How to use JUST (part 2), plus Christmas traditions in Britain | DailyStep English

How to use JUST (part 2), plus Christmas traditions in Britain

This is Jane Lawson's Audio Blog #041 at DailyStep English

Hello, I’m Jane at DailyStep English and welcome to my last Audio Blog of 2011!

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Wow! It is nearly the end of the year – I can’t believe how quickly time seems to pass. I love this time of the year though. Even though it is hectic, it is also the time of our major national festival – Christmas! I’ll tell you a bit about a typical British Christmas in this blog

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Then, in the Audio Word Study, we will finish looking at the many meanings of a confusing little word - JUST. 

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OK, let’s start off with a look at how we celebrate Christmas in Britain!

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Christmas in Britain

by Jane Lawson at


When you think about Christmas in Britain, do any images come to mind? I always love hearing from my students how Christmas is celebrated in their home countries, so I want to tell you a bit about how we do it here.


Christmas is the main national holiday in the UK, because there are two public holidays in a row. The thing I like best about Christmas is the way that it brings people together. Of course, Christmas is a Christian festival, but it is also a time when people of all religions can make the most of the holidays and the festive spirit. At this time of year, there are office parties, friends getting together for a meal or a drink and families spending time together. The street are alive with people doing their Christmas shopping, buying presents for family and friends (I seem to have left my own Christmas shopping very late as usual!), and most main streets in London and throughout the country have Christmas lights hanging from the lamp posts, which add to the festive atmosphere. You can see some of London’s Christmas lights in the top left hand picture.


The main day of celebration in Britain is 25th December – unlike in many Christian countries, where the main celebration is on 24th December. The 25th December is called Christmas Day, the 24th December is called Christmas Eve (i.e. the evening before Christmas) and the 26thDecember is called Boxing Day, which used to be the traditional day for giving Christmas presents. On 25th December, Christmas church services are usually held in the morning, after which families or friends traditionally cook a feast of roasted meat, often turkey or goose, cooked with stuffing and bacon, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots and Brussels sprouts. This is followed by Christmas pudding, a boiled or steamed pudding made from fruit and spices, with brandy butter and small sweet mince pies. You can see pictures of both the main Christmas meal and the Christmas pudding on this page. During the dinner, we pull Christmas crackers, which make a popping sound when we pull them and contain jokes and small gifts, and also colourful paper crowns, which we wear until the end of the meal. You can see a cracker being pulled in the bottom right hand picture. After dinner, we sometimes play games or watch films, or just sit around chatting with the family. The giving of Christmas presents is an important ritual, and these are usually exchanged either just before or just after Christmas dinner.


Of course, I am just describing a typical family Christmas here, but not everyone spends it in the same way.


Now let’s move on to our Audio Word Study, where we will finish looking at the various meanings of a confusing little word - JUST. 

Here is Audio Word Study #041 from Jane Lawson at

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In this word study, we’ll finish studying the meanings of JUST. You can see the other meanings of JUST in Audio Blog #040 on

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JUST (adverb)

Meaning 3: only

Examples: 1. Mozart was just eight years old when he composed his first symphony.

2. I’m sorry if I have upset you – it was just meant to be a joke.

3. There’s a great restaurant just around the corner – shall we go there for dinner? (note: ‘just around the corner’ can mean ‘very near here’, or ‘only a short distance away’.)


Meaning 4: We use just to emphasise a statement or an order. This makes it stronger.

Examples: 1. If we can’t finish this work tonight, we’ll just have to finish it tomorrow morning. (note: this means ‘…we will simply have to finish it tomorrow morning’. If we use ‘simply’ instead of ‘just’, the sentence is a bit more formal.)

2. I don’t understand why he thinks it is fine to speak to me like that, just because he is my boss!

3. It’s not possible to travel from London to Scotland for the day – it’s just too far for a day trip.

4. No matter how many times I ask him, he just refuses to help.

5. It’s just terrible the way he speaks to his mother. (note: in all of these sentence, you can substitute 'simply' for 'just', and using 'simply' makes the sentence more formal.)


Meaning 5: Just can reduce the force of a statement or request, to make it sound less important. This often also makes a statement or request sound more polite or more diplomatic.

Examples: 1. Could I just ask you a quick question before we leave?

2. Can I just interrupt for a moment? (note: this sounds less direct and more polite than ‘Can I interrupt for a moment.')

3. I just want to check if you are available tomorrow morning.


Meaning 6: almost, or almost not

Examples: 1. I’ll be there in a minute – I’m just about ready. (note: ‘just about’ means ‘very nearly’.)

2. This coat only just fits my young son. Next year it will be too small for him. (note: here, ‘only just’ means ‘almost not’ – meaning that the coat is almost too small.)

3. “The mobile phone signal is very weak here – can you hear me?” “Yes, but only just!” (note: this means ‘I can hear you, but not well at all.’)

3. I have just about finished this report. It will be ready in 10 minutes.

4. It is just possible that I’ll be able to make it to your party on Friday – I’ll let you know tomorrow. (note: ‘it is just possible’ means ‘ there is a slight chance’.)


Now, try to write your own sentences using these meanings of JUST. Make sure these sentences are true to your own life because this will help you to remember them better. That is all for Audio Word Study #041 on

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