Presentation Skills: How to use signpost language to structure your presentation.

© Copyright Chris Martin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

© Copyright Chris Martin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

I have been coaching an online client on her Business English writing skills recently and we’ve now turned to presentation skills. During our discussion, she asked me if we could go over some expressions she could use to steer her audience through her presentation.

These expressions are collectively known as “signposts”. They give structure to your presentation and inform your audience of what to expect keeping them engaged at all times. After all, you don’t want an inattentive audience looking at their phones, answering emails or worst still, asleep!

The following expressions provide a framework that you can use for your next presentation. Let’s explore.

Can everyone see? Well, good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming.
Before we start I’d like to introduce myself. My name is…..and I am the….(position) of…..(company)
I am here today to talk about….

I’m going to look at three main areas.
First, I’ll talk about …..
Then I’ll cover ….
And finally …….

My presentation will take around 10 minutes. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them at the end of my talk.

Main presentation
First of all, I’d like to look at …

Any questions so far?

Secondly, …..
I must emphasize that ….
The question is ….

Explaining images, graphs or data
I’d like you to look at….You will see from this chart that…..
As you can see from the graph,…
The figures show that…..

Basic signposts
If I can side-track/digress for a moment ….
As I mentioned earlier ….
I’ll come back to that in a moment …
Now let’s move on to the question of ……..
I’d now like to turn to
Let me expand on this point…
Let me elaborate on that ….
Let’s recap on those last points

This brings me to my last point, which is ….
As you know,…
In general,…
On the other hand,…

In conclusion, let me briefly go through the main points again. First I talked about….., then I described ….., and finally I ….

Right, I think that’s everything. Let me finish by thanking you very much for your attention. And now, if there are any questions, I’ll be happy to try and answer them.

Dealing with questions
Could you be a little more specific?
Can I just check what you’re asking?

You’ve raised an important point there. Could I ask what your own view is?
Anyone like to comment on that?
Jane, this is your area. Would you like to make a comment?

We only have a few minutes left. Is there one last question?

Having this framework will help you structure your presentation and give you some simple expressions to use during your talk. Try it out and good luck!

If you found this post helpful and think that other learners could benefit, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my weekly posts.

Ciao for now


Source: Business Builder, Teacher’s Resource Series Modules 7-9, Paul Emmerson (1999) Macmillan

Business is War – Let’s Explore 10 War Idioms Used In Business English


Photo Credit: Pixabay

This weekend my husband and I attended a fancy dress party to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain during World War Two. My husband went dressed as a SAS (Special Air Service) commando and I went as a Royal Air Force (RAF) ground crew. We had a lot of fun and were rewarded with an air display of the Spitfire.

2015-09-19 18.03.27“That’s all well and good, Shanthi, but what has your weekend got to do with us learning English?” – I hear you say. Good point. As many of you know, I often use episodes and situations in my life as a trigger for my posts. I spend most of my time thinking how I can transform an everyday (or special) event into a language learning opportunity. And last weekend’s party was no exception.

As I was enjoying myself, I was thinking of ways I could bring references to war to a post and I found it – business.

The world of business is filled with references to war idioms and expressions. Many people refer to business as war. Think of all those verbs we use in English related to the military that are used in Business English – attack the opposition; defend our position in the market; we need to capture a larger slice of the market; we have to reinforce our message if we are to fight back.

Most businesses require a strong strategy if they are to succeed. Therefore, they need to think strategically if they are to win the battle. Being on the defensive is not an option. Sometimes, aggressive moves are required.

I know from teaching my business clients that the above expressions are known and commonly used by native and non-native speakers of English alike in business meetings and written communications. Business journals and media are filled with these expressions. If you are to communicate effectively in business, it would be worth your while learning these war idioms. In addition to the expressions above, I have picked 10 war idioms and provided some background explanation together with examples.

1. Take (the) flak – to receive strong criticism or opposition
“flak” refers to the firing of bullets at enemy aircraft from the ground

“Volkswagen/Audi has taken some serious flak for misleading US regulators over the emissions of their diesel cars”.


2. Set your sights on – target something
In combat, one side sets its sights on (targets) the enemy before shooting.

“We have set our sights on gaining 15% of market share by the end of Q4 of 2017″.

3. A minefield – a situation that is very complicated with hidden dangers and problems
Also refers to a piece of land that is filled with mines (bombs)

“If we adopt that approach we could enter into a potential legal minefield. I’m not sure it would be worth it.”


4. Lay low – to wait before doing something
In the military, soldiers often lay low (hide) and wait before attacking their enemy.

“I think it would be better to lay low until the economy starts picking up. That way we’ll have a better chance of fighting back”.

5. Give up without a fight 

“I don’t understand Tom; after years of sacrifice he simply gave up without a fight.” 

“I am not going to give this company up without a fight

6. Lose ground – to suffer losses or setbacks
In land warfare, it’s important not to lose ground against the enemy

“Despite our best efforts, the delays in implementing the new software has meant that we’ve lost precious ground against our competitors”.


7. To be your own worst enemy – to cause most of your problems because of your character/shortcomings

“The company’s CEO is its own worst enemy; his refusal to adapt to the changes in the market is going to spell disaster for the company in the long run.”


8. Casualties – people or things that are badly affected by something happening beyond their control
(Military) The injured or wounded

“The marketing team is always the first casualty in the cutbacks”. 


9. Take no prisoners – to be merciless
(Military) When you take no prisoners, you kill everyone.

“When it comes to doing business Jack takes no prisoners, so good luck!”

“If we are to compete successfully in this market, we need to have a take no prisoners attitude”.

10. Make a killing – to have great financial success

“George Soros made a killing on the British pound in 1992 which led Britain to leave the Exchange Rate Mechanism”.


Take a look at some business journals and pay attention to the expressions used. You’ll be surprised by how many references there are to war. After all, business is all about winning the competition and so is war.

I hope you found this post useful. If you did and you think that others could benefit from it, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to receive more of my posts automatically to your inbox.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and have a great week.

Ciao for now


Kung Fu, Judo, Karate – 16 Idioms in English with Martial Arts Connections

2015-09-15 18.18.47

I am back, folks!!!! It feels like I’ve been away for ages. Have you missed me? Well, I’ve certainly missed  writing a post and your comments. So without further ado, let’s get started.

I had a business meeting in Southampton in the south of England on Monday. Whilst on the train, I caught up on my reading, especially professional teaching journals. One article I read (Another String to Your Bow by Trev Hill, Issue 99 of ETp) was about how martial arts could be used in the language classroom. I don’t mean actually practising martial arts with learners (imagine me kick boxing!) but the article suggested that “martial arts can provide a wealth of cultural and linguistic information which can be used to learn vocabulary and grammar”.

The author suggested a number of ways that learners could learn useful general vocabulary related to martial arts through films, TV and computer games. Words such as, high kick, block, punch, fist and so on.

Martial arts have also contributed to a number of idioms to the English Language and the author shared a list of 16 idioms in the article. I would like to share them here with you. These idioms are frequently used in everyday language and I must admit I wasn’t aware of some of these idioms’ origins. It made for an interesting read. I hope you think so too.

1. To come to blows (general)
to start fighting 

They came to blows over the issue of whose responsibility it was.

2. To keep your guard up (general)
to be careful or ready for anything

He’s a tricky client, so keep your guard up.

3. To block and parry (general)
to block is to stop an opponent’s technique, either with an arm or shield; to parry is to block and divert the blow 

The politician refused to give a direct answer and parried all criticism.

4. To add another string to your bow (archery)
to gain a new skill which may be helpful later

I have a first aid certificate but I don’t know if I’ll ever need it. Still, it’s another string to my bow.

5. To get to grips with something (wrestling)
to start to deal with a problem or a job

I tried to get to grips with the basics of chess, but I soon gave up.

6. To pin someone down (wrestling)
to get someone in a position where they have to talk to you, say what they think or make a decision

Joe kept avoiding me, but I finally managed to pin him down.

7. To be a stickler (wrestling)
to be a perfectionist or someone who keeps closely to the rules

I’d better check this email again. My boss is a stickler for correct spelling and punctuation.

8. To have a stranglehold over someone (wrestling)
to restrict the ability to function
(a stranglehold is a technique for choking an opponent. It is often used as a restraint)

The government’s new tax has put a stranglehold on small businesses.


9. To be up against the ropes (boxing)
to be in a desperate situation

We have lost a lot of money, and if things don’t improve, the firm will close. We are really up against the ropes.

10. To be in a tight corner (boxing)
to have little choice or manoeuvre (similar to the above idiom but more frequently used)

We don’t have many options left; we’re in a tight corner.

11. To be out for the count (boxing)
to be unconscious or asleep
(when boxers are hit hard and are dazed or unconscious, the referee counts to ten. If the boxer recovers before ten, he is allowed to continue; if he doesn’t stand up before the count of ten, he is out)

I tried to wake you up this morning, but you were out for the count.

12. To take the gloves off (boxing)
to stop being nice or stop playing by the rules

I’ve given him so many chances and he’s messed me around. That’s it, the gloves are off. No ‘Mr Nice Guy’ anymore! 

13. To hit below the belt (boxing)
to do or say something to gain advantage which is considered morally questionable

You mentioned her problems with depression during the meeting? That’s hitting below the belt!

14. To cross swords with someone (fencing/swordfighting)
to have an encounter with someone, usually disagreeable

That new sales assistant is a real troublemaker. We’ve already crossed swords with each other.

15. To be on your guard (fencing)
to be careful and ready for trouble
(similar to the French fencing term ‘en garde’ which is called out at the beginning of a fencing match to tell the fencers to be ready).

The new Managing Director is so unpredictable in his reactions that I find myself always on my guard.

16. To fence with someone (fencing)
to try to outwit someone or test their ability

The two lawyers fenced with each other, but neither got the upper hand.

I am sure that some of the idioms are used in your language as martial arts are practised throughout the world. Do please share them here with me and your fellow readers.

If you liked this post and feel that others could benefit from reading it please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you want to receive more posts like these directly to your inbox.

Ciao for now



What To Do On Rainy Days? Let’s Explore Some English Vocabulary.


Photo: Pixabay

As I write this post, it’s pouring with rain outside. In fact, it has been raining for the last three days virtually non-stop! I guess this is is the risk you run living in the UK, but we are in the month of August! Come on, rain gods….what’s going on?!

The skies are grey, the roads are wet and slippery, it’s damp and windy and everyone looks miserable as they huddle under umbrellas that won’t stay open in the wind. However, as the British would say “At least, it’s not cold”. The British are masters of understatement.

Work and rain
Waking up to the rain is bad enough, but when you have to go to work in the rain it’s even worse. If you have to catch a train or bus to work, the journey can be a nightmare. Not only do you have to struggle with an umbrella that won’t do what you want it to do, you then have to sit or stand with a soggy umbrella against your legs slowly soaking your feet and shoes. There are always far more people on the buses or trains as the people who would normally walk decide to use public transport on rainy days. That means crowded buses and train carriages with fewer seats and an uncomfortable journey to work.

The journey to work by car is rarely much better. Once again, those people who would normally cycle or walk to work drive creating more traffic on the roads and therefore more traffic jams. The result? You have more irritated people arriving late for work. Not a good start to the day.

No work and rain
On the other hand, waking up to the rain on your day off or at the weekend is a whole different kettle of fish. While you may not relish the idea, there are a number of things you could do to fill up your day that could be fun.

You could:

1. Switch the alarm off and carry on sleeping.

2. Snuggle up under the bed covers or duvet with a good book.

3. Lounge around in your pyjamas all day doing absolutely nothing.

4. Have a soothing or relaxing bubble bath.

5. Do some baking or cooking. I love baking cakes or preparing soup on rainy days.

6. Veg out in front of the TV and catch up with all the films or TV programmes you’ve been meaning to watch. You could have a marathon screening of the films or programmes.

7. Catch up with your reading. It could be books, magazines or all those newspaper supplements that have been piling up by your bedside for weeks.

8. Invite friends or family over for a meal and play board games afterwards.

9. Sit comfortably in your favourite armchair and make a series of phone calls to friends and family you haven’t spoken to in ages (a long time).

10. Take a long afternoon nap. This is my all-time favourite pastime on rainy days (or any other day for that matter!).

What do you do on rainy days?

Continuing with the theme of rain, you might like this post I wrote sharing 6 British English Rain Expressions.

If you liked this post and feel that others could benefit from reading it please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you want to receive more posts like these directly to your inbox.

Ciao for now


English Skills: How To Meet and Greet Visitors in English

Imagine you’ve been asked to pick a business acquaintance up from the airport or railway station and this person only speaks English. Do you know what you’re going to do and, more importantly, what you’re going to say?


In life, especially our professional lives, first impressions are crucial. According to this article in Forbes magazine, we have 7 seconds to make a positive first impression. The article proceeds to say that first impressions are more heavily influenced by non-verbal signs than verbal signs. In other words, what we DO matters more than what we SAY.

Smiling, a strong hand shake, good eye contact and straight posture are all non-verbal signs that will help you create an excellent first impression with your business acquaintance.

There are also other things that you could do and say that would reinforce this first impression. And this is where I have the delightful pleasure in sharing with you fellow teacher Vicki Hollett’s latest video on how to greet a visitor.

As many of you will know, I am a huge fan of Vicki’s videos. Together with her husband, Jay, Vicki produces short videos about the English Language at Simple English Videos. Every Tuesday, they release an English Language lesson. They are fun, entertaining and educational.  Each video has its own transcript that can be accessed via their website. Check them out!

This week, Vicki released the following video and I just knew that I had to share it with you. In the video, Vicki provides learners a list of do’s and don’t’s of what to do and say when first meeting and greeting a visitor in English.

First, watch the video. Then meet me after for a recap.

Did you enjoy it as much as I did? What does Vicki suggest we do and don’t do and say? Let’s see.

1. Arrive on time – don’t keep the person you’re meeting waiting and wondering where you are.

Be ready to greet your visitor and make them feel welcome – keep it professional, though!

“Are you _____?”
“Hi, Welcome to Philly!”

“Hi*, I’m _____ from Pattersons. 
“Welcome to Philadelphia.

* In some cultures, it’s better to say Good Morning/Afternoon rather than Hi.

Non-verbal: Don’t forget a firm handshake, smile and give good eye contact.

Listen/Pay attention to what your visitor says so you can respond – this also shows you’re interested in what they have to say.

You: “How was your trip?”
Visitor: “Not too bad but one of my bags didn’t arrive…..”
You: “Will they deliver it to your hotel?”
Visitor: “That’s what they promised.”
You: “Oh, good/ oh, that’s good.”

4. Be helpful – with luggage, for example

You: “Can I help you with your bags?”

5. Small Talk – engaging in small talk creates a warm rapport between you and your visitor in a very short period. However, choose your topic with caution.

“Are you married?”
“How old are you?”
“How long have you worked for___?”

Don’t get too personal with someone you’ve only just met. Keep it neutral. Travel and the weather are good topics to start off with.

“Do you travel a lot?”
 “Have you ever been to Philadelphia?
 “Is this the first time to our city?”

 “What was the weather like in England when you left?”
 “We’ve had some lovely weather here and it’s expected to continue throughout your  stay”.
 “It has been extremely hot recently, but we’re expecting cooler temperatures in the next  day or so”.

6. Be positive, friendly and upbeat – in both your verbal and non-verbal language and you will create the perfect first impression.

And there you have it. Oh, one other thing, Vicki and I want to know what other topics you think would be ideal topics to start off a conversation. Please let me know in the comments section of this post.

My thanks to Vicki for allowing me to share her video with you. I hope you enjoyed the post. If you did and found it helpful, please share it.
And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more tips on learning the English Language.

Ciao for now


12 Idioms with “Mind”? I Don’t Mind If I Do!

The expression, I don’t mind if I do” is typically British English that is used when you politely accept food or drink that is offered to you, for example, “Another slice of cake?”

Imagine I’ve offered you a “tray” of 12 idioms and you’ve politely accepted them. Well, that’s what I’m hoping – that you accept them!

So let’s get on with this post. I saw the graphic below on Cork English Teacher’s Facebook Page and simply had to share it here with you. John is an English Language teacher based in Cork, Ireland. He prepares wonderful graphic posts about the English Language (grammar, vocabulary, slang, idioms) for his FB page. I often share them on my own page. This time I thought I’d share this graphic with you and expand on it.

The word “mind” has many uses in the English Language. It can be used as a noun and a verb. For more information take a look at Cambridge Dictionary here.

The word is also used idiomatically as outlined below. Let’s see how. I have added a couple of my own to give you 12 expressions in total.

CET_Idioms with Mind

  1. Open-minded – willing to consider ideas and opinions that are different to your own.

    Parents these days need to be a lot more open-minded if they are to have a more meaningful relationship with their teenagers.

  2. Narrow-minded – the opposite of the above, that is, you’re NOT willing to accept ideas or opinions that are different from your own.

    It is virtually impossible to make progress with such narrow-minded directors in this company.

  3. Have something/a lot on your mind – to be worried about something

    A: Are you all right? You look tired.B: I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and it’s keeping me awake at night.

  4. Out of sight, out of mind – when you don’t see somebody/something for a long time, it’s easy to forget about it or him/her. (It’s a saying)

    It’s important to have regular contact with someone, for, as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?

  5. Mind your own business – this what you tell someone when you don’t want them to interfere in your affairs (It’s informal and can be used humorously or seriously depending on the situation so be careful how you use this)

    A: Where have you been? B: Mind your own business!

  6. Be in two minds about something – to be undecided about something

    I am in two minds about whether to go to the party on Saturday or not.

  7. Make up your mind – to decide or make a decision

    We cannot wait any longer, you’re going to have to make up your mind about what you want to do.
    Make up your mind! Do you want toast or cereal?

  8. Change your mind – make a new decision or opinion from your old one.

    If you do change your mind about meeting, just give me a call.

  9. Bear something in mind – to remember a piece of information when making a decision

    When calculating the budget, you need to bear in mind the extra building costs.

  10. Never mind – an expression to say “it doesn’t matter” or it’s not important

    A: Oh, I have run out of milk. I’ll go and get some.B: Never mind, I’m happy to drink black coffee.

  11. To be bored out your mind – extremely bored

    The meeting went on for hours. By the end of it, I was bored out of my mind.

  12. Out of your mind
    a) you’re unable to behave normally because something has made you worried, unhappy or angryShe nearly went out of her mind with worry when her daughter didn’t arrive home.

    I’d go out of my mind if I had to do her job.

    b) extremely stupid or mentally ill (informal)
    Are you out of your mind?! I’d never pay £500 for a ticket to watch Arsenal.


So there you have it. Do you have similar expressions in your language?

I hope you found this post helpful. If you did, please share it with others and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to receive more posts like these.

Ciao for now. I will be out of sight but hopefully not out of mind!



20 Phrasal Verbs with ‘BRING’ – Let’s Explore.

phrasal verbs

As you know, the English Language is filled with phrasal verbs (verbs and prepositions). They cause sleepless nights to most learners and find us teachers apologising time and again for what appears to be the language’s reluctance to use the proper verb.

After all, why say: “I managed to persuade Tim of the advantages of the new working hours” when you can say: “I managed to bring Tim round to the advantages of the new working hours”. I know, I know…the English Language is mind-boggling. However, this eccentricity is also what makes it so enriching to teach and dare I say it, to learn.

So, the above introduction offers me the perfect opportunity to share with you 20 phrasal verbs with the verb “BRING”. I have selected 8 phrasal verbs, but you will see that some of them have multiple meanings depending on the context making a total of 20. There are more but I don’t want to inundate you!

1. Bring About 
to make something happen, especially to cause changes in a situation, to trigger

“The changes we’ve made to the purchasing system will bring about huge savings to the company”.
2. Bring Along
to take something or someone with you when you go somewhere

“Can I bring along a guest to the exhibition?” “Yes, of course”.


3. Bring Back
There are 6 different meanings for this particular phrasal verb so let’s look at each meaning.

a) re-kindle memories or feelings
“Looking through those old photographs brought back all my memories of the wonderful summers I spent in Cornwall”.

b) reintroduce something that was used in the past
“I think we should bring back the tradition of dressing up for dinner”.

c) re-employ
“Sam is looking to bring back the former tennis coach in the hope of winning some competitions.”

d) to bring something when you return
“Have a wonderful holiday and don’t forget to bring me back a present!”

e) to make a dead person live
“Her heart stopped three times during the operation but the surgeons managed to bring her back.”

f) to talk about something again (often used in meetings or presentations)
“This brings me back to subject of operational cuts and the need to introduce them”.

. Bring Down
We have 3 different meanings for this phrasal verb

a) to topple or overturn a government or politician
“The opposition parties are threatening to bring down the government if the referendum on the Euro is not held.”

b) to reduce
“If we are to compete in the market, we’re going to have to bring down our production costs.”
“We have managed to bring her temperature down so let’s see what the next few hours will bring.”

c) to make something or someone move or fall to the ground
“The pilot was able to bring  the plane down to safety with one single engine.”
“The strong winds brought down a number of power lines in the area”.


5. Bring Forward
To change the date or time of an event so that it happens earlier.
“The meeting has been brought forward to 3pm.”


6. Bring In
Once again we have many meanings for this phrasal verb.

a) to use the skills of a particular group or person
“We need to bring in a specialist to analyse the figures more closely for us”.

b) to be the reason that someone receives money
“The Royal Family bring(s) in millions of pounds to to the Treasury every year”.

c) to introduce a new law or system
“The new contracts system we’re bringing in in the autumn will make a huge difference to the way we deal with our clients”.

d) to involve someone in a discussion when you’re in the middle of a conversation, meeting or presentation
” And now I’d like to bring in my learned colleague, James Ellroy, who has conducted some outstanding research on the subject, to share his thoughts on it”.
7. Bring Off
to succeed in doing something difficult
“It was her first investment presentation in front of the Board of Directors and she brought it off magnificently.”
8. Bring Out

a) to release a product
“We’re bringing out the new model in late October. It’s going to be so exciting”.

b) to show the quality something or someone has
” The colour of your dress really brings out the green of your eyes”.
“This wine brings out the spicy flavour of the meat beautifully”.

bring out the best or worst  in somebody

“I don’t know what it is about Simon, but he knows how to bring the worst out of me“.


These phrasal verbs take on more meaning and are easier to understand and remember when you give them a context. There’s absolutely no point trying to memorise them.


After publishing this post, I was approached by Zdenda of Engames who asked me if she could create an infographic and games around these phrasal verbs. Knowing how brilliant her posts are, I immediately accepted.
The result is that I am absolutely thrilled to share here Engames’s post featuring two fabulous infographics and games that you can use to practise these phrasal verbs.


I hope this is helpful. There are other phrasal verbs with bring, for example, bring round, bring through, bring together, bring up. Why not share some examples of these phrasal verbs in the comment box and I’ll correct them if necessary?

Please share this post if you found it useful and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you want to receive more posts like this directly to your inbox.

Until the next time.

Ciao for now


Source: Macmillan Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2007)

12 Business English Jargon Phrases To Avoid And What To Use Instead

We’ve all been there -that business meeting or conversation where business English jargon and meaningless phrases fly around. Phrases or jargon like: “Keep me in the loop“, “It’s a win-win situation”, “We need some blue sky thinking around here”, “Don’t worry, it’s on my radar“.

Not only do native speakers of English like using them, more often than not I’ve heard non-native speakers voicing these jargon phrases because they are under the mistaken belief that using them will make them sound clever and more fluent in English. Unfortunately, what it actually does is to annoy the person with whom you’re talking – the complete opposite effect I presume you’re trying to achieve. It would be so much better if you used plain English.

Not only does jargon annoy your listener, it is meaningless. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve asked a native speaker what some of these phrases mean only to receive blank looks from them. I’d rather have non-native speakers of English use plain language to make themselves understood.

In this post, I’d like to share twelve jargon phrases and offer you an alternative expression that will win the gratitude and understanding of your listener.

1. We need to get back to the drawing board.
Plain English: We need to start again.

2. If we’re going to achieve the results we want this year, we have to hit the ground running with the project.
Plain English: If we’re going to achieve the results we want this year, we have to work hard and successfully on the project.

3. Let’s get the ball rolling.
Plain English: Let’s start.

4. If we want to compete in this market, we need to think outside the box.
Plain English: If we want to compete in this market, we need to think differently.

5. Right, thanks everyone. Let’s touch base tomorrow at 2pm.
Plain English: Right, thanks everyone. Let’s speak again tomorrow at 2pm.

6. Ok. See you Friday at 6pm. If I am running late, I’ll ping you a message.
Plain English: Ok. See you Friday at 6pm. If I am running late, I’ll send you a message.


BLOG_Elephant in the Room_Bizarro


7. Self-publishing is a no brainer for freelance trainers with limited resources.
Plain English: Self-publishing is the logical solution for freelance trainers with limited resources.

8. Working long hours is par for the course when you start a business.
Plain English: Working long hours is normal (or expected) when you start a business.

9. There’s an ongoing problem with the system that hasn’t been addressed. We’re going to have to circle back next week to discuss matters further.
Plain English: There’s an ongoing problem with the system that hasn’t been addressed. We’re going to have to meet again next week to discuss matters further.

10. Yes, sir. It’s all hands on deck to get this project done by the agreed deadline.
Plain English: Yes, sir. Everyone is working hard to get this project done by the agreed deadline.

11. It was obvious to everyone that there was an elephant in the room – the job cuts.
Plain English: It was obvious that everyone was trying to avoid the difficult subject of the job cuts.

12. Listen, I don’t have time for this. I have far too much on my plate and am finding it difficult to cope as it is.
Plain English: Listen, I don’t have time for this. I am far too busy  and am finding it difficult to cope as it is.
What other expressions do you know or have heard? Do you use any of the above in your business dealings? Think of how you use them and try to use Plain English instead.

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Ciao for now


English Skills: 5 Essential Polite Expressions When Speaking English


How-to-be-politeBeing polite is important in all languages especially if you are asking someone to help you. We all know that if we want things to be done whether in our personal or professional lives, it pays to be polite. You won’t get far by being rude or impolite. Different cultures have different ways of tackling politeness.

In English Language cultures, the need to be polite and to use the correct expressions is essential. Not only will people appreciate it, they will see you as a competent English Language speaker.

There are a few polite expressions that are frequently used in the English Language and it is important for learners to know how to use them correctly and in the right context. I’d like to share with you 5 of the most widely used polite expressions and show you how to use them correctly.

1. Excuse Me

You would use “excuse me” if you need to go past somebody, for example, if they’re blocking your way.

Similarly, if you need to get someone’s attention you would start the phrase with “excuse me”:

  • Excuse me, could you tell me the way to Charing Cross station?
  • Excuse me, do you have the time?
  • Excuse me, is this seat taken?


2. Sorry

We love saying “sorry” especially in the UK!

Sorry or I’m sorry is frequently used when we need to apologise for something small, for example, if you’re late or you’ve made a small mistake:

  • Sorry I’m late. The traffic was terrible.
  • I’m sorry, I didn’t realise that you were in the queue.

“I beg your pardon” is a formal expression which you might hear someone use.

  • I beg your pardon, I didn’t see you standing there.

You would use Pardon? or  Sorry? if you haven’t heard or understood what someone has said and you want them to repeat it. 

  • Pardon? I didn’t quite hear that. Could you repeat the number please?
  • Sorry? Did you say 30 or 13?

Sorry is more used than pardon. A student once told me that their teacher had told him ‘pardon’ was an old-fashioned word and not used. Whilst it may not be as common as ‘sorry’, ‘pardon’ is still used and you wouldn’t come across as a strange person!

One expression that is most definitely not polite  is “What?”. If you use it when you haven’t heard or understood something, you may get some disapproving looks from the other person.




3. I’m afraid

If you have to give someone some bad news and want to apologise for this, you would use “I’m afraid”.

There’s a joke that the British like to apologise for everything, so “I’m afraid” is almost a default phrase at the tip of their tongues!

  • I’m afraid I won’t be able to attend the meeting next week.
  • I’m afraid we’ve run out of seats.
  • Do you have change for £5?  I’m afraid not.
  • I’m afraid there’s been a misunderstanding.


4. Please

If you ask for something (ask a favour) or want somebody to do something for you, using “please” is a must in English.

  • Could you give me a hand, please?
  • Could you please call the suppliers tomorrow?
  • Could I have tomorrow off, please?
  • Quiet, please!


5. Thank you

It is normal to say “thank you” or “thanks” when somebody gives you something or you receive information. Also, when you buy something and the person hands you your goods, a “thank you” is expected. Some people may be offended if you don’t thank them.

‘Thanks’ is informal.

Some people may respond to your thanks with “You’re welcome”, “Welcome”, “Don’t mention it”, “That’s all right” or “No problem”

When you accept something, you would say “thank you” or “Yes, please”

  • Would you like a cup tea? Thank you/ Thanks/ Yes, please.
  • Would you like a receipt? Thank you/ Thanks/ Yes, please.

Similarly, when you refuse something, you would say “No, thank you” or “No, thanks”.

  • Would you like some more coffee? No, thank you/ No, thanks.


Now that you’ve mastered these 5 expressions, go out there and mingle with English Language speakers!! Have fun.

And if you’d like to master polite English, you might want to sign up to my fellow teacher, Dylan Gates’s, Master Polite English course on Udemy. It’s unique, extremely popular and will give you all the tips you need to be a master/mistress in polite English!
You can sign up to his course by clicking on the image below:


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Ciao for now


Saying Farewell To A Loved One – Some Key Vocabulary

Sri Lanka Orchid Photo: Pixabay

Nine months ago (almost to the day) I wrote this post about visiting a loved one in hospital. It was about my uncle (my father’s youngest brother). I described my visit to see him and shared some hospital vocabulary with you.

Nine months on it is with extreme sadness that I share with you the news that my uncle died or passed away last Wednesday. He suffered a massive stroke from which he never recovered. Even if he had recovered he would have been left blind and brain-damaged with practically no quality of life. So, in the circumstances, his death was a blessing.

Blessing or not, it is still a huge shock for my family and me. My uncle was only 61 and despite suffering poor health for a number of years, his death was totally unexpected. He suffered a fall coming down the stairs in his flat last Saturday and must have hit his head very hard because he lost consciousness immediately and never woke up. He was airlifted by air ambulance and taken to the trauma unit of one of the leading hospitals in the UK.

My uncle’s partner called me that Saturday evening and I went to the hospital the following day and stayed all day with my uncle. He was hooked up to all sorts of machines and a ventilator was helping him breathe. He was in a ward with three other patients who had all suffered severe brain injuries. It was so difficult to see all these patients. It just made me realise how much our brain does and what can happen when it malfunctions.

The nurses tending to the patients were fantastic. The care my uncle received was faultless. They were extremely caring, compassionate and sympathetic. They kept us informed of how he was doing on a regular basis. Each patient had his own nurse and he or she was with their assigned patient at all times. When it comes to emergencies and serious conditions, I have always said that the health care we receive through the National Health Service in the UK is unparalleled.

My uncle’s partner and I sat by my uncle’s bedside for three days. I had a full immersion student with me so as soon as I finished lessons in the morning, I would catch the train and head to the hospital in East London. The doctors told us that apart from the serious head injury my uncle had sustained, he had also suffered a huge stroke to the back of the brain. This stroke together with my uncle’s poor health made a recovery extremely unlikely. We decided that the ventilator would be removed on Wednesday afternoon and we would then see how he responded. We left on Tuesday evening with this plan.

At 6am the following morning, I received a call from my uncle’s partner telling me that my uncle’s blood pressure had plummeted and that it was going to be a matter of an hour or so before he would pass away. I got hurriedly dressed and rushed to catch the train. By the time I arrived at the hospital and reached  my uncle’s bed he had already passed away. He had died 20 minutes before. My uncle’s partner arrived 5 minutes too late,too. We hugged each other and cried. We held my uncle’s hands and stroked his face and arms. I had never seen a person who had just died, but it didn’t make me feel strange at all.

I spent that day with my uncle’s partner. We went back to their flat and together we tidied the place up, changed the flowers and made all the necessary phone calls to family and friends. My father arrived the following evening (from Malaysia) and on Friday we went to see my uncle in the mortuary. He was freezing but he looked the most peaceful I had ever seen him. I held my father’s hand as he sobbed at seeing his youngest sibling. I have never seen my father cry and witnessing this private and emotional moment will stay with me forever. I, too, shed many tears and my father and I hugged as we tried to comfort each other.

Out of all my uncles and aunts, this uncle was the only relative with whom I had a meaningful relationship throughout my adult life. He was a huge support when I first arrived in the UK to attend university. He helped me decorate my room in the halls of residence. He came with me to buy all the things I needed. I would often visit him and his partner in London at the weekends where I would be throughly spoilt with fabulous food. He was an excellent cook.

He single-handedly organised my entire wedding (the first one!) He was there when my marriage collapsed. I decided to move nearer to him after my divorce as he was the only blood relative I had living in London. He was a huge part of my life. He did try to meddle in it and there were many times when I wanted him to leave me alone. We did fall out at various times over the years, but there were plenty of reconciliations.
Meddling or not, I know that he loved me and all his nieces and nephews. He took a genuine interest in all of us and was like a second parent to us.

I spoke to him a few days before his fall and promised I would visit him with our dog, Buster whom he loved. I was planning to visit him this week. I am glad that I was with him in the last few days of his life. I am not sure if he was aware that we were with him until the end. I hope so.

Farewell, Uncle Bala. I am going to miss you. I hope you’ve found peace wherever you are and that you’re having a great time with your parents and sisters.

Your loving niece, Shanthi.

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