Orchid English Blog

5 Common Grammar Mistakes in English You Can Fix Easily

Posted on November 9, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English

 

Over the last month I have been listening to several adult students of English to put together a list of five really common grammar mistakes. We hear people from all over the world make these mistakes too. Below is what I heard over and over again, even from students who are upper-intermediate going on advanced. Often, when corrected, the students reply “Oh! I always say that!”

 

Here we go:

 

My manager she said yes

To be honest, most native speakers will hear this without making a correction because it’s very easy for us to understand, it just doesn’t sound natural. What’s wrong with this? You shouldn’t use two subjects. So you need to choose either “My manager said yes” or “She said yes“.

 

We are five

Well, maybe this is OK. Are you all five years old? If you are, well done for reading this; I was reading books about talking animals at your age! But you probably mean “there are five of us“. Adults learning English often say “we were twenty in the negotiations workshop” and what they mean is “there were twenty of us in the negotiations workshop“.

 

Ask to a colleague

We often hear sentences like this:

“It’s not my department, but let me ask to a colleague.”

The meaning is clear but the preposition “to” shouldn’t be used here. I say to students that the verb “ask” already includes the idea of “to”. If you use “to” after “ask”, it means for permission or a request. Correctly, you should say “Ask a colleague” “I asked Daniel to email me the figures” but not “I asked to Daniel to email me the figures“.

 

Married with

Aha! Well sometimes “married with” can be OK. But it’s misused by learners of English 90% of the time.

  • Is John at the other branch?
  • No, he’s on his honeymoon.
  • Honeymoon?
  • Yes! He got married to his girlfriend Raquel last week.

“Married with” is usually followed by the number of children. Perhaps John and Raquel plan on being “married with three children“.

 

Call to

“Call” is a funny verb. What’s the difference between these?

  1. I called his supervisor
  2. I called to his supervisor

Number 1 is what we would usually use in business, it means “I phoned his supervisor”.

Number 2 sounds similar, right? But it actually means “I shouted from a distance at his supervisor”. You “call to” someone from across the road.

“Call” doesn’t take a preposition if you mean “phone”. It’s rather like the verb “ask”, it includes the idea of movement towards the object.

 

So, that was a roundup of five really common grammar mistakes in English and I hope it was useful. Had you been saying any of these? Do you hear other people say them?


How to help your colleagues learn English

Posted on October 30, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English

 

Normally our blog posts are aimed at professionals learning English who work at companies in London. This post comes from a different perspective – for native or fluent English speakers who want to help their colleagues on their path to learning English.

 

Believe your colleagues when they say they want you to correct their English. Especially when it comes to grammar, it won’t help your colleagues learn English efficiently if you listen without correcting their mistakes. They will only ingrain bad habits. If they say “I have worked here since 5 years” they will not realise this is incorrect unless you say so, or unless they have English classes.

 

Be patient. Don’t interrupt or finish their sentences for them! It is very distracting and they may not have wanted to say what you thought.

 

When you speak to a colleague who has not yet reached an advanced level in English, take care to enunciate and separate your words more than you might when speaking to a native English speaker. It can be difficult for people learning languages to know where one word ends and another begins.

 

Offer corrections at a quiet and positive moment in private. People are generally more receptive to learning in a calm environment and this will really help your colleagues learn English.

 

Keep a mental note of English mistakes that your colleagues keep making. When you can spot a trend, like a grammatical tense that they misuse, this is a valuable point to correct.

 

  • “Hey, when you use the present continuous tense it’s for something happening right now. So you can’t say “I’m drinking coffee every day”. It’s a habit so you say “I drink coffee every day”.
  • “By the way, the “p” in “receipt” is silent”.
  • “I noticed you called a woman “lady” before. A lady is a respectful way to describe a woman, but you can’t address a female customer as “Lady”.

 

If you’ve never heard this particular mistake, rest assured they mean “Madam”! It could even lead to an interesting conversation about the diverse origins of English words.

 

Finally, if you want your colleage to improve their English and you speak their language, try not to use it unless you really have to. It’s more useful when learning a language to have an explanation in the target language rather than a translation.

 

Are you in the opposite position? Do you want your people to help you with your English but find they are reluctant to do so? Read how to get them to do it here.


When do we use “so” and “such”?

Posted on September 13, 2018

You’re so busy, we know. But you’re not such a busy person that you don’t have time to read this.

So when do we use “so” and “such” in English? This is a mistake that we hear even at high levels of English but it can be “cured” easily.

 

Here are the rules:

So + adjective

So + adverb

Such + adjective + noun

 

Some examples in sentences:

 

So + adjective

Emily, you love drinking tea, you are so British

 

So + adverb

He asked me so nicely that I didn’t mind doing the extra work

 

Such + adjective + noun

I landed on my feet in this job; I have such a good manager

 

Confident of the rules for “so” and “such” now? Not so confident? Post some examples in the comments and we will tell you if you’re right!

 

Learn about how to use “too much” here.

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When do we say “Work” or “Works” in English?

Posted on July 11, 2018

 

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English

 

So firstly we can work as a verb. We work, she works. OK. The verb form is easy and regular.

 

The confusion for many of our students comes with nouns.  Is the noun “work” countable or uncountable? It’s not quite that simple, and we hear this mistake regularly. Let’s look at when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar.

 

General Business: Work as an uncountable noun

In an office, work is usually uncountable. We can have a lot of work or not much work. If you want to count one task, you could say “a piece of work”.

She finished all her work

There is so much work to do before the conference

 

You will see below why we can’t say in a general business sense:

She finished all the works

There are so many works to do before the conference

 

Construction: Work or works as a noun

In construction, we can use the word “work” as a uncountable or a plural. Both of these sentences are fine:

We are carrying out some building works on the main road

We are carrying out some building work on the main road

 

Art: Work or works as a noun

Similarly to construction, we can talk about art work or art works. You could say:

I really love the work of Picasso and

I really love the works of Picasso

These sentences are almost identical but work implies all of it, and works implies that you have some particular pieces in mind.

 

To return to our previous example sentences:

“She finished all the works” is OK only if she is a construction worker or artist

Likewise,

“There are so many works to do before the conference” is OK only if there are so many works of art to do, or so many construction works to complete before the conference.

 

Now we know when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar, you can get back to work! Review countable and uncountable nouns with a good quiz here.

 

 


5 Football Phrases in English

Posted on July 6, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English

 

Have you been enjoying the football this summer? I’m not usually much of a football fan but I do like watching the World Cup. We’ve put together 5 football phrases in English to improve your conversations about football. The best thing? All of these phrases could also be used at work as business English idioms.

 

To be on the ball
Football English: To focus on the ball without getting distracted.
Business English: To keep yourself informed about what’s happening in your industry, your colleagues and competitors.
Usage: TV reporters need to be really on the ball because the stories could change at any time.

 

To move the goalposts
Football English: To change the rules to suit one team or player.
Business English: To change the rules to suit particular people, or an industry.
Usage: The sales target for the other team was 100 cars but we have to sell 150. That’s really moving the goalposts!

 

To score an own goal
Football English: To score a goal in your own team’s goal.
Business English: To do something that really damages yourself and benefits your competitors.
Usage: Why on earth did you recommend our competitor? That was an own goal.

 

To take sides (negative nuance)
Football English: Of a referee, for example, to treat one team better than the other.
Business English: To unfairly favour one colleague or department over another in a dispute.
Usage: Look, I don’t want to take sides. I can see that both of you have a fair point.

 

Take your eye off the ball
Football English: To look away at a crucial point when you should have been concentrating on the ball.
Business English: To get distracted and miss an important event.
Usage: The regulation totally changed and I didn’t notice! I mustn’t take my eye off the ball next time.

 

Which of these football phrases in English do you like the best? Do you have some interesting football idioms in your language?