General English, Pronunciation, Spoken English, Top Tips, Uncategorized

5 Top Tips for English Pronunciation

This piece focuses on some core, simple rules for those wanting to master British English pronunciation. The most important rule is the first one!!!

1. Remember that there are many accents in the UK. They are all equal and valid but English spoken by someone born and raised in Glasgow may sound very, very different from that spoken by someone born and raised in Essex. The differences can be so strong that people from different parts of the UK may even struggle to understand each other! The rest of this guide is based on what is known as ‘received pronunciation (RP)’, also sometimes referred to as ‘BBC English’. It’s informally ‘standard’ English.


2. RP is a non-rhotic accent. Therefore ‘r’ is only pronounced when it comes before a vowel. So in words such as ‘pour’, ‘short’, and ‘corner’, the ‘r’ is silent.  It is pronounced in ‘pouring’, ‘foreign’, and ‘rope’ (Many accents across the UK (and Ireland) are rhotic so you may hear some native speakers pronounce the ‘r’ in all words.)


3. Always put the stress on the vowel sounds, not on the consonants. Some examples are given below, with the stress in bold and capitals:

slEEp, wORk, mAn, thE, shOW

Note – When there is more than one syllables in the word you don’t stress every vowel sound, just one, e.g. working


4. Where you place the stress, in a word with more than one syllable, depends on the type of word. Some general rules that can be used are in the table below. Please remember that there are many exceptions.

Type of Word Syllable to Stress Examples
Noun The first syllable tAble, wIndow, mObile
Verb The last syllable arrIve, forgEt, repAIR
Adjective The first syllable mAny, bEAUtiful, mARvellous, hAppy


5. Several sounds are made at the front of the mouth using, tongue, teeth and/or lips. I’ve picked two that non-native speakers most commonly struggle with

  • The ‘v’ sound is by pressing the top teeth gently on the bottom lip and making a sound just behind them. The teeth must remain firmly on the bottom lip as the sound is made.
  • There are two sounds that can be made by ‘th’, both require the tongue to go between (or behind) the teeth. In words such as ‘think’, the sound is made by the air passing across the tongue and between the teeth. In words such as ‘the’ the sound is made from the back of the mouth/throat, as the tongue moves down and away from the teeth.
General English, Grammar, Top Tips, Written English

5 Useful Resources for ‘Sentence Structure’

This piece provides some resources of reliable information on the rules for English sentence structure. They should provide a range of material for beginners to advanced learners. (I have noted the level for which each one is most suitable.) This post is aimed primarily at learners of English but the links may also be useful for teachers.

1. British Council – Simple Sentences 

This is an introductory piece providing the foundations and basics of what is required to build a simple sentence correctly in English. British Council – Intro to Sentences

2. British Council – Complex Sentences

This supports those who wish to build longer and more complicated sentences. It explains what terms such as “phrase” and “clause” mean and how to make them! British Council – Advanced Sentences

3. BBC – Core Rules for Creating Sentences

This is an easy to read information sheet with some important rules to follow and some examples to use. BBC Sentence Rules

4. Five Top Tips to Make Sentence Structure “easy”

This is a really useful post by another blogger with really good tips on how to easily create a really good sentence. Sentences Made Easy/

5. Oxford Online English – Video Lesson on Sentence Structure

This is a wonderful piece for those need to hear and see explanations. It is like a mini classroom session but is more fun 😉 It can also be found on Youtube.  Oxford English – Video Lesson





General English, Idioms, Spoken English, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

13 Football Related Idioms

Following the football theme, here are some useful football related idioms. Please remember that idioms say one thing but mean another. So football vocabulary may be used but the meaning of the complete phrase has nothing to do with it, when used as an idiom!


TO GET THE BALL ROLLING  – to start/begin a process or activity

TO BE ON THE BALL  – to  know about new ideas and to respond to them quickly

A POLITICAL FOOTBALL – a political issue that creates lots of debates

TO KICK SOMEONE WHEN THEY’RE DOWN – to hurt or upset someone who is already having a difficult time

TO KICK SOMEONE AROUND  – to treat someone badly

TO GET A KICK OUT OF SOMETHING  – to enjoy something or a situation

TO HAVE A GAME PLAN  – to have a carefully thought out strategy

A GAME CHANGER – An idea or event that really changes the way people think about or do something

TO KNOW THE SCORE – to understand the reality of a situation

TO EVEN THE SCORE  – to get revenge on someone/a situation

TO SCORE AN OWN GOAL  – to do something that goes against your own interests

TO TAKE SIDES  – to choose one person or opinion over another, in an argument or debate.

TO WATCH FROM THE SIDELINES – to watch/observe a situation but not be part of it


Does anyone have any favourites they’d like to add?



General English, Sport, Vocabulary

Basic Football Vocabulary

This is the first in a series of pieces on football vocabulary, phrases and idioms. This particular piece is aimed at learners and teachers of beginner level English. If there are any important words you think I’ve missed, please get in touch and I will happily update this piece. Please note that I am a British English speaker and so the use of the word ‘soccer’ and other Americanisms will not appear on this list 😉


football match: two teams playing against each other in a 90-minute game.

football pitch: the area where footballers play a match.

goalposts: markers used to determine where it would count as a goal.

penalty area: rectangular area marked out in front of each goal, outside of which the goalkeeper cannot handle the ball.

a draw: an even score at the conclusion of a game or match

an equaliser: a goal that brings the score of the game to be the same for both teams – creating a possible draw.

extra time: a further period of play added on to a game if the scores are equal, and a draw is not an option i.e. in the final match of a tournament.

half-time: the time at which half of a game is completed, especially when marked by an interval.

full-time: after the allocated time for a match has passed and the referee has blown the final whistle.

free kick: a kick at the ball given to the attacking team after a foul by a player on the other team

penalty shoot-out: a method of determining a winner in a match that would have otherwise tied or drawn. Thirty minutes extra time is usually played before it gets to this stage.

penalty kick: a free kick at the goal from the penalty spot (which only the goalkeeper is allowed to defend), given to the attacking team after a foul within the penalty area by a player on the other team.

goalkeeper, goalie: a player whose special role is to stop the ball from entering the goal. Only this player is allowed to touch the ball with his/her hands.

striker, attacker, forward: a player whose main job is to kick the ball into the goal area and score goal.

midfielder: a player who plays in the middle part of the pitch.

defender: a player whose job is to protect their own side’s goal, and stop the other team from scoring.

captain, skipper: the leader of a team.

substitute: a player available to replace another player during a match – a member of the squad.

team: the 11 players together playing for the same club or country in a match

squad: all of the players available for the club or country who can be chosen to play in the team.

manager: a person responsible for controlling a team and training new players.

referee: an official who watches a match closely to ensure the rules are adhered to, and to arbitrate on matters that may arise during a game.

linesman, assistant referee: an official who helps the referee from the sideline especially in deciding whether the ball is out of play or not, or if a player is offside.

foul: an unfair action that breaks the rules

sideline: the boundary line on each side of the field, within which, the ball must remain during a game.

goal, net: a pair of posts linked by a crossbar making a space into which the ball has to be sent in order to score.

a booking: a yellow card shown to a player for a serious foul. Two yellow cards result in a red card, which means the player gets sent off (unable to continue playing).

sending off/sent off: a red card is shown to a player, either for a second yellow card or a very serious foul. The player must leave the pitch and cannot continue playing. The team is not allowed a substitute for him/her.

injury time, stoppage time: added minutes by the referee, at the end of the playing time, to account for pauses for injury or other issues during the match.

score: the record of goals that shows who is winning. The final score shows who won.

offside: a position which is not allowed by the rules of the game – when a striker is closer to the other team’s goal area than the last defender, when the ball is passed to him/her.

goal: A successful attempt at scoring by getting the ball between the goalposts of the other team. Or the area between the goalposts and under the crossbar.

own goal: a goal scored accidentally by a player in his/her own team’s net/goal.

kick-off: the first kick of the game when two players from the same team in the centre circle play the ball and start the game.

to shoot: to kick the ball towards the net to try to score a goal.

a corner: a kick from the corner flag awarded to the attacking team when the ball has passed the by-line after last being touched by a player from the defending team.

a throw in: a throw is taken from the sideline after the ball has gone out of play. This is the only time a player can handle the ball without committing a foul.

a header: a shot that occurs when a player uses his head to move or pass the ball.

a hat-trick: when one player scores three goals in one game.

fans/supporters: – the people who watch and follow a team (or football in general)

hooligans: – people who call themselves football fans but act in a violent and often illegal way.


I will try to get another post up with some longer football phrases next…….

Business English, General English, Spoken English, Uncategorized, Vocabulary, Written English

Signposting Phrases for Presentations

My previous post with online resources for presentations was popular. I was asked, by a few people, to produce a piece myself with useful phrases in one place. So here it is!

A presentation usually has four core sections as well as a short opening and a short closing.


  1. Introduction
  2. Main Body
    1. Start
    2. Examples and further details
    3. Moving to the next point
  3. Conclusion
  4. Questions and Answers


Each section should start and end with phrases that are clear signposts – that is, they should tell the listeners what they can expect to come next. Signposting may also be required throughout a presentation to ensure there is a clear flow of information. The main body of a presentation where the key information is presented. I have therefore further-subdivided this to reflect the different types of signposts required.  The rest of this post will now provide a few suggested phrases for each part of a presentation

Opening – Greet those present

  • Good afternoon, everyone. Allow me to begin by introducing myself…….
  • Good morning! My name is X and I’m here to….
    Welcome, everyone! Before I start this presentation today, I’d like to…….



  • To start this presentation……
  • Today, I will be talking about…….
  • I’m standing in front of you today to…….”
  • First, I will … to be followed by … and lastly, …
    I will be discussing … , after which … , and finally, …
    I’ve divided my presentation into X sections. The first……..

Main Body

  • This brings us/me to
  • Let’s go straight to…..
  • I’d now like to…..
  • Now for the first topic……
  • Let’s begin/I will begin with…..


Examples and further details

  • Take, for instance….
  • As you can see…..
  • You’ll notice in this image/example/case…….
  • Let’s consider the example/case of…..
  • To illustrate this point……
  • I’d like to draw your attention to….
  • To elaborate further…..
  • This highlights how/why/where…….
  • Moving to the next point
    This brings us/me to…..
  • I’d like now to discuss……..
  • Let me/I will now turn to……
  • I will now move on to…..
  • That leads me into my next point……



  • So, to recap….
  • In summary…..
  • That concludes my presentation…..
  • Allow me to end by…..
  • That brings me to the end of my presentation…
  • I will now conclude with….
  • I will wrap up there.
  • That finishes/wraps up my presentation today….


  • I will now take some questions.
  • If anyone has any questions or comments, I’d be happy to take them now.
  • I will do my best to answer any questions now.
  • Does anyone have any questions?
  • I now have time for a few questions.


Closing – Finish and thank people

  • That’s all we have time for today.
  • I will have to bring things to a close now.
  • If anyone would like further information you can contact me at……
  • Thank you all for coming today.
  • Thank you for your time today.


I hope you all find this useful. As always, feel free to comment below or contact me with comments and questions.

Business English, General English, Spoken English, Uncategorized, Written English

6 Resources for Signposting & Presentations

A couple of months ago, I gave a lesson on giving presentations. I was reminded that signposting is something for which most of my students appreciate the help. Those linking phrases are very important in order for speech to sound natural and to flow nicely. They are also ones that come so easily to native speakers but often elude those learning the English language. So here are 6 useful sites/resources to help!

  1. EAP Foundation – General Signposts + Podcast

This is a great piece for general phrases for each part of a presentation. It even includes a podcast so that you can see some of the language used in action!


  1. BBC – Business Presentations – Table of phrases

This is a beautifully laid out resource. The phrases and are in a nice, user-friendly table. It’s a good one to print out!

  1. English Club – Tips for Presentations

This is a resource full of general tips for presentations and the best forms of language to use in them. It also includes a nice user-friendly table of expressions


  1. Portsmouth University – Presentation Guide for Students

This is a very clear and easy to read document that gives useful phrases and expressions for different parts of a presentation. It’s in a really nice printable format. Even though this is supposedly a guide for students, the information can be used by anyone.


  1. Youtube video from PolyU ELC

This is a really great guide for people who learn from visual and audio materials or for those who struggle to use signposting language in a natural way. This clip lets you see a discussion on signposting and then see it in action!



Teaching Abroad, Uncategorized

Teaching English Abroad – The Realities

James is an English teacher in Spain. Here is his experience and some of his top tips!

The prospect of spending 4-5 years at university to obtain a bachelor’s degree and the PGCE necessary to teach English in the UK did not excite me, coupled with the potential £100,000 of debt and the instability surrounding education in the UK I took upon myself to look at alternative options. Having been TEFL certified, I was technically qualified to teach English but the idea of going for an interview and then finding myself in front of a class of people was pretty daunting and so I opted to take part in a 4-week internship where I would refine my skills and gain the vital experience needed.
After completing my internship I needed to find a job, and quickly! I started scouring Facebook groups for job offers and sending out my CV to various schools and academies. Within a couple of hours, my phone started ringing and I actually arranged an interview for the very same day! I thought I was incredibly lucky to stumble across something so quickly and was pretty excited on my way to the small town where the academy was based.

To cut a long story short, the nightmare situation I mentioned earlier manifested itself. I was given a copy of the activity book which these children were working from and told to return at 9am the next day to start work, suffice to say it was certainly an experience working at that summer camp for the rest of July.

Needless to say, I survived unscathed and then had to find a long-term job for the next academic year. My second work assignment required a week’s worth of training, I discovered I would be monitored on a regular basis and there would be weekly meetings for all teachers and a separate one-on-one meeting between myself and the Head Teacher. Fast forward 2 months and I’ve just taken all my classes through their trimestral exams, in which they’ve achieved decent marks across the board.

I suppose the point of all this is that if you are under the impression that being a teacher is anything like an easy job then maybe you should speak to more teachers. I’ve heard something thrown around before that, “basically you just need to be a native speaker!” Whilst it is true that a lot of employers will look kindly on applications from native-speakers, you’re kidding yourself if you think you won’t have to be sharp on your grammar, plan engaging lessons and be ready to respond to unexpected surprises and technical failures.

If you’re looking to get into teaching obviously try and imagine yourself as a teacher. The late night/early morning lesson-planning sessions, the search for those magical methods of teaching a piece of the target language in a way that might be understood, the naughty students, the first language, the thing you taught them yesterday which has been completely forgotten. It’s also worth mentioning that depending on which country you’re planning to base yourself, learning the language usually doesn’t go amiss!

It may sound like I don’t enjoy my job, which couldn’t be further from the truth. For me right now I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. The rewards are endless and I love working with my colleagues and my students. So if you’ve decided to embark on an international adventure: start learning about the place you’re going to, you’ll find people will really respect that background research; start learning the language (even just basics) – this will help you understand the perspective of being a language learner!; brush up on your grammar – I can’t stress this enough; don’t be scared to ask for help; and finally, enjoy yourself! Good luck.

by James Howlett

General English, Grammar, Spoken English, Uncategorized, Vocabulary

5 Fun Words Games for Learning/Teaching English

Learning should be fun, as much as possible. So, here are a few suggestions for games that can be played with adult learners. (I will follow this piece with one for children). So here’s 5 of my favourite word games to try! Each of these can and should be adjusted to suit the number and ability of the students as well as the learning environment and objectives. None of these need to be played in a lesson or classroom environments. They can be fun to just play at home with friends too, really!


For those that don’t know it. This is a game where players have to describe a word but without actually saying it.

Usually, words are written on cards or on pieces of paper. Each person and then positioned so that the words cannot be seen. Each person then takes a card, in turn, and has to describe the word to everyone else. The others in the group try to guess what the word is.

This is great for developing vocabulary, speed of thought and confidence. It can be used to help develop vocabulary relevant to a specific topic or to expand the knowledge and use of adjectives. Or it can just be used generally!


This is another great game for developing vocabulary in a fun, group-based way.

In this game players take it in turns to draw a picture of a given word (again, cards or pieces of paper with words on can be used. A player draws a picture to represent his or her word and the rest of the group has to guess what that word is.

This is often played with the names of films or books. It could also be used for phrase types such as idioms.

Just a Minute

This is a game that can be played with a large class, a small group or in a 1-1 lesson.

A number of random words are written on pieces of paper. The pieces of paper and then folded so that the words are not visible. They are placed together on a table or in a box (or something similar). The learner then takes a piece of paper, reads the word, tells the teacher/group/class what the word is and then talks about it for 1 minute.

In a class or group, learners can take it in turns to do this. In a 1-1 lesson, the teacher and student can take it in turns or the student and teacher can have a dialogue about the topic, once the initial 1 minute of student talk time is over. In that case, the dialogue could last for anything from 2 minutes to 10 and then the student chooses another piece of paper for a new topic.

Just a Minute – Connections

This is played in the same way as the standard just a minute but without the continued use of the pieces of paper. A topic is chosen (it doesn’t have to be at random from pieces of paper but it can be) and the student talks for a minute, as above. The other students have to listen and choose a word that the talker uses and that becomes the topic for the next student.

In a classroom situation, students take it in turns to talk and to listen and pick a word. So, for example, In a small group of 6 Student 1 talks for a minute, student 2 picks a word from what student 1 says, student 3 talks for a minute about that word, student 4 picks a word, student 5 talks, student 6 picks a word, student 2 talks, student 1 picks a word and student 4 talks, student 5 picks a word and student 6 talks……

In a 1-1 situation, the teacher picks a new word for the student to talk about each time. But each time there is a dialogue after the initial minute.

This game can be adapted in many ways to suit the students and learning needs.

20 Questions

This is a game where 1 person gets to choose a word. Usually, this word will be related to a specific topic (e.g. food or animals). The other players then ask a fixed number of questions, typically 20, to try to guess the word. Usually, these questions must be ‘closed’ ones, so the answer can only be “yes” or “no”.

This game can be played in large or small groups or 1-1 lessons. The rules can be adjusted to suit the setting, for example, allowing adverbs of frequency as answers, such as “sometimes” or “usually”.

Business English, Spoken English, Telephone, Top Tips, Uncategorized

5 Resources for Business Telephone Etiquette

This piece is intended to be the first in a short series on telephone use. Many students need to use English on the telephone for reasons that include work and travel. Often those calls are international calls, from the students home country. It can be difficult to speak to someone confidently when you can’t see them. It can be difficult to focus on using the right phrases and vocabulary when you are not confident that you understand the basics of expected behaviour on the phone. So I have started with this piece on business telephone etiquette. Further pieces on etiquette in other situations and useful phrases and expressions should follow……

Salisbury University’s guide for students This is written as a guide for British students who will be graduating soon or who may be looking for part-time work. However, it is very useful for students of the English language, particularly those who have to make international phone calls in English on a regular basis. There are tips on good manners as well as some suggestions of good phrases to use.

8 Phone etiquette tips for business This is a great, visual guide for anyone who uses the phone a lot for business/work. It’s an article by an American business etiquette expert in a British online publication. So the rules given are pretty universal for the English speaking world.

BBC – English learning for business calls This is an exercise that involves audio clips to listen to and some suggested phrases. It is very useful for those who are not confident using the telephone in English.

Telephone Etiquette and Manners This is a short (4 minutes) youtube guide to the basics of good telephone etiquette. It’s simple to understand and with key points covered.

The Debrett’s Guide to mobile phones The ultimate guide to British etiquette is definitely Debretts’s so reading this summary of it’s guide to mobile phone use is probably a good idea for all of us 🙂

Academic English, Business English, General English, Top Tips, Written English

6 Resources on Email Etiquette

Email etiquette is a funny old thing. It’s not something that’s static and it is something that can be quite confusing. Some significant things can vary from company to company, industry to industry and it definitely varies from country to country! There are some differences expectations in different English speaking countries so, as I am a Brit, I have focused this piece on British etiquette and email writing styles. If you are communicating with people in other countries, please be aware there may be some differences!

General Emails

British Council – Writing Emails This section of the website has several units on writing emails. Every unit is worth looking at but unit 9 specifically addresses a few simple points on etiquette.

BBC – Email Factsheet The BBC has a useful little table that is easy to print out and use as a quick reference guide. It covers both formal and informal emails.


Business Emails

Plain English – Business Emails This is one of my favourite websites for tips on written English. This particular page has some really good pointers for formal, business emails. You may think that some of the points made are very obvious but you might be surprised at what some people consider acceptable!

Business Email Etiquette This is a very formal guide on business email etiquette. It is excellent and makes very good points about using the most formal options, until or unless you know anything else is acceptable.


Academic Emails

Guide to emails in an academic environment This is a piece a written by an academic at Birmingham University. It is both very useful and quite funny!

Bristol University’s Guide to Emails This is a more formal guide, and set of instructions, aimed at undergraduates who may be new to writing emails in a formal setting. It is useful for non-native speakers in an academic environment. There are differences in acceptable styles between business and academic settings.