English for Everyone

<b>English for Everyone</b>
Learn and Master English Everyday and Everywhere!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Use Tenses Correctly

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:


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 the digital, and here for the paperback edition.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Learn Some American Idioms

Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them. American idioms are no exception; they reflect American culture at every social level. They are used in everyday life, in speaking and in writing, in movies and on television, and by people from all walks of life.

Through thick and thin: through good times as well as bad times
e.g. Don’t worry! I’ll stick by you through thick and thin.

Meet someone halfway: compromise
e.g. He settled the agreement with her by meeting her halfway.

Name of the game: the main goal

e.g. The name of the game is winning; we must win this election no matter what.

Dog in the manger: a very selfish person
e.g. Don’t be a dog in the manger! You no longer need this; why don’t you give it to us?

Act one’s age: behave maturely
e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

Lead someone astray: cause someone to do something wrong or illegal
e.g. If you are always in the company of lawbreakers, you  may be easily be led astray.

Late in the day: kind of late
e.g. Don’t you think it’s late in the day to change your tactics?

First and last: above all; under all circumstances
e.g. She was an accomplished pianist first and last.

Hit like a ton of bricks: surprise or shock
e.g. The sudden resignation of the President hit the people like a ton of bricks.

Go the distance: do the whole thing
e.g. This is a long, complicated project. To succeed, you must go the distance.

For a song: inexpensive
e.g. You can get this on the Internet for a song.

Pull the wool over someone’s eyes: deceive
e.g. Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes: I wasn’t born yesterday.

Take som
 ething on the chin: get a direct blow
e.g. The bad news was a shock to me; I took it on the chin.

Hold one’s end up: do one’s part; reliable
e.g. I know I can count on you; you always hold your end up.

Hit the nail on the head: do exactly the right thing
e.g. Your remark hit the nail on the head; that was precisely the solution to the problem.

Visit my website: Health and Wisdom Tips 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sentence Errors to Avoid

Double Negatives

e.g. I didn’t see nobody. (incorrect)

I didn’t see anybody. (correct)

e.g. We are not going nowhere. (incorrect)

We are not going anywhere. (correct).

e.g. There isn't no money left. (incorrect)

There isn't any money left. (correct)

Omission of Key Verbs

e.g. The room was cleaned, and the curtains washed. (incorrect)

The room was cleaned, and the curtains were washed. (correct)

e.g. I never have, and never will do such a thing. (incorrect)

e.g. I never have done, and never will do such a thing. (correct)

Omission of Words in Comparison

e.g. His performance was better. (incorrect)

His performance was better than that (i.e. the performance) of the other candidates. (correct)

e.g. Your hands are bigger than any man that I know of. (incorrect)

e.g. You hands are bigger than those (i.e. the hands) of any man that I know of. (correct)
Dangling Participles

e.g. Walking down the street, the City Hall could be seen. (incorrect)

Walking down the street, we could see the City Hall. (correct)

e.g. By exercising every day, your health will improve. (incorrect)

By exercising every day, you will improve your health. (correct)

Misuse of Dependent Clauses

e.g. Because he had no money was the reason he stayed at home. (incorrect)

He stayed at home because he had no money. (correct)

Because he had no money, he stayed at home. (correct)

Having no money was the reason he stayed at home. (correct)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, April 5, 2018

American Idioms

Learn some common everyday American expressions.

You could have fooled me: I would have thought otherwise.
e.g. "We're not getting along well; we've too many differences." "You could have fooled me! I thought the two of you are cut out for each other."

What gives?: what's wrong? what's the problem?
e.g. "You were screaming at each other. What gives?"

Get right on it: do it immediately.
e.g. "Can you help me with this software?" "I'll get right on it."

Search me: I don't know; I don't have the answer.
e.g. "Do you know the author of this quotation?" "Search me."

You don't know the half of it: it is worse than what you think.
e.g. "The company is having some financial problems." "You don't know the half of it. I tell you what; it might even go bankrupt."

Says who?: who do you think you are to say that?
e.g. "I heard you were reprimanded by your boss for being late again." "Says who?"

You said a mouthful: you said what needs to be said.
e.g. "The movie was disappointing: the story was uninteresting; the acting was bad; and it was too long." "Yes, you said a mouthful!"

What would you say if: asking for an opinion; what about?
e.g. "I heard you were recently offered a job." "What would you say if I decline the offer?"

No sweat: it's ok; no problem.
e.g. "I'm sorry I'm late." "No sweat! We've all the time in the world."

What about it?
: so what?
e.g. "You were late for the meeting." "What about it? I didn't want to come in the first place."

Over my dead body: absolutely not!
e.g. "Can I come with you? " "Over my dead body!"

Knock it off: shut up!; be quiet.
e.g. "Knock it off! You and your big mouth!"

Can't beat that: no one can do better than that.
e.g. "Of all people, I finished the project in less than a week. Can't beat that."

It works for me: it's fine with me

No can do: I cannot do it..
e.g. "Can you do this now?" "No can do."

So much for that: that's the end of that
e.g. "Well, so much for that. I'm not going to get involved any more. That's it!"

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, April 2, 2018

Punctuate Your Sentences

To write well, you need to know how to punctuate your sentences.

Commas and full-stops (periods) are most often used.

You use commas to separate compound sentences. A compound sentence is made up of 2 or more simple sentences. First of all, a simple sentence has a subject, a verb, and or an object.

e.g. He laughed. (simple sentence: subject + verb)
e.g. He laughed at me. (simple sentence: subject + verb + object)
e.g. He left the room. (simple sentence: subject + verb + object)
e.g. I was all by myself. (simple sentence: subject + verb+ complement)

However, you cannot join two or more simple sentences together without a coordinating conjunction (andbutornorforso, yet)

e.g. He laughed at me, he left the room. (incorrect: there is no coordinating conjunction)
e.g. He laughed at me, and (he) left the room.(correct)
e.g. After he laughed at mehe left the room.(correct: "he laughed at me" becomes a subordinate clause and no longer a simple sentence with the addition of the subordinating conjunction "after")
e.g. He laughed at meleft the room, and I was all by myself. (correct)

You may or may not need a comma for a compound or complex sentence. A complex sentence is made up of a simple sentence and one or more subordinate clauses (a subordinate clause is an incomplete sentence joined to a simple sentence by a subordinating conjunction, such as afterwhensince etc.

e.g. He saw me and he shook my hands. (a compound sentence joining 2 simple sentences by a coordinating conjunction: "and": " he saw me" and "he shook my hands")

A comma before and is optional. If you think the sentence is too long or the meaning is misleading, you may want to add a comma.

By the same token, if you think the complex sentence is too long, then you may want to add a comma.

e.g. When he saw me walking with the Mayor along the corridor, he shook my hands.
e.g. He shook my hands when he saw me. (without the comma)

I hope you have learned the following: a simple sentence, a compound sentence, a coordinating clause, a subordinating clause, and the use of comma.

Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learn Some American Idioms

Learn Some American Idioms

In fine feather: in good condition; in good health
e.g. With a good night sleep, I am in fine feather today.

After all: in spite of everything
e.g. She didn’t get a good score; after all, it was her first attempt.

Late in life: in old age
e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Act one’s age: behave maturely
e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

No flies on: very alert, smart
e.g. You cannot trick her; there are no flies on her.

Bad sort: an unpleasant person
e.g. He is a bad sort; nobody likes him.

Bag your face: shut up!
e.g. You and your loud mouth! Go and bag your face!

Dance to another tune: change to a different attitude or behavior
e.g. If your parents were here, you would dance to another tune.

A little bird told me: somehow I knew

e.g. “How did you know what I did?” “Well, a little bird told me.”

Add insult to injury: make things worse
e.g. Enough is enough! Don’t add insult to injury.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, March 26, 2018

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©2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions 

Spill the beans: give information unintentionally.
e.g. "I told them that you will be on vacation next week." "It's supposed to be a secret. Well, you just spilled the beans.

Spitting image: exact image.
e.g. He has a spitting image of his brother: they are twins.

Bat along: move along smoothly.
e.g. This is not rush hour, and cars do bat along.

Bone-head: a simple-minded person
e.g. Don't be a bone-head! Do some thinking!

Blue pencil: censor.
e.g. The committee will blue pencil whatever you are going to say.

Hold one's horse: wait a minute; not immediately.
e.g. Dinner is ready, but hold your horse; wait for the host to come down!

In good nick: in good condition.
e.g. If I were you, I would buy this car; it's in good nick.

Boil over: become angry.
e.g.  Get away from him: he's boiling over with rage.

Put one's thinking cap on: seriously consider.
e.g. Well, I'll have to put my thinking cap on this before I can give you an answer.

Rake it in: earn money quickly.
e.g. If you invest in this, you can really rake it in.

Bone idle: very lazy.
e.g. She's bone idle: she never does any household chore.

Bone up on: study hard.
e.g. If you wish to pass your test, you'd better bone up on it.

Bowl over: overwhelm.
e.g. I was bowled over by all the information received at the seminar.

Pooped: exhausted.
e.g. What's the matter?  Everybody looks pooped today. We haven't even started the work!

Break down on: be a disadvantage for.
e.g. The new job broke down on me.

Breeze up: becoming frightened.
e.g. Whenever you mention terrorist attack, I have the breeze up.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, March 19, 2018

My Newly Published Book: The Happiness Wisdom

I have just published my book: “The Happiness Wisdom”, which is a 161-page book on human wisdom based on ancient wisdom from the East and the West, conventional wisdom, and spiritual wisdom, which may all provide guidelines for choosing the happiness ingredients for your own happiness recipe. In addition, the book also provides real examples taken from real life, illustrating how these real people perceive their realities, and thus leading to their happiness or unhappiness.

Human happiness or unhappiness is no more than a perception of the human mind, based on an individual's own life experiences. You think, and your perceptions then become your "realities"; with profound wisdom, you can change how your mind processes your perceptions. Change your mind to change your realities, and live your life as if everything is a miracle! Your life journey is uniquely yours. Make your own happiness recipe from the happiness ingredients of ancient wisdom, conventional wisdom, and spiritual wisdom. Continue your life journey with your own happiness recipe.

Click here to find out more about the book.

Click here to get your digital copy, and here to get your paperback copy.

Stephen Lau

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Correct Use of Phrasal Verbs

The use of prepositions is one of the difficult aspects of learning English. A preposition is a functional word that appears before nouns and relates to some other constructions in the sentence.

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and one or more prepositions that functions as a single unit of meaning. Phrasal verbs are commonly used in writing. As an ESL learner, learn some prepositional phrases:


Frown at: scowl at someone or something.

e.g. She frowned at my cat and gave her a kick.

Frown on: show disapproval.

e.g. His parents frown on everything he does.


Drink down: consume something by drinking it.

e.g. He drank down the medicine, and felt better.

Drink in: absorb sight or information.

e.g. He was standing on the beach, trying to drink in the beauty around.

 e.g. It would take time to drink in the significance of the message.

Drink under the table: be able to drink more alcohol that someone else.

e.g. I bet I can drink you under the table.

Drink up: consume all of something.

e.g. Do you think you can drink up this bottle of wine?


Hold no brief for: tolerate someone or something.

e.g. I hold no brief for that kind of behavior.

Hold off: delay; restrain.

e.g. The air strike might hold off the enemies for some time.

Hold one's end up: carry one's share of the bargain or burden.

e.g. We expect you to hold your end up and keep your promise to back us up.

e.g. With only that much money left, I don't know how long we could hold out.

Hold still for something: put up with something.

e.g. It is not easy to hold still for that kind of rude remark.


Ground in: instruct.

e.g. We should ground our children in love and compassion as they grow up.

Ground on: form a foundation for.

e.g. His intelligence was grounded on reading books on wisdom.


Dance on air: be very happy.

e.g. When she heard the good news, she was dancing on air.

Dance to another tune: change one,s manner, act very differently.

e.g. What I'm going to tell you will make you dance to another tune.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau