How to Learn English By Watching the FRIENDS TV Series

What do you think Jürgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool,  Luis Severino, the New York Yankees baseball team member, and Rap Monster – a member of the Korean boyband BTS have in common? They all learned English by watching the famous TV Series Friends!

This strategy in learning English may seem light and funny, but it is very effective. It is backed by science. According to a 2019 research study by Ulker Mehmet, people who repeatedly watched TV shows gained significant skills in various areas of language, even without the intention of learning.  The study found that after people watched a TV series for 1 to 2 years, they achieved gains in four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

So, if you want to jumpstart your English learning journey or improve your overall English skills without the formality of lessons, classes, and books, you might want to consider watching the hit TV series Friends. 


What is the Friends TV Series About? 

FRIENDS Logo

Friends is an American TV sitcom that ran from 1994 through 2004. The series followed the lives of six friends that navigated through the different stages of life together. 

The TV series has themes of friendship, romance, family, and comedy all rolled into one. The plot of the series is based on relatable situations of people in their mid-20s to early thirties, making it well-loved even after the show went off the air. 

The show was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman

The main cast starred:

Friends Main Cast

The sitcom’s cast members returned for a reunion special aired on May 27, 2021. The special sees the main cast revisit the sets of the original show. 


How Does the Friends Series Help You Learn English?

When you think of learning, especially a language, reading language books, playing recordings of lessons, and attending class with a language coach often comes to mind. However, a key factor in absorbing new words and phrases is practice.

Watching a TV series will help you practice your listening and comprehension skills. Bonus if you put on subtitles while watching, you also get to practice your English reading skills. 

Below are some key specifics as to why watching TV series, especially Friends, is good for your English language journey. 

1. Language Comprehension 

For English learners, an important milestone is when you move from understanding individual English words to understanding what they mean when tied up in sentences. This is language comprehension. 

Language comprehension is the ability to derive meaning from a certain organization of words. While this ability seems natural for native English speakers, it is a complex process that requires significant practice and exposure to the language. 

Watching the hit TV series Friends is one way to increase your language comprehension because the language used in the show is basic, conversational, and practical. This means that what you pick up in the show can easily be used in your daily life. 

Another aid for learning language comprehension in watching the TV show is their facial expression or body language. Watching the characters experience their dialogue is a good cue for any learner to absorb the meaning of English sentences. 

For example:

In Season 1, Episode 6 of the series, the lead character Rachel Green was happily telling her friends that she cleaned the apartment. To which, lead character Monical Geller said, “Oh, I see you moved the green ottoman.”

You may not know what the word “ottoman” means, but in the show, the lead characters touch and point to the ottoman, helping you learn what an ottoman is in this context. 

2. Learning Colloquial Language 

Colloquialism or colloquial language is the term used for the language style that is more informal and is used in casual conversations. 

While knowledge of the colloquial language is not usually needed in formal settings like taking an English proficiency exam, job interviews, or schoolwork, it is essential for daily life. 

Learning how to use the colloquial side of English is necessary to understand and be understood by friends as it allows you to express yourself more freely. Also, some situations in life call for a more “relaxed” tone in speaking, so this might come in handy. 

The Friends TV show is an excellent learning tool for learning the colloquial language. Because the show’s setting is informal, relaxed, and free, it represents the perfect environment where colloquial language is used. 

In the show, viewers and English learners can observe many colloquial phrases and the situational environment as to where they are used. 

For example:

In Season 3, Episode 9, one of the main characters, Chandler Bing, has just gone through a break-up. His friend, main character Joey Tribbiani, said, “Chandler, you have to start getting over her.”

‘Start getting over’ someone is the colloquial language for moving on in a relationship. 

The English learner who does not know the meaning of this informal term will eventually get it as used in the context and the following scenes. 

After saying the phrase “you have to start getting over her“, Joey Tribbiani also says, “If you play [football], get some fresh air, maybe you’ll take your mind off Janice“. 

This sentence offers context and aids the learner in knowing the phrase “you have to start getting over her.”

3. Improves English Language Fluency 

Since learning a language is all about communication, expressing yourself in an easy, smooth, and quick manner is the goal. That is what they call ‘English fluency‘. 

Various dictionaries define fluency as speaking or writing in a language quickly, accurately, and articulately. It is the combination of recognition, comprehension, and expression of a specific language. 

The key to achieving English fluency is practice. Exposing yourself to key learning materials constantly and practicing your expressions skills – writing and speaking – will eventually get you there. 

Watching the TV series Friends is an excellent way to expose yourself to the language constantly. With ten seasons and 236 episodes all in all (bonus if you rewatch it!) you will get the necessary exposure to the language to gain fluency. 

Especially if you’re a beginner, the sitcom is the perfect aid to practice because it is simple and mimics events in real life. 

It is good, to begin with, practical situational comedies like Friends instead of more specialty TV shows like, for example, the hit series Big Bang Theory, which has many scientific and technical words. 

For example:

Fluency is a practical skill in learning a language. One strategy you can use in achieving this is by exposing yourself to the English language based on certain themes. 

For example, Thanksgiving is coming up, and you are about to spend it with your English-speaking friends. An excellent way to take a step closer to fluency during that time is to watch Thanksgiving-related material. 

Because Friends ran for ten seasons, they also have ten episodes on Thanksgiving you can check out. These are: 

4. Exposure to the English Accent 

While English words may be spelled the same, they might not always sound the same when pronounced by various people of different backgrounds. This is because of accents. 

An accent is a style of speaking and pronunciation that is distinctive to a nation or locality. 

Mastering accents are not necessarily required in learning English, but being adequately exposed to various accents and knowing that not all English speaking styles are the same will help learners understand more people, especially from multiple backgrounds.

While the Friends TV show character mainly carries an American accent throughout the series, the show also features various guests from different countries with different accents. 

Some situations in the sitcom also allow the main characters to speak in a different accent. 

For example:

In Season 6, Episode 4, the show pictures the main character, Ross Geller, as a professor at NYU. Eager to impress, Ross puts on a fake British accent for his students. 

When the other main characters, Rachel Green and Monica Geller, visit him, they discover that Ross has been faking his accent, so the two also decide to fake theirs while talking to one of Ross’ colleagues. 

Additional Reading: How to Speak English Without an Accent

5. Enhance Your Listening Skills 

Listening is an integral part of learning the English language because it is one of two ways to input knowledge into the brain’s language center. Several studies have shown that listening plays a more significant part in communication than speaking. 

To increase your listening skills, you need diverse materials in your arsenal. Don’t limit yourself to audiobooks and lectures. 

This is where TV shows come in. TV shows provide an avenue for learners to hone their listening skills in a fun, easy, and light way. 

FRIENDS is an excellent option to enhance your English listening skills because it covers most of the basic English words in its episode. The length of the show also makes for a good practice run, as you’ll have a lot of content to listen to. 

What’s good about this is that you can pause whenever you don’t understand something and read up on it or rewatch over and over again to get the meaning behind the sentences. 

For example:

Season 10, Episode 15 of the show is the episode with the highest number of basic English words used. In particular, an article said the episode has a 96.2 percent coverage of the top 1000 basic English words. 

This episode is an excellent avenue to practice your listening skills, especially if you are a starter English learner. 

6. Learn Basic English Through Gestures

It may be common sense that learning a language requires knowledge of words and sentences. But there is more to communication than just verbal language. 

Non-verbal cues are also important in the whole communication process, especially in learning. Non-verbal communication is getting your message across through signals such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, posture, and body language. 

This is important especially for the new language learners, as these provide cues or context to the spoken sentence, making it easier for the learner to decipher its meaning. It also makes communication more natural. 

Friends characters have a lot of expressions, gestures, and body language when delivering their dialogue. 

Because the show aims to show a variety of depth in everyday life, the non-verbal cues in the series are also diverse and beneficial to learners. 

For example

In Season 9, Episode 2, there was a scene where the main character Ross Geller was mad at the main character Joey Tribbiani because Joey mistakenly proposed to his girlfriend. Ross did not believe that Joey did it accidentally. 

In their confrontation, Ross’ line was: “You accidentally picked up my grandmother’s ring, and you accidentally proposed to Rachel.” Ross was gesturing air quotes every time he says the word “accidentally” which means he did not believe what he said. 

From here, the learner can pick up that in informal language, using double quotations on certain words can signal doubt on the factuality or intention of that word. 

Additional Reading: 15 Tips on How to Speak English Like a Pro


English Expressions Commonly Used in the Friends Series

English is not a complicated language. However, certain expressions are used, often in informal and conversational settings, that can’t be learned in formal schooling.

These expressions should not be taken literally and can only be appreciated through constant practice of the language. Since the Friends TV show is a light and fun series on life, it is an excellent venue to know common English expressions. 

Here are some of the most used English expressions in the series, what they mean, and how they can be used in real life. 

1. “Fall for someone”

  • May be confused for:  Drop from higher ground to lower ground, or collapse upon someone’s request.
  • What it actually means:  Become smitten or in love with someone.

How it was used:

In Season 2, Episode 14, Ross and Rachel were discussing whether they wanted to pursue their failed relationship once again. 

Rachel: No, listen to me. I fell for you and I get clobbered. You then fall for me and I again, somehow, get clobbered. I'm tired of being clobbered, ya know, it's, it's just not worth it.

How you can use it in real life: 

If you are starting to have feelings for someone, you can tell your friend:

“I have never felt like this with someone before. I think I am falling for her.”

You can also use this to tell the person that you like that you have feelings for them: You can tell your someone:

“Can I confess something to you? I am starting to fall for you.”

2. “Freak out”

  • May be confused for: Forcing an unusual person or creature to step out or vacate the area.
  • What it actually means: To act erratically because of a sudden extreme feeling like fear, disgust, surprise, anger, or confusion.

How it was used:

In Season 9, Episode 13, Joey Tribianni asks for advice from his friends about getting his eyebrows waxed. His friends then start to stare a little too long and too hard at his eyebrows. 

Joey: Ok! Stop it, you guys! Stop staring! You're freaking me out!

How you can use it in real life: 

For example, you watched a movie, and this particular scene made you feel uncomfortable and scared. You can say:

“You know that scene where they start chasing the main character? That really freaked me out!”

3. “How you doin’?”

  • May be confused for: A question that asks about your particular method of doing things.
  • What it actually means: A question that asks about how you are feeling or how your day is going.

How it was used:

In the Friends TV series, the question “How you doin’?” is the catchphrase of the main character Joey Tribbiani. He often says the way to a girl’s heart is by asking how she feels in a cavalier and suave manner. 

For example, in Season 4, Episode 13, Rachel Green asks for advice on introducing herself to a guy she likes. 

Joey: Oh-oh-oh-oh, how I do it is, I look a woman up and down and say, "Hey, how you doin’?"

How you can use it in real life: 

The phrase “How you doin’?” is not only used for dating. It can also be used among friends or around the people you’re close with. For example, you bumped into a friend you have not seen in a long time, you can say:

“Hi! I was not expecting to see you here! It has been a long time since we hung out. How you doin’?”

4. “I’m sick of it”

  • May be confused for: You have contracted an illness because of a certain thing.
  • What it actually means: An expression that you’re tired of something or you don’t want something anymore.

How it was used:

In Season 1, Episode 12, Rachel Green opened up to Ross Geller about her recent heartbreak. She tells Ross that she does not want to date anymore.

Rachel: I am so sick of guys. I don't want to look at another guy, I don't want to think about another guy, I don't even want to be near another guy.

How you can use it in real life: 

If, for example, you start getting tired of something like having to carry around a big bag all the time, you can say:

“I want to get a smaller bag, I am sick of carrying big bags every day.”

5. “I can’t stand her”

  • May be confused for: An expression that says one cannot physically get up.
  • What it actually means: It means you cannot tolerate someone anymore due to anger or dislike or disgust.

How it was used:

In Season 3, Episode 1, Joey Tribbiani does not like Chandler Bing’s new girlfriend. However, because of his respect for Chandler, Joey decides to spend the day getting to know Chandler’s girlfriend. 

Chandler: You still can't stand her, can you?

Joey: I'm sorry, man. I tried, I really did.

Chandler: Well, you know, I appreciate you giving it a shot.

How you can use it in real life: 

This expression is not only used for a person. It can also be used in things and situations. For example, you have a friend who takes your stuff without permission, you can say:

“I think we have to talk to her friend. Her attitude is getting out of hand, I can’t stand it anymore.”

6. “Hitting on her or him”

  • May be confused for: Physically using someone’s hand or a tool to strike or attack a person.
  • What it actually means: Make flirtatious advances on someone.

How it was used:

The group was talking about a girl that Ross is dating. Ross met, talked, and made his move on the girl at the wedding. 

Monica: So Ross, are you gonna bring Mona?  

Ross: Yeah, I think I will.   

Joey: That hot girl from their wedding? 

Ross: Yeah.  

Phoebe: Wasn’t Joey hitting on her at the wedding too? 

Ross: That’s right! He was hitting on her, and I got her. I guess the better man won. 

How you can use it in real life: 

If you would like to make a move on someone, say at a party or a club, you can tell your friend:

That girl looks gorgeous! If she looks in my direction, I will definitely take my chance to hit on her.”

You can also use it in the context of yourself:

“I have noticed you have been buying me drinks the whole night. Are you hitting on me?”

7. “We’re on a roll

  • May be confused for: People moving over and over in a circular motion.
  • What it actually means: A continuing streak. 

How it was used:

In Season 9, Episode 6, Chandler Bing tried to make a series of jokes to the group. 

Ross: Rachel and I hired a male nanny. 

Chandler: You got a man who's a nanny? You got a manny? 

Chandler: You know, I don't mind a male nanny, but I do draw the line at a male wetnurse.

Monica: Ohhh, ooohhh... you are on a roll, mister! 

How you can use it in real life: 

For example, your favorite team has been winning the last three games consecutively. You can say:

“I am so excited to watch next week’s match. Our team is on a roll!.” 

This expression can also be used in a negative connotation. For example, if you’ve had a series of unfortunate events, you can say:

“I have been running into misfortunes since I left the city. Bad luck has just been on a roll.”

8. “Does not ring a bell with me”

  • May be confused for: Not doing an action for the bell to make a ringing sound.
  • What it actually means: When something does not seem familiar to you.

How it was used:

Season 1, Episode 21, Joey is picking the last name to use for his screen name. He is trying out different last name combinations with his first name, “Joey”. 

Chandler: Joe...Joe...Joe...Stalin?

Joey: Stalin...Stalin...do I know that name? It sounds familiar.

Chandler: Well, it does not ring a bell with me...

Joey: Joe Stalin. Y'know, that's pretty good.

How you can use it in real life: 

For example, someone mentioned a name to you and assumed that you know the person, but you don’t, you can say:

“Sorry, but that name does not ring a bell with me.”

9. “We’re running low”

  • May be confused for: Walk at a fast speed on low-lying grounds.
  • What it actually means: Have a diminishing supply of something, close to fully using it up.

How it was used:

In Season 1, Episode 18, the entire group tries to help Rachel Green fix and send her resumes to get a job. They were arranged in factory style, where Ross Geller is in charge of folding the resumes. 

Ross: Uh, Rach, we're running low on resumes over here.

How you can use it in real life: 

This expression is usually used on supplies, especially those that are consumed daily. For example, you can say:

“I should go to the nearest gas station right away. My car is running low on gas.” 

However, these can also be used for intangible things. When you’re about to be pissed off at something or someone, you can say:

“Can you stop making that annoying noise? My patience is already running low.”

10. “I’ll drop these off”

  • May be confused for: Accidentally let something fall to the ground.
  • What it actually means: Casually take a thing to a destination and leave it there. 

How it was used:

In Season 1, Episode 11, Chandler Bing’s mom passed by Chandler’s apartment. She is in a hurry because she is off somewhere else. 

Mrs. Bing: Car's waiting downstairs, I just wanted to drop off these copies of my book for your friends. Anything you want from Lisbon?

How you can use it in real life: 

You can use this expression if you’re going to deliver something to someone. You can say:

“Can I borrow your book? I promise I will drop it off at your house tomorrow after class.”

This expression can also be used for people, especially in the context of driving. You can say.

“Since I’m driving tonight, you won’t have to take the bus. I’ll just drop you off near your school on the way to work.”

Top 10 Friends Episodes with The Highest Number of Basic English Words

In 2020, Medium.com writer Frank Andrade sifted through all 236 episodes of Friends and ranked the top 10 episodes with the highest number of basic English words. Andrade said he used the list of the 1000 most common English words and found that these episodes had the highest coverage.  

These are the top 10 Friends episodes with the highest number of basic English words.

1. Season 10, Episode 15

The One Where Estelle Dies FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One Where Estelle Dies 

Rachel: You know, was I looking forward to going to Paris? Sure. You know, was I excited about working in the fashion capital of the world? Absolutely. But you know, it’s fine. I’m fine going back to a job where I’ve pretty much gotten everything out of that I possibly can.

Ross: I had no idea you were so excited about Paris. You said you were scared.

Rachel: But I mean, it was good, scared though, you know? Like when I moved to New York scared. Or when I found out I was gonna have Emma scared. But this is fine. This is gonna be good. 

Ross: You should go.

2. Season 4, Episode 20

The One with All the Wedding Dresses FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One with All the Wedding Dresses

Rachel: Come on! They rushed into this thing so fast it’s ridiculous! I mean, they’re gonna be engaged for like what? A year? And somewhere along the way, one of them is gonna realize what they’ve done and they call the whole thing off. I’m telling ya, you’re gonna be dancing at my wedding before you’re dancing at theirs. 

Chandler: Well, I don’t dance at weddings.

Rachel: Why not?

Chandler: Because weddings are a great place to meet be, and when I dance, I look like this,

3. Season 10, Episode 14

The One with Princess Consuela FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One with Princess Consuela

Monica: I’ll pick you up at eleven. So glad you’re coming.

Phoebe: Good for you. That was really mature.

Joey: What? No, the only reason I’m going to their stupid new house, is so I can point out everything that’s wrong with it, so they don’t move. I’m gonna make them stay here.

Mike: You’re a strange kind of grown-up.

Phoebe: Joey, you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do. Believe me. 

4. Season 1, Episode 17

The One with Two Parts FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One with Two Parts: Part 2

Ross: Dad, I’m talkin’ about the whole baby thing. Did you ever get this sort of panicky, “Oh-my-God-I’m-gonna-be-a-father” kind of thing?

Mr. Geller: No. Your mother really did the work. I was busy with the business. I wasn’t around that much. Is that what this is about?

Ross: No, Dad, I was just wondering.

Mr. Geller: ‘Cause there’s time to make up for that. We can do stuff together. You always wanted to go to that Colonial Williamsburg. How ’bout we do that?

Ross: Thanks, Dad, I just needed to know, when did you start to feel like a father?

Mr. Geller: I guess it musta been the day after you were born. We were in the hospital room, your mother was asleep, and they brought you in and gave you to me. You were this ugly little red thing and all of a sudden you grabbed my finger with your whole fist. And you squeezed it, so tight. And that’s when I knew.

5. .Season 5, Episode 15

The One with the Girl Who Hits Joey FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One with the Girl Who Hits Joey

Ross: I thought you were my best friend, this is my sister! My best friend and my sister! I cannot believe this!

Chandler: Look, we’re not just messing around! I love her. Okay, I’m in love with her.

Monica: I’m so sorry that you had to find out this way. I’m sorry, but it’s true, I love him too.

6. Season 7, Episode 21

The One with the Vows FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One with the Vows

Monica: Do you realize that four weeks from today we’re getting married? Four weeks baby!! Four weeks!!!

Chandler: Do you realize you get louder each week?

Monica: There’s still so much to do. Have you written your vows yet?

Chandler: I figured I’d buy those. Pat, I’d like to buy a vow.

Monica: Sweetie, you know I have no sense of humor when it comes to the wedding.

Chandler: Right. So have you written yours yet?

Monica: No! But I know exactly what I’m going to say.

Chandler: Do you happen to know what I’m going to say?

Monica: Let’s just do it right now. Okay? It won’t be hard. Just say what’s in your heart. 

7. Season 3, Episode 16

The One with the Morning After FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One the Morning After

Ross: I’m sorry, I wish I could take it back, but I can’t. I just can’t see us throwing away something we know is so damn good. Rachel, I love you so much.

Rachel: No Ross!! Don’t! You can’t just kiss me and think you’re gonna make it all go away, okay? It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t just make it better. Okay?

Ross: Okay, okay, okay.

Rachel: I think you should go.

Ross: What?

Rachel: I really think you need to go now.

8. Season 7, Episode 14

The One Where They All Turn Thirty FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One Where They All Turn Thirty

Rachel: So, if I wanna have my kid when I’m 35, I don’t have to get pregnant until I’m 34. Which gives Prada four years to start making maternity clothes! Oh wait, but I do want to be married for a year before I get pregnant.

Monica: Really! That long?! Look all you want, it’s happening!

Rachel: No, so I don’t have to get married until I’m 33! That’s three years, that’s three whole years—Oh, wait a minute though. I’ll need a year and a half to plan the wedding, and I’d like to know the guy for a year, or year and a half before we get engaged. Which means I need to meet the guy by the time I’m thirty.

9. Season 8, Episode 24

The One Where Rachel Has A Baby FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One Where Rachel Has a Baby

Joey: She looks so real! Y’know what I mean! She’s this whole tiny little person. She already has eyelashes and knees and…

Rachel: What?

Joey: For a second there I counted six fingers, but one was from the other hand so we’re good.

Phoebe: Okay, my turn. My turn. Oh! You’re so cute! Oh, I could squeeze your little head! I won’t.

Monica: What’s the matter?

Rachel: Oh nothing. Sorry, I just can’t stop crying.

Ross: The doctor says it’s completely normal with all the hormones. Plus, you’re sleep-deprived.

10. Season 6, Episode 6

The One on the Last Night FRIENDS TV Series
Source: IMDB.com
Episode Name: The One on the Last Night

Phoebe: You guys, we said we were gonna have fun! Come on, hey, remember the time… You don’t remember?

Rachel: I’m sorry Pheebs, I guess I’m just really sad that I’m leaving.

Monica: I’m gonna miss you so much.

Phoebe: Well, this doesn’t have to be so sad though. Y’know? Maybe instead of just thinking about how much you’re gonna miss each other, you should think of the things you’re not gonna miss.

Monica: I don’t think there’s anything.

Phoebe: Come on, there’s gotta be something.

Monica: Nope, she’s perfect.


Final Thoughts on the Friends TV Series

The process of a language is analytical and beneficial for your brain. However, it should also be fun and creative. 

Learning a language does not only involve books and classes. As language is highly immersive and social, so should your learning be. 

TV shows are one of the most effective ways to learn English in a light and entertaining way. Watching TV shows has been proven that the human brain is being trained on four crucial aspects of English: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

So, if you’re looking for the perfect TV show to watch and rewatch all over again for entertainment and learning purposes, then you should check out the classic Friends TV series.

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