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Until then, consider them historical.

Actions Speak Louder than Words


1. Can you guess the meaning of this saying?
2. Why doesn't the man above believe his friend?


James meets his friend Joseph, who works in an office:

James: Hey, Joe, whaddaya know?
Joseph: Oh, hi, James. Not much. I'm just sick of work.
James: Why? What's the matter?
Joseph: I've been late a few times this month, and now my boss is really on my case. I told him I was sorry, but he just doesn't care.
James: Well, Joseph, I guess in this case, "Actions speak louder than words."
Joseph: What?
James: I mean, saying "sorry" is no substitute for being on time.
Joseph: But how can actions "speak?"
James: We might say that your behavior is telling your boss something.
Joseph: Like what?
James: Maybe when you're late, he thinks you don't really care about your job, or the company.
Joseph: Yeah, I guess you're right. I should probably try harder.
James: Good idea!


This saying means that what we do is more important than what we say. Actions, of course, don't "speak" at all. But in this expression, "speak" might mean "symbolize" or "represent." As for "louder," it's also a figure of speech, meaning "more important" or "with greater significance."

More notes:
  • "Hey, Joe, whaddaya know?" James jokes with Joseph by making a rhyme of his nickname. "Joe" is short for "Joseph," and rhymes with "know." "Whaddaya" is "what do you"; so "What do you know?" is a way to say, "What's new?" or "How are you?"; when Joseph replies "Not much" he means nothing's new, or everything's fine.
  • "I'm just sick of work." To "be sick of something" is to not be enjoying it any more. We can also say "I'm tired of" something, or, if we're really upset, "I'm sick and tired of" something.
  • "My boss is really on my case." To be "on someone's case" means to keep scolding them, urging them, reminding them, etc.
  • "Like what?" Joseph uses this expression to ask for an example.
  • "Good idea!" James approves of Joseph's plan.


Here is some vocabulary from the story. Match it to its meaning.

1. Whaddaya know?
2. Not much.
3. to be sick of something
4. to be on someone's case
5. Like what?
6. Good idea!

a. Everything's fine.
b. to not be enjoying something
c. I approve!
d. What do you know?
e. For example?
f. to keep scolding someone


If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Can you think of an "action" that might "speak louder than words"?
2. Have you ever had a problem like Joseph's, at work or at school? Talk about it.
3. "Joe" is a nickname for "Joseph." Can you think of other nicknames for common names? For example, "Jim" for James," "Debbie" for "Deborah," etc.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE: 1. d; 2. a; 3. b; 4. f; 5. e; 6. c

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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