Learn English with Lyrics: 7 Years by Lukas Graham

What’s up everybody??

This week I have another awesome, fun lesson for you with some popular new music: The hit song 7 Years by Lukas Graham.

When you first listen to this song (or if you’ve heard it before), you might be thinking, understanding this native English is really difficult! But guess what? It’s not native English!

That’s right, Lukas Graham is an English learner just like you, and just goes to show you how powerful music is for English fluency! That’s why today, we’ll be using his kick-ass song, 7 Years, to learn some great English vocabulary, expressions, slang, and even pronunciation!

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Lyrics:

(Vocabulary in blue, pronunciation in red, cultural notes + grammar in green)

Once I was seven years old my mama told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old

It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger
Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker
By eleven smoking herb and drinking burning liquor
Never rich so we were out to make that steady figure

Once I was eleven years old my daddy told me
Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely
Once I was eleven years old

I always had that dream like my daddy before me
So I started writing songs, I started writing stories
Something about that glory, just always seemed to bore me
‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me

Once I was 20 years old, my story got told
Before the morning sun, when life was lonely
Once I was 20 years old

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure
‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major
I got my boys with me at least those in favor
And if we don’t meet before I leave, I hope I’ll see you later

Once I was 20 years old, my story got told
I was writing about everything, I saw before me
Once I was 20 years old

Soon we’ll be 30 years old, our songs have been sold
We’ve traveled around the world and we’re still roaming
Soon we’ll be 30 years old

I’m still learning about life
My woman brought children for me
So I can sing them all my songs
And I can tell them stories
Most of my boys are with me
Some are still out seeking glory
And some I had to leave behind
My brother I’m still sorry

Soon I’ll be 60 years old, my daddy got 61
Remember life and then your life becomes a better one
I made the man so happy when I wrote a letter once
I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month

Soon I’ll be 60 years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me
Soon I’ll be 60 years old
Soon I’ll be 60 years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me
Soon I’ll be 60 years old

Once I was seven years old, my mama told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old

Notes:

Vocabulary + Expressions

push yourself to the limitPush (someone) to the limit – To make someone use their full capacity or capabilities (Ex: Running the marathon pushed him to his limit, but he was successful!)

Smoking herb – Smoking marijuana

Liquor – Alcohol

Make a steady figure – to make a reliable income

Glory – High honor gained from a notable achievement

Make it major – To be very successful, often famous

My boys – 1. A way to talk about your close (male) friends. 2. One’s sons (Ex.1 I’m going to a party with my boys, Ex.2 My boys are 4 and 8 years old)

Be in favor – To support a decision or cause

Everything I saw before me – Everything that I saw happening in front of me

Roam – To move about or travel aimlessly

My woman – My wife (This phrase could be seen as offensive in English, especially to feminists)

Leave (someone) behind – To abandon someone

The man – I believe that here Lukas Graham is referring to his father. We use the expression my/the old man to refer to our dad

Pronunciation

made in denmarkLukas Graham is Danish, and if you hear him speak, you might notice a typical Scandinavian accent. However, you would never know this when he sings as he sounds British or American. He pronunces some sounds in a British way (like the r’s), and other sounds like an American. So I would highly recommend using this song to improve your pronunciation whether you’re learning British or American English.

Singing is an excellent way to improve your pronunciation, as it helps you learn the rhythm and flow of the language. Much of the pronunciation indicated is connected speech, or how native speakers shrink and link words together. Music that is rhythmic and rap are great for learning to implement this (like 7 years).

I would recommend you download this song and use a free editing program to slow it down, which will help you a lot in picking up sounds (good for listening and speaking!). Learn more about techniques like this here.

Once I – one-sai

Pushing each other – pushin’ ee-chuther

Drinking burning liquor – drinkin’ burnin’ lih-ka

Get yourself – geh-chor self

Started writing – Star-did wry-hin (Writing has a stop T, learn more about this sound here <LINK>)

About that glory – abouthah glow-ree (Two more examples of stop T’s)

Just always – Jus-tall weez

Twenty – tweh-nee

Those in favor – tho-zin fay-vuh

Make it major – may-kit may-ja

And if we – ah-nif we

Later – lay-da

Thirty – Thur-dee (NOTE: Easy trick to not confuse 30 and 13–30 has a flap T <LINK> sound, similar to D, 13 has a regular t sound)

Songs have been – song-zuv been

Traveled around – travel duh-round

I can – ai-kin (Pronunciation of can in English <LINK>)

Most of – mos-tuv

Sixty – six-dee

Had to – had-tuh

My brother – ma-bruh-tha

Better – beh-da

Made the man – may-thuh man

Wrote a letter once – ro-duh leh-dur wuns (Two more examples of flap T’s)

Will I – Wih-lai

Lot of – lodda

Grammar + Cultural Notes

lukas graham englishI was 7 years old – Remember in English that we use the verb to be to talk about someone’s age (Ex. How old are you? I am 21 years old. I was 16 years old when I learned to drive a car. I will be 40 years old next year)

By eleven – In English, it is common to leave off the “years old” when talking about age (Ex. My son is 12. He died at 90. You will be 52 by the time she graduates high school.)

Smoking herb – 1. With verbs that end with –ing we often omit the g sound, so smoking becomes smokin’. 2. Herb’s pronunciation differs in American and British English: American – urb, British – hurb 

My daddy got 61 – Here you’ll see a grammatical error, where the verb to be isn’t used with age. This is not because Lukas Graham is not a native speaker, but rather it is colloquial (albeit incorrect) to use got with age. Even native speakers DON’T always use correct grammar, so don’t feel bad if you make mistakes.

Listen Again

Make Learning FUN

When learning another language, motivation is a HUGE key to success, and making the process fun is one of the best ways to stay motivated. So if you enjoyed this article, I highly recommend you check out some of our other fun lessons (links below), AND our popular course, Fluent with Friends, which makes learning fun and powerful with the TV show Friends (which has been scientifically proven to be one of the best resources for learning English).

Learn More About Fluent with Friends

new-friendsAnother awesome way to stay motivated is by surrounding yourself with people who support your learning, and making friends with whom you can practice your English. A terrific way to do both of these is by joining our FREE, international community. I’d love to meet you there!

Enjoy this lesson and want more like it? Have any clips or songs you’d like me to break down? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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9 Comments

  1. […] Learn English with Lyrics: 7 Years by Lukas Graham […]

  2. Twister on February 7, 2016 at 8:28 am

    “My daddy got 61 – Here you’ll see a grammatical error, where the verb to be isn’t used with age. This is not because Lukas Graham is not a native speaker, but rather it is colloquial (albeit incorrect) to use got with age.”

    He sings “My daddy got 61”, because his dad died when he was 61 years old. What would the grammatical correct way to write this be?

    • Ethan on February 10, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      My daddy is 61 (or if he’s passed away, you could say, “My daddy was 61 when he died”)

      • marchix87 on February 25, 2016 at 12:33 pm

        It’s weird that You can say “My daddy got old” or “My daddy got very old” but can’t say “My daddy got 61 years old”. Those are actually the same thing. 🙂

        • Ethan on March 4, 2016 at 1:03 pm

          Well it’s actually different. The collocation is ‘to get old(er)’. But technically it’s incorrect to say get/have with age.

        • THISGUY on March 7, 2016 at 8:28 pm

          i usually think my daddy got 61 – usually refers to prison, so I thought his dad went to prison when I heard it lol.
          ‘daddy got 61’
          dad got 61 years inside / in prison

    • THISGUY on March 7, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      I’d just say ‘my daddy was 61’ well in fact I wouldn’t use the word daddy, but rather ‘my dad was 61’ if you’re in a topic about dead people – but if you’re bringing it up yourself you can just say ‘my dad was 61 when he passed away’.
      No one likes to hear the word died, passed away is smoother and silkier.

  3. marchix87 on February 25, 2016 at 11:32 am

    “Once I was seven years old my mama told me”
    I think I noticed one grammatical error when I heard this song. I’m not a native English speaker and I want to know if I’m right.

    It’s about using “Once” instead of “When”.
    As I understand “When” is used as “during the time” but “Once” is more like “as soon as” or “at the very moment”.
    For example – You could say “Once I turned seven years old my mama told me something” if by that You mean “Right after I turned seven years old my mama told me something”.
    But if You want to say that something happened when you were 7, then right way would be “When I was seven years old my mama told me something”. Right?

    I can’t tell which way he meant it, I assumed it was the 2nd way. But even if it was the 1st way – Shouldn’t You say “Once I TURNED/BECOME/GOT seven years old my mama told me” or Can You say “Once I was seven years old my mama told me”? That just doesn’t sound right for me.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, I just can’t get that thought out of my mind.

    • THISGUY on March 7, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      lol, personally I think you’re looking way too deep into this. Who knows if his mom said it to him on his 7th birthday? Or if she said it while he was 7.

      I think when I listen to this song I just think at aged 7 his mother told him something.

      I mean I’ve heard it both ways;
      When I finish the washing then I’ll empty the bins.
      Once I finish the washing then I’ll empty the bins.

      Yeah, once you’ve done that then can you come help me?
      Yeah, when you’ve done that then can you come help me?

      I think colloquially ‘once’ and ‘when’ can be pretty interchangeable, no one really cares about little things like that in everyday conversation. I guess if you’re a professional lawyer or something then you’ll need to use the right one, haha I dunno…

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