Orchid English Blog

Typical Mistake by Spanish and Italian Students: Double Subjects

Posted on 11月 22, 2018

By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


This is a post for adults learning English whose first language is a Latin one. In our company English classes around London we teach lots of Latin students who work here.


Additionally, about 15 years ago I taught English in the pretty Italian city of Naples. I’m learning Spanish at the moment so I have some Spanish friends as well as Spanish students of English. This is a typical mistake by Spanish and Italian students that we teachers hear on a regular basis:


  • Does your teacher correct the same mistakes over and over again?
  • Yes, my teacher she always corrects my grammar.


Hold on! What’s the mistake here? Let’s look at the reply.


Native speakers only use constructions like “my teacher… she” if they get distracted and there is a long pause after the subject. Then it turns out we have to start a new sentence.


This is the kind of thing a native speaker might say:


  • My teacher… oh, yes, could we have two medium lattes, please? …She explains complicated grammar in a really simple way.


So what should you say in the first example sentence? You have to choose a noun or a pronoun, but not both together:


  • My teacher always corrects my grammar
  • She always corrects my grammar


There is a useful quiz here to test your knowledge and ingrain the habit of using only one subject.


Read more about typical mistakes made by Latin students here in our previous posts: How to recognise and avoid using double negatives, and how to say you will pay for someone else.


10 Popular Email Abbreviations

Posted on 11月 15, 2018


By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


Do you send emails in English? Do you receive emails from native English speakers and wonder what some of the email abbreviations mean? Hundreds of modern email abbreviations and acronyms go in and out of fashion constantly and while researching this post I was surprised how many I didn’t know.

Here are some common email abbreviations that we often use in work emails, instant messenger between colleagues and text messages.



As soon as possible

Americans tend to pronounce this as “aisap”, British people tend to pronounce all the letters individually. In the email abbreviations below in this list, all letters are pronounced individually.



Be right back

This is really good when messaging colleagues or friends. When you’re having a conversation on instant messenger and need to break off suddenly, for a delivery or a phone call, BRB tells the person all they need to know in a second.



By the way

It means, as an aside, to start a new topic. Quite informal and good for messenger.



Estimated time of arrival

  • When are you arriving?
  • It should be about a 40 minute drive so our ETA is 3pm.



For your information

Often this is used sarcastically so this can seem a bit rude if used incorrectly. In my opinion, FYI is almost a filler and doesn’t really add more to your message. If in doubt, it’s best to avoid this because it can seem abrupt.



In my opinion

On Facebook native speakers will often use IMHO which can stand for “in my honest opinion” or “in my humble opinion”.



Laughing out loud

Super casual! If it’s really funny this can be LOOOOOL.



Not safe for work

Do you have a friend who likes to send funny emails? NSFW means you shouldn’t open it at work, the content is inappropriate.




This is a nice one – often used at the top of an email or letter.



Répondez s’il vous plaît

Parlezvous français? If you don’t speak French this may be totally different in your language. It just means “please reply”. Don’t just ignore the invitation and assume the sender knows whether you’re coming or not!



To be honest

Like the two below, this is very casual and well suited to instant messenger although you could use it with colleagues.



Talk to you later

A friendly and casual sign-off to a messenger conversation.




For the mega-busy, who have to conserve all their writing energy…


Want to know more about email writing in English? Learn how to start and finish emails in English and some ideas for conversational openers in opening lines in business emails.


Hungry to learn even more email abbreviations? There are even more in this article aimed at sales and applicable to general business English here.

5 Common Grammar Mistakes in English You Can Fix Easily

Posted on 11月 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 10月 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 9月 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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