Natural English: how to break up with someone


There are things that are always difficult to do in a second language: telling jokes, arguing with someone and..breaking up with someone!

If you’re in an unhappy relationship and finally decided to dump your partner but you’re not sure how to phrase it, you might find this post useful. Below are some suggestions,  depending on your reasons for splitting up.

To break up with someone, to dump someone, to split up (intransitive) or to break up (intransitive), they all mean the same thing: to end a relationship with your partner.

If your partner has cheated on you or you’ve cheated on them:

TO CHEAT ON SOMEONE = to be unfaithful

“I know you’ve cheated on me and I will never be able to get over it, it’s better if we just split up”  >> TO GET OVER SOMETHING= to stop being upset about it

“I’ve cheated on you with this other woman I really fancy..”  (you definitively sound very cruel!) >> TO FANCY SOMEONE= to feel sexually attracted to someone.
Maybe add something like “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt it” >> TO MEAN TO DO something =  to be someone’s intention to do something

If you want to blame it all on yourself:

TO BLAME IT ALL ON YOURSELF= to say you’re the only one guilty (you don’t need to mean it but it can make breaking up easier sometimes)

“I don’t deserve you” >> NOT TO DESERVE SOMEONE = someone is too good for you/ you’re not good enough for someone

“You’ll be better off without me” >> TO BE BETTER OFF (intransitive)= to be in a better situation

“It’s not you, it’s me” (this is a classic!)

If you don’t see eye to eye with your partner (on important stuff)

TO SEE EYE TO EYE WITH SOMEONE = to agree on something with someone

“I want to settle down and you just want to party all the time” >> TO SETTLE DOWN (intransitive)= to get married or stay permanently in one place

or the opposite could also be true: “I don’t want to settle down yet, I don’t feel ready for it”

“I can’t put up with you anymore, it’s not working out” >> TO PUT UP WITH SOMEONE = to accept someone’s behavior even if it’s bad.  TO WORK OUT= to be successful

“I don’t think you’re the one” (an evergreen!)

If you lack a specific reason:

“I need some time for myself”

“Our relationship is just falling apart / falling to pieces” >> TO FALL APART /PIECES (intransitive)= to break, to disintegrate

I do hope you won’t have to use any of this language but should you…hope this post will help!
Talk soon,
Deb 🙂


Learning new words methodically

With some of my students I’ve recently started to work on broadening their vocabulary. I’ve tried to come up with something that would help them remember new words and how to use them. In my experience, most of the students tend to write down lists of words and try to learn them by heart. I wanted to provide them with a more methodical way of expanding their vocabulary.

This is what I came up with:


Click on the picture to see it bigger

At the end of each lesson (not necessarily focused on vocabulary), I ask my student what new words they’ve learnt. I then take a few pieces of paper (I’ve always keep them at hand) like the one in the picture and ask the student to write down each new word on a separate slip. I then ask them to think about the following aspects of each new word:

  1. Part of speech: is the word a noun / adjective / verb etc?
  2. Pronunciation: how do you pronounce it? Can you spot any pronunciation rules we’ve talked about?
  3. Register: is it formal or informal English?
  4. Opposites / synonyms: can you think of its opposite / a synonym?
  5. Collocations: what words usually follow / come before this word?
  6. Structure (especially if the word is a verb): is it transitive or intransitive? what preposition usually follows?
  7. Example: can you think of an example sentence containing this word?

The student writes all this information for each new word on the corresponding slip of paper (so make sure your pieces are not too small!). I then suggest that whenever they have some time to kill (for example, when waiting for the bus, when commuting to work etc) they should take out their set of cards and revise them.

Potentially, you could even make the student write derivatives on the back.

When the students has started using these words in their everyday life and feel quite comfortable using them, they can chuck them away and start learning new ones!

What do you think? Could this work for you?
Talk soon 🙂



Everyday English: ‘that will do, thanks’

wineToday’s post is going to be about a particular use of the verb ‘do’. The verb ‘do’ can be used as an auxiliary verb:

Do you often go the cinema? No, I don’t

or as a main verb meaning ‘to perform an action, activity etc”:

I do sports everyday (>>transitive use of do where ‘sports’ is the object)

but have you ever heard the sentence ‘that will do, thanks‘? Indeed this is a very common use of ‘do’ as an intransitive verb (an intransitive verb is a verb not followed by any object). But what does this expression mean and when to use it?

‘that will do’ to mean ‘that’s enough’

Basically, every time you want to say ‘that’s enough‘ you can just say ‘that will do’. Imagine you were at a friend’s house and they were pouring some wine into your glass, as soon as you think they’ve poured enough you can just say ‘that will do, thanks!’. Not being a big drinker, this sentence comes in handy when I’m around Brits (who drink like crazy by the way:)

The same way you’d ask a guest that you’re serving some cake ‘will that do for you or would you like some more?’ meaning ‘will that piece of cake be enough or would you like some more?’

‘that will do’ to mean ‘that will work’

Look at this example:

A: I couldn’t find some glue but I’ve got some tape.
B: That will do, thanks!

In this case, the expression ‘that will do’ stands for ‘the tape will work just fine‘ or ‘the tape will do the job‘.
And here’s a negative sentence:

Sometimes I try to make jokes to make him laugh, but that will not do. >> My jokes don’t work, they don’t make him laugh.

‘subject+ could do with + something’ to mean ‘subject+ would be better’

In all the examples below, ‘could do’ is used to mean ‘would be better’:

I could do with a bit more money >> I would be better if I had more money
This pasta could do with more salt >> This pasta would taste better if you added some salt
Moving out of my last flat was so tiring, I could have done with a bit of help >> It would have been better if someone had helped me

So now go out there and try using these expressions! 🙂
Talk soon,


Confusing words: hard and hardly

tumblr_ls8iqtkbqK1qc9ailo1_500The words ‘hard’ and ‘hardly’ get often mixed up. Some students think that  ‘hardly’ is the adverb for the adjective ‘hard’ but that’s not the case.

The adverb for the adjective ‘hard’ is simply ‘hard’. Have a look at these examples:

The exam was very hard. (adjective: hard=difficult)
I worked very hard to pass my exams. (adverb: to work hard= to put a lot of effort)


When used with words like ‘anything’, ‘anyone’ etc  ‘hardly’ means ‘almost nothing‘, ‘almost no one‘:
He hardly said anything at the meeting >> he almost said nothing at the meeting
Hardly anyone talked to me at the party >> almost no one talked to me

Notice that ‘anything’ and ‘anyone’ are used in the above examples because ‘hardly’ is a negative word and English doesn’t allow double negatives:

He hardly said nothing anything at the meeting

Generally speaking ‘hardly’ makes a sentence (almost) negative:
She hardly speaks French >> She almost speaks no French (or She speaks very very little French)
I can hardly understand British people when they speak >> I almost don’t understand them (or I understand very very little)

Notice the adverb position: ‘hardly’ comes before the main verb (speak) but after modals (can).


‘Hardly ever’ is used when talking about the frequency of an action and it means ‘almost never‘:

I hardly ever go the gym = I almost never go to the gym (or I very rarely go to the gym)
I hardly ever see him nowadays = I almost never see him nowadays (or I very rarely see him)

So pay attention when talking about how hard you’ve worked as you might end up saying quite the opposite:

I’ve worked really hard= I’ve really put a lot of effort / I’ve worked a lot
I’ve hardly worked= I’ve put almost no effort / I’ve worked very little

Notice the adverb position: hardly goes just after the auxiliary ‘have’.

Hope this post has shed some light on the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘hardly’!
Talk soon,


Pronunciation tales

The idea for today’s post comes from a rhyme that English teachers usually tell pupils to explain why in some words, when there are two vowels together, often (but not always!) the second vowel is silent. The rhyme goes like this: “when two vowels go a walking the first vowel does the talking“. For instance, in the word ‘rain’, the vowel ‘i’ is silent and we only pronounce the vowel ‘a’ /ei/.

I think this is a good technique for remembering pronunciation/spelling rules but I’m pretty bad at rhyming so I thought I’d try to come up with some tales instead. The tales below aim at helping students remembering some of the features of British pronunciation:

The R diaspora

diasporaOnce upon a time, in an age long since forgotten, a tribe of Rs lived in what today is Britain and traded with the Kingdom of Vowels. But a war broke out between the tribe of Rs and the Kingdom of Consonants. The tribe was defeated and the Kingdom of Consonants forced them to flee the country. The Rs decided to flee to America where most of them still live nowadays. Some actually chose to stay behind and kept living among the Vowel people.

And this is why in Received Pronunciation the ‘R’ is always silent before a consonant like in the word /fɔːk/ ‘fork’ or when it comes at the end of a word like in /ˈtiːtʃə/ ‘teacher’. The R is in fact now too afraid to stand up for itself and would only make its sound be heard in front of a vowel like in /ɡrɑːs/ ‘grass’.

However, in America the Rs built a kingdom and they lived happily ever after. And this is why in America the ‘R’ is never silent!

The shy Schwa

shyschwaThe Schwa is one of my favourite sounds in the English language and you know why? Because it’s a bit like me: the schwa is shy and gets easily embarrassed. The Schwa doesn’t like to stand out but it always gets invited to parties because it’s just so popular! But it never stays too long..

The Schwa is the most common sound in the English language (I’m telling you it’s so popular!). It can only be found in unstressed syllables which are usually shorter and quieter. The Schwa is the vowel sound in most weak forms like in /kəd/ (the weak form of ‘could’).

The T and Glottal Stop battle

glottal Once upon a time, in an age long since forgotten, the kingdom of T ruled over the Glottal Stop people until the London uprising in Spring 1843. The Glottal Stop rebels seized the city of London and defeated the T people in a fierce battle that forced the King of Ts to abdicate. What was once the Kingdom of T became the Kingdom of the Glottal Stop and people lived happily ever after.

And this is why, especially in London, the /t/ is often pronounced as the glottal stop [ʔ] like in water /ˈwɔːʔə(r)/

Hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂
Talk soon,