Alberto's new neighbours

Alberto took one look at his new neighbours and knew that his life was going to get more difficult. There they were, two of them, as big and as noisy as their car – and smelly and stupid as well.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the story and do the exercises.

Alberto took one look at his new neighbours and knew that his life was going to get more difficult. He watched them arrive in their big, noisy car and watched them get out. There they were, two of them, as big and as noisy as their car – and smelly and stupid as well.

'Terrible!' he thought. 'How am I going to put up with them?' He went to tell Mimi. Mimi was the friend he lived with.

'Have you seen the new neighbours?' he asked her.

'No,' she said. 'Who are they?'

'Two of them. The ones we don’t like. Big and noisy and stupid and smelly. Just like they always are.'

'Oh no,' said Mimi. 'How awful! Still, I suppose we can just ignore them.'

'I suppose you're right,' agreed Alberto. 'We'll just have to ignore them.'

For a few days, then, Alberto and Mimi tried to ignore their new neighbours. When the neighbours went out for a walk, Alberto and Mimi didn't say hello to them. When the neighbours were in their garden, Alberto and Mimi went inside. This was OK for a few days, but, perhaps inevitably, things didn't stay this way …

One day, Alberto woke up from his sleep to find one of the neighbours in his garden. 'Mimi!' he shouted. 'Have you seen this!? He's in our garden!!!! Look!'

'How terrible,' said Mimi. 'Let's call our staff and make sure they get rid of him immediately!'

Mimi went off to call their staff. Two minutes later, Alberto and Mimi's head of staff was out in the garden trying to get rid of the unwelcome neighbour. 'Go on!' he shouted. 'Get out of here! Go home!' The neighbour didn't say anything but gave Alberto and Mimi's head of staff a dirty look, then he went back into his garden. Alberto and Mimi felt better and then asked their head of staff to prepare their lunch for them.

However, it wasn't enough. Over the next few days, Alberto and Mimi often found one or other or both of their new neighbours walking around their own garden. It was terrible. To show how they felt, Alberto and Mimi went into their neighbours' garden at night, when the neighbours were inside, and broke all the flowers.

The next morning one of the neighbours came to talk to Alberto.

'Hey!' he said. 'Hey, you!' Alberto ignored him, but he continued talking. 'You came into our garden last night and broke all the flowers!' Alberto didn't say anything but gave his neighbour a dirty look. 'Now I'm in trouble!' continued his neighbour. 'They think I did it!'

'Who are "they"?' asked Alberto.

'My owners, of course,' replied the neighbour.

'Owners!?' said Alberto. 'You have "owners"?'

'Course we do,' said his neighbour. 'Don't you?'

'Oh, no,' replied Alberto. 'We have staff.'

Alberto went to tell Mimi that the neighbours didn't have staff but owners.

'That's not a surprise,' said Mimi. 'That explains everything. That's why they're so noisy and smelly and stupid. We need to make their owners become staff.'

The next day, Alberto and Mimi were actually very friendly with their new neighbours. They tried to explain how to make their owners become 'staff'.

'Listen,' said Alberto to them. 'It's very easy. First, understand that the house is your house, not theirs.'

'And second,' said Mimi, 'make sure that you are always clean.'

'Make sure they give you food whenever you want!'

'Sit on the newspaper while they are reading it!'

'Sleep as much as possible – on their beds!'

'And finally, try not to bark but to miaow instead.'

But it was no good. The neighbours just didn't understand. After a week, they gave up.

'It's no good,' said Mimi. 'They'll never understand – dogs have owners, cats have staff.'

Chris Rose

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Worksheet88.85 KB

Language level

vishnu_saddikuti 提交于 周一, 08/11/2021 - 04:31


Weren't the neighbours able to use the lesson at least for a week?
Can't task1,q6 answer be false?

I think "they didn't understand" and "after a week they gave up" are contrasting sentences. How can one apply without understanding?

Hi vishnu_saddikuti,

The answer to this question is indeed false :)

Where it says "After a week, they gave up", in my understanding, "they" refers to Alberto and Mimi, not to the new neighbours (i.e., it means that Alberto and Mimi gave up trying to explain the lesson to the neighbours). In this understanding, it's not stated whether the neighbours attempted to use the lesson at all.

Even if you interpret "they" as referring to the neighbours, I think the answer should still be false. Since the neighbours didn't understand the lesson, they were not able to learn or apply it successfully, as you pointed out, and they soon gave up. One can indeed apply a lesson, or attempt to do so, without understanding it - but the results of course will be unsuccessful. The text does not give any indication that they were "able to use" the lesson (i.e., use it successfully, with the desired results). Another more likely interpretation is that "they gave up" refers to giving up trying to understand (not giving up trying to apply) the lesson. Either way, we cannot agree that they were "able to use" the lesson, as the question states.

I hope that helps :)

The LearnEnglish Team

Arafat Ali 提交于 周四, 10/06/2021 - 20:46

Although the purpose of this story to practice language, its message is not as good as its aim. There is no owner of owned between human, we need each other's' services and help and when we are doing so we exchange and benefit each other's interest.

yusra 提交于 周四, 11/02/2021 - 08:11

"Dogs have owners, cats have staff." The narrator is a cat he's clean and has staff who serves him, but on other side his neighbor is a smelly dirty dog because he hasn't staffed he has just the owner.

Pann Nilar Htun 提交于 周二, 09/02/2021 - 08:46

First, I was difficult to understand the story. But when I understand, it was a great story and got many lesson learnt.

İlayda 提交于 周一, 11/01/2021 - 18:18

It's a great text. You shouldn't judge the other person without knowing. Such behavior can cause negative consequences. In addition, you must ensure that the other person can see your work in order to make your own wishes. But if you can't show your work properly to the other person, you will always be secondary.

Eda Müdüroğlu 提交于 周一, 11/01/2021 - 17:48

It was an interesting text. We shouldn't think badly about people without knowing them. We should give the opportunity to get to know them. It is wrong for people to misbehave to other people for their own benefit and tell others that it is a good thing. People revert to their old behaviors because it is not easy to change themselves due to their personality.

gracemetni 提交于 周五, 08/01/2021 - 13:48

Cats have owners and dogs have staff! Nice story!

Csrflin 提交于 周二, 29/12/2020 - 16:08

Story is cute.First,I thought there were people who don't like their neighbours.But,in conclusion dogs have owners and cats have staff.It was the clue to understand the story.It was between cats and dogs.

Thinthinmyoe 提交于 周五, 11/12/2020 - 08:38

At first,I really understand the meaning of this story.After reading until three times, I understand and smile heartily.This stories gives about the nature of pets.This is so lovely!

Natia Demetradze 提交于 周二, 24/11/2020 - 09:56

Very nice and funny story. I really enjoy it.
While I was reading at the beginning I just said to myself what a mess of neighbors, people live like they like, but at the end when mimi said “dogs have owners and cats have staff” I just laughed, that was a super funny and enjoyable story.

loveiseverything 提交于 周三, 14/10/2020 - 04:30

Hahaha, I didn't understand the whole story until I read the coments. What a fun, they are actually animals not human being. I was confused at the beginning when there is a lady called Mimi, now I get it.

alphazero 提交于 周三, 30/09/2020 - 07:44

Alberto and Mimi are cats because they recommend their neighbor to miaow instead of barking. So initially, their neighbor should definitely be a dog. Apparently, dogs and cats are basically enemies. In this case, cats, which are Alberto and Mimi loathe the neighbor which is a dog. Eventually, they are still friends.

Min Htet Kaung 提交于 周三, 16/09/2020 - 17:39

I started to get confused when the setence "we need to make their owners become staff'' was read. And then, only after reading ''try not to bark but to miaow instead'', I realized what they are.

Mya Nandar Aung 提交于 周五, 28/08/2020 - 15:55

At first, they are human beings. After I finished the whole story, I realized that Alberto & Mimi are cats and their neighbours are dogs. This story is well explained the nature of cats and dogs.

Shamar 提交于 周二, 04/08/2020 - 04:30

When I read the preparation questions first I guessed dogs and cats come in this story. When I

Caroline Veloso 提交于 周四, 16/07/2020 - 21:29

It was very interesting text! It said the true feeling of cats and dogs behaviors, I agree with this text!
The clues include the saying that dogs have owners and cats have staff.

mm_xx1415 提交于 周五, 15/05/2020 - 04:13

actually, I read the first comment then i got the story idea's. Best Regards, Mohammed

Bhre Satriavi 提交于 周四, 14/05/2020 - 11:23

i still get confused for the closing statement. is it a parable? or it's just a very stupid, fool, unthinking neighbours? but in my point of view, we shouldn't have a bad prejudice to the other at the frist meet. because we dont know those people inside, yet.

Hello Bhre Satriavi

Alberto and Mimi are cats and their neighbours are dogs. You might find it useful to read other users' comments below.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

sirluisbi 提交于 周二, 12/05/2020 - 21:43

I like this stories, because in the beginning is not understood well what happen until arrive to the end, that it will be clarified all. Kind regards
Hello, It was a very little interesting story. Unfortunately, i'm a little bit disappointed because in my mind totally become clear after i read twice the hole story. But in my case it was an opportunity to spend more time practicing English. All the best, Dan

zabiullah 提交于 周日, 26/04/2020 - 17:24

actually this story is very exciting and enjoyable for me. bxz at first; i dont know exactly the main idea of the story after deep thought i noticed this story about cats and dogs. they were nieghbours and didnt like each other. the cats have staff and the dogs have owners... thanks from the english team to prepare some interesting story...

hmraees 提交于 周二, 21/04/2020 - 12:29

I don’t understand the story. Could someone explain please. Is Alberto is cat or dog, and neighbors are dogs or cats?

Hello hmraees

Alberto is a cat and his neighbours are dogs. The staff are their human 'masters'.

By the way, I'd suggest reading the comments on our pages when you have a question. We're happy to help, but you can often find useful information there.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk I couldn't understand this sentences ( cats have staff) the cats have employee? :)

Hi Neginasadat,

Yes! In this story, some characters are cats, and they have employees. (It's an imaginary story.)

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

loveiseverything 提交于 周三, 14/10/2020 - 04:35

Neginasadat 回复

That means cats can make people do what they want, but dogs can only obey what people want they do.

Grazia 提交于 周二, 07/04/2020 - 14:41

I got confused when I read Alberto and Mimi asked to the head of staff to prepare them lunch, but at the end I understood. This story made me laugh, I had a Cat and she really was the Boss and we the staff :-) Cats are like that! I love Cats!

Shebawy 提交于 周四, 26/03/2020 - 13:45

What a wonderful story, honestly, didn't get it from the 1st time, & also thought the phrase "try not to bark but to miaow instead', thought it is sorta of slang language for advising purpose, Good Author !

Hello Shebawy

We're glad you enjoyed the story! It is actually possible to use 'to bark' and 'to miaow' metaphorically (in other words, to use them to describe the way people behave and speak), but here, of course, they are used literally.

You might also enjoy this story, which is darker, but similar in some ways.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team


Nhungskun 提交于 周五, 20/03/2020 - 02:21

OMG. that's amazing story. the first i think Alberto is a human and Mimi is a his pet cat. Until Alberto and his neighbour talk about staff and owner. That is the reason why Pet always is called boss

Archana 提交于 周一, 16/03/2020 - 06:04

Alberto and Mimi Are not civilised. They are arrogant that they own a house and the neighbours are just the tenants. Breaking all the flowers of the neighbours garden cannot be called a good act. The couple could talk to the neighbours about the issues and resolve them. The end of the story is also not very convincing.

Hello Archana

You are absolutely right that they are not civilised. I wanted to point out that there is a trick in this story -- the Alberto and Mimi and the neighbours are not like you and me. This is only revealed in the last three or four lines, but if you read them again I think you will see.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

cittàutopica 提交于 周一, 09/03/2020 - 18:54

Your story is very bizarre and deceptive. Until the end I didn't had realised not only that the neighbours were animals, but also that Alberto and Mimi were animals too. When I have read the last expression, I have understood everything. I clearly haven't got enough intuition.

wcyam10 提交于 周六, 07/03/2020 - 06:26

I enjoy reading the story. I do not like a predictable story line but this one is definitely not! Can you recommend me where i can get more for this kind of story?

wcyam10 提交于 周六, 07/03/2020 - 06:24

I enjoy reading the story. I do not like a predictable story line but this one is definitely not!

pizzy78 提交于 周三, 30/10/2019 - 12:01

Are there articles for level B1 on this website? I just have been finding articles for B2 or C1.

Hello pizzy78,

Level tags are always approximate and are best used as a rough guide. Remember that learners do not fit in to single categories: each of us may be, for example, stronger at listening and weaker at grammar.

That said, you can find material at a given level by using the search tool at the top right of each page. For example, if you type in B1 then you get these results:



The LearnEnglish Team

sajith k 提交于 周日, 21/07/2019 - 13:23

wonderful story. thank you 'British Council' for provide these kind of help .it is too helpful me to develop my English skill.

parisaach 提交于 周三, 10/07/2019 - 05:39

Your story were full of misleading statements. I didn't realise that Alberto, Mimi and their neighbours are animals before the ending part of the story . I thought they are human and when Alberto,Mimi and neighbours talked about owner and staff I suprised I thought maybe I don't understand well, maybe they are some kind of slave. When they first talked about the staff I imagined there are some people that work for them. I didn't have any clear idea who are these staff, did they work in their house? did Alberto and Mimi are some kind of rich people who have staff who serve them everywhere they want?.. Anyway when they started to talk to each other and talked about the owner and staff, and when Mimi and Alberto taught their neighbours how to be a staff I gradually started to get suspecious. I really confused I found out that they are animal but I never guess what they exactly are before they clearly said what they are

Hello parisaach

I think the writer wanted the readers of his story to react in the way you reacted. So it's good that you were a little confused, because it means you read it in the way he intended.

By the way, you might also enjoy this story. If you ready it, let me know what you think!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Zeya 提交于 周二, 09/07/2019 - 12:21

When I read this story was unable to understand.i didn't feel like this story is about cat and dog. I read it again and again.i completely understood it when I was reading it 3rd time.

popo1011 提交于 周二, 02/07/2019 - 08:55

I read this story, but I do not understand the meaning of staff? please help me.

Hello popo1011

'staff' has many meanings, but the appropriate one here is 'the people who work for an organization'. So the idea is that cats think that the humans they live with work for them.

Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Vengricum 提交于 周日, 02/06/2019 - 09:57

I love this story. The first time I read it I didn't understand that it's not about people. Great story.

musaRimam 提交于 周四, 04/04/2019 - 02:37

I love the site, it's truly a leaner's point.

Nyunt Maung 提交于 周一, 11/03/2019 - 09:05

I only lose 2 marks. Does that mean my English is at advance level??