Orchid English Blog

Using “The” When You’re a Member of an Institution

Posted on October 11, 2016

By Emily Stallard, Owner and Trainer at Orchid English

Is your English teacher always telling you to add or remove “the”? “The” is also called “the definite article” in English. Here’s our quick guide on how to use the definite article for institutions. It depends on whether you’re a member of the institution or not. Today we will look at universities, hospitals, churches and prisons.



Should we say “I’m going to university” or “I’m going to the university”? It depends. Do you go to university regularly as a student, or as a visitor? “I’m going to university” sounds like you are a student of that university. “I’m going to the university” seems like you are visiting as an academic or as a prospective student. Perhaps you’re going to “the university” as a one-off to make a presentation there. It depends on whether you are a member of that institution or not.



Likewise, we say we are going to “hospital” if we are a patient, or “the hospital” if we are a visitor or if we work at the hospital. Americans may use “the” in both cases in this example here.



If I say “I went to church” you may assume I have a religious reason for going, and I am a member of that church. “If I say “I went to the church” perhaps I visited the church for a fair or as a tourist.



“Prison” is another example of an institution. Next time you read about a crime in the paper, note whether the criminals are are “going to prison” where they will be members of that institution. Perhaps their families will “go to the prison” to visit them.


So in summary, here’s how to use the definite article for institutions:

  • Use “the” if it’s not your usual institution.
  • Don’t use “the” if it’s an institution you are a member of or go to regularly.

Using “the” in English can be a real pain – you’ll get there! It’s easier to learn the rules bit by bit like this. Confident you know to use the definite article for institutions now? Read more about using “the” in business English here.  

Let us know if you have any questions, or requests for future blog posts on Facebook or Twitter.

How to Use “Too Much” in English

Posted on October 7, 2016

By Emily Stallard, Owner and Trainer at Orchid English

This is a really common mistake our students make. They say “the explanation was too much detailed” or “we were too much early”. What’s wrong with this? Here’s how to use “too much” in English. 


In English we use “too much” with an uncountable noun, and not with an adjective. With adjectives such as “detailed” or “early”, we use “too” not “too much”. The correct sentence is “the explanation was too detailed”. If you want to emphasise your point, you can say “the explanation was much too detailed”.


To use “too much” with nouns, the nouns must be grammatically uncountable.  Grammatically uncountable nouns include “money, “information”, or “equipment”. You can’t say “I have one money”. Grammatically countable nouns include “people”, “pens” or coins”. You CAN say “I have one person”. It’s only with grammatically countable nouns that you can use“too much”.

So this is the correct form:

  • “There is too much money”
  • “There is too much  information
  • “There is too much  equipment

Not: There is too much people

Negative Sentences

For the negative, you can use “not enough” for countable and uncountable nouns: “I don’t have enough information and I don’t have enough pens”.

Test Yourself

So now you know how to use “too much” in English. To practise countable versus uncountable nouns, there is a great quiz here. Good luck! 


How to start and finish professional emails in English

Posted on September 13, 2016

By Emily Stallard, owner and trainer at Orchid English


Do you struggle with formality in business writing? Even native English speakers sometimes wonder which form to address to use, and which sign off is best. Here are some of our tips on how to start and finish professional emails in English.


How to Start Emails

Hi Donna,

When emailing colleagues I usually start “Hi” and their first name. This may look too casual to some people from other cultures but it’s “business casual” in the UK. It’s still more formal than using “Hi” or “Hey” with no name, as you may write to a friend.

Hello Jane,

If I am emailing a potential client or someone else I don’t know well I might start “Hi”, “Hello” or “Dear” and their first name. How do I decide? Sometimes I check how they have addressed me and I use the same form!

Dear Ms Sandberg,

Some people use “Dear” with a title and surname and this is a question of personal preference. I often use this if I’m emailing for the first time, or addressing someone from a culture which uses more formal forms of address. In British business culture this is generally considered over-formal with people who you have already met.


How to Finish Emails

British professionals tend to sign off emails using these words and phrases. Here they are in approximate order of least formal to most formal:

  • Thanks,
  • Best wishes,
  • Best regards,
  • Kind regards,
  • Regards,

You may have seen “Yours sincerely” or “Yours faithfully” and these are generally used in letter writing.


So now you know how to start and finish professional emails in English. What style do you prefer? How does this compare to email writing in your culture?

How to use -ware and -wear in English

Posted on September 6, 2016

By Emily Stallard, Owner and Trainer at Orchid English


Do you know to use the word endings “ware” and “wear”? Had you ever considered that they were different? Recently I saw a student’s written work and I realised that she didn’t use the word endings -ware and -ware correctly. She is a very high level and I wondered how many other people confuse these endings. In spoken English it doesn’t matter because they sound the same. This is how to use “ware” and “wear”:



If you’re talking about clothing, the spelling at the end of the word should be “wear“:

  • Formalwear
  • Menswear
  • Sportswear
  • Swimwear
  • Womenswear

Note that you cannot just say “wear” as an alternative noun for “clothing”. I have heard people learning English say “I like your wear” but this should be “I like your outfit” or “I like your suit” etc. If you want to use the word “wear” you could say “I like what you’re wearing”.


Material or Use

If you are talking about items made from a particular material or items for a particular use, the spelling at the end should be “ware“:

Items made from a particular material

  • Glassware
  • Lacquerware
  • Leatherware

Items for a particular use

  • Giftware
  • Kitchenware
  • Tableware


So now you know! It’s menswear not mensware and tableware not tablewear.

Thanks for reading and please let us know suggestions for future blog posts on Facebook or Twitter!

Are you making this common mistake with “Time”?

Posted on August 26, 2016

How much time do you have in the day for learning English? Do you have time to review your study notes? If you have time, it’s great to review every day, even if it’s just five minutes. Studying a little and often will help your brain to remember it over a longer time period.


Notice how I used the sentences with “time” above. Often we hear students in our English classes say “If you have a time” or “Do you have a time?”


“Time” in this context should be uncountable, as in “If you have time” or “Do you have time?” This is a general question about time.


You can also use the definite article “the”. This implies it’s a particular time, such as “I don’t have the time (in my day) for much reading” or “She doesn’t have the time to take the call (right now)”.


This works the same with:

  • “If you have an opportunity” or “If you have the opportunity”
  • “If you have a chance” or “If you have the chance”


So now you know how to use “time” in English correctly! Read about the use of “the” when you’re a member of an institution here. Let us know any requests you have for future blog posts on Facebook or Twitter.