Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Things don’t always work the way we want them to.

Today find out what to say in English when something stops working or when someone misbehaves.

Michelle has been having problems with her headphones lately.

Her headphones have been “acting up.”

Gustavo, one of our listeners, asked us if we can say, “My email server is goofing off” but we can’t say that.

If you use the phrasal verb “goof off” you need to be talking about a person with a personality who is misbehaving.

What do you do when your computer “acts up”?


Phrases to use for people misbehaving or things not working:

  • To act up: This can be used to describe a person or a thing not working well. For example, “That kid started acting up at the restaurant” or “My computer is acting up.”
  • To mess up: You can say this for a person, “I messed up on my IELTS Exam.” Sometimes we could use this when we talk about an item for example, “My phone keeps messing up.”
  • To not work: This is only used for an item. “My watch isn’t working.”
  • To give someone problems: You can say this for both people and things. “My friend is giving me problems” or “My microphone is giving me problems”
  • To goof off: This is usually used for a person only because they need to have a personality to goof off. “Stop goofing off in class.”
  • To mess around: This is only used for a person, not a thing.


Listen to the role play conversations to see how these are used in a real conversation!

Let us know your questions in the comments section below.

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