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Sometimes 'It Takes Two to Tango'


Couples dance before the announcement of the winners in the stage category at the World Tango Championship final in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Sometimes 'It Takes Two to Tango'
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And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

The tango is a South American dance that is passionate and emotionally intense between two people.

Our expression for today’s program is: It takes two to tango!

So, let’s do the tango … in an expression.

Kirill Parshakov and Anna Gudyno, from Russia, compete in the stage category at the World Tango Championship final in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Kirill Parshakov and Anna Gudyno, from Russia, compete in the stage category at the World Tango Championship final in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Like the tango, some actions or activities take two people. You can’t do them alone. Like a fight. Fighting with yourself, whether a verbal argument or a fist fight, would look really silly! And doing the tango by yourself might look silly too.

We often use the expression “it takes two to tango” to describe a situation, usually a difficult one, where two people or two parties are equally to blame. We also use this expression when two people or two parties are responsible for getting something done.

For example, some reforms in the United States will need both parties to come together. After all, it takes two to tango.

Sometimes we shorten this expression by leaving out the subject and say, “takes two to tango.”

Here are more examples.

We need to work together on this problem, or we will never find a solution. Like the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.’’

This project is too big for one person. I’ll help you. Takes two to tango!

We have a similar expression. It also means that two people are involved in something. The expression “two can play at that game” means what one person does, another can do too. We use this expression to involve ourselves in the action: We are going to do the same thing that someone else is doing.

Let’s say, someone plays a trick on you. They throw a balloon filled with water at you and you get soaked. You shout, “Two can play at that game!” And then you throw a water balloon at them!

Usually we use this in an “I will get you back” kind of way.

Here’s an example.

Look I know that you want the new job in the design department. So, I’m going to tell you something – something about Daryl.

He wants the job too, doesn’t he?

Yes. And he just invited the boss to a football game.

Did he. Well, two can play at that game. I will invite the boss … to … karaoke night.

I don’t think the boss sings.

Oh. Football karaoke?

I don’t think that’s a thing. But keep thinking.

Juan David Vargas and Paulina Mejia, representing the city of Cali, Colombia, perform during the Stage style final round at the Tango World Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 21, 2019.
Juan David Vargas and Paulina Mejia, representing the city of Cali, Colombia, perform during the Stage style final round at the Tango World Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 21, 2019.

Now back to our first expression – it takes two to tango. Learning a language is difficult to do alone. So, join me here again next week for another Words and Their Stories. After all, it takes two to tango!

Until next time, I'm Anna Matteo.

Hey, baby, how about this dance?
Why?
'Cause it takes two to do this dance
Takes two to tango, two to tango
Two to really get the feeling of romance
Let's do the tango, do the tango
Do the dance of love!

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. The song at the end is Louis Armstrong singing “It Takes Two to Tango.”

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Words in This Story

passionate – adj. having, showing or expressing strong emotions or beliefs

verbal – adj. spoken rather than written words

fist fight –n. a fight in which people hit each other with their fists

silly – adj. having or showing a lack of thought, understanding, or good judgement

soaked – adj. made completely wet

English in a Minute: It Takes Two to Tango
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