I’m going to let you in on (tell you) a little secret: you can watch TV and learn English at the same time! TV English is the best example of informal, spoken English, and picking up (learning by hearing) a few phrases can increase your natural speech and understanding better than anything else. Honestly.

I always tell my students that watching TV and movies is a totally acceptable form of homework because it’s an excellent way to practice your developing language skills as TV English is full of great idioms, collective nouns, common abbreviations and business English idioms. If you’ve been looking for a new way to practice, here is some TV English vocabulary to help you talk about what you’ve watched.

Series / Season / Episode

What’s your favorite TV series? Is it Sherlock? Stranger Things? Peppa Pig? How I Met Your Mother? Game of Thrones?

A TV series (both singular and plural!) is any show on television, such as the news, crime shows, dramas, or cartoons. A series is usually released every year, and categorized by seasons, which are made up of multiple episodes. So a series is the show as a whole (Friends), a season (Seasons 1-10) is a group of episodes (Episode 1-24) that come out in one year, and an episode is one installment of the show- usually 44 or 22 minutes long.

For example:

  • I’m looking for a new TV series to watch while I’m waiting for the new season of Game of Thrones to come out. Do you have any suggestions? I have time to watch one 22-minute episode during my commute (drive, way) to work.


“The plot thickens…” Plot is, quite simply, the story being told in a TV show. What do you look for in a plot, or which plots do you enjoy watching? Do you like horror stories, or romances?

For example:

  • The plot in this TV show has gotten so good! They’re just about to reveal (show, tell) who the killer is.


The pilot (episode) of a TV show is the very first episode that is shown on TV. Stations and producers will monitor (watch carefully, check) how the pilot performs with an audience, and how the people like the show before ordering more episodes of the show.

For example:

  • Have you ever seen the pilot episode of How I Met Your Mother? It was so bad I’m surprised they decided to continue making it after that! I’m so glad they did, however.


In contrast to the pilot, the finale of a show is the very last episode that wraps up the whole plot and finishes either a season or a series.

For example:

  • The series finale of Friends was one of the most watched TV episodes ever. (That’s true!)


Need to run to the bathroom during the climax (peak) of the episode? Or do you need to pop more popcorn because the plot in the episode is getting really good? Then you’re in luck, because you can pause the show while you do what you need to do.

Pausing is when you stop a show for a few minutes before starting it again.

For example:

  • Can you pause it for a second? I need to run to the kitchen.


Recaps are a great thing, especially if you’ve forgotten what happened in the previous episode.

The recap is the first few minutes of a show that tells you what happened in the last episode. Recaps used to be very common before Netflix, for example, made an entire series available all at once (at one time). Now that people don’t have to wait a week (or more!) for the next episode, recaps are not as necessary anymore.

For example:

  • Can you skip the recap? We just saw the last episode and I think I can remember everything that happened.

Takes place (in)

What’s the setting of the show you’re watching? Is it in a fantasy world, or is it in New York City? The setting of the show is where it takes place.

If your favorite show takes place in a fantasy world, what’s that world like?

For example:

  • The original CSI took place in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Sometimes the dialog in a show is so bad that it makes it almost unwatchable. Dialog is what the characters say within a show. If the dialog is really good, it makes the show more realistic. If the dialog is bad, it can make the show seem ridiculous and unbelievable.

For example:

  • I’m interested in watching that show, but the dialog seems a little cheesy. What do you think?

If you need a little extra help understanding what’s going on in a show, you can always turn on the subtitles. Having the subtitles on is a great way to both read and listen to what is happening. So pop on the TV, get comfy on the couch, and practice your TV English in the most relaxing way possible!

Now that you know some TV English vocabulary, why not tell us about your favorite show? Where does it take place? How’s the dialog? Can you describe the plot? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is serious about getting good recommendations. What great shows have you seen lately? Talk about them using your new TV English vocabulary!

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