Posted 12/10/16
I’ve always been fascinated by misunderstandings. Rather than being moments of communicative failure, they can draw our attention to details of language that we have never thought about before. In other words, we can learn from them. And importantly, every misunderstanding provides us with a story to tell. This activity deals with a specific type of miscommunication – one that I refer to as a mis-image
  • Language level: B1
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Activity: Reading and listening
  • Topic: Misunderstandings
  • Language: Easily-confused words
  • Materials: Video, images + worksheets
Mis-images (377kB) pdf [downloaded 2569 times]

Activity outline

images1There is an example of a mis-image on page 8 of my OUP book ‘Images’. You can see it using the ‘Look Inside!’ feature on Amazon. It visually illustrates the difference between the semantics of “I paid the hamburger” and “I paid for the hamburger.”

The PDF download (see above) contains an language activity in which students attempt to make sense of 7 illustrations. Each illustration represents a mis-image that I have experienced myself as a teacher. After doing this, students watch my video to get the answers.

Please note that the video contains subtitles.

The images

All of the following images were drawn by my dad (thanks dad!). For this activity, you might want to create a slideshow. In order to do this, click on the images to get the larger, full resolution versions.









  • Image 6 is explained here
  • Image 7 is explained here


Here are five more mis-images. Perhaps you could ask your students to try to make sense of them. Perhaps you could leave their ideas in a comment below. Perhaps there will be a prize for the best answers. Who knows!







Posted 12/10/16

25 Responses to Mis-images

  1. Rose says:

    Hello Jamie=)
    The first picture is about English tea, I guess. But I didn’t manage to get the mistake, maybe, tea and toy are confused.
    The second one is about the expression “to drive a car”, some students tend to say ” to ride a car ” like in the phrase “to ride a horse/motorcycle”.
    Picture three shows the “flour-flower” difference.
    The fourth situation is quite funny, instead of saying “The thief robbed the lady” some students can say, “He stole the lady”.
    Number five is a mystery concerning some bus-expression-)) but I couldn’t guess it.

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Some good guesses Rose. Are these from you or your students?

      • Rose says:

        I am on maternity leave now-) The guesses are mine. But I am sure to use this activity with my students as soon as I start teaching again!
        It is a nice way to draw their attention to the mistakes they make in a funny and creative way! The homework for them can be to draw their typical mistake-)

  2. janaina voelker says:

    great lesson plan, thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you Jamie for inspiring us! And please pass my greetings to your Dad for the lovely pics. Here are my students’ suggestions:
    4-Gran mal
    Hope they have guessed them right!

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Thanks Faten
      It’s difficult because you have just given one-word answers (rather than explanations). But I believe that your students may have identified one of them ;)

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    So let’s say that the closing date for the competition will be Wednesday 19th
    Jamie :)

  5. Daniela Bunea says:

    My students only guessed the one with flour-flower – but they are 12-year olds – they came up with a story, the flour thrown by the guests would be for the groom to be wearing white as his bride, both equally pure then – almost equally, as the suit is very black, they said! :-)

  6. Milada says:


    What a great challenge! I got only two (new) ideas from my student:

    2. He has a smelly car. [mispronounced: small]
    5. The bus fell down a precipice [pronounced as ‘precipizza’].

    He couldn’t guess number 1, and I couldn’t help!

    PS: One mis-image I owe to my students: polar beers [mispronounced: bears]. When I heard it, I immediately pictured a group of green bottles of ice-cold Heineken plowing through the Arctic snow, with fleece scarves wrapped around their necks!

  7. Gordana Vuković says:

    In the morning I drink tea between two (walls) dolls, all alone.
    A very sad sentence, but with the dolls it becomes really funny

  8. Gordana Vuković says:

    Hi Jamie,
    Here’s yet another example:

    ‘Bicycle Polo is a combination of polo and bicycle riding. There are two teams and each player has a MALLET which is shorter than the ones used in traditional polo. They use these MALLETS to hit the ball.’

  9. William Hardy says:

    Hi Jamie,

    Myself, and my Italian student Andrea think we have the answers for you…

    Here goes:

    1. ‘Toy time’ instead of ‘tea time’
    2. ‘Car pooh’ instead of Car Pool – we like this one !
    3. Throwing flour instead of throwing flowers.
    4. He stole my grandma instead of ‘He stole from my grandma’
    5. A ‘pizza’ of the map is missing instead of ‘A piece of the map’

    thanks for all your efforts.


    William & Andrea

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello William and Andrea
      These are pretty good guesses. All I will say is that you have some correct! Like you, I like ‘car pooh’.
      I hope that no one hates me when I give the answers at the end of the week!

  10. Jelena says:

    Very challenging, even for teachers! One of my students suggested that someone was driving in a crap instead of cab, but I think it’s rather far-fetched. Looking forward to reading other comments.

    • Jamie Keddie says:

      Jelena – I fear that some of these may be impossible for teachers, students and well, everyone really!
      Great guess :)

  11. Ron says:

    Hi Jamie,
    Long time no see! I’m going to Milan next Thursday to run some workshops. Your lesson plan reminded me of an experience I had the last time I was in Italy. As you are probably aware, smaller hotels in Italy charge you separately for bed linen and towels. I was not aware of this. But the receptionist told me clearly:

    I don’t know about shit in other countries but here you pay for bed-shit every day !!

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Answers to the 5 additional mis-images here: