YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
Learn English vocabulary words for driving! I will teach you the American English pronunciation for driving-related words common in the US. You can use this English vocabulary video as a training guide, reading along with me and practicing your pronunciation with the on-screen IPA.
We have shoulders, but also roads have shoulders. A car has a spare tire, but also, person might have one too. In this video, we’re going to go over a lot of vocabulary words for driving, and any alternate or idiomatic meanings they may have. Even if you know some of these words, I’ll make sure you’re focusing on the pronunciation of these words so that you’re understood and sound great when you say them. So come road tripping with me and learn vocabulary.
He wants some, too.
One of the things that’s so important for pronunciation is stress. Not just sounds. So before I have you imitate a word, I’m going to break it down into stress and unstressed syllables. For example, the first word, accelerate. I’m going to move my hand like this for unstressed syllables, and like this for stressed syllables. Ac– cel– Ac– cel– Accelerate. So copy those components of stress and do practice the words out loud. Accelerate. Accelerate. Unstressed syllables are shorter and flatter in pitch, and stressed syllables are longer and the pitch goes up and down. Ik-sel. Accelerate.
I guarantee you focusing on stress will help your pronunciation. Accelerate means increasing speed. The opposite in driving would be breaking, which is decreasing speed. And the pedal for this is the accelerator. That’s the noun.
The pronunciation is: ac-cel-er-ate. Notice the first C makes a K sound and the second C makes an S sound. Accelerate. I’m making that a Stop T. As the noun, accelerator, ra-ra-ra, accelerator. The T becomes a flap T because it comes between two vowel/diphthong sounds. Accelerate, accelerator. Say those with me. Accelerate. Accelerator.
Accident. I hope you never have one. I hope you never have one, but they do happen frequently and can cause a major slowdown or delay.
I hope we don’t hit many delays.
A delay or slowdown, of course, is when you’re not able to drive as quickly as you’d like, or maybe you can’t drive at all. Maybe traffic is totally stopped. You could say, ‘traffic is at a stand still’.
A slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Say that with me. Slow down. Delay. De-lay. Delay. Say that with me. Delay.
Let’s go back and talk about ‘accident’. Ac-ci-dent.
Just like with ‘accelerate’, the first C makes a K sound, and the second, an S sound. Accident. Ac-ci-dent. Say that with me. Accident.
A term you’ll hear in the US for an accident that isn’t serious is a fender-bender. The fender is the part of the car around the wheel, and a fender bender is when this, or any other part of the car has minor damage from a minor accident. Someone drove into my car on the way to work. Oh no, are you okay? Yeah, it was just a fender bender. Fender bender. Fen-der ben-der. Fender bender. Say that with me. Fender bender.
Don’t tailgate that guy.
Well, all right. But don’t be a backseat driver.
Two terms you heard there, tailgate, and backseat driver. A tailgate is the back of a truck, the part that opens down. That’s the noun. But as a verb, there are two different meanings. One of them means to have a party beside your vehicle. What? What’s that? Why would you have a party beside your vehicle. It’s common in the United States at sporting events especially American football, or some concerts, to arrive early and have a party in the parking lot. Is this common in your culture too, or is this a purely American thing? It often involves grilling, it can get very elaborate, people bring tents, tables, games, and there are even cookbooks dedicated to tailgating. It’s also really common for people to consume a lot of alcohol at a tailgate party.
But when driving, to tailgate means to follow the person ahead of you really closely – too closely. When I’m driving, I hate being tailgated. Here, I thought David was driving too closely to the car in front, so I told him not to tailgate that guy.
Don’t tailgate that guy.
Compound word, first syllable stress. Tail-gate. Tailgate. Tailgate. Say that with me. Tailgate.
Don’t tailgate that guy.
Well, all right. But don’t be a backseat driver.
He then told me not to be a backseat driver. Fair enough. A backseat driver is when someone who is not driving, you don’t have to be in the backseat, you can also be in the front, tells the driver what to do or what not to do. Pretty annoying if you’re the driver. This term can be used in other situations too, not just when you’re driving, but anytime someone comments on what you’re doing, criticizes you, gives you unwanted advice. For example, if David was commenting on decisions I was making about my youtube channel, without me asking for his advice, and I didn’t want him to, I could say, “Hey, David, I feel like you’re backseat driving my videos.” Or, “you’re being a backseat driver when it comes to my videos.”
Back up – a car in reverse. Notice how I connect those two words with the K. Back up. Back up. My life has gotten a lot easier since we bought a car with a backup camera. Both of these words will feel stressed: You’re too far forward, you have to back up. Back up. Back up. Say that with me. Back up. Back up.
You have somebody right in your blindspot.
What is this person doing?
Yeah. I see that person, thank you.
Someone was driving in my blind spot. That is the spot right next to you, just over your shoulder, where they won’t show up in your side mirror or your rearview mirror. Notice I’m not saying the D there. Most people drop the D in this phrase, so you can do it too to make it a little easier and to say and also to sound more natural. Blind spot. Blind spot. More stress on the first word. Blind spot. Blind spot. Say that with me. Blind spot.
Babe, if you slam on the brakes, the camera might go flying.
Slam on the breaks. To break, the verb, is the opposite of accelerate, and the term ‘slam on the breaks’ means to break very suddenly. Break. We have a BR cluster, you’ll want to be sure you go right from B into R, not buh-r, buh-r, but brr– br– break, break, say that with me. Break.
Changing lanes really intimidated me when I learned how to drive.
Change lanes. Both have the AY diphthong, both are stressed. That up-down shape. Change lanes. Change lanes. Say that with me. Change lanes.
Now, would you call this a country road?
A country road is a rural road, off the main highway, that goes, well, through the country. This one is paved, but they can be gravel roads or dirt roads as well.
Note we have a TR cluster here. The thing about this is it’s very common to make that a CHR. Ch– Country. Ch, ch, ch. Country. Country road. Country road. Country road. Say that with me. Country road.
A crosswalk is something that is painted on the road that is meant to be a safe spot for pedestrians, that is, people who are running or walking, to cross. You might see a sign like this, saying that you must yield.
Crosswalk, that’s a compound word with stress on the first word. Notice the L in ‘walk’ is silent. Crosswalk. Crosswalk. Say that with me. Crosswalk.
We also mentioned the word yield. I know this can be really tricky for my students because it has the Y consonant before the EE vowel, and they sound similar. In fact, the difference between ‘ear’ and ‘year’ can be impossible for some people to hear, I have a video on that, and I’ll link to it at the end of this video. To make the Y, the base of the tongue here in the front of the throat moves towards the back of the throat, just a little bit, narrowing that space. Yi-, yi- yield. Yield. Yield means you don’t have to stop, but you have to pay attention and look around you, because if someone else is approaching, they get priority. They get the right of way. Make the Dark L with the back of the tongue, not the front. Yiellll. Yield. Yield. Say that with me. Yield.
Your speed’s pretty steady there, babe. Are you using cruise control?
No. Just keeping it right at 73.
Cruise control. This is when you set your car and it holds a steady speed without you needing to keep your foot on the gas pedal. The letter S here does make a light Z sound, cruise, cruise. So it’s not crusss, crusss. Cruise. Cruise control. Control: first syllable, you don’t need to try to make a vowel there. Kn, kn. Control. Cruise control. Say that with me. Cruise control.
Is this a one-way street, babe?
This is a one-way street, yeah. And, this is actually a detour.
One-way street and detour. A one-way street is a street that you can only drive one direction on. Most streets are two-way. One-way, two-way.
Detour. This is a two-syllable word with first-syllable stress. The second syllable isn’t really pronounced the way the dictionary says it is. This is the symbol for the vowel in book, and I think the way we say it is a lot more like the OO vowel, detour. Detour. Detour. Detour. Say that with me. Detour.
Something you might do on a long road trip is get food from a drive through, where you pull right up to the restaurant, you don’t even have to get out of your car, you order from a window. On the sign, you’ll often see this non-standard spelling. The word should actually be spelled THROUGH, but using this shortened spelling has become popular with drive through’s. Drive through. Drive through. Say that with me. Drive through.
Exit. This is where you leave the highway, and this word has two different pronunciations. The X can either be pronounced KS, exit, ks-ks, or GZ, exit, gz-gz. Both are acceptable. You choose the one you like. I think I usually use the GZ pronunciation. Exit. Exit. Say that with me. Exit.
Flat tire. I hope you never get one! This is David changing our flat tire once in the airport parking lot. To deal with a flat tire you’re going to need a spare, and a jack.
Flat tire, notice I’m saying that with just one T. Flat tire. It’s not flat-tire. One stop of air, one release into a true T. Flat tire. Say that with me. Flat tire.
Jack. Jack. Say that with me. Jack. A spare tire is the extra tire that is usually stored under the trunk of your car. But it’s also an idiom that means, a roll of fat around someone’s waist. Why not have another beer? I’m working on my spare tire. Spare tire. Spare tire. Say that with me. Spare tire.
Gas station and service plaza. A gas station is something you can find anywhere. Simply, a place to get gas. But a service plaza is something particular to interstates, or highways. You don’t have to take an exit, get on a different road, it’s just right there, right off the highway, accessible only from the highway.
Gas station. Notice there, just like with ‘flat tire’, which connected with a single T sound, these words are connecting with a single S sound. Gas station. Gas station. Gas station. Say that with me. Gas station.
Service plaza. A service plaza has not just gas, but bathrooms, and lots of options for food. Service plaza. Service plaza. Say that with me. Service plaza.
Another thing you might find on the interstate is a rest area or rest stop – these don’t have gas station or restaurants. Rest area – the word after ‘rest’ begins with a vowel and I use the T to connect. Rest area. Rest area. But in ‘rest stop’, the ST is followed by a consonant, and I drop the T in ‘rest’. Rest stop, Rest stop. I just connect the two words with an S sound. It’s pretty common in spoken English to drop the T between two other consonants. Rest area, rest stop. Rest area, rest stop. Say those with me. Rest area, rest stop.
My husband and I debated. He said he uses ‘rest area’ and ‘service plaza’ interchangeably, and I said: No. They are not the same.
You can’t usually get gas at a rest area, can you? Isn’t it generally just a rest area?
Oh, I use ‘rest area’ and ‘service plaza’ interchangeably.
Oh babe, those are different things.
Well, I tend to take a little bit of a rest at a service plaza so…
But you can’t get service at a rest area.
Interchangeably – that means no difference in meaning. He said he uses ‘rest area’ and ‘service plaza’ to mean the same thing.
Fair enough – this is something you can say when you’re arguing or debating with someone, and they make a good point. You can’t argue it. What they said makes sense. Fair enough.
Now, let’s talk about a word i’ve already said several times, interstate. Notice I don’t say the first T. That’s very common. In fact, if you say that first T, it will likely sound unnatural and overpronounced. It’s common in English to drop the T after N, for example, interstate, interview, internet. And it’s not just in ‘inter’ words. Take the word ‘wanted’ for example, or the word ‘center’. We had centercourt seats.
Did you say ‘interstate’ babe?
Steve, do you say ‘interstate’ or ‘in-terstate’?
I rarely overpronounce the Ts in words.
So you, you would consider ‘interstate’ an over-pronunciation.
So, you say ‘innerstate’?
Yeah. I, I’m not sure you can differentiate between “i-n-n-e-r” and “i-n-t-e-r” in the way I pronounce words.
Difference between ‘iner’ and ‘inter’ with the way I pronounce words.
Try that with me, dropping the first T. Interstate. Interstate.
Let’s take a second to talk about lanes. This highway has three lanes in each direction. I want to be clear that in the US, we do not use the term ‘carriageway’. That’s a British English term. No one here will know what you’re talking about. In fact, I had to look it up to know exactly what it means. This is a six-lane highway, with three lanes in each direction. Lane, lanes. Say those with me. Lane, lanes.
Now is a good time to talk about shoulders. This road has no shoulders. You can’t pull off. This road does have a shoulder. Shoulder, shoulder, shoulder. Say that with me. Shoulder.
Now we’re at P. Let’s talk about parking. When Stoney was younger and in the car, and we would say we were there but we needed to park, he got really excited because he thought we meant this kind of park.
The word ‘park’ has the AH as in FATHER vowel plus R. One mistake I notice my students make sometimes is they say ‘prk’, and they don’t drop their jaw enough, they pull their tongue back for the R before they’ve made a clear vowel. Pa-, jaw drop, tongue forward. Pa-, par-, par-, park. Park. Say that with me. Park.
Parking lot, parking garage, parallel parking.
Parking lot. Say that with me. Parking lot.
Parking garage. Say that with me. Parking garage.
Parallel parking. Parallel parking. Parallel parking. Say that with me. Parallel parking.
When you pass someone, you’re behind them and then you change lanes so that you can drive past them.
Alright, there’s a big truck in the middle lane and we’re going to pass him on the left.
Pass. Pass. Say that with me. Pass.
You know when it’s hard to pass someone? When there’s a lot of traffic, you could say heavy traffic, like during rush hour.
Do you think we’re getting here on rush hour?
Uh, no, it’s Sunday so it shouldn’t be bad.
Rush hour is on weekdays, early in the morning, and late in the afternoon when people may be commuting to or from work.
Rush hour. Rush hour. Say that with me. Rush hour.
A commute is how you get to work, or school. And it implies a significant time or distance. For example, when choosing where to live, you’re going to want to consider your commute. I don’t even have to commute. I just walk 10 minute walk to work. But my husband does have to commute. He commutes 45 minutes by bus.
Commute. Commute. Say that with me. Commute.
Traffic. We have another TR cluster, and so many people will make the T a CH sound so it sounds like ‘chraffic’ rather than ‘traffic’. Traffic, traffic. Say that with me. Traffic. You might hear words like ‘heavy’ or ‘thick’ for times where there are a lot of cars on the road, and ‘light’ if there are just a few cars on the road. Also, the term ‘traffic jam’ refers to a point where there are so many cars on the road, no one is moving. This can happen when a car has to stop in an intersection and blocks traffic, or when there’s bad weather, for example. Traffic jam. Traffic jam. Traffic jam. Say that with me.
You might also hear the term traffic circle. We also call it a roundabout. So this is a roundabout, but it’s also used to mean a path, a way, that wasn’t very direct. For example, we got lost on a road trip, and we did find our way, but it was with a lot of wrong turns and taking wrong roads.
It’s a really roundabout way we just did.
There, we used roundabout not to mean a traffic circle, but to mean a non direct way to get somewhere.
Earlier we talked about yield, and of course, you’ll also come across stop signs and stop lights, or traffic lights, when you drive.
You might have a four-way stop, where everyone stops and the first one there goes first, or you might see a sign with a sigh below the stop sign that says ‘cross traffic does not stop’.
Stop, Stop, stop sign. Say those with me. Stop. Stop sign. Notice I’m not releasing the P, that would be: stop. Stop sign. Stop sign. Stop sign. And that sounds a little strange. We’re more likely to skip the release of a P if the next word begins with a consonant, like sign. Stop sign, stop sign. Say that with me again. Stop sign.
Another sign you’ll definitely see is the speed limit.
When’s the last time you had a speeding ticket?
Oh, it’s probably been 20 years.
What is the speed limit on this road?
I believe it’s 55.
See, you’re definitely speeding.
I’m speeding, but I’m going a modest 7 miles per hour over the speed limit.
I’m going to say 55 seem really slow for interstate.
It does. This is a really heavily traffic stretch. In a couple miles, it’ll open up a little bit and the speed limit will jump up to 65.
Speed limit, speeding ticket, speeding. Speed, speed, say that with me. Speed.
The word turn. Turn right, turn left. You might also hear the term right-hand turn or left-hand turn. Is this a tricky word for you? It has that R-vowel that I know can be tricky for my students. Don’t think of there being a vowel, just a longer R sound. T, urrr, n. Turn. Turn. Say that with me. Turn.
Another word with this vowel is ‘merge’. Here, we’re on the highway entrance, merging into traffic.
Again, don’t think of a vowel, just make a longer R. M, ur, g. Merge, merge. Say that with me. Merge.
Now, the next video you’ll want to watch is one I did on vocabulary in the car, similar to driving. If you’ve already seen that one, then please, please do watch another Rachel’s English video from the suggested videos, keep the learning momentum going. And of course don’t forget to subscribe. I love teaching you English, that’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.