If anything, …

Hi everyone,
I’m sorry for not writing a post 68424in such a long time but I have been quite busy. Anyway, here’s a language point that I hope will interest you!

Have you ever heard someone starting or finishing a sentence with ‘if anything‘ like in the following examples?

1) If anything, he’s skinny.

2) They have too much free time, if anything.

To understand the meaning of ‘if anything’ in the above sentences, some context must be provided. The two examples I have given could be someone’s response to these comments:

1) Do you think he’s fat?  >> If anything, he’s skinny.

2) Are they too busy? >> They have too much free time, if anything.

Can you see the pattern there? We use ‘if anything’ when we want to suggest that something or someone is actually the opposite of what is believed. Therefore, ‘If anything, he’s skinny’ is like saying ‘Actually/on the contrary / Contrary to what you might think, he’s skinny’.

There is another case where ‘if anything’ can be used but with a different meaning. Look at this example:

Well, if anything, the Mayans did teach us one valuable lesson. If you don’t finish something..it’s really not the end of the world.

In the above sentence ‘if anything’ is very similar in meaning to ‘at least’.

When to use it?

1) Every time you want to point out that a situation is actually the contrary of what another person thinks, what  is commonly expected or in contrast to a previous statement:“London is not getting cheaper. If anything, it’s getting more expensive”.

2) Instead of ‘at least’: “Well, if anything, I hope this post hasn’t bored you.

If anything, I hope it aroused your curiosity”.

Talk soon!
Deb 🙂


Informal English: well as an intensifier

partsofspeechHave you ever come across sentences like ‘that’s well interesting!’ or ‘I am well aware of the consequences’?

You have probably heard similar sentences if you’ve ever lived in the UK. Indeed this particular use of ‘well’ is typically British and not common at all in American English.


In the above examples ‘well’ is used as an intensifier to mean ‘very‘ (‘that’s very interesting!’) or ‘fully‘ (‘I’m fully aware of the consequences’) with the aim of adding extra emphasis to what is being said.

When used as an intensifier, ‘very’ is followed by an adjective (interesting / aware).

Notice that this use is typical of colloquial and informal English. Don’t use it in formal writing!

a: ‘I’ve missed the bus by one minute and now I have to walk to work!’
b: ‘That’s well annoying!’


Since we’re at it, it’s important to mention that in its most common use, ‘well’ falls into the category of adverbs like in the sentence ‘she can cook well’. In this instance, well is an adverb in that it describes the way an action (cook) is performed (well).

On a final note, ‘well’ can also be an adjective, that is a descriptive word, like in ‘I don’t feel very well’ or ‘I’m not well’.

So I hope that next time you hear someone using ‘well’ in this way it won’t puzzle you anymore.
I also suggest that you start using well as an intensifier every now and then, it will make you sound more ‘British’ 🙂
Talk soon,


Natural English: the use of ‘do’ for emphasis

Image Hi everyone and sorry for not posting anything for almost a month!

I finally have a bit of time to write about a language point that seems to puzzle students quite a lot: the use of the verb ‘do’ for emphasis.

Students mostly know ‘do’ as an auxiliary verb or in expressions like ‘to do the housework’ meaning to perform an action and I’ve already talked about another use of ‘do’ here. But what does it mean when people say “I do like it here!“?


The use of do in the above sentence is a way to add extra emphasis to a statement. It’s like saying ‘I really like it here!‘.

Let’s have a look at some features of this particular use of ‘do’:

  1. form: do is followed by a bare infinitive (without ‘to’): I do love London; she does love London.
  2. it can’t be used with negative statements: I do don’t like London.
  3. it can be used to talk about the past (but only to replace a past simple): She did teach me a lot (and I’m talking about my primary school teacher) >> she really taught me a lot; I did enjoy the party! >> I really enjoyed the party
  4. it’s never used with the verb ‘to be’: she does be beautiful.

Here are more examples:

I did tell you!

Meaning: I’m sure I told you!
A sense of reproach can be felt here: maybe you warned the person you’re talking to about the consequences of doing something (and this person didn’t really listen to you!) or you might just want to emphasize that you told this person about something even though they can’t remember it now.

I do remember talking to him

Meaning: I have a very clear memory of talking to him!

I did work a lot this week

Meaning: I worked my arse off this week! 🙂

As you can see from the examples above, ‘do’ is used instead of ‘really’, ‘very’ or ‘I’m sure’.

So I do hope that this use of do won’t puzzle you anymore and I do apologise for not writing anything for so long!
Talk soon,
Deb 🙂


Natural English: the suffix -ish

lovely-package-the-ish-watch2-ish‘ is definitively my favourite English suffix. I know what you’re thinking: ‘she must be a real grammar geek to have a favourite suffix’. You’re not wrong, I am indeed passionate about grammar 🙂

Anyway, I think that if you start getting into the habit of using ‘ish’ every now and then, your English will sound more natural. Here are some situations where you could use this suffix:

1- ish and numbers

What time shall we meet?


Used with numbers, -ish means ‘around‘. So not quite seven but around seven. The same is true when you talk about someone’s age: I think she’s fortyish but I’m not sure.

This is a good one if you don’t want to commit yourself too much and if you show up 20 minutes late, you could always say: ‘I said seven-ish not seven sharp!‘ and if you don’t want to say an exact time you can go for ‘I’ll be home soonish‘.

2- ish and adjectives

What does she look like?

She’s blondish.

Used with adjectives, -ish means ‘fairly’ or ‘slightly’. So she’s not super blond but she still falls into the category of blond. The same happens with colours: What colour is your dress? Bluish.

2- ish and nouns

What’s he like?

He’s childish and boring.

Meaning that he behaves like a child. So if someone has got a girlish face, their face looks like that of a young girl.

Bear in mind that in a formal context the use of the suffix ‘ish’ could sound too colloquial.

Talk soon!
Deb 🙂


Useful English: how to succeed in a job interview

BROKINNEWS interviewIf you have a job interview in English lined up, you might want to give this post a read. I’m going to present some language that you can use to answer the most common questions interviewers usually ask.

As an interviewee, you’re likely to be asked the four following questions:


What are your strengths?

Here are some expressions/words that you might want to use to address this question:

  • I’m good at + doing something: I’m good at planning / dealing with people;
  • I’m good with + something: I’m good with numbers;
  • People say I’m..: people say I’m very hard-working;
  • I’ve often been praised for + skills / doing something: I’ve often been praised for my organisational skills / being always on time;
  • My time management is excellent;
  • I’m reliable;
  • to cope with something: I can cope with stressful situations;
  • to strive + to do something: I always strive to meet deadlines / achieve my goals;
  • I’m particularly proud of + skills: I’m particularly proud of my ability to deal with multiple tasks;

What are your weaknesses?

  • I find it difficult + to-infinitive: I find it difficult to say ‘no’;
  • I struggle with + someone/ something / doing something: I sometimes struggle with people who don’t work hard / prioritising;
  • I have trouble + doing something: I occasionally have trouble prioritising tasks;
  • I used to + infinitive but now: I used to have difficulties in prioritising* but I have now learnt ..;

>>> I’d suggest that you use adverbs like ‘sometimes’ or ‘occasionally’ in your response to make your answer sound ‘less negative’. Also by using ‘I used to + infinitive‘ you’re underlining that you’ve worked on your weakness and finally overcome it.

*Notice the structure: to have difficulties in + doing something.

Tell me about your experience/ your current job.

  • to be in charge of: as a Sales Director, I’m in charge of strategic planning;
  • to be responsible for: as a Sales Director, I’m responsible for strategic planning;
  • to lead a team: I lead a team of five people;
  • my main duties include + (doing) something: my main duties include strategic planning and setting targets etc;
  • my field is + sector/ science / industry: my field is human resource / psychology ..;

What made you apply for this job?

  • I think this job is a perfect match for my skills
  • I think this job would suit me because…
  • I want to bring my career to the next level
  • I think it would be both challenging and rewarding
  • My aim is to become XXXX in five years time;
  • I’d like to move on in my career as a Sales Director and this looks like an excellent opportunity;

Grammar you need to revise

Make sure you revise the following grammar before your interview:

  • Present Perfect: I have worked in my current job for 12 years / since 2002*;
  • Past Simple: I worked for 5 years in marketing before starting working for XXX;
  • Present Perfect Continuous: (lately) I have been working on a very important project..;
  • 2nd Conditional: If I was offered the job, I’d be able to start in a month (using the 2nd conditional makes you sound less pretentious 🙂

*for+ period of time (two days, three months, five hours)
since+ point in time (2010, April, Tuesday, five o’clock)

Hope this helps and good luck 🙂


Useful English: Business Phrasal Verbs

Image I have recently been asked to teach some ‘Business English’ expressions that would make a non-native speaker sound a bit more like a native.

I’ve come up with a list of 10 phrasal verbs which I personally think should be part of your Everyday Business English.

When appropriate, I’ve decided to include another piece of information for each of these verbs: their collocations.

A collocation is two or more words that often go together: a nice pretty weather. Read more on collocations here and start getting into the habit of always looking up collocations when learning new vocabulary. It will help you make less mistakes and sound more natural!

1- TO CALL OFF (transitive)

I’m afraid we’ll have to call off tomorrow’s meeting.

‘to call something off’ means to cancel it.
Collocations: to call off a meeting / a class / a strike / a match

2- TO PUT OFF (transitive)

She decided to put off the meeting to next week. 

He decided to put off seeing Mary.

‘to put something off’ or ‘to put off doing something’ means to postpone it/doing it.*
Collocations: to put off a meeting / a phone call / an appointment

3- TO HEAR BACK FROM someone

I haven’t heard back from the client yet

‘to hear back from someone’ means to get someone’s feedback/reply about something

4 – TO COME UP (intransitive)

I’m sorry but I can’t attend the meeting tomorrow, something has come up.

if ‘something (usually a problem, situation or event) comes up’ it happens unexpectedly.
I’d say ‘something has come up’ is a particularly useful sentence when you don’t want  to commit to something one of your workmates wants you to and you haven’t got a real explanation. It’s vague enough but not dismissive! 🙂

5 –   TO LOOK INTO (transitive)

Could you please look into the possibility of relocating our business to China?

‘to look into something’ means to analyse it, to collect more information and facts about it.
I’ll look into it!‘ is a sentence that could come in handy when a colleague has just suggested to you something that you hadn’t previously thought about. It shows appreciation of their comment.

6 – TO PULL OUT of something (transitive)

The company has decided to pull out of the agreement.

‘to pull out of something (usually an activity or agreement)’ means to decide not to continue it.
Collocations: to pull out of an agreement / a bidding / a contract

7 – TO COME ALONG (intransitive)

How is the report coming along?

‘to come along’ means to make progress.

8 – TO SET ASIDE something (transitive)

A lot of resources should be put aside for this project.

‘to set something aside’ means to save something for a particular purpose.
Collocations: to put aside money / time / food

9 – TO GO OVER something (transitive)

Let’s go over the whole project again and see how it can be improved.

‘to go over something’ means to examine it very carefully.
Collocations: to go over a project / a report / a document / a contract

10 – TO STICK TO something (transitive)

Let’s stick to our initial plan!

‘to stick to something that you’ve decided’ means to continue doing it in the same way.
A common phrase usually heard in meetings is ‘let’s stick to the agenda!‘. Use this sentence when you feel that people have started talking about things not relevant to the meeting’s agenda.

I hope there will soon be a chance for you to use some of these phrasal verbs in a meeting!
Talk soon,
Deb 🙂

*Remember that after prepositions you always have to use the -ing form. That’s why we say to put off doing to do something.



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 🙂