Apostrophe + “s” – when do we use it?


It’s Thursday already! The week has flown by so fast. This week, I’m writing about using the apostrophe with “s” because we received a question about this through email.

There are many rules for using the apostrophe but I’m just going to focus on its use in showing possession (when something belongs to someone/something).

Continue reading “Apostrophe + “s” – when do we use it?”

“At”, “on” and “in” when discussing time

at on in

Today, I’m going to be explaining the difference between at, on and in when relating to time. These are called prepositions of time. They are used to discuss or converse a specific time period such as a date on the calendar, one of the days of the week, or the actual time a certain thing takes place.

Continue reading ““At”, “on” and “in” when discussing time”

What’s the difference between “has been”, “have been” and “had been”?

has been have been had been

We recently received an email from one of our email subscribers about “has been”, “have been” and “had been”. As I’ve learned that many people can get confused about how these three phrases are used, I thought I’d briefly explain the main difference between them in this short post.

Continue reading “What’s the difference between “has been”, “have been” and “had been”?”

How to sound more natural when you’re speaking English

sound natural

It’s Aisya here! I’m writing to answer a question we received from one of our students about pronunciation. She asked us how she could sound more like a native English speaker.

While it’s not important to sound like a native—as English is a colourful language comprised of many different accents and dialects that can reflect an individual’s unique background— clear pronunciation plays an important role in effective communication.

Fortunately, pronunciation is a skill, and like every other skill, it can be learned. Here are just a few tips to help you!

1. Learn to listen.

First of all, you’ll need to get to know the sounds used in the language you want to speak more fluently in. Learning to spot the different sounds in the English language will make it easier for you to utter them. In order to familiarise yourself with these sounds, you’ll need to listen closely.

Whenever possible, watch interesting English movies (animated movies are good for this, as they usually use simpler language targeted to younger audiences), listen to your favourite English songs and pay attention to the lyrics, or put on a podcast about whatever interests you (YouTube is your friend!). Try to imitate the sounds you hear, even if you’re not sure what they mean!

2. Speak out loud.

Learning how to pronounce sounds and words correctly is a lot like training in sports. The more you practice, the better you get at it. This is because your mouth has something called muscle memory. It will take some time, but if you practice consistently, your muscle memory will eventually make you utter the right sounds automatically.

To create muscle memory for speaking English, record your voice as you read out loud, and listen for pronunciation mistakes. Focus on practicing one difficult sound a day. For example, if you have trouble pronouncing ‘th’, like in the word ‘three’, focus on getting that sound right on its own first. Then, practice saying out loud words that contain that sound, like ‘path’, ‘thanks’ and ‘through’, for example. Take things slowly. You can check whether you’re pronouncing the words correctly by going to https://en.oxforddictionaries.com. Click on the speaker icon next to the word you’re practicing to hear the correct pronunciation. Once you feel like you’ve mastered the sound, you can move on to the next one.

3. Add some rhythm! 

If you’ve been listening closely, you’d have noticed that the English language is quite melodic. Sentences have rhythm and melody, much like songs do! This comes from intonation and stress, both of which can affect the meaning of the words you’re saying. 

Depending on which part of a word is stressed and its position in a sentence, it can either be a noun or a verb. Take the words present and present, for instance. If it’s pronounced ‘pri-ZENT’, it’s a verb that means to give something to somebody, especially formally at a ceremony. However, if it’s heard as ‘PRE-znt’, then it’s a noun that refers to an object given to someone as a gift.

Sentences have stresses too. Words that are more important are uttered with more clarity and strength than the rest of the sentence. Try reading this sentence out loud: “I drank some green tea this morning.” To sound more fluent, make sure you stress the words that are in bold by saying them more slowly than the rest of the sentence.

Now, all this might sound a bit too complicated, but don’t worry! The most effective way to learn is through listening and practicing. Most native speakers don’t even know these rules either, and just say what ‘sounds right’ to them. If you practice enough, you’ll soon be able to automatically determine what sounds right, too.

4. Practice with a friend

I’ve been saying this a lot now, but remember, practice makes perfect! While having a fluent English-speaking friend to refer to would be great, you could also practice with a friend who’s also interested in learning how to speak English fluently! Practicing with a friend gives you the opportunity to try new things that you’ve learned, and you can even learn new things from each other.

Let your family, friends and colleagues know that you’re on this journey! Don’t be shy about telling them that you’re trying to improve! That way, they won’t be so surprised when you start speaking to them in English, and you might even inspire them to join you!

I hope you find my tips useful. We’ll talk to you in our next email!

“Double check” or “double confirm”?

double confirm

How often do you come across the phrase “double confirm”? After we had our dinner last night, I asked my husband whether he had any ideas of what I could write about for this week’s post.

He answered, “Write about the use of “double confirm” and why it’s wrong.”

“Do a lot of people actually say “double confirm”? I don’t remember many people using it back in my former job,” I replied.

“Ever since my colleague mentioned it, I’ve been seeing it everywhere,” he said.

Thanks for the suggestion, hubs.

Continue reading ““Double check” or “double confirm”?”

A common mistake when using “I’m”

Today, our post is about the correct and incorrect use of “I’m”.  In last week’s post, I wrote about the difference between “I” and “me”. So this week, we’ll discuss how “I’m” is often incorrectly used.

Can we join you? Pretty please?

Continue reading “A common mistake when using “I’m””

When to use “me” in sentences

me vs I

The past week has been jam-packed! We had Election Day on Wednesday, the announcement of a new Prime Minister and a new government the following day, two days of holiday, Mother’s Day on Sunday, yesterday was Teacher’s Day and today is the first day of Ramadan! Phew! Did I miss anything out?

Continue reading “When to use “me” in sentences”

Is it “altogether” or “all together”?

all together vs altogether

Do you know the difference between “all together” and “altogether”?

In speaking, it’s not a problem because they sound the same. But when it comes to writing, you might wonder, “What’s the difference?”

I recently wondered the same thing. Here’s a paragraph that I wrote in an email for our Communicate with Confidence online course students. Can you identify which paragraph is the right one?

Continue reading “Is it “altogether” or “all together”?”

How to be a better communicator through storytelling

Have you ever heard the technique of storytelling in becoming a more confident speaker? I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but we are all storytellers. We remember stories better than facts and we connect best when we share stories.

Telling a story when you communicate, in English or in any other language, is a great way for you get your message across to your listener. It can also help build confidence in speaking as you practice telling stories and see your listeners engaged with you.

Here are a few ways that you can start telling stories when you speak to be a better communicator.

Continue reading “How to be a better communicator through storytelling”

How to answer questions in your presentation

answer questions presentation

Have you ever had a really important presentation for work or for your academic studies? You spend days (or even weeks) preparing for the presentation – researching for content, creating beautiful slides to support your content and practicing what you’ll be saying.

The day comes and you’re so ready for it. When you begin your presentation, things go smoothly. Until five minutes into it, somebody raises their hand and interrupts you with a question. You are taken by surprise. You answer the question, or say that you’ll be taking questions after your presentation, and you continue.

But now you’ve lost your focus and momentum. You might feel a little less confident because the answer you gave was something that you had prepared for later in your presentation.

So what’s the best way to prepare for and answer questions in a presentation? Here are a few tips to help you.

Continue reading “How to answer questions in your presentation”