English for Everyone

<b>English for Everyone</b>
Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The English Sentence


The English Sentence

In English, the number of sentences is infinite. However, within this infinity, there are FIVE patterns:

Subject + verb

e.g. An accident happened.
            (subject) (verb)

Subject + verb + object (direct)

e.g. The man took the money.
              (s)     (v)         (o)

Subject + verb + object (indirect) + object (direct)

e.g. The man give me the money.
               (s)   (v)   (o)       (o)

Subject + verb + complement (of the subject)

e.g. She is pretty.
       (s) (v) (c)

Subject + verb + object + complement (of the object) 

e.g. They elected him President.
       (s)     (v)       (o)   (c)

e.g. They made her unhappy.
       (s)     (v)     (o)  (c)

Sir Winston Churchill once said that the English sentence is a "noble thing." As such, in order to write an effective sentence, one must know what an English sentence is.

A sentence is for communicating a complete thought, a command, a question, or an exclamation.

    e.g. I love you.
    e.g. Take it.
    e.g. Is it right?
    e.g. How wonderful!

In most cases, a sentence requires at least one subject-verb combination (e.g. I came.); in some cases, a sentence can be a single word (e.g. Help!).

The basic sentence pattern or sentence structure is made up of a subject and a verb:

           Subject                 Verb
           Birds                     sing

But you can add single descriptive words (modifiers) to add more meaning to the basic sentence pattern. These words can be: an article (a, an, the); an adjective (a word to describe the noun or subject); an adverb (a word to describe the verb).

e.g. The (specify which birds) yellow birds (the color of the birds) sing beautifully. (how they sing)

You can add a phrase (made up of two or more words with no subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are different types of phrases:

1.    an infinitive phrase: to + verb e.g. to do the work, to play the piano
2. participle phrase: present participle/past participle + noun, e.g. playing the piano, the broken window
3.    prepositional phrase: under the table, in the beginning

You can add a clause (made up of words with a subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are two different types of clauses:

1.  an independent clause: communicating a complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.
2.   dependent clause: describing another clause, and not communicating a complete thought, e.g. When the man was singing (what happened?)

You can change sentences into different types by adding different clauses:

1. The simple sentence: one independent clause making one complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.
2. The compound sentence: more than one complete thought, with two or more independent clauses, e.g. The man was singing and the children were dancing.
3. The compl ex sentence: one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause), when the children were dancing (dependent clause).
4.  The compound complex sentence: two independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause) and the children were dancing (independent clause) when the light suddenly went out.

Effective writing is the use of different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, compound complex) to give variety. In addition, vary the sentence length to avoid monotony in writing.

Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Friday, August 7, 2020

Confusing Words

FOUL / FOWL

Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl is a bird, such as hen.
e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for dinner tonight.

SEDATIVE / SEDENTARY

Sedative: calming or soothing.
e.g. Without her sedative medicine, she could not go to sleep.
Sedentary: accustomed to sitting; physically inactive.
e.g His sedentary work -- sitting in front of the computer -- took a toll on his health.
e.g. Most seniors have a sedentary lifestyle as they continue to age.

PERISHABLE / PERISHING

Perishable: liable to die or perish quickly.
e.g. Fresh vegetables are perishable if you don't put them in the refrigerator.
Perishing: causing suffering.
e.g. Negative thinking may cause perishing emotions and thoughts.

FRAGILE / FRAIL

Fragile: delicate, easily broken.
e.g. This piece of antique is fragile; please handle with care.
Frail: weak in health; without strong support.
e.g. He looks pale and frail.
e.g. The Senator received frail support from his party.

PERIODIC / PERIODICAL

Periodic: occurring again and again.
e.g. The singer has never really retired with periodic appearance on TV.
Periodical: published at regular intervals.
e.g. This is a periodical magazine -- published once a month.
   
IMPAIR / REPAIR

Impair: weaken or repair.
e.g. Spending too much time on the computer may impair your vision.
Repair: fix
e.g. Eye exercises can repair your vision

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Parallel Structure of an Effective Sentence

An effective sentence has to be parallel in structure in order to give the balance to the sentence. Therefore, when composing your sentence, be mindful of its parallel structure.

e.g. The story is about stealing money from a bank and how you hide it. (not parallel)

e.g. The story is about stealing money from a bank and hiding it. (improved; it is about stealing and hiding money)

e.g. My computer knowledge is better than you. (it does not make sense)

e.g. My computer knowledge is better than yours. (your computer knowledge)

e.g  I like him more than her. (correct: it means I like him more than I like her)

e.g. I like him more than she. (correct: it means I like him more than she likes him)

e.g. He promised his mother to finish his homework, to clean the house, and going to bed early.

e.g. He promised his mother to finish his homework, to clean the house, and to go to bed early.(improved)

e.g. I had decided to leave the country rather than staying behind.

e.g. I decided to.leave the country rather than to stay behind. (improved)

e.g. Rather than staying behind, I had decided to leave the country. (improved)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. Click here for your copy.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Use of Tenses

To write well, you need to know how to use English tenses correctly. Tenses are difficult to many because in many languages tenses are not used to express "time" or the "relationship of sequence"; instead, adverbs, such as "yesterday", "tomorrow", "soon" etc. are used.

To learn how to use English tenses correctly, you must have a perception of the "time" element.
Let's take a looks at present tense, present continuous tensepresent perfect tensepast tense, and past perfect tense with the following examples:

PAST<----------------------------------------------------->PRESENT

lived in Texas.   *                            

had lived in Texas for more than 20 years.  *****       

I moved to Ohio 5 years ago.  *                                  Now, I live in Ohio.

                                                                                     I am living in Ohio. **

                                                                     I have lived in Ohio for 5 years. *****

"I lived in Texas" (past tense): an action in the past; it was a fact. (*)

"I had lived in Texas for more than 20 years." (past perfect tense): an action that "continued" (****)for some time in the past.
"I moved to Ohio 5 years ago" (past tense): an action in the past; it was a fact (*)

"Now I live in Ohio." (present tense): an action in the present; it is a fact. (*)

"I am living in Ohio." (present continuous tense): an action in the present, and it may continue for some time into the near future.**

"I have lived in Ohio for 5 years." (present perfect tense): an action in the past that has continued into the present, and will probably continue into the near future. *****

Hopefully, the above examples have demonstrated how you should use some of the English tenses correctly.

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. Click here for your copy.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Idioms and Colloquial Expressions

Hard stuff: whisky or any liquor.

e.g."Would you like a Coke?" "I'd prefer some hard stuff."

Make one's pile: make one's fortune.



e.g. Real estate is where he makes his pile.

Half-baked: silly.

e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Keep early hours: go to bed early.

e.g. If you want good health, keep early hours.

Go under: fail.

e.g. I am sorry to say that all your proposals have gone under.

Hook on to: attach oneself to.

e.g. Don't hook on to your computer all day.
.
Hook it: depart immediately.

e.g. Come on, hook it; our parents will be back soon.

Can't complain: okay.

e.g. "How are things going with you?" "Can't complain."

What gives?: what happened?

e.g. "Hey, guys, what gives?" "We just had an argument; now it's okay."
e.g. "Where's your purse? What gives?"

Heads up: look around; be careful.

Pooped: exhausted.

e.g. I was pooped after working for nine hours in the yard.

Hard at it: busy.

.e.g. "Are you working on the project?" "You bet! I'm hard at it."

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Right Choice of Words

Adherence / Adhesion

Much more: especially in a positive sense; much less: not to mention in a negative sense.

e.g. I would help a stranger in need, much more if he is my son.

e.g. She wouldn't even look at me, much less talk to me.

Dutiable / Dutiful

Dutiable: subject to imported tax; dutiful: showing respect and obedience.

e.g. Tobacco is often dutiable in most countries.

e.g. He is my dutiful son.

Adherence: following faithfully (metaphorically); adhesion: sticking to (literally).

e.g. No matter what may happen, our company will demonstrate to our shareholders our adherence to the project.

e.g. You can use this glue to strengthen the adhesion of these two pieces of material.

Defer / Infer

Defer: give way or yield to; infer: conclude.

e.g. He is a good kid: he always defers to his parents' wishes.

e.g. We can infer from your statement that you don't like this policy.

Aside / A side

Aside is an adverb meaning apart from, in addition to, to one side; a side means on each side.

e.g. Aside from money, he also needs a place to stay.

e.g. We need to put aside some money in case of emergency.

e.g. Please stand aside so that others can move in.


e.g. The passengers sat four a side.

Irritable / Irritant

Irritable means easily made angry; irritant means causing anger or discomfort.

e.g. He has a short temper and is easily irritable.


e.g. Nobody likes him because of his irritant behavior.

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to: responsible to someone; accountable for: responsible for something

e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions. 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Confusing Words and Phrases

All / All of

All is used for amount, quantity, distance, and length of time.
e.g. all the money, all the way, all day, all night,
All of is used when a simple pronoun follows.
e.g. all of it, all of you, all of us.
All and all of may be used when it refers to number.
e.g. All or all of the employees are satisfied with the new policy.
e.g. All or all of the children in the family have gone to college.

Common / Commonplace

Common: shared or used by many; commonplace: ordinary, not unusual.
e.g. English is a common language used in Europe.
e.g. Nowadays, carrying a gun is commonplace.

Dutiable Dutiful

Dutiable: subject to imported tax; dutiful: showing respect and obedience.
e.g. Tobacco is often dutiable in most countries.
e.g. He is my dutiful son.

Adherence: following faithfully (metaphorically); adhesion: sticking to (literally).
e.g. No matter what may happen, our company will demonstrate to our shareholders our adherence to the project.
e.g. You can use this glue to strengthen the adhesion of these two pieces of material.

Its / It’s

Its is the possessive of the pronoun “it”; It’s is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.”
e.g. It’s a fact that the earth is round.
e.g. The company has lost its control over the market in Asia.

Judicial / Judicious

Judicial means relating to a judge or a court of law; judicious means of good judgment or wise.

e.g. As an assistant to the judge, everyday he has to go through many judicial documents.

e.g. Your judicious decision not to retire will have long-term impact on your finance.

Defer Infer

Defer: give way or yield to; infer: conclude.
e.g. He is a good kid: he always defers to his parents' wishes.
e.g. We can infer from your statement that you don't like this policy.

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to: responsible to someone; accountable for: responsible for something
e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions. 

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau