Learn English with the song

The Beatles

Improve your English skills in 3 steps:


Listen to the music
Enjoy listening to the music using the video below. Make a mental note of any interesting words or parts, but don't worry if you can't understand yet. No video? Watch on YouTube.


Play the explanation
Grab a hot drink and relax. I'll explain each line of the song for you. Use the explanations to understand the song lyrics, but don't worry about knowing every word that I use to explain. For an extra challenge listen without the transcript.


[Clickable Transcript]

Hello and welcome to Explained in English. My name is Ki. Today I want to talk about the song Yesterday by the Beatles.

Yesterday is a short but very powerful song written by Paul McCartney in 1965. It's a rather sad song and it talks a lot about feelings of regret, feelings of guilt. There's also a strong sense of nostalgia for the past, and that longing for the past is best summed up in the title of the song, which is Yesterday.

Yesterday literally means the day before today, or the previous day. For example, if today is Saturday then yesterday was Friday. In this song you'll hear him sing over and over the word "yesterday". And it doesn't mean literally the day before today. In the song he means the past. Yesterday is a word which is just referring to the past in general. And so, in the first line he says:


[Verse 1]
All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday

[Verse 2]
I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday came suddenly

Why she had to go
I don't know, she wouldn't say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday

[Verse 3]
Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh I believe in yesterday

So, there you have it! A very simple but beautifully sad song. I think that last line is the key to the whole song because it expresses how lost he is in the past, how deeply involved he is in his own regret, guilt, and nostalgia for the past.

Those heavy, sad feelings are completely overshadowing his experience of the present moment. And I have certainly gone through times in my own life where I've felt many of the same emotions, and for that reason I think it is a timeless, relatable, and well-earned classic in English music.

Thank you for listening to this explanation. I invite you now to go and listen to the real song. Hopefully now being able to enjoy it not only for the beautiful instruments and melody, but also for the great words.

If you're enjoying learning English with music, there are full albums of song explanations by decade available at explainedinenglish.com. Each explanation comes with pronunciation practice and a full PDF transcript -- so you never miss a word.

I also offer personal lessons where you can discuss these songs with me and improve your conversational English. You'll find the contact form, decades albums, and more at explainedinenglish.com.

Thanks for listening and I'll see you in the next explanation. Bye bye!



How about that!
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