Want to learn English vocabulary for dating and relationships? If you want to be able to talk about love in English, then there’s no better way than learning relationship vocabulary in the context of a movie. But which one?

My suggestion? 1991’s “My Girl” starring Dan Ackroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Macaulay Culkin, and Anna Chlumsky. “My Girl” is a cute, if ultimately tragic comedy with an idiosyncratic main character, 11 year-old hypochondriac, Vada. The movie follows the lives of Harry, her father; Shelly, his new employee and Thomas J., Vada’s best friend, during the summer of 1972. It was also our Movie Club choice for May 2021.

Harry and Shelly fall in love. Vada goes through some coming-of-age milestones like having her first kiss or getting her period. And you immerse yourself in American life in the 70s: you go to the county fair, join the family for a 4th of July barbecue and listen to the kids pledge allegiance to the flag!

But most of all, you’ll get an immersion in the language of love. Here’s some English vocabulary for dating and relationships that you’ll want to know in order to understand the movie and talk about love in English in real life.

how to learn English vocabulary for dating and relationships vertical

Vada And Thomas Sitting In A Tree

Vada and Thomas sitting in a tree

Early on in the movie, we see a group of girls who tease Vada for hanging out with Thomas J. They’re not boyfriend and girlfriend, just friends, but they get teased about it anyway.

They sing a mean song to her: “Vada and Thomas sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the golden carriage”.

This is the type of song children will sing at each other to tease someone for having a crush on another kid – more on that expression in just a second.

Have A Crush On Someone

have a crush on someone

Vada has a crush on her teacher. If you have a crush on someone then you’re interested in them romantically. The verb is “to have a crush on someone”. You could also use “crush” as a noun and say that Mr Bixler is Vada’s crush.

In British English, we also use “crush” sometimes, but more often we say “to fancy” someone. In this case, Vada fancies her English teacher. What’s annoying is that it’s just a verb.

In the movie, we also hear Thomas J. say that Mr Bixler is Vada’s “sweetie pie” and that’s the only reason that she wants to do creative writing classes with him over the summer.

If you call someone your “sweetie pie”, it’s a very romantic or cute way to call your boyfriend or girlfriend. Normally people use words like “darling,” “babe,” “honey” etc. “Sweetie pie” is a little over the top because Tomas J. is emphasising just how much Vada is in love with her teacher.

First Kiss And Kissing Vocabulary

first kiss and kissing vocabulary

During the movie, Vada has her first kiss with her best friend Thomas J. She gets them to practise kissing on their hands first. Their kiss is just a quick kiss on the lips, not a “French kiss” or a “snog” as we call it in British English.

A snog is when you kiss with tongues – that’s another name for it. It can be a noun or a verb. Same with “French kiss”. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve used the word snog much since I was a teenager. Back then snogging someone was a big deal!

Dating, Falling In Love And Marriage

Vada announces to Thomas J. that she’s going to marry Mr Bixler. And Thomas J. suggests that she could marry him if that doesn’t work out. In the end, neither of those marriages happen. But another couple does decide to get married during the course of this movie.

Vada’s dad, Harry, starts dating Shelly, his employee. Their relationship moves very fast and they soon announce to Vada that they’re going to get married. This is exciting for Harry who has been a widow since Vada’s mother died giving birth to her.

Unfortunately, Vada isn’t so keen on her dad’s new love interest and is even a little jealous, believing that her dad prefers Shelley to her. When they tell her about their plans at the fair, she drops the goldfish that she won!

So you might notice something about the verbs: 

  • You can use “marry” to talk about who you plan to marry. So Vada would like to marry Mr Bixler and Thomas J. suggests she marry him.
  • But then, when we talk about Vada’s father and Shelley we don’t use “marry”. Instead we say that they’re going to “get married.”
  • So Vada’s father is going to marry Shelley. But Shelley and Harry decided to get married during this movie.
  • When you decide to get married, you need to organise a wedding which is the ceremony that you have in church or at the registry office.

Otherwise, in the movie, we see Vada and Harry go on a date. They go to play bingo together. And then they head back to Shelly’s camper van and she compliments him on his kissing.

She tells him that he’s “good at kissing…and dancing”. So we can only assume that it was a successful date, despite Vada’s attempts to sabotage it.

If you want to compliment someone on their kissing, you can say that they’re a “good kisser”. Or you can use the same expression and say that they’re “good at kissing”.

The Sexual Revolution

Harry tells his brother that he’s planning to go out with Shelley on a date. But he’s nervous about it because he’s been a widow for over a decade, since Vada’s mother died giving birth.

His brother makes him even more nervous by announcing that something has happened since the last time Harry dated – the sexual revolution. This refers to the period in the USA and other western countries in the 1960s when attitudes to sex became more liberalized.

During this period erotic media became more common and women gained access to the contraceptive pill so they had more control over their bodies. So since Harry last dated in the late 1950s or early 1960s things have changed a lot.

As you know, the good news is that Harry survives his first date with Shelley and they even decide to get married.

English Vocabulary For Dating And Relationships


So here’s a recap of some of the words and phrases you’ve learned:

  • Vada and Thomas sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the golden carriage.
  • Have a crush on someone (US)
  • Fancy someone (UK)
  • A crush
  • Sweetie pie
  • First kiss
  • a French kiss/to French kiss (US
  • a Snog/ to snog (UK)
  • Kiss with tongues
  • Be a good kisser
  • Be good at kissing
  • To marry someone
  • To get married (to someone)
  • Wedding
  • Go (out) on a date with someone
  • First date
  • The sexual revolution
  • Widow

So, over to you – have you learned any new words and expressions? Does “My Girl” sound like a movie you’d like to watch? What are some of your favourite romantic movies? Let me know in the comments.

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