43 Awesome Songs to Learn English: Learn Vocabulary and Grammar Through Music
Music is a truly universal language. We can all connect with songs no matter which languages we speak.
So, why is it sometimes so hard to understand the English you hear in songs? English songs on the radio can sound like total nonsense and be very hard to follow.
That’s where pop (popular) music comes in!
In this post, you’ll learn about 43 easy songs to learn English with that you can definitely sing along to. At the end, I’ll also provide six exercises you can use to learn English with songs.
- 1. “ABC” by Jackson 5
- 2. “Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley
- 3. “And I Love Her” by The Beatles
- 4. “Beautiful Day” by U2
- 5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
- 6. “Manic Mondays” by The Bangles
- 7. “Our House” by Madness
- 8. “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas
- 9. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
- 10. “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars
- 11. “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
- 12. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
- 13. “Live Forever” by Oasis
- 14. “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies
- 15. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
- 16. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
- 17. “The Sound” by The 1975
- 18. “Formation” by Beyoncé
- 19. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
- 20. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
- 21. “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes
- 22. “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots
- 23. “All My Friends” by Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper
- 24. “Here” by Alessia Cara
- 25. “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure
- 26. “We’re Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes
- 27. “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen
- 28. “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash
- 29. “Just a Girl” by No Doubt
- 30. “Bad Luck” by Social Distortion
- 31. “Black or White” by Michael Jackson
- 32. “Don’t Mug Yourself” by The Streets
- 33. “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas
- 34. “Since You’ve Been Gone” by The Outfield
- 35. “And She Was” by Talking Heads
- 36. “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams
- 37. “Ready to Run” by The Dixie Chicks
- 38. “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles
- 39. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
- 40. “If I Were A Boy” by Beyoncé
- 41. “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by Adele
- 42. “Hope You Never” by Tom Petty
- 43. “Stressed Out” by Twenty-One Pilots
- 6 Fun Exercises to Learn English with Songs
- And One More Thing...
1. “ABC” by Jackson 5
This English song features one of the most influential pop musicians of all time (the King of Pop: Michael Jackson), and it’s a great song all on its own.
The song focuses on vocabulary related to school and love, and its simple lyrics make it really easy to follow. Some school vocabulary, in particular, includes words like “arithmetic” (a type of mathematics) and the musical phrase “do re mi” (a common way for singers to sing scales in musical instruction).
It’s simple, catchy chorus makes it great for getting English lyrics stuck in your head, helping you learn all of those useful English words.
2. “Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley
Speaking of kings, Elvis Presley is known throughout the English-speaking world as the King of Rock n’ Roll.
This English song of his focuses on the topic of love. Elvis sings about how he’s always thinking of the woman he loves even though she feels he doesn’t pay attention to her.
The title is an English idiom that means “I am always thinking about you.” With lyrics like “Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have | You were always on my mind,” this song is a great way to learn idioms and love expressions in English, hear negative sentences and observe past tense verbs in use.
3. “And I Love Her” by The Beatles
“And I Love Her” is a classic love song by The Beatles. The topic of love is universal (understood by everyone, regardless of culture) and easy for listeners to relate to.
Even though lyrics like “Bright are the stars that shine | Dark is the sky | I know this love of mine will never die” are kind of poetic, the words are simple enough for learners of English to understand.
4. “Beautiful Day” by U2
This song is a little more challenging than the previous ones. With lyrics like “The heart is a bloom | Shoots up through the stony ground,” this song is a great way to learn about figurative and poetic language.
The song is about being positive and happy and about appreciating your life. Even if you don’t understand all the lyrics at first, it’s quite catchy.
When it gives you an earworm and you can’t stop singing the easier lyrics of this English song, you can think about what the song means. (This is exactly why it’s so easy and fun to learn English with songs!)
5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
Unlike the previous song, this song is easy for English learners because it’s very simple and straightforward—perfect for learning!
The song is about an overly possessive lover who loves someone else so much that they want to always be by their side. The rhyming lyrics allow for phonetic practice, too.
There are also a few idioms to take note of in this English song. When the singer says his heart aches, it means that he’s so upset by the fact that he isn’t with his lover, it’s as if it actually hurts his heart.
Further, to be lost without a trace means that someone or something has disappeared without any clues as to where they could have gone.
6. “Manic Mondays” by The Bangles
This song is a little complex, and the vocabulary can be a bit advanced for beginning English learners, but the content is right where it needs to be to benefit English learners just starting out.
The song outlines typical daily routines, and has helpful day-to-day routine vocabulary. Besides, who doesn’t wish it was Sunday? It really is the fun day.
This song is also good for seeing the past tense and the past progressive in action. The past progressive is formed with the past tense of the verb to be plus the present participle (a verb ending in -ing). An example of this is in the first verse: “I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream.”
7. “Our House” by Madness
This song is good for learning idioms and other English expressions such as a date to keep (to make an appointment or meeting on time) and Sunday best (someone’s fanciest, nicest clothes).
It’s also good for building vocabulary that a learner would use to describe the activities at a house.
The chorus is iconic, and it’s probably one of the shortest and catchiest in English music history.
8. “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas
Who doesn’t dream of sunny California on a cold winter’s day?
With lyrics like “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray,” this short English song is great for learning vocabulary about the weather and seasons.
It’s also an iconic example of a conditional expression. Check it out:
“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”
9. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
This catchy tune not only uses the past English tense in its various forms, but it also has quite a few examples of idioms and figurative expressions in English, making it a totally fun option to learn English with songs.
The title of the song is an idiom (I heard it through the grapevine) which means that someone learned a piece of information in an informal way, like through rumors or gossip.
Other idiom examples in this song include the following:
- Make me blue — Make me sad
- It took me by surprise — It surprised me
- To lose my mind — To become angry, upset or crazy
10. “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars
Learners of English will probably recognize this song as Bruno Mars’s worldwide hit from a few years ago. It focuses on someone who doesn’t want to do any work or leave the house that day. In fact, it seems that Bruno doesn’t even want to leave his bed!
Besides being undeniably catchy, this song is good for English learners because it uses the English future tense: “I’m gonna kick my feet up and stare at the fan.”
It’s also a great song to learn vocabulary for activities that people do when they’re at home, and it uses a lot of popular slang. Some of the slang terms might be hard for beginners, so I’ve broken it down a bit for you here:
- Chilling — Relaxing
- Snuggie — A sweater-blanket combination
- Dougie — A type of dance that was popular in the early 2010s
- My old man — A slang term for someone’s father
- Being in your birthday suit — Being naked
- Let everything hang loose — Be relaxed, not uptight or worried
11. “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
This is a great song about waiting for and missing a loved one, and it’s sung at a slow pace so you can take your time understanding and processing what’s being said.
Most of the verbs are in the present tense, so they’re also easy to understand.
You’ll learn some unique expressions like godspeed (to wish someone luck or safety on a journey), and be exposed to the poetic use of personification (when an object does something human) like lonely rivers sigh (take a loud breath) and the open arms of the sea.
12. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
This is a fantastic song for getting used to the English imperative (command tense), as there are many instances of commands like “Be my baby” and “Wait and see.”
Apart from the imperative, you’ll see many times where the song uses the easy English future tense construction: subject + will + verb.
Not only is the future tense used frequently, but it almost always forms a contraction with the subject, such as you’ll (you will) and I’ll (I will). Listening to this song will give you plenty of practice with both the future tense and forming contractions!
13. “Live Forever” by Oasis
“Live Forever” is a well-known song with generally optimistic (positive) lyrics that will introduce you to a few slang words, such as wanna (want to) and gonna (going to).
Additionally, this is the perfect song for learning how to use basic verbs like breathe, believe, die, live and see.
Listen to them used in a variety of sentences and use the song’s frequent repetition to help you memorize them better. Hearing these common verbs used in context and set to a melody (tune) will help them stick in your head!
14. “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies
As you might imagine from the title, this song is full of sweetness! From vocabulary words like kiss, sunshine, candy, sugar and more, these lyrics are filled with cute English words.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that these words only have one meaning! For example, sugar can be the white substance you use to sweeten your coffee, or it can mean a kiss, or be used as a term of endearment (something you call a loved one).
In fact, this song is full of English terms of endearment, like sugar, honey and baby.
15. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
This famous love song covers some basic vocabulary, including body parts—like face, head and eyes—and places—like home and school.
Additionally, there are some really great expressions to learn, such as “you stole my heart” (you made me fall in love with you) and “make a living” (to work).
For the most part, the song is fairly easy to follow, but don’t feel bad if you need to listen to it multiple times to really understand the relationship between the two lovers.
16. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
A classic pop song, these lyrics have tons of vocabulary words that have to do with places and nature!
Just some of the great place and nature words you’ll hear include taxi, parking lot (where you leave your car when you shop), hotel, museum, trees, birds and bees.
It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes Joni Mitchell uses abbreviations of words. Here’s what to look out for:
- ’em — them
- ’til — until
- DDT — abbreviation for a chemical used to kill insects
There’s also one phrase construction that’s grammatically incorrect (it’s slang):
- don’t it — doesn’t it
17. “The Sound” by The 1975
This is a song about love. The singer tells a story about loving someone who doesn’t seem to care much about them. The lyrics use words and phrases from philosophy (the study of who we are and why we exist).
For instance, Socratic refers to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. The Socratic method of teaching is asking the student questions that they have to figure out for themselves (instead of just giving them the answer).
Some other advanced vocabulary includes:
- Conceited — Someone who is too proud of themselves
- Sycophant — Someone who acts nice to get what they want
- Prophetic — A guess about the future that comes true
- Cliché — An overused saying or action that’s no longer original
18. “Formation” by Beyoncé
Warning: Explicit lyrics (some cursing and sexual references)
The word formation refers to the way something is arranged, like dancers or soldiers lining up.
In this song, Beyoncé makes several references to things associated with the American South, like collard greens and cornbread (two types of food popular in the South).
Just remember that many of the things she mentions are stereotypes—things that people say are true about a group of people, but they might not be true for everyone (for instance, not every Southerner likes collard greens).
It’s a good song to learn some slang and informal words and phrases, too. “I slay” is a slang phrase that means you’re very amusing, cool or impressive. Cocky is an adjective to describe someone who is very sure of themselves in an overly-confident way.
19. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
Sia’s catchy tune has a simple message: You don’t need money to enjoy yourself. Just keep dancing!
The lyrics repeat a few times, so this is a great song to practice understanding English lyrics.
Here are some terms to help you learn the song:
- Cheap thrill — Something exciting (a thrill) that only lasts for a short time (because it’s cheap)
- Won’t be long — A way to say that something will only take a moment
- Hit the dance floor — Go onto the dance floor and start dancing
20. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” is a feel-good song about how great dancing feels—and how great it feels to watch a person you like (or love) dance.
This song was used in the Disney movie “Trolls,” but if you listen to the lyrics closely you can also hear a more adult way to understand them. Can you hear both meanings?
Some slang terms include “in my zone,” meaning that you are completely focused on what you’re doing. The phrase “creeping up on you” means that something happens so slowly that you don’t notice it happening. The word phenomenally means really, really well or amazingly.
21. “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes
If you watch the music video for this song, the singer gets beaten up (punched and kicked; hurt) by an invisible person. This is meant to be a metaphor—a statement used to represent a different meaning.
In other words, the singer isn’t actually getting hurt, but the pain he shows in the video represents how he feels hurt inside because his lover is leaving him.
You can also understand this message through different parts of the lyrics. “Cut deeper than a knife” means that something you can’t touch hurts more than a knife cut. There’s also the word aching, which means to hurt a lot or for a long time, and the title word stitches—what doctors use to close up a big cut.
22. “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots
This song was written for the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad.” It’s a dark-sounding pop song that says you should be careful who you trust, because you never know who the person next to you really is.
The song was written for the movie, so it’s actually about murderers. But you can also understand the lyrics to be about the band’s fans, or even about the church. Listen to the lyrics and see what they mean to you.
Here are some words and phrases to help you understand the song better:
- Heathen — Someone bad or uncivilized; usually used in religious contexts
- Docked away — Put away; stored
- Psychopath — Used as a slang term for someone who seems or acts crazy
- Intention — Why you do something
23. “All My Friends” by Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper
Sometimes all the partying and dancing is too much. This song is about what happens when the singer doesn’t enjoy the party, and goes back to someone she’s not in a relationship with anymore.
There’s mild cursing (bad words) in this song, but also some great words to learn:
- Waver — Hesitate (wait)
- Wasted — Slang for being very drunk
- Polar opposite — Completely different than something else
- Propaganda — Usually false information used to make people think a certain way
- Treachery — Betrayal (go against someone’s trust)
24. “Here” by Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara would prefer not to party at all. This song is about what it’s like to be at a party when you would rather be at home.
She uses the word indifferent to say how she feels, meaning that she doesn’t really care. The word congregating means to gather in a group, and the word standoffish means to seem unfriendly.
Maybe you agree, and you would prefer to stay home instead of going out to party, too!
25. “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure
One of the first things that most people learn in a new language are days of the week. If you can’t talk about the days of the week, it’s almost impossible to make plans or to talk about your routines.
Whether you think the days of the week are easy or hard to learn, you can still enjoy this classic ’80s song by The Cure. Some of the lyrics are a bit confusing (at least for me), but at least the days of the week are in the correct order so you won’t get them confused!
Generally the days of the week aren’t especially difficult to learn, but some of my students do have difficulties pronouncing “Wednesday” and “Thursday,” and they often confuse Tuesday and Thursday because they look similar.
26. “We’re Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes
This song is a reminder of what it’s like to be young and innocent.
It has a really simple sound and the lyrics talk about things that children do at school. For example, it talks about learning how to spell, and it also mentions things like books, pens and uniforms.
The video for the original version of this song (shown above) is okay, but it just shows a guy (Jack White) playing guitar while a girl (Meg White) rests on a sofa.
If you want a video that’s a bit more visual, check out the Jack Johnson version of the song with a fan-made video that has a lot of pictures of the vocabulary in the song.
27. “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen
There are probably millions of love songs, but there seem to be fewer songs about friendship.
Well, even though this song has “best friend” in the title, it’s more about a romantic friendship.
In the lyrics, Queen’s singer Freddie Mercury sings about how sometimes things get difficult, but his friend is always there to help him when he needs it. It’s about faithfulness (being consistent and staying together with someone). Freddie sings that his friend has “stood by” him “in rain or shine,” which is another way of saying that they supported and helped him during bad times (rain) and good times (shine, sunshine).
So, this song is a nice reminder about what friends should do for each other.
28. “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was a singer known for singing country songs about criminals and people who had difficult lives. Johnny didn’t actually write this song, but his version is the most famous one.
In it, he tells a story from the perspective of a hitchhiker (a person who tries to get a ride on the side of the road). A truck picks up the hitchhiker, and the hitchhiker then tells the driver about all the different places he’s been.
The lyrics are really fast, but that’s part of the fun. He lists around 100 cities, states and countries, and you can see how many you can understand. The vocabulary for different places is interesting, but it’s also good because you can notice how he rhymes different place names (for example, “Oklahoma” rhymes with “La Paloma” and “Colorado” rhymes with “Eldorado”).
29. “Just a Girl” by No Doubt
There are many different songs about how society treats men and women differently.
Pink’s song “Stupid Girls” is a good related song, and Lady Antebellum even has another completely different song that’s also called “Just a Girl.” And Beyonce’s song “If I Were a Boy” is excellent, but we’ll be talking about it later in this article. But personally, this No Doubt song is my favorite one to use in classes when we talk about gender issues.
In this song, Gwen Stefani (the singer) sings about how she’s frustrated because society thinks that women are weak and that people treat women like they’re helpless. She uses good vocabulary to express that frustration, saying that people stare (look at her continually) at her like she’s in captivity.
30. “Bad Luck” by Social Distortion
I’m always surprised at the conversations we have in class when we talk about superstitions. It’s an interesting cultural topic, and there’s a lot of good vocabulary related to superstitions.
Of course, there are also other songs about superstitions, including “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Superstitious” by Europe. The Stevie Wonder song’s lyrics do talk about some things related to superstitions, but the Europe song is more about how the singer is not superstitious.
The lyrics for this song focus a bit more on luck than on superstition, but there’s still a lot of good vocabulary. The singer talks about how he always loses in poker, pool and life in general, and he mentions superstitions like black cats, broken mirrors and how he always “sings the blues” (which means that he’s always sad).
31. “Black or White” by Michael Jackson
I’ll admit it: I’ve always liked this song—the Michael Jackson album “Dangerous” was the first cassette I bought with my own money!—but I never really understood the lyrics until recently when a student played the song in class.
The message is clear. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or any other color. We’re all equal. The lyrics are a bit difficult to understand (even for a native speaker like me) but the message is maybe a bit more obvious when you watch the video. There are many helpful images that will improve your understanding in the video.
If you can tolerate the first two minutes of the video, then the song starts and it shows Michael Jackson dancing and singing throughout the world with all kinds of different people. At the end of the video, it shows people morphing (transforming) into people with different skin colors and genders.
32. “Don’t Mug Yourself” by The Streets
The song “Don’t Mug Yourself,” and basically anything else by the rapper called The Streets, is really British, at least to my American ears. But that means it’s a good example if you want to hear and see more about the differences between British English and American English.
In the song, the singer talks about how he’s going to call a girl he likes, but his friend is warning him that he shouldn’t mug himself (do something to make himself look foolish or stupid).
It’s interesting to hear the pronunciation, and there’s a lot of good slang and vocabulary in the lyrics, but just be aware that there are some bad words.
Two (clean) words that are common in British English, but not American English, are the words “fancy” for “like” (when you like a person romantically) and “oi” (an expression to interrupt or get someone’s attention).
33. “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas
You probably already know the present simple tense (also called “simple present”). It’s one of the first structures most people learn in English, and we use it to talk about things that happen commonly or frequently in the present or to talk about characteristics of people or things.
This song is about how we can’t control life or death, and eventually, everything turns into dust. Almost all of the lyrics are in present simple, but some clear examples are lines like:
- All my dreams pass before my eyes
- Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever
34. “Since You’ve Been Gone” by The Outfield
This song is about a guy who misses someone who left, and he sings about what he has been doing since that person left.
This song is also great for learning an English tense called “present perfect.”
We use the present perfect tense to talk about things that started in the past and are still happening now. It’s common to contract the subject (like “I,” “you” or “we”) and the verb “have” (for example, saying “I’ve” instead of “I have”) and that happens a lot in this song’s lyrics.
There are also some other great songs that use this structure, such as U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
35. “And She Was” by Talking Heads
There are actually a couple different continuous (also called “progressive”) tenses in English. There are continuous tenses for the past, present and future, and there’s also the perfect continuous for the past, present and future.
That gets complicated, so I chose a song that mainly uses the present continuous (with a form of the verb “to be” in the present and a verb ending in -ing) and the past continuous (with a form of the verb “to be” in the past and a verb ending in -ing).
Some examples of the present continuous in the song are:
- She’s making sure she is not dreaming (two examples)
- Now she’s starting to rise
And some examples of the past continuous are:
- She was lying in the grass
- The world was moving
- She was drifting through the backyard
36. “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams
We use the past simple tense to describe things that started and finished in the past. In other words, these are completed actions. The past simple is one of the first things that intermediate students learn because it’s so common.
The main difficulty that many students have is remembering the past forms of the irregular verbs in English. If you’re not sure what those are, regular verbs end with an “-ed” in the past forms, but irregular verbs have many different forms in the past.
There are charts of most of the irregular verbs in English, but you just have to just practice them and memorize them over time. Fortunately, there are also some tricks to help you learn irregular verbs.
In this song, Bryan is remembering the past and what he and his friends did when he was younger. Some of the song is in the present but a lot of it takes place in the past.
37. “Ready to Run” by The Dixie Chicks
I chose “Ready to Run” by the Dixie Chicks because it uses a few forms of the future tense, but I’d also recommend “The Land of Hopes and Dreams” by Bruce Springsteen.
Some examples of the future in “Ready to Run” are:
- I’m gonna be ready (the “going to” form, which is informally pronounced “gonna” sometimes)
- I’ll buy a ticket to anywhere (future simple)
38. “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles
Modal verbs (also called “modal auxiliaries” or simply “modals”) can be tricky, mainly because they can mean different things.
Briefly, a modal verb is a word that you put before a verb to indicate things like possibility, obligation, permission, etc. Common modal verbs are can, will, must, may, should, need to, have to and might, but there are others.
Because they’re so essential, almost every song has at least one modal verb. One I like to use in classes is “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles. Some examples of modals in that song include:
- Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?
- Our love may soon be gone
- We can work it out
- Only time will tell if I am right
39. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
We use the first conditional to talk about real possibilities, usually in the future. Normally, the condition is in the present tense and the result is in the future.
When talking about this in class, I like to use the song “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper but my students especially like “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. In this song, Ed sings to a person he loves, wondering how things will be in the future. Some examples of the first conditional in the song are:
- When my hands don’t play the strings the same way, I know you will still love me the same
- When your legs don’t work like they used to before […], will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?
40. “If I Were A Boy” by Beyoncé
We use the second conditional to express unreal (imaginary) possibilities and results about the present. It’s a bit confusing because the condition is in the simple past and the result uses “would” plus a verb.
For example, you could say “If I were tall, I would be uncomfortable in my small car.” In this example, the reality is that I have a small car and I’m not tall; I’m just imagining a different reality.
A really great song for this is “If I Were A Boy” by Beyoncé. She imagines what she would do if she were a boy and how society would treat her differently. Basically, the entire song is a big second conditional sentence.
41. “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by Adele
The third conditional is used to talk about actions in the past—but it’s unreal, meaning that we’re imagining different conditions and results that didn’t actually happen. This structure is pretty advanced, and it’s one of the trickiest things for my students to learn.
Adele’s song “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” (the original version by the Steeldrivers is also great) uses this structure to talk about a woman who killed her lover. She’s singing from jail, talking about how and why she killed him. Almost the whole song is in third conditional, but you can see examples in these verses:
- [I] never woulda hitchhiked to Birmingham if it hadn’t been for love (“woulda” is an informal way to say “would have”)
- [I] woulda been gone like a wayward wind if it hadn’t been for love
42. “Hope You Never” by Tom Petty
One common way to talk about hopes is to use two names or subjects. In that structure, the first person is doing the hope and the second person is the topic of that hope. For example, I can say “I hope I pass my exam.” I can also say “I hope she passes her exam.” Notice that in both of these, the verbs are in the simple present.
A good song that uses hope phrases is “Hope You Never” by Tom Petty. It’s a sad breakup song but it has some good hope phrases like:
- I hope you treasure your independence
- I hope you never fall in love with somebody like you
43. “Stressed Out” by Twenty-One Pilots
There are also different ways to talk about wishes, but a common way is very similar to the hope phrases in the last section.
We can have two people, and the first one makes the wish and the second one is the topic of the wish. The biggest difference is that wishes are unreal (or impossible), so you need to change the second verb to the past tense to indicate it’s unreal.
That may sound a bit confusing, but you can see many examples in the song “Stressed Out” by Twenty-One Pilots:
- I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words
- I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang
- [I] wish we could turn back time to the good ol’ days
6 Fun Exercises to Learn English with Songs
To speed up your learning, here are some fun exercises that you can pair with your favorite pop songs:
- Karaoke: Singing the lyrics as they appear tests your reading and pronunciation skills and can make phrases and words stick, too. Check out Sing King and KaraFun on YouTube or a karaoke app like Yokee to get started.
- A Song in Two Languages: Try translating an English song into your language. Pay attention to the melody and rhythm and try to match the number of syllables in each line. Here’s Radiohead’s “Creep” in Japanese, for example. You could also translate only a portion of the song so that the lyrics are bilingual. Think of the Justin Bieber version of “Despacito.” Just make sure to choose an English song that you love listening to for this activity!
- What’s the Story?: Watch the music video and try to guess the meaning of the song. Then, look at the lyrics word by word and compare each line to the music video. Try it out with Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” here.
- Lyric Hunt: Songs are full of expressions and slang. When you find a confusing English expression, try searching it in Song Search. You’ll see a list of songs that contain that phrase, which can help you figure out how it’s used—and help you discover new music!
- Sentence Mining: English songs can help you learn proper sentence structure and grammar. Choose a song, then focus on a line of the lyrics that you want to practice. Replace some of the words to make your own new sentence.
- Guess the Lyrics: You can use the app/website LyricsTraining to fill in the blanks in the lyrics with the correct words. Start with the beginner level and adjust the difficulty as you go. You can also use the language learning program FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Because songs usually use casual, everyday English, they can help you learn to use the language more naturally—all while enjoying some good music!
Start by exploring the easy pop songs we’ve listed above, then try out the exercises. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from even one song. Happy listening!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)