Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Singlish has firmly become part of Singaporean culture. In fact many Singaporeans automatically think and express themselves in Singlish (something many of my students can attest to) then make the conscious effort to switch to proper English when needed. Nonetheless, we all know that Singlish is definitely not allowed in the O level English paper, especially in Papers 1 and 4! Let’s take a look at some common Singlish expressions and how to convert them into proper English.


Irregardless (Singlish)
Regardless (proper English)

Explanation: There is no such word as ‘irregardless’.

At Where? At There.

At where? (Singlish)
At there (Singlish)
Where? (proper English)
There (proper English)


Imagine a conversation between Student X and Student Y.
Student X: I had lunch with Sam yesterday.
Student Y: At where?
‘At where’ is a word-for-word translation from Chinese. Student Y wants to find out where Student X and Sam went for lunch. Student Y should’ve just said ‘Where?’


Singlish pronunciation: lie-uss
Correct pronunciation: 


Handphone (Singlish)
Mobile phone (proper English)


Just like ‘at where’ and ‘at there’ above, ‘handphone’ is also “Chinglish”. However, there’s no such word as ‘handphone’. It’s understandable that many people think it’s an actual word because we hear ‘Remember to take your handphone and wallet’ every time we take a taxi!

On the lights / Off the lights

On the lights (Singlish)
Off the lights (Singlish)
Turn/Switch on the lights (proper English)
Turn/Switch off the lights (proper English)


“Please off the lights when you leave the room.”

This Singlish expression is quick and convenient because it drops the verb after ‘Please’. Remember to insert the verb ‘turn’ or ‘switch’ before ‘on’ or ‘off’.

Like what you read? Schedule a trial O Level English Tuition lesson with Michelle at The Annexe Project Educational Centre and work your way to an A1 for English! Call or text 90683979 for more details.

Written by Michelle Tan for The Annexe Project