Once, twice, …

I bet you said “three times” just as most people, including native speakers, say. Surprise, surprise, there is another word you can use. True, some think that it’s old fashioned and yet it still appears in books and articles. Therefore there’s no harm in learning “THRICE”, which follows on nicely from “once” and “twice”.

Probably you now expect me to give you something for “4 times”. Sorry but my bag of surprises is empty for today. Instead, I will show you 2 common mistakes:

  • I’ve been to an English language course thrice times.
  • She phoned me twice times last night.

These are correct:

  • I’ve been to an English language course thrice.
  • She phoned me twice last night.

Use the language

Your imagination is needed to create words for “4 times” and “5 times”. Let’s have them!


ALRIGHT, I’m ALWAYS repeating myself about this but please don’t forget that:

alright – one “L”. When writing formally, it is better to use the full form, “all right”

always – same rule, one “L”. But no, it’s not short for “all ways”

Other common “AL” words with one “L” are:


Use the language

All these words – always, alright, although, altogether, almost – in one sentence. Can you do it?

Getting high on PETRICHOR

This island rock was dry and the trees were thirsty because the last time it had rained was a few months ago. However, the weather forecast for Wednesday 21 August was rain, maybe even thunderstorms. While I just love the sound of thunder and watching the lightning in the sky, what I was really looking forward to was that pleasant smell that comes after the first rain – PETRICHOR. I was hoping for the rains to come at night so that the following morning I’d go running in the wood near where I live. For sure, I’d also spend some moments standing like a statue on the path, breathing n the aroma of petrichor.

As it turned out, the weather forecast was correct. Unfortunately I was in class 302B when the heavens opened, not a place where I could sniff the petrichor.

You might be wondering, “Do I need to know this word?” OK, it’s not in the 1,000 most useful words list, probably not even in the 100,000 most useful ones. That is not the point. If, like me, you get high on petrichor, then be proud to know and use this word! Why, even the Australian extreme/progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris has a track entitled: Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise (click on link below).

Use the language

Let’s exchange favourite scents. You now know that mine is petrichor. What is yours?

Talking about the BELLY

Interestingly, some students don’t agree that BELLY, stomach and tummy have the same meaning. I’m not qualified to discuss biology or anatomy but I can tell you that in spoken English you can safely use any of these 3 words in everyday conversations. Once you know the word belly, it’s easy to learn these connected words and idiom:

  • beer belly – this is what you get when you regularly drink too much beer and don’t exercise enough
  • belly button –  the hole you see if you take a look at the centre of your belly; where the first communication cable between us and our mummies was connected.
  • belly dancing – see it here
  • to go belly up – when a project fails or a business goes bankrupt, then it goes belly up. For example, in the next town from where I live – St Paul’s Bay – the council’s plan to introduce a Residents Parking Scheme went belly up. Click to read: news item.

Use the language

What business or project went belly up in your town or region in recent years? What was the reason for the failure?

What do you THINK / MEAN?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?” and “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” are not the same, folks.

Whether you are discussing the latest Big Brother episode or your company’s new advertising strategy, if you want to know your friend’s or colleague’s opinion, then ask, “What do you think?

On the other hand, if someone says something you disagree with, you can say, “What do you mean?” Ladies, imagine the situation. You spend a couple of hours making yourselves (more) beautiful because your partner/boyfriend/husband promised to take you out to dinner that evening. Then when he comes to pick you up he suggests you stay in, order a take-away pizza and watch the football on TV together. I think it’s only fair to say, and in an angry tone, “What do you mean we’re staying home tonight?”

Use the language

When was the last time you had to say, “What do you mean?” to someone. And why?

What do you think about this website? Let me hear your comments and suggestions.

Make friends with a CACTUS

Think of hot, dry summers or desert lands and somewhere in the picture you will see a CACTUS. August on the rocky island of Malta might remind you of a desert climate but that’s not why I’m writing about this plant.

Forming the plural of words in English is not always a simple matter of putting an “s” at the end. Think of “leaf” becoming “leaves”; “cherry” becoming “cherries”; “child” becoming “children”, “woman” becoming “women”. The list is quite long and it’s easy to make a misspelling. So become friends with the prickly cactus and it will make your (English language) life easier by offering you three plural forms!

  1. cactus
  2. cactuses
  3. cacti

I have two cactus on my terrace  – correct.

I have two cactuses on my terrace – also correct.

I have two cacti on my terrace – even this is correct.

Now you really have no excuse for getting this one wrong again, do you?


Use the language

There’s a creature that lives in the sea which also has 3 plural forms. Do you know which it is?


Malta has a population of four hundred THOUSAND (400,000).

There were THOUSANDS of people at the Isle of MTV concert in June.

You will notice that in the first sentence there is no “s” at the end of thousand but there is an ”s” in the second. Why? Look carefully and you should understand the rule.

When it’s an exact number, no ”s”. If it’s a generic amount, put the ”s”. Do the same with hundred/hundreds, million/millions and dozen/dozens. For more information about “dozen”, click here.

A thousand thank yous if you like and share this post!

Use the language

Have you ever been to an event where there were hundreds or thousands of people? What was it and do you know exactly how many there were?

cc … mm; ll … nn

The original title of this language tip was “Spelling (1)” but that is drier than a Maltese summer. On the other hand, “cc … mm; ll … nn” is more eye-catching so  just let those eyes read on.


You know their meaning but please, watch out for the spelling of these two words. As you can see, both have 2 double consonants. Aha! The post title suddenly makes sense. Interestingly, these are among the most commonly misspelled words in English, even by native speakers themselves.

Use the language

When looking for or booking holiday accommodation, you often find these letters next to the prices: B&B, HB, FB. Do you know what they mean?

If millennium is a period of a thousand years, what are the words for 100 years and 10 years?

Adam Smith by D. D. Raphael

My promise to you: When I finish reading a book, I’ll share 3 words that I find interesting.

Today’s words come from a slim volume about the philosopher and economist, Adam Smith.

Adam Smith

Here they are:

  • INDUCEMENT – Those of you working in sales know that the more you sell, the more money you take home at the end of the month. The commission earned is an inducement to work harder and sell more. In sports, the possibility of winning an Olympic gold medal is an inducement for athletes to train for long  hours every day, in any weather, over many years.
  • ARDUOUS – To get that important sales contract or win the Olympic gold, you have to make many sacrifices. Missing out on parties, little time for family or friends, physical or mental stress –  it’s arduous work. Certainly not an easy life trying to achieve your aims, is it?
  • FRUGAL – When the times are good we take our 2 holidays a year, buy the latest flat screen, 3D TV and throw  away food just one day after the Best Before date. Money no problem! However, if the economy is not doing so well or there’s the risk of losing our job, our lifestyle becomes frugal. Let’s take the holiday in our home city instead, that TV can wait another few months and the Best Before date on the foodstuffs is only a suggestion.

Use the language

Which of these 3 words is most useful for you? Come on, write in to explain why!