This series of Everyday Conversations is about a family traveling to each of the 50 states in the U.S. Join the family members as they learn about local pastimes and history. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

The family plans to go to the Kentucky Derby, a horse race in Louisville, Kentucky. Paul speaks with the concierge at the hotel about buying tickets.


Concierge: May I help you?

Paul: Yes. We would like to go to the Kentucky Derby. Where can we buy tickets?

Concierge: You can buy the tickets online or at the gate on the day of the Derby. It’s cheaper to buy them online.

Paul: Thank you. This is our first time. Do you have any advice for us about the Derby?

Concierge: The weather is unpredictable, so be prepared for hot weather or rain or cool weather.

Paul: The actual Derby race is later in the day. Should we go early and see the other races?

Concierge: Yes, I recommend it. Take advantage of being there, and see some other races.

Paul: Great. We will. And is there any special food or drink to have at the event?

Concierge: The event is famous for the mint julep. And if this is your first time visiting the South, then you might want to try some garlic cheese grits.

Paul: Thank you for all of your help.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

A horse race is an event in which people race on horses, often to win money. People sometimes bet on which horse will win the race. The Kentucky Derby is a large horse race that is held every year. The length of this race is 1.25 miles (2 kilometers).

A concierge is an employee at a hotel. This person’s job is to help guests by providing information and arranging things, such as restaurant reservations, theater tickets, etc.

In this conversation, the gate is the area which people pass through to enter the event area. At the gate, people buy and/or show their tickets to enter.

Unpredictable means happening in a way that is not expected. When something is unpredictable, you do not know in advance what will happen or what something will be like.

To take advantage of something means to use something in a way that helps you and to make good use of something.

A mint julep is a drink made with bourbon (a type of alcohol), sugar, mint and ice.

The South refers to the southern part of the United States.

Grits is a dish that is made of a type of ground corn. It is often eaten for breakfast or as part of a meal, especially in the South.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily. The American English for Educators Facebook page posts teaching materials for English-language teachers daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Learn more about planning a trip to the U.S. and applying for a tourist visa.