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Think of a time you wanted to talk about a movie. How did you describe it?

In todays everyday grammarwe use a reader’s message to figure out how to talk about a movie. We will ask ourselves three questions: What is the film about? What did the main thing character think or do? How did the film affect you?

What is the movie about?

In a recent report, we asked our listeners and readers to send us a message describing a film.

Esra from Turkey wrote about the film In Time. Here is part of what Esra wrote about the subject of the film.

His subject was unequal income distributionthey used the time to buy things, for example, if you wanted to get on the bus, you had to give a certain part of your lifetime for it.

Our first suggestion is to consider a different structure to describe the subject of the film. Ezra wrote,

The topic was the unequal distribution of income…*

While the structure ‘its topic was…’ is fine, there is another structure that English speakers often use: is about + noun or noun phrase.

For example:

What is this film about?

The movie is about ….

The past tense is fine too, as in “The movie was about…”

So Ezra could have written about In Time:

The film was about inequality.

Note that we used “inequality” instead of “unequal distribution of income”. Although the meaning of inequality is a bit broader, English speakers often use it to mean economic or financial inequality.

We could change the rest of Ezra’s description to:

People used the time to buy things. For example, if someone wanted to get on the bus, he had to pay for it with a certain amount of his life.

In this case we use the pronouns “she/her” as it is a very general description referring to a person whose gender is unknown.

What was the main character thinking or doing?

Ezra went on to explore another important topic: the thinking of the people in the film.

Its main star believed that everyone should be equal and the rich should divide time between everyone.

We recommend changing “Star” to “Character”. A character is a person who appears in a film, book, or play. The most important character is called the main character.

We also suggest changing “was thinking,” a verb form known as the past continuous, to “thought,” the simple past.

That’s because we often use the past tense to set up a different action, as in “The main character was thinking of a way to escape when his phone rang.”

We could change Ezra’s sentence like this:

The main character thought that everyone should be equal.

A few more details could be added, as in:

The main character thought that everyone should be equal in terms of time distribution.

How did the film affect you?

Esra did not describe the film in terms of special effects or cinematography.

Rather, Ezra described the film in terms of the film’s ideas, which explored human life, economics, and society:

What attracted me to the film was that it looked a lot like our world… Aren’t we taking our time to make money?

We recommend using a consistent Verb form, either present or past. The past tense could be:

What attracted me to the film was that it looked very much like our world.

The question Ezra asked might include the auxiliary verb “do” instead of “be”, as in:

Aren’t we wasting our time to make money?

This question suggests that the film made Ezra think about time, money, and the way people spend their lives.

Please note that there are different ways to describe the impact of a film. You can say how a movie made you think by saying “The movie got me…” or “It met me that…”, as in:

The film made me think about our world.

The film made me rethink my life and how I spend my time.

Or:

I noticed that the film was similar to our world.

Final Thoughts

The next time you describe a movie, try it by answering the following questions:

What is the movie about?

What was the main character thinking or doing?

How did the film affect you?

This isn’t the only way to describe a film, but it’s a useful way to start a discussion or get other people interested in the film.

Let’s end this report with homework. Take a movie and answer the three questions about it using some of the structures and words you learned today. Write to us in the comments section of our website learningenglish.voanews.com or email us at [email protected]

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.

*In this case the apostrophe is not needed. “It’s” is short for “It is”. Here the possessive form its is required, which has no apostrophe. We know that the possessive form is needed because it is followed by a noun – subject.

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words in this story

character – n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, film, or television show

income – n. Money earned through work, investments, business, etc.

to distribute – v. divide (something) among the members of a group – usually + between or under – often used as (be/get) distributed

cinematography – n. the art, process, or task of filming: film photography

consistent – adj. always act or behave in the same way

hit – v. to make (someone) think a certain way about someone or something; to suddenly be thought of by (someone).

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