Singlish or English 2

There are lots of words and expressions used differently in Singlish and English. Its important to understand both and use the right one for the right situation to avoid confusion.

Here are a few more that wouldn’t fit on the graphic.

help so do sth/do for someone

Singlish: Could you help me buy this?

English: Could you buy this for me?

To many Singaporeans asking someone to “help” sounds softer but in English when we ask someone to help us to do something, it means that we want to do it together. A compromise that will let you sound polite to Singaporeans, but also use accurate English is to ask,

Could you help me by buying this for me?

off the lights/switch off the lights

Singlish: Could you off the lights?

English: Could you turn off the lights?

There are a number of expressions like this used in Singapore. The preposition part of the verb is used as the verb itself. Other examples are ‘on the tv’ and ‘off the computer’ Here both speakers of Singlish and English will understand the Standard English expression so we recommend you just ask people to turn or switch on/off your devices.


Singlish: The Landlord will forfeit the deposit if the Tenant damages the Premises.

English: The Tenant will forfeit the deposit if the Tenant damages the Premises.

This is a tricky one. Dig out your Tenancy Agreement and see if you can find the term. Forfeit means ‘lose as a penalty’ and lawyers in Singapore will generally use it correctly however it is commonly used among Singapore real estate agents to mean ‘keep as a penalty’. To be sure your contracts are accurate and that everybody understands, you could add additional words to clarify. (This is not legal advice just an English suggestion!)

The Tenant will forfeit the deposit to the Landlord if the Tenant damages the Premises.

get on/get off/get down/get in/get out of

Singlish: Get off the taxi.

English: Get out of the taxi.

Use ‘get on/off’ for bikes, scooters, horses, buses, trains, boats and planes. Use ‘get in/get out of’ for cars and taxis. ‘Get down’ is used from high places e.g. John, get down from that tree! Generally everyone will understand you if you use the standard English expressions.


Singlish: My phone is spoilt.

English: My phone is broken.

In English spoil does refer to damage but it is not usually used for machines. In English we use spoil for, for example, food that has gone off, children that have been given too much by their parents, and for events that haven’t gone well. Generally everyone will understand you if you use the standard English expressions.

net (or nett)/gross

Singlish: The nett price is $400.

English: The gross price is $400.

In both Singlish and English your gross income is your salary before tax and deductions. The nett income is the amount you take home. The confusion occurs when shopping. In standard English the nett price is the base price before sales tax is added and the gross price is the final price you pay at the register. In Singapore the term ‘nett price’ usually refers to the final price you pay at the register after tax. There are no easy solutions to this - make sure you double-check and that everyone understands the terms you are using.

What is the final price that I need to pay?

Is tax included?

Are there any other charges?