“Then hor, I tell you — we go jalan after makan. Window shopping lah: look see only; got no money liao!” Does this make any sense to you? Don’t worry, it’s Singlish and quite easy to learn. Here goes…

First, you must show interest one. You got? Good! Then you must learn and practice some more. This is where our Singlish lessons come in.

Singlish — Lesson Three

Next on our list of single words in the Singlish vocabulary is “then”. How WittyCulus-ly wicked — “then” is synonymous with “next” 🙂 Oh well, it’s not every Sunday++ that this kinda thing happens…

++Note: Nope, this lesson wasn’t written on a Sunday. In my book, “not every Sunday” means occasional; rare even. Hmmm, I gotta go find a reference for this phrase. Anyone?


As the common adverb meaning “next in order of time”, “then” translates one-to-one to 然后 in Chinese. If you like watching Taiwanese variety shows, you may have noticed Taiwan ladies are fond of using 然后 to bridge phrases when conversing.

Even our local songbird talent, 孙燕姿 (Stephanie Sun), has been heard many times using the Chinese “then”. Like in this interview seen on YouTube.

She used the word often, e.g. at the 3:38, 3:40, 4:04, 7:59 and 8:03 time marks. And elsewhere too; I was just too busy enjoying the clip to stay alert — she’s my fave 🙂

Not surprisngly, the show hosts were also “caught” with the word, like at 7:11, 7:17 and 7:18…

More importantly, “then” is used in place of in Chinese, but with a twist: word order is swapped. This is one of the nuances of Singlish; otherwise it would be a boring language variant. The examples that follow will make this clear.

  • 回家
  • 换衣,
  • 然后
  • 派对。
  • I
  • go home
  • change (clothes),   
  • then
  • go
  • party.   
  • 画!
  • 老师
  • 知道!
  • Don’t
  • anyhow
  • draw!   
  • When**
  • teacher
  • scold
  • then*
  • you
  • know!   
  • * Notice the swap in word order. We can’t have 你才知道 = “you then know” in Singlish — it’s simply not proper!
    ** Classic Singlish uses “wait”, as in “Wait teacher scold…”; but (then) you’ll have to wait (Oops! This is a good Sunday++, ha ha) for another lesson to learn this…

“Then” is quite a powderful word. Here is another variation that’s commonly spoken:

  • 如果
  • 这样
  • 不可以,
  • 怎么办?
  • (If)***
  • Like this
  • cannot,   
  • then
  • how?   
  • *** This is Singlish, so “if” is extraneous. Like that then got style!

Speak Good English

Let’s tune back to proper English.

Don’t say this: I go home change (clothes), then go party.
Say this instead: I’ll go to the party after I’ve gone home to change.

Don’t say this: Don’t anyhow draw! When teacher scold then you know!
Say this instead: Don’t draw anyhow! You’ll get a scolding from your teacher!

Don’t say this: Like this cannot, then how?
Say this instead: If this doesn’t work, what should we do?

Then Hor

With this third Singlish word you learned today, you now have a good idea how Singlish grammar feels like. Without much doubt, it is very closely related to the Chinese language. But don’t think you can master it easily as such.

Yes, Singlish has its own quirks which make it flavoursome and interesting. You saw earlier that word order can change. And this is the second time you are seeing superfluous words which will subtract from its colour. Other constructs will be introduced appropriately.

As with any (new) language, practice makes perfect. Then at least your lousy “Ingerrish” can become good Singlish, if not better English 😉 Here are links to previous lessons for your revision:

And look out for Lesson Four, already in the works (hint, hint)…


Final note: “Then hor” roughly means “And so.” Some of you might recall the song “Then Hor, Then Hor” written and performed by Singaporean 吴庆康 in the 1990’s. Strangely, this was composed by 思松 and 伟松, famed hits master duo from The Little Red Dot.

Cannot meh? “Eh, why u so like dat?” Hey, that’s a local rap by the Kopi Kat Klan, released in the 90’s as well — check it out on YouTube.

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