Literature is GREAT - Part 2

Modern-day authors cast their own spells, too, and Richard visits a very magical place to find out about contemporary English writers.


The works of George Orwell, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien have arguably more influence today than when they were first published. 1984, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings have also been turned into movies as has that other icon of British fiction: Harry Potter.

This is Leadenhall Market, an old-fashioned Victorian market that's still popular today, and I've been told that if I walk over here, something rather magical will happen... because this is also the location of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films where wizards come shopping.



The Harry Potter films were adapted from the children’s novels of J.K. Rowling. She is a world-class leader in modern literature and one of the most successful authors of her generation. Over 450 million copies of the Harry Potter books have sold throughout the world. They’ve been translated into 72 different languages.

Amanda Craig is a novelist and The Times critic for children’s literature.

Richard: Amanda, what impact has J.K. Rowling had on literature?

Amanda: I think above all she's reminded the world that the British are great storytellers. She's made people in every country laugh, cry and sit on the edge of their seats.

Richard: What about other British authors, then?

Amanda: Well, there are fantastic children's authors, like Philip Pullman, whose Dark Materials trilogy I'm sure will be familiar, and Anthony Horowitz, who reinvented the James Bond spy novel for teenagers, and for younger children, there's Cressida Cowell's How to Train your Dragon. All of these are fantastic stories. 

Richard: Why is Britain such a breeding ground for writing talent?

Amanda: Well, we've had over 200 years of practice at the novel and 600 years at the play. We've got people like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to draw upon, we've got the wonderful English language and I think we are full of curiosity about other people. We want to entertain them, we want to make them laugh, we want to make them feel shivers up their spine. We just love literature.


Well, I’m excited about the classics and the future of modern British literature. They say there’s a book in everyone and I feel so inspired, I'm going to start writing straight away. I just need a pen...

Task 1

Which is the best summary of the video?


Task 2

Watch the video again, and choose the best answer.


Task 3

Drag and drop the words to complete the sentences.


Task 4

Complete the paragraph about Philip Pullman by typing the missing words into the spaces.



Average: 5 (1 vote)
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Submitted by Szilvia on Tue, 14/04/2020 - 09:40

I'm peter,I learned a few things about pounds magazines are for short prizes and the other things to.When you carry a few things then you don't need a bag to carry them.

Submitted by Yshc on Tue, 14/04/2020 - 09:00

Hello! My question is about the sentence “His Dark Materials, which…(sell) over fifteen million copies to date.” from the 4th task. In my opinion: A person sells books. So, a book is sold by a person, or simply - a book is sold. That’s to say, a book can’t sell, it can only be sold. I mean, that if “a book” is a subject, we have to use passive voice. Dark Materials is a book. And it’s a subject. So, according to the logic described above, I expect here the passive voice - “Dark Materials, which has been sold…” But the correct answer is “Dark Materials, which has sold…”. Could you explain to me this matter?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 14/04/2020 - 09:17

In reply to by Yshc


Hello Yshc

In English, the verb 'sell' is most often used as a transitive verb, i.e. a verb that has a subject and object -- for example, 'She sold the books'. As a transitive verb, it can also be used in the passive: 'The books were sold.'

But 'sell' can also be used intransitively, and it is often used in this way when we're speaking about quantities. This is how 'sell' is used in the sentence that you ask about. If you follow the link to the dictionary I included above, you can see a few other example sentences (see the second entry ('to be bought in the way or quantities that are mentioned; to be sold at the price mentioned').

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Rafaela1

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Mon, 07/01/2019 - 13:03

Literature invites us to a kind of microcosm which has multi-layered time where a reader can travel back and forth and be pulled and pushed in many directions. I've recently read "Vanity Fair" by William M. Thackery. British literature is... Grea━━━━(゚∀゚)━━━t!!

Submitted by Marcos Martins on Tue, 10/07/2018 - 18:59

To be honest, I don't know why the Harry Potter Series is so popular, but I think it is related to the fact that even if they're fantasy books, they deal with problems that everyone goes through, like puberty. The only books mentioned in the video which I've read are the Harry Potter Series and Narnia. Well, yes, I can write a novel. I think everyone can write. It's all about practice. Of course, imagination matters too, but, in general, everyone can write something, people just have to try.
Profile picture for user Stanislav KhSt

Submitted by Stanislav KhSt on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 22:55

Hi, BC! I would like to know if it is possible to say: "The trilogy WON numerous prizes..." instead of "The trilogy HAS WON numerous prizes....."

Hello Stanislav,

Yes, that is certainly possible. Which form is correct depends on the context. For example, in a news article about how the trilogy recently won many prizes, 'has won' would be more likely. But if you're speaking about how it won many prizes in a time that is conceived of as finished, 'won' would be more likely. You can read more about this on our talking about the past page.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ibrahimadam667 on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 08:51

Hi thank you for these interesting clip I would like to know why all the three tenses (simple past , present and past perfect) could be used, interchangeably, in task 4 {including the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2002 - the first time the prize was given /has been given /had been given}
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 07:44

In reply to by ibrahimadam667


Hi ibrahimadam667,

The perfective is not a tense. We describe it as an aspect and it describes how the time of the action is seen by the speaker - as complete or not, as in progress or not, as permanent or temporary, as an isolated action or one related to another and so on. This means that we often have a choice of how to describe a given action depending on how we see it. For example, both of these sentences are possible:

I live in London. [present simple]

I've lived in London for 10 years. [present with perfective aspect - present perfect]

The difference is what the speaker chooses to emphasise. In the first sentence the speaker is stating a bare fact without any other information. In the second sentence the speaker sees that fact as an unfinished process which continues into the present from the past. The fact is the same but the speaker gives it a different emphasis by choosing to use a particular aspect.


There are several options in your particular example for the same reason:

including the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2002 the first time the prize was given to a children's book. 

The speaker is simply relating a fact about the prize in 2002.


including the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2002 the first time the prize has been given to a children's book. 

The speaker is now telling us not just that the prize was given, but that it has still (today, at the time of speaking) never been given again to a children's book. The present perfect tells us that the action described (being given for the first/only time) is still true today.


including the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 2002 the first time the prize had been given to a children's book. 

The past perfect tells us that the action described (being given for the first/only time) was true at the time but may not be true now. There is no difference in fact between this form and the past simple (above) in this context; the choice is really a stylistic one.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team