British Culture: Going to The Pub

This is the first of a new series of lesson plans I want to write about British culture.

This first lesson plan is about a very strong tradition in the UK — The Pub.

The lesson comes complete with

  • reading
  • essential vocabulary
  • reading comprehension questions
  • role play
  • debate
  • discussion questions 
  • other exercises

I hope you enjoy it and I hope it is useful in your class.

You can use this in an English, ESL or IELTS class. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

 


 

Introduction

 

What is the pub?

Are there pubs in your country?

What kind of people go to the pub?

 


 

What is the Pub?

 

A pub is a place where people can go from the local community to drink alcoholic beverages — beer mostly, but also wine and other drinks. Many pubs also serve meals.

Pubs can be found all over Britain — there are literally thousands of pubs all over the country. They are in every city, in every suburb, across towns, villages and in the deepest countryside.

The Pub is an institution in Britain and a very strong part of British culture. The idea of ‘Going down The Pub’ for a pint is well-known to every person in the country. Most people have been to a pub at least once in their lifetime and it would be hard to find people that have never been to a pub in their life.

 


 

The History of Pubs

 

Pubs — or public houses, as they were first called — began in Britain in the late 17th century.

They were mainly used as inns at the beginning.

In those days, if people travelled, they needed somewhere to stay for the night between towns and cities. People travelled either by horse or on foot so it would take a long time to get somewhere.

The public houses provided a place to sleep, a meal and some ale or wine to make the guest feel comfortable.

They were called public houses so that people could distinguish them from a private house.

Public houses caught on very quickly and soon they could be found not just as inns on the road between towns and cities, but in towns and cities themselves.

They were very popular and grew in number.

Soon they became a strong part of the community. A place where people could gather with their friends and other members of their neighbourhood and talk and drink together.

 


 

Where to find Pubs

 

Pubs these days can be found everywhere in Britain.

Go to any town, city or village and you can find a pub. Most towns and cities in Britain have pubs on every street corner. Walk for a few minutes and you will find a pub easily.

In some areas, you may find many pubs on one street. These can be very popular at the weekend as people come out on a Friday and Saturday night for a pub crawl.

This is where a group of friends out drinking together go from one pub to another with the intention of visiting as many pubs as they can.

Often this can turn into a kind of drinking game.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

local community

alcoholic beverages

wine

suburb

deepest countryside

institution

pint

late 17th century

inns

ale

distinguish

caught on

gather

neighbourhood

street corner

pub crawl

intention

drinking game

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

In your own words, what is a pub?

What are the main kinds of drinks served in a pub?

Do pubs serve meals?

What is the name ‘pub’ short for?

Why were they called this?

When did pubs begin?

What were they used for at the beginning?

Where can we see pubs in the UK?

What are the most popular days for pubs?

What is a ‘pub crawl’?

 


 

Why do People like to go to the Pub?

 

There are many reasons why British people love going to the pub.

Let’s take a look.

 

Drinking

Many British people love to drink alcohol!

Two friends decide to meet and the number one choice of where to meet is the pub.

This is the most important reason. British people love their beer — and if they don’t like beer then they can drink wine, spirits or other alcoholic beverages in the pub.

 

Community

People don’t like to drink alone. They usually want to drink with others so they have someone to talk.

The idea of going ‘down the pub’ is attractive so people can drink and meet other people from the same community. Could be their neighbours, other friends or even family members.

If the pub is in the centre of the city, then it could be where colleagues meet or business associates. It still provides a great sense of community.

This, in turn, provides a social life for the people that go to the pub.

It is fun and relaxing.

 

Local

Pubs can be found everywhere.

So the idea of ‘the local’ — the nearest and most convenient pub in the neighbourhood — is very popular.

Going down the pub is convenient. You know that it is going to be very near. It could be just a ten-minute walk to the nearest pub and you could be among local people you know.

The landlord of the pub — the manager — knows you and probably knows what you like to drink if you go often enough.

 

Food

Many pubs serve food.

Go to a pub and there is a good chance you can get a full hot meal for dinner or lunch. The food is often British food, but many pubs serve other countries cuisines — such as Indian or Thai dishes or Italian pasta.

But usually, the food is traditional British fare.

Often it is not so expensive. It can be cheaper to eat in a pub than in a restaurant.

 

Games

Another attraction of going to the pub is the availability of games.

British people love to go to the pub, have a drink with their friends and play a game of pool, for example. Most pubs in Britain will have a pool table.

The game is very popular and often pubs set up tournaments with each other.

Another very popular game is darts. You can usually find a dartboard in any pub too. There are tournaments for darts too between local pubs in the same area.

Then there is the pub quiz.

This is a game of general knowledge where teams have to answer questions from the pub quiz leader. The winning team usually wins a prize of some kind.

Pub quizzes are very popular and can become very heated.

Along with these games, you might also find board games in some pubs.

If pubs have special games nights, they always make a big announcement to encourage more people to attend.

 

Music

Some pubs have live music or a DJ playing music for special evenings.

If a pub wants to host a night with a live band, they need a music license to do so. Not every pub can do this.

But you can easily find a live band playing in a pub in Britain. Some of these pubs have become very well-known music venues.

Other pubs might have a pianist playing some old standard songs that everyone can sing along too. Or someone playing guitar and singing.

British people love music and having music in their pub is the idea of a great night out.

 

Football

But one of the biggest draws for going to the pub is to watch a football game.

British people love football and if there is an important game between two British teams, European teams and especially during the World Cup, then the pub will be packed full of people to watch it.

And why not? They get to do all the things they love to do — drinking and watching football — with people they know and in a familiar setting.

Most pubs these days have big flat-screen TVs to encourage people to come and watch the football.

Other sports games that pub-goers like to watch include rugby. Maybe boxing or mixed martial arts matches too.

These are the main reasons for British people going to the pub. But it is firmly established in British culture too and has become a way of life for many British people.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

spirits

attractive

colleagues

business associates

social life

relaxing

convenient

landlord

full hot meal

cuisine

Indian

Thai

Italian pasta

traditional British fare

attraction

availability

pool

tournaments

darts

quiz

general knowledge

prize

heated

announcement

encourage

attend

live music

DJ

host

music license

venue

pianist

old standard songs

guitar

draws

football

European

World Cup

packed

familiar setting

flat-screen TV

rugby

boxing

mixed martial arts

established

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

Do British people like to drink alcohol?

What location would two friends choose to meet?

What do British people think of beer?

Which people do British people like to drink with?

If the pub is in the city centre, what kind of people drink there?

What is ‘the local’? Where is it?

Is it easy to find a pub in an English town?

What is the landlord of the pub? What is their role?

What does the landlord know about you?

Do pubs serve food?

What kind of food do they serve usually?

Is the food expensive?

Name three kinds of games that are popular in pubs.

What kind of music events do pubs host?

Do pubs need a license for live bands?

Do people like to watch football matches in pubs?

How do people watch a live football game in the pub?

What other sports events can people watch in the pub?

 


 

Licensing Laws

 

Britain used to have very strict licensing laws.

Pubs could not open whenever they wanted. And people could only drink in the pub at certain times of the day.

That all changed in 2005 when the licensing laws were changed. Now pubs can open 24-hours a day.

However, this does depend on the local regulations of each town and city. So not all pubs can do this.

But in terms of who can drink in pubs, licensing laws are the same all over the country.

No drinks can be served to anyone under the age of 18. Proof of age is required, and the landlord or worker in the pub may ask you if you are 18 years old.

If you have no way to prove you are old enough, then they will not serve you.

However, you can purchase soft drinks.

Many pubs in the UK are ‘family-friendly’. This means that they welcome parents and their children as long as the children stay away from the bar area.

It is very common to find a beer garden in many pubs in Britain. In the summer, you can find many families in the garden where the parents can enjoy a nice drink together and the children can play together.

Some local pubs have a ‘lock-in’.

This is where the landlord shuts the door at eleven pm and locks it.

Anyone still inside the pub is now a guest of a private party and they can continue drinking even if local regulations say they must close.

 


 

Smoking Ban

 

One law that is universal across all pubs in the UK is no smoking.

Before this change in the law, the pub would be a very smoke-filled environment as drinkers tend to be smokers too.

But now no one can smoke inside the pub.

This caused a decline in beer sales across the country, as many customers wanted to enjoy drinking and smoking at the same time.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

licensing laws

strict

local regulations

proof of age

soft drinks

family-friendly

beer garden

private party

universal

smoke-filled environment

smokers

decline

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

How many hours a day can a pub stay open to the public?

How old do people have to be to drink alcohol in the pub?

What does the landlord ask customers if they look too young?

Who can drink soft drinks in the pub?

Can families go to the pub?

What is the name of the special garden in some pubs?

What is a ‘lock-in’?

Is smoking allowed in pubs?

What happened to sales after smoking was banned in pubs?

 


 

When do people go to The Pub?

 

People usually go to the pub in the evening and at the weekend.

The evening is a popular time to go to the pub because people have finished work and they just want to have a drink and unwind.

And they go at the weekend because it is their free time.

Some people only go to the pub at the weekend.

But then there are others that go every night of the week. These people usually go to the same pub — their local — and have the same alcoholic drink every time they go.

They are known as ‘pub regulars’.

Other pub regulars know their names as do the landlord and the people who work in the pub.

Then there are the pubs that cater to the lunchtime crowd.

These pubs are usually in the city or town centre and their main customers are the people working in the city centre.

These pubs may do the main bulk of their business from Monday to Friday, from 12pm to 2pm.

But people like to go to the pub for special occasions.

These include:

  • Christmas parties
  • Birthday parties
  • Weddings
  • Birth of a baby
  • Retirement
  • Funerals

British people often do not need a reason when to go to the pub!

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

unwind

free time

pub regulars

lunchtime crowd

bulk

wedding

retirement

funeral

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

When do people usually go to the pub?

What time of day do people prefer to go to the pub?

Do some people go to the pub every night? What do we call these people?

Where are the pubs that serve the lunchtime crowd?

What time do these pubs do most of their business?

Name some special times when people go to the pub.

 


 

What kind of alcohol is in a pub?

 

Beer

The main kind of alcoholic beverage in the pub is beer.

A pub without beer is no pub at all.

These are the different kinds of beer you can find in the pub:

  • Bitter
  • Ale
  • Brown ale
  • Mild

These are all British beers and are dark in colour. They range in taste from very bitter to smooth.

 

Stout

This is an Irish beer that is very popular in the UK. Guinness is the most famous brand of stout you can find in most pubs.

People often describe it as an ‘acquired taste’. People either love it or they hate it.

It has a very rich, creamy texture and a bitter taste.

 

Lager

This is by far the most popular beer in most British pubs today.

Lager comes from Germany. But there are many famous names of lager in the pub from Denmark, France, Australia and America.

In the eighties, this became the beer that younger men preferred to drink in pubs.

It is served cold and has a fizzy, refreshing taste in the mouth.

 

Cider

If you go to the countryside, you will also find cider.

This is made from apples. It can have a sweet or dry taste and can be very strong.

 

Wine

Pubs usually sell red and white wine, but there may not be a wide choice or selection.

 

Spirits

And pubs also sell all the usual spirits;

  • Whisky
  • Brandy
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Bourbon
  • Rum
  • Tequila

Some pubs may only offer one or two varieties of each spirit. While other pubs will have a wider selection.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

bitter

ale

brown ale

mild

smooth

stout

Irish

acquired taste

rich

creamy

texture

lager

Germany

Denmark

France

Australia

America

the eighties

preferred

fizzy

refreshing

cider

countryside

spirits

whisky

brandy

gin

vodka

bourbon

rum

tequila

varieties

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

What kind of alcoholic drinks do pubs serve?

Name four kinds of beer that pubs serve.

What is stout?

Which country does it come from?

What is lager?

Which country does it come from?

When did lager become popular in the UK?

What is cider?

Do pubs serve wine?

What kind of spirits do pubs serve?

 


 

What food is served in the pub?

 

Most pubs across the country sell food.

And as can be expected, the food can range from very basic to something you might find in a top restaurant.

But most pubs sell traditional British food. Such as:

  • Fish and chips
  • Bangers and mash
  • All-day breakfast
  • Pie and mash
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Ploughman’s lunch
  • Sunday roast

 

You may also find food from other countries such as:

  • Curry
  • Lasagne
  • Chilli con carne

 

Pubs often serve food at the bar or in the lounge where they have tables and people can sit together to enjoy their meal.

 


 

What do pubs look like?

 

Pubs in the UK are often old.

The interior often has a very homely feel to it. The floor may have a carpet covering it — which is something that most British people like in their own homes.

There is comfortable seating — a little like the sofa and armchairs people have in their living rooms. And there may be an open fire to heat the whole place.

Overall, there is a feeling in many pubs in the UK of the interior resembling that of a typical English home.

Carpet on the floor, an open fire, comfortable seating and paintings on the walls.

Of course, most British homes do not look like this — but this is the stereotypical view of a British living room.

There could be wooden beams in the ceiling and walls. And on these beams, there might be horseshoes or brass fittings. Something that might be seen in English houses many years before.

In terms of the actual layout of the pub, there are often two main rooms.

  • The Salon
  • The Bar

The salon is considered more upmarket or ‘posh’ than the bar. The salon is the place for entertainment and singing. There are often tables for people to sit down and there might be waitress service.

The bar is for the serious business of drinking.

This is where the men are usually found. They can stand at the bar with a pint in their hand and talking about work, the football or politics.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

basic

fish and chips

bangers and mash

all-day breakfast

pie and mash

shepherd’s pie

ploughman’s lunch

Sunday roast

curry

lasagne

chilli con carne

interior

homely

carpet

sofa

armchair

living room

open fire

stereotypical

wooden beams

ceiling

horseshoes

brass fittings

salon

bar

considered

upmarket

posh

entertainment

waitress

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

Name some different dishes served in pubs.

Do pubs serve food from other countries?

Are pubs old?

What does the inside of a pub look like?

What are the two rooms found in most pubs?

Describe the difference between the two rooms.

 


 

Pub Signs

 

Pubs have a very strong tradition of hanging a sign outside.

This sign is usually a swinging sign and quite large. A painting or mural is on the sign with elaborate sign-writing to show the name of the pub.

This tradition started years ago to help people see where the pub was located. Many British people years ago were illiterate and could not read — so the pub landlord would put a big sign outside to show that it was a pub.

Below are some examples of pub signs.

 


 

Pub Names

 

Pubs have names to differentiate them from other pubs.

Pub names can be divided into different categories.

 

Heraldry

You can find many pubs named after kings, queens, lords or other members of the royal family or upper classes. For example, The King’s Head.

 

Animals

Many pubs are named after animals. This may be connected to the local tradition of hunting or farming in the area long ago. For example, The Dog and Duck.

 

Livery Companies

These pub names have the word ‘three’ in it and refer to the old trade associations that existed in London and the UK many years ago. For example, The Three Tuns.

 

Jobs

Then there are pubs named after old occupations or trades themselves, such as The Bricklayers Arms.

 

There are other kinds of names.

Some pubs are named after famous books or poems, some are named after the landlord, and some are named after historic events.

And there are modern names too — for example, The Slug and Lettuce. This is a chain of pubs that all have the same name but located in different towns and cities across the country.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

sign

swinging

mural

elaborate

sign-writing

tradition

located

illiterate

differentiate

heraldry

lords

upper class

hunting

livery company

trade association

occupations

trade

chain

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

What do pub signs look like?

Why do pubs have signs? What is the tradition?

Name some categories of pub signs.

Are some pubs named after kings and queens?

Name an example of a pub named after animals.

Why do some pubs have the word ‘three’ in their names?

Are pubs named after jobs?

What are some other kinds of pub names?

 


 

The future of pubs?

 

Now we have many different types of pubs in the UK.

Many chains of pubs can be found in towns and cities. Other pubs are taking on a more modern interior.

A new form of this is the gastro-pub.

These are pubs that serve high-quality food. They may have a chef that is used to working in a high-end restaurant.

Gastro-pubs became very popular in the nineties.

There are also many theme pubs across the country.

These pubs are designed in a particular style and cater to a certain clientele.

So you can see many rock pubs, sports pubs, Irish pubs and other styles.

And in recent years, you can see many micro-pubs or micro-breweries in Britain.

These are pubs that brew their own ale or beer and serve it on the premises.

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

gastro-pub

chef

high-end

the nineties

theme

cater

clientele

rock pub

micro-pub

micro-brewery

brew

premises

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

Name three types of modern pubs.

What is a gastro-pub?

When did gastro-pubs become popular?

Name some kinds of theme pubs.

What is a micro-pub?

 


 

Phrases We Use in The Pub

 

When people are drinking together, they often raise their glasses, sometimes touch their glasses together, and say ‘Cheers!’.

This is polite and part of the culture of drinking.

But people also say the following:

Good health

To your health

Bottoms up

Down the hatch

All the best

Here’s to you

 

British people like to invite each other to the pub for a drink all the time.

Here are some ways to invite someone to go to the pub:

Fancy a pint?

Let’s get a beer

Shall we go down the pub?

Come down the pub. I’ll buy you a pint.

Fancy a quick drink?

 

And then when you are in the pub — you ask the person what they would like to drink.

What can I get you?

What would you like to drink?

What’s your poison?

What would you like?

What do you want to drink?

 

I am Drunk!

 

In Britain, because drinking — and getting drunk — is so popular, there are many words to describe being drunk.

Here are some of them:

Legless

Out of It

Sloshed

Out of Your Tree

Off Your Trolley

Wasted

Tipsy

On the Lash

Got Your Beer Goggles On

Hammered

Smashed

Plastered

Pissed / Pished

Under the influence

pissed as a newt

Paint the town red

Three sheets to the wind

 


 

Practise Dialogues

 

Take a look at the dialogues below. Practise with one other student, then show the class.

 

Practise Dialogue 1

Steve: Hello, mate. How’s things?

Tony: Pretty good. What you up to?

Steve: Nothing much. Just wondered if you fancied a quick pint down the pub.

Tony: Sounds great. I’m gasping! See you there!

 

Practise Dialogue 2

Mike: Oh, I’m glad I bumped into you. I’m off down the pub. Fancy a drink or six?

Chris: I can’t. I’ve got too much to do…

Mike: Come on, just one drink then. It won’t hurt.

Chris: Oh go on then, twist my arm!

 

Practise Dialogue 3

Dan: Right, it’s my shout, what’s everyone having?

Bella: Gin and tonic for me.

Chris: Pint of lager.

Mike: Same for me!

Dan: Two pints of lager, a gin and tonic, a pint of best for me and whatever you’re having.

Barman: Thanks very much, sir. I’ll have a bottle of Becks.

 

Practise Dialogue 4

Sean: What would you like to drink?

Jane: Can I have a glass of white wine?

Sean: Sure, anything you want. Glass of white wine and a whisky and soda, please.

Barman: We’ve got dry or medium-dry white wine, sir. And do you want ice in the whisky and soda?

Jane: Dry, please.

Sean: And no ice for me, thanks.

Barman: Coming right up, sir!

 

 


 

Let’s Go Down The Pub!

 

This is a role play exercise.

Get into groups of four people.

Look at all the cards below. Each member of your group chooses one card.

 

The Situation

All four of you have decided to go to the pub for the evening.

But you all have different choices for which pub to go to. None of you want to go to the same place.

Each of the pubs you have chosen has different entertainment or events. You have to convince your friends to agree with your choice.

Try to encourage them to come to the pub of your choice by describing how much fun it could be or why it is better than the other choices.

In your groups, spend some time preparing your role play.

When you are ready, show the class!

 


 

Pubs — For and Against

 

Look at all the following words in the list below.

Decide whether these words are for or against the idea of pubs.

loud

rowdy

social

friendly

part of the community

too many drunks

fighting

illegal behaviour

the wrong kind of people

relaxing

meeting people

comfortable

 

What do you think?

 

Do you think pubs are a good thing? Or not?

In your class, try to think of all the good and bad things about pubs.

See how many ideas you can come up with.

 


 

Debate: Too Many Pubs in our Hometown!

 

This is a debate activity.

Divide the class into two groups. Choose one student to act as chairperson for the debate.

 

The Situation

You all live in a small town. This town is fairly quiet and has many old people living there.

The town also has many pubs — and new pubs seem to be opening every month!

The problem is, people are complaining.

They say there is too much noise late at night, general rowdiness and fighting. This has resulted in the need for more police and a strain on emergency services.

However, some other people argue that pubs provide a valuable service to the community and they also provide jobs.

 

What to do?

In your two groups, decide which is for and which is against. Then take some time to prepare your lines of argument.

 

When you are ready — begin the debate!

 


 

Discussion Questions

 

Are there pubs in your country?

Have you been to a pub? What did you think of it?

Describe a pub in your country.

What kind of people go there?

Do pubs serve food in your country?

Can families go to the pub in your country?

Are pubs frowned upon in your country?

Do pubs in your country have strict opening times?

What age restrictions are there for pubs in your country?

What do you like about pubs?

What do you dislike about pubs?

Are there any similarities between British pubs and pubs in your country? What are they?

What are the differences between British pubs and pubs in your country?

Are pubs bad places do you think? Why/why not?

Is there an issue with alcoholism in your country? What do people think about this?

Do pubs contribute to the problem of alcoholism? Why/why not?

Do people only go to pubs to drink alcohol? Is that the main purpose of going to the pub?

 


 

What did you think? Was this lesson plan useful in your class?

Let me know in the comments below!

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