Natural English: More on Phrasal Verbs!

dog_head_out_window_funnyIt looks like my recent post on phrasal verbs got quite popular among students and so I decided to write another one. It’s difficult to learn phrasal verbs because most of the time it’s just a matter of learning them by heart. This is why today’s post is about two verbs that I’m sure are part of your everyday language : ‘to go’ and ‘to come’. Here are some phrasal verbs that are often used instead of ‘go’ and ‘come’.

to head out

To head out means to leave a place and go somewhere: ex. What time do we need to head out?
To head is followed by ‘for/to‘ when you add your destination: ex.We’re heading out for London in an hour.
To say ‘I’m heading out‘ you can also use ‘I’m on my way out’. 
To head (somewhere) can also be used without ‘out’:
a: Where are you?I’ve been waiting for you for more than two hours.
b: Sorry, I’m heading there now!  BUT I’m heading to/for the pub now.

to head back

If you head back you start going back to the place where you came from: ex. It’s late, I’m going to head back home in a bit

to pop out

To pop out means to go out from a building for a short time (British): ex. I’ll pop out to the shop at the corner to buy some bread.

to pop in / to drop by

If you pop in, you go somewhere for a short time and without much planning (British): ex. I’ll pop in tomorrow for a coffee 

to come over / to come around

To come over means to go and visit someone (usually at their place): ex. You should come over at some point this week

to be off

To be off has the same meaning as ‘to leave’ a place: ex. I’m late! I’d better be off now.

To put stuff in context, here’s a chat between two neighbours who bump into each other on the stairs.

a: Hi, where are you going?
b: I’m going out, I was gonna go to the shop to buy milk, what about you?
a: I’m going to work. Do you wanna come to my flat later tonight?
b: Yeah sure, mate, I have to go to my mum’s but I’ll come after that.
a: Cool, when you come back, could you buy some beers?
b:Yeah sure. I’ll text you when I come back so you know what time I’ll arrive at your flat.
a: Okay, it was nice to bump into you, I’m leaving, I’m late for work.
b: Yeah I should go too.

Here’s the same dialogue, replacing ‘go’ and ‘come’ with the phrasal verbs above. Doesn’t it sound more chatty?

a: Hi, where are you going?
b: I’m heading out, I was gonna pop out to the shop to buy milk, what are you up to*?
a: I’m on my way to work. Do you wanna pop in later tonight?
b: Yeah sure mate, I have to drop by my mum’s but I’ll come around after that.
a: Cool, on your way back could you buy some beers?
b:Yeah sure. I’ll text you when I start heading back so you know what time I’ll come over.
a: Okay, it was nice to bump into you, I’m off, I’m late for work.
b: Yeah I should make a move too. (to make a move= to leave a place and start going somewhere)

* Sorry I couldn’t help including another phrasal verb: ‘what are you up to?’ simple means ‘what are you doing?’


Informal English: How to Invite Someone Out

downloadStudents often complain that the way people speak in the street isn’t the same as the way they learn to do in class. So in this post I just tried to think what words and expressions I’d use to invite someone out. In the most natural/informal way possible..


Obviously you could go for the standard question Would you like to go to the cinema tonight?’. Nothing wrong with it, but how about trying one of these alternatives which sound a bit more ‘informal’?

  • FANCY+ING: do you fancy going to the cinema tonight?
  • FANCY + NOUN: (do you) fancy a movie tonight?
  • FEEL LIKE + ING: do you feel like going to the cinema tonight?
  • FEEL LIKE+ NOUN: do you feel like a movie tonight?
  • TO BE UP FOR + ING: are you up for going to the cinema tonight?
  • TO BE UP FOR + NOUN: are you up for a movie tonight?
  • WANNA + INFINITIVE (WITHOUT TO): wanna go the the cinema tonight?


A good way to start is always “I’d love to but..” what could come after this ‘but’? Well, what are your reasons?

  1. if you’re tired you could say “I’d love to but I’m shattered / knackered / dead (these are all synonyms of being exhausted), work was quite full-on (=intense) today“.
  2. if you’re busy you could say “I’d love to but I’m already booked (=use this if you want to sound snobby) / I can’t make it / it’s not going to happen as I’m meeting up with this other guy tonight
  3. if you’re sad you could say “I’d love to but I’m not in the mood / I don’t feel like it / I’m not really up for it”
  4. if you feel ill you could say “I’d love to but I’m feeling a bit under the weather “


  • “I’m not sure, I’ll give you a ring / bell later” >> to give someone a ring or bell = to phone someone
  • “Sorry I’m out and about now, can I call you back?” >> to be out and about = to be out of the house busy doing stuff
  • “Sorry I’m tied up now, can you ring me back?” >> to be tied up = to be busy doing something
  • “Not sure, I’ll text you later”


  • “Yeah, I’m up for it!” or even “Yeah, I’m 100% up for it!”
  • “That’s a plan!”
  • “I was going to suggest the same thing!”


  • “Yeah..whatever..I’ll come along”
  • “I’m not really into cinema but I don’t mind coming if you wanna go” >> not to mind (doing) something = something doesn’t get me excited but I’m not totally against it.
  • “That sounds like the most terrible idea ever” >> superlative + ever = ‘ever’ makes the superlative sounds even stronger: “the most terrible idea I’ve ever heard in my life or that anyone has ever heard

Enjoy your night out! 😉


The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by ESL Students

imagesAfter teaching English as a foreign language for a bit, I’ve come to know what the most common mistakes are (at least for Italian and Spanish speakers). Here’s my selection of the ten most recurring ones:

#1 to ask to someone (to do something / something)

I asked to him to call you.
I’ll ask to James that question.

Notice that the same mistake seems to be frequent when using ‘tell’: I told to him to go away.

#2 ‘me too’ instead of ‘me neither’

A: I don’t like peas.
B: Me too neither

If the sentence you want to agree with is negative, you have to use ‘neither’. You could also say ‘I don’t either’ or “Neither do I’. Use ‘Me too’ (or ‘I do too’ or ‘So do I’) when agreeing with a positive statement.

#3 ‘since‘ instead of ‘for’

I’ve lived here since for five months.

Use ‘for’ with a period of time and since with a point in time: I’ve lived here since 2012.

#4 wrong auxiliary in short answers

A: Have you got a pen?
B: Yes, I do have.

When using a short answer, you have to use the same auxiliary you find in the question.

#5 ‘both‘ instead of ‘either’

A: Would you like a coffee or a cup of tea?
B: I’ll have both.either

Unless you want a coffee AND also a cup of tea, the right option here is ‘either’, meaning that you have no preference.

#6 improper use of the future tense in time clauses

I’ll do it as soon as Ill come back home

Time clauses are introduced by “as soon as”, “when”, “before”, “after” etc and you don’t use the future in such clauses to describe future activities.

#7 to be married with to someone 

Angelina Jolie is married with to Brad Pitt.

However, she married him in July.

Prepositions are always very difficult to get your head around. Other common mistakes: It depends from on him; I’m going at to the mountains at Christmas etc

#8 uncountable nouns treated as countable

The news are is on.
Can I ask you some informations?
I have to find a work (or I have to find a job)

Uncountable nouns should be followed by a singular verb and don’t have the plural.

#9 use of the present simple instead of the present perfect

I live ‘ve lived here for two years.
I know ‘ve known him since 2008.

When talking about an activity or state that started in the past and has continued up until now, remember to use the present perfect.

#10 use of cardinal number for dates

I’m leaving on May one (the) first

Another common mistake concerns the use of the word “like” in questions, I wrote a blog post about it that you can find here.

I hope you’ll find this post useful. Did you spot any of your mistakes? 🙂


10 Phrasal Verbs which Will Make Your English Sound More Natural

phrasal-verbs Using phrasal verbs can often make your English sound more natural. Today we’ll have a look at 10 phrasal verbs which should be part of your everyday language.

When learning a new phrasal verb, remember to also pay attention to its structure. That is, focus on whether the verb is used in a transitive or intransitive way, notice what comes after the preposition (for example, a person, an activity or a thing). Indeed the same phrasal verb can have more than one meaning and to a different meaning usually corresponds a different pattern . For instance, ‘to get back from somewhere’ means to return but ‘to get back to someone’ means to contact them usually by phone or email.

This is why below I added in brackets the pattern these 10 phrasal verbs follow when they have the meaning I want to present you with.

1. TO TURN UP (someone turns up somewhere) = TO ARRIVE

someone turns up when he or she arrives somewhere.
i.e. Nobody turned up at the meeting.
I waited for an hour but nobody showed up.

TO SHOW UP means the same thing.

2. TO FIND OUT (someone finds out something) = TO DISCOVER

you find out something when you discover something that you didn’t previously know

i.e.. I’ve just found out that I’m not working tomorrow
Have you found out who that guy at the party was? 

3. TO LOOK FOR (someone looks for something or someone)

if you’re looking for someone or something, you’re trying to find it

i.e. I’m currently looking for a new job
I’ve been looking for him all morning but I couldn’t find him

4. TO GIVE UP (someone gives up an activity)

if you give up doing something, you stop doing it.

i.e. You should really give up smoking!
No, I will never give it up!

5. TO GET ON  (someone gets on with someone else)

when you get on with someone, it means that you have a friendly relationship with this person.

i.e. I don’t get on with my boss.
Me and my sister get on very well

6.  TO TURN OUT (something or someone turns out to be something or someone)

if something or someone turns out to be a particular thing, they’re discovered to be that thing.

i.e. She turned out to be a very good teacher
It turned out to be more difficult than we thought

7. TO FIGURE OUT (someone figures out something)

If you figure out a problem or an answer to a question, you understand it and solve it

i.e. I’ve never been there before and I still have to figure out how to get there.

TO WORK OUT has the same meaning

8. TO BE UP (someone is up for something/ doing something)

if someone is up for something, he or she feels like doing it.

i.e. Are you up for going to the cinema tonight?
I’m not really up for it, I’m knackered 

9. TO GET BACK (someone gets back from somewhere) = TO COME BACK

i.e. I’ll get back to London tomorrow afternoon.
He hasn’t got back from his holidays yet.

10. TO BUMP INTO (someone bumps into someone else)

If you bump into someone, you meet them by chance.

i.e. I bumped into Mary on my way to work.
In a village, you always bump into people you know.

TO RUN INTO means the same thing.

If you want to learn more phrasal verbs, you can always buy a Phrasal Verbs Dictionary!

I have one by Collins Cobuild which is very good and would recommend it.

Talk to you soon 🙂



New Year’s Resolutions and Revision of Future Tenses


Back To The Future

Like the beginning of every new year, here I am thinking about my resolutions for 2014. So I  thought I’d write a post on how to talk about your new year’s resolutions and, while we’re at  it, why not revise the full range of future tenses in the English language?


This is the tense you’d use to talk about your new year’s resolutions since ‘to be going to’ is used when expressing an intention:
es. This year I’m going to learn a new language.

‘to be going to’ is also used to make a prediction when there is evidence:
es. Look at those clouds! It’s going to rain (read below about making predictions not based on any evidence)


You should use this tense when talking about a fixed plan or arrangement:
es. I’m flying to London tomorrow. (= I bought the ticket so it’s a fixed plan, not a mere intention)


Use this tense when talking about something which is scheduled:
es. The train leaves at 4 o’clock.


This can come as a surprise but ‘will’ is not used to talk about future plans or intentions. Instead we use ‘will’ for:

  1. decisions on the spot: “Oh I’m late! I’ll take a taxi!”
  2. predictions NOT based on any evidence (usually with verbs like think, believe etc) : “I think she won’t pass the exam” 
  3. promises: “I’ll be there no matter what!”

FUTURE CONTINUOUS** (will/won’t+be+ -ing)

Use this tense when talking about an action that will be in progress at or around a time in the future:
es. This time next week, I’ll be lying on a beach.

FUTURE PERFECT (will/won’t+have+past participle)

When speaking about the completion of an action BY a specific time in the future, we use the ‘future perfect’ :
es. I’ll have finished this report by Friday afternoon.

FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS (will/won’t+have+been+ -ing)

Also, like with the present perfect continuous, you should use the ‘future perfect continuous’ when talking about the duration of an action in the future. 
es. By the end of this year, I’ll have been working for this company for three years.


If you’re a person (like me) who finds it difficult to make plans because you’re never sure and you need time to think about it etc. Then you can use ‘might’ when talking about plans/intentions you are not sure about:
es. I might go to the party (or I might not go, I haven’t made up my mind yet!)

** You can also use the ‘present perfect continuous’ to talk about future plans if you want to add emphasis or sound more formal:
es. Sir, when will you be arriving at the hotel?

Here’s a short letter where a mix of future tenses are used:

I’m going to Thailand tomorrow, my bus leaves at six in the morning. So this time tomorrow I’ll be lying on a beach.  But love, I promise I’ll think about you a lot and I’m going to call you as soon as I get there. I might go and see Francisca while I’m there but haven’t decided yet. Anyway, I’m also going to work on my book while there (I checked the weather forecast and it’s going to rain on Saturday). I’ll have finished the first chapter by the end of my holiday. I can’t believe I’ll have been travelling in Asia for two months by then!