Confusing verbs and prepositions: to remind or to remember? to remind about or of?

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Since some of you quite liked my last post about prepositions, I thought I would write another one on the same topic. This time we’ll focus on the verb ‘to remind’ and the prepositions that can follow it.

25001380898956_Sometimes-all-it-takes-is-a-stroll-down-memory-laneto-remind-you-to-never-give-someone-the-power-to-But first, I would like to point out the difference between two verbs that students often seem to confuse: ‘to remind’ and ‘to remember’.


To remember something or doing something means to have a memory of it like in the following examples:

I remember meeting you at the party. >> I have a memory of meeting you at the party.

I remember her from my school days, we were in the same year. >> I have a memory of her from my school days.

Notice that when used to talk about your memories, ‘to remember’ is followed by a noun/pronoun (her) or a gerund (meeting).


To remember something or to do something is used when talking about something that it’s on your to-do-list or that you shouldn’t forget:

Will you remember to buy potatoes on your way home?

I’m so sorry, I didn’t remember your birthday!

As you can see in the above examples, remember is never followed by ‘someone’ so the structure ‘to remember someone to do something’ would be incorrect in English. Instead, you should use ‘remind’ in this case.


1) If you remind someone to do something, you make sure they will remember to do something that they have to do:

Don’t worry, I’ll remind Dad to pick you up from school. >> I’ll make sure he’ll remember he needs to pick you up.

2) If you remind someone ABOUT something, you want to make sure they won’t forget about it:

I’d like to remind you about tomorrow’s meeting, please come ready. >> I’d like to make sure you haven’t forgotten about tomorrow’s meeting


1) If someone reminds you OF someone else, it means that you think these people are somehow similar. Have a look at this example:

Lucy reminds me of my cousin Mary. They are both very friendly and chatty.

2) The same can be said if something reminds you OF something else:

This place reminds me of my home town. It’s just dead and boring. >> My home town is also dead and boring


If something reminds you OF someone/something it means that this thing (a place, food, a song etc) brings back some memories from the past like in the following sentences:

This food reminds me of my mum. She used to cook a delicious fish pie.

This song reminds me of our holiday in Cuba.

Hope this helps! ūüôā
Talk soon,

You can’t be bothered to read this blog post and would rather listen to someone reading it?
Podcast-IconLargeThen click here to listen to my first podcast!

Confusing prepositions: to shout at or to someone?

Boy shoutingPrepositions are always tricky for students to get their head around. Especially when the same verb can be followed by either of two prepositions like in the case of ‘shout’. So which is the right preposition to use after ‘shout’, is it ‘at’ or ‘to’?

Well, you could use either and both would be correct but the meaning of ‘shout’ would change.


If you shout at someone, you’re angry. So in the middle of an argument between two people, you might hear one of them say:

“It wasn’t my fault, why are you shouting at me?”


“Why do you always shout at me for no reason?”


If you shout to someone, you want to attract their attention maybe because they’re far or can’t see you. For instance, you might be walking and suddenly see a friend of yours across the street and to attract their attention you shout to them.

“I was on my way to the library when I saw Mark across the street, I tried shouting to him but he didn’t hear me”.

Another verb that behaves like ‘shout’ is ‘throw’. Have a look at these examples:

“Mark threw the ball to me” >> in this instance, Mark just passed me the ball for me to catch it.

“Mark threw the ball at me (and hurt my eye)” >> in this case Mark was mean and wanted to hit me!

So when deciding which preposition to use, first understand what the intention is.
Hope the choice of which prepositions to use after ‘shout’ or ‘throw’ won’t bug you any more!
Talk soon,
Deb ūüôā


Formal written English (useful for CAE)

formal-vs-informal-attireIn today’s post I want to teach you how to switch from informal to formal English when writing.¬† This should prove especially useful for those of you who are sitting the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) soon as you might be asked to write a formal letter or proposal in the exam.


                            Informal English                                                       Formal English

  1. room
  2. after (i.e. chat)
  3. chat
  4. worried
  5. need
  6. help / to help
  7. problems
  8. money
  9. good
  10. happy
  11. to fix a meeting
  12. to ask more information
  13. more
  14. very
  15. but
  16. if*
  17. tell
  18. about
  19. so
  20. put something off**
  21. get in touch with someone**
  22. want
  23. I can’t wait to
  24. I’m sorry to tell you
  25. give more info
  26. It would be great if you
  27. I’m sorry for
  1. accommodation
  2. following
  3. conversation
  4. concerned
  5. require
  6. assistance / to assist
  7. inconvenience
  8. funding
  9. convenient
  10. delighted / glad
  11. to arrange a meeting
  12. to enquire (the noun is enquiry)
  13. further
  14. rather
  15. although
  16. unless*
  17. inform
  18. regarding / concerning
  19. therefore
  20. postpone
  21. contact someone
  22. wish
  23. I am looking forward to
  24. I regret to inform you
  25. provide you with further information
  26. I would appreciate / be grateful if you
  27. I would like to apologise for /Please accept my apologies

* To replace ‘if’ with ‘unless’, the clause with ‘unless’ needs to be negative if the ‘if-clause’ is positive and the other way around:

If he doesn’t pay today, I’ll go to the police >> Unless he pays today, I will go to the police.

**If you can, avoid using phrasal verbs in formal writing as they always sound rather informal.

Grammar structures

                        Informal                                                                              Formal

  1. I’d (contractions)
  2. If you need more information
  3. If you offered me the job (active form)
  4. It will be great if you (1st conditional)
  1. I would (do not use contraction in formal writing)
  2. Should you need further information (inversion***)
  3. If I was offered the job (passive form)
  4. I would appreciate if you (2nd conditional)

Let’s focus on a language structure that might cause problems to students: the inversion.
As you see in sentence 2, with an inversion the subject (you) comes after the modal verb (should) and it is followed by a bare infinitive (need). Have a look at this other example:
If you want to get in touch, drop us an email (inf). >> Should you want to contact us, please send us an email (form).


Now have a look at these sentences and try to change them to make them sound more formal:

  1. Thanks for asking, I’d be very happy to give you more information about our project.
  2. I’m sorry for calling off our meeting at the very last minute.
  3. After our chat  earlier on the phone, it would be great if you …
  4. If you don’t give me more details, I won’t be able to help you.
  5. I can’t wait to see you to talk more about this.
  6. The receptionist gave us another room.
  7. Just let us know if tomorrow is not a good time for you to come around.
  8. I’m sorry to tell you that your project won’t get any money this year.
  9. If you want to meet, I’m free tomorrow.
  10. I’m getting in touch with you because I’d like to get more info about your English course,

Now check your work! Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. Thank you for your enquiry, I would be delighted to provide you with further information regarding our project.
  2. Please accept my apologies for postponing our meeting at such short notice.
  3. Following our recent phone conversation, I would appreciate if you could…
  4. Unless you provide me with further information, I won’t be able to assist you.
  5. I am looking forward to meeting you to discuss this further.
  6. We were provided with different accommodation.
  7. Should tomorrow not be a convenient time for you to visit us, do not hesitate to let us know.
  8. I regret to inform you that your project will not receive any funding this year.
  9. Should you wish to arrange a meeting, I’m available tomorrow.
  10. I’m writing to you to enquire about your English course.

I hope you’ve learnt something new in this post and good luck if you’re preparing for CAE!
Talk soon ūüôā


Natural English: leave out some words to sound a bit more English

loveToday I’d like to focus on a language feature that is called ‘verb phrase ellipsis’. I think that by incorporating this feature in your everyday English you would sound more like a native and save a few words!

What’s a verb phrase ellipsis?

A: Did you phone Jane?

B: I meant to but then it slipped my mind.

B could have said ‘I meant to phone her but..’, leaving out the bit ‘phone her’ is what we call an ellipsis.

When can we use it?

This particular type of ellipsis which is introduced by ‘to’ can only be used after all those verbs and structures which are followed by to-infinitive. Here are some examples:

  • I mean / meant to.
  • I am / was going to.
  • I am / was about to.
  • I want / wanted to.
  • I would like to.
  • I would love/hate/prefer to.
  • I have / had to.
  • I’m not able to / won’t be able to.

In which situations can we use it?

1. When you’re talking about past intentions which you might want to follow with an excuse (I meant to, I was going to, I was about to, I wanted to):

A: Did you buy milk?

B: I was going to but then I realised I didn’t have money on me.

2. When talking about your preference/opinions in answer to a suggestion/question (I would like to, I would love/hate to):

A: Would you like to come to the cinema?

B: I’d love to!

3. To highlight that you are/were forced to do something (I have / had to):

A: Why did you tell her?

B: We had to!

4. To highlight that you can’t do something:

A: Why don’t you repair the TV?

B: I’m not able to.

Why using it?

Because it’s another way to shorten your sentences and avoid repetition, save your words! And, as usual, it will make you sound more ‘natural’.

Remember: the ellipsis introduced by ‘to’¬† cannot be used after those modal verbs and all other verbs which usually come before a bare infinitive (infinitive without the ‘to’):

A: Do you want to come to the pub?

B:  I would enjoy to.

In fact, ‘enjoy’ has to be followed by a gerund (ing form).

Hope it makes sense! ūüôā
Talk soon,


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’ ūüôā
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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā


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,


Confusing adverbs/adjectives: do I smell bad or badly?


The right answer is bad, meaning that your smell is not good (and so go and have a shower please! ūüôā )

If you said ‘you smell badly’ you would be saying that the person you’re talking to doesn’t know how to or can’t smell properly.

The same way you’d say ‘you look good in that dress!’ and not ‘you look well in that dress’. Like in the sentence above ‘you smell bad’, also in this case the focus is NOT on HOW we perform the action¬†(‘to look’ and ‘to smell’)¬†.

This is why you say:

I feel bad for not coming to your wedding (= here I’m not discussing whether I’m good or bad at feeling stuff, I’m just saying that as a result of feeling something I’m sad)
He looked sad last time I saw him (=he seemed sad)

The adverb ‘badly’ says something about how you carry out an action. For instance, you’d be correct in saying ‘John behaves badly at school’ because you’re talking about the way John is carrying out an action (‘to behave’).

So this is why you say:

He looked at me sadly(=he looked at me in a sad way)

HOWEVER, you could say ‘I smell badly’ if you meant that you’re not good at smelling things maybe because of a cold.

I hope I’ve explained it well enough.
Talk soon,


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? ūüôā


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!