English Language Blog

There are signs everywhere in English! Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Culture, English Vocabulary


There is song in English with a chorus that goes like this:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
, Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, 
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

This song is very fitting because today’s post is about signs in English, signs that you will see on the road while driving or when walking down a street. Many of these signs are self explanatory, because the symbols or pictures used are obvious, to get a message across to everyone, even if they can’t read. However, let’s take a closer look at the signs in the picture below, so you can fully understand what they mean in case you come across one of them in America.

Image from www.doodlesandjots.com for print and play.

From: www.doodlesandjots.com

Starting with the top row, on the left side, we have a:
stop sign – When you see this sign you will have to come to a complete stop in your car or bike before you continue moving forward.
yield sign – This sign indicates that you need to slow down, but you may not have to come to a full stop.
crosswalk – This is a sign that indicates people have the right of way to cross the street, so cars have to stop when they see a person waiting next to one of these signs.
turning – This sign indicates that the road is turning ahead, so be careful.
hill – This sign indicates you are about to approach a hill.
Pitch it! – If you are looking for the nearest garbage or trash can, keep an eye out for this sign, it will often indicate a public garbage can is nearby.

Second row:
speed limit – When driving in the United States you will have to watch out for speed limit signs as the speed limit changes frequently depending on where you are driving; the number on this sign indicates the maximum miles per hour you can drive in that area.
do not enter – This sign indicates you are not allowed to enter a road at that point. dead end – This means that a road is ending and there will be no other roads ahead to turn on.
Buckle up! – There are often signs on roads in the United States reminding people that wearing seat belts is mandatory (seat belts laws differ depending on what state you are in, but all US states have seatbelt laws).
construction – This sign indicates there is construction happening in the area and that you should slow down and be careful.
one way – This sign indicates which direction traffic is flowing when cars are only allowed to drive in one direction.

Third row:
no u-turns – This sign indicates that u-turns are not allowed at the intersection where the sign is posted.
deer – If you see this sign you need to watch out for wildlife.
be alert for bears – This is another sign that is used to indicate to drivers (and pedestrians) that they should be alert for wildlife in the area.
playground – This is the sign used to alert drivers that there is a playground nearby, so it is a good idea to slow down and watch for children.
parking – The letter P is often used to stand in for the word ‘parking’ on signs where parking is allowed or prohibited.
hurricane evacuation route – This sign indicates what direction to drive in case of an emergency; similar signs may say ‘snow emergency route’ or ‘emergency evacuation route.’

Now, remember that song I mentioned at the beginning of the post? Well, here is your chance to hear it and also see some of the signs discussed above as well as some other funny/silly signs, which are real. The lyrics to this whole song by the Five Man Electric Band, are below too. Enjoy!

And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.” 
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why.
 He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do.”
 So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,
 Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.
 Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight.
 So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, “Hey! What gives you
the right?”
 “To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”
 “If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner.”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, 
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.
 Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Now, hey you, mister, can’t you read? 
You’ve got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat. 
You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat
. You ain’t supposed to be here.
 The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside
. Ugh!

And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray.”
 But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a 
penny to pay.
 So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign 
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, 
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind 
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Sign, 
Sign, sign.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.