embarrassing, for example.

“You can’t keep chickens in the garden. What would the neighbours say?”

“What would the neighbours say?”

I don’t want to make a fuss

This is another social “no-no”. If you make a fuss, you ask for things or behave in such a way that other people have to do things for you. It seems rude to inconvenience other people.

“Why didn’t you ask to get your medicine delivered to you?”
“Oh, I didn’t want to make a fuss.”

Stiff upper lip

In the past, boys were brought up to not show emotion or to cry. So even if they were sad or unhappy, they were supposed to keep a “stiff upper lip” to prevent themselves from crying.

“We don’t believe in keeping a stiff upper lip at this school. Boys are free to express themselves.”

“Stiff upper lip”

Hi! I’m Clare – the founder of this site. I want to help you become more fluent in English – and help you understand British English expressions!

My program Real English Conversations  shows you the phrases you need to speak fluently and confidently – and it helps you expand your vocabulary. Check it out below!