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, May 18, 2019

The Use of Adverbs

The Use of Adverbs

An adverb modifies an action or an adjective.

Adverbs are often formed by adding "ly" to an adjective.

e.g. He sings beautifully.

e.g. Please talk slowly.

e.g. She is driving carefully.

Some adverbs take the comparative and superlative forms with more and most.

e.g. My father walks more slowly than my mother (does).

e.g. He is the most talented student in the class.

Exceptions to the rule are: fast, faster, fastest; hard, harder, hardest; soon, sooner, soonest.

e.g. I can run faster (not more fast) than you (do).

e.g. She is the hardest working student in the class.

e.g. We can get  there soonest by plane.

Certain adjectives do not require adverbs to modify them.

e.g. essential (NOT absolutely essential: essential means “absolutely necessary”)

e.g. unique (NOT most unique or extremely unique: unique means “one of a kind”)

e.g. universe (NOT most universal: there is only one universe.)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, May 17, 2019

Choice of Words

Choice of Words

Writing has to do with words, in particular, the choice of words. A good stock of vocabulary is of course important. But other than that, you also need to know the exact meaning of each word so that you will use it correctly. There are many words that may sound similar, but they have different meanings, and thus they are confusing. 

Mellow / Melodious

Mellow: mature; soft and pure; rich and full.
e.g. As he continues to age, he become more mellow and compassionate.

Melodious: tuneful; pleasant to the ear.
e.g. He voice is melodious; he should take up singing.

Reign / Rein

Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).

Defuse / Diffuse

Defuse means to decrease the danger, such as deactivate a bomb; diffuse means to spread over a wide area.
e.g. It is difficult to defuse the conflicts in the Middle East.
e.g. Once you open the bottle of fragrant herbs, their scents will diffuse.

Genteel / Gentle

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.
e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Gentle: soft and tender.
e.g. Be gentle with that little puppy.

Faint / Feint

Faint (both as a noun and a verb) means loss of consciousness; feint means a misleading attack.
e.g. She fainted when she heard the bad news.
e.g. The robber, who gave a feint, began to attack the policeman.

Studio / Studious

Studio: a place where pictures are taken, or films are made.
e.g. The film was made in a Hollywood studio.
Studious: fond of study; careful and thoughtful.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be studious.

Hail / Hale

Hail means to greet or salute; hale means healthy and strong.
e.g. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
e.g. A man is hale when his complexion is rosy.

Some time / Sometime / Sometimes

Some time means a period of time.
Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.
Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.
e.g. We have been for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't -- that's our relationship.

Lose / Loose

Lose means being unable to find; loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).
e.g. This dress is too loose for me; I need a smaller size.

Decorative / Decorous

Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.
e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.
Decorous: showing good taste.
e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but elegant dress.

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 Thanksgiving.

Currant / Current

Currant means a kind of black berry; current means a movement of air or water; or of the present time.
e.g. We enjoy the dessert made with honey and currant.
e.g. The water may not be safe for swimming because there is a strong current below the water surface.
e.g. His secretary always keeps him updated with current affairs.

Terminable / Terminal

Terminable: can be ended.
e.g. Your job is only temporary and terminable at any time.
Terminal: at the end.
e.g. The doctor told the patient that she had terminal cancer.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Correct Use of Prepositions

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and that of another noun or pronoun.

e.g. The book is on the table.

e.g. This telephone message came from your wife.

e.g. Everybody can go except you.

e.g. The house is situated between the river and the wood.

e.g. That piece of cake was shared among the three boys. (NOT between: between is for two; among is for more than two)

Some words can be a preposition as well as a conjunction.

e.g. He stood before the window. (preposition indicating the relationship between the man and the window)

e.g. Before the police came, the man had fled. (before is a subordinating conjunction joining two otherwise independent clauses the police came and the man had fled)

Consider the following sentences:

e.g. The police came, the man had fled. (incorrect: without a conjunction)

e.g. The police came, and the man had fled. (correct with a conjunction)

e.g. Before the police came, the man had fled (improved: showing the sequence of events with the addition of the subordinating conjunction before)

Do not use prepositions unnecessarily.

e.g. Where are you going to? (NO to)

e.g. Don’t go near to the lake. (NO to)

e.g. The child fell off from his bike. (NO from)

A preposition can introduce a word group called a prepositional phrase or verbal idiom:

     Accompanied by

e.g. All children will be accompanied by their parents.

     Accompanied with

e.g. His speech was accompanied with slander and accusation. (linked with; containing)

     Accountable for

e.g. As an adult, you are accountable for your actions. (responsible for)

     Accountable to

e.g. Your are directly accountable to the manager, and not your supervisor. (reporting to a person)

     Agree on

e.g. This is something we can never agree on.

     Agree to

e.g. I agreed to paying the damages.
     Agree with
e.g. I can never agree with you as far as this is concerned.

     Angry at

e.g. I was angry at your irresponsible behavior.

     Angry with

e.g. Are you still angry with me?
     Contend for
e.g. The job situation is bad: more than fifty applicants contend for that position. (compete for)

     Contend with

e.g. To succeed, you must contend with your lack of confidence. (overcome an obstacle)

     Differ from

e.g. Your account of the event is different from that of your brother.

     Differ with

e.g. You differ with your brother on this issue. (disagree)

     Grateful for

e.g. We should all be grateful for our blessings from God.

     Grateful to

e.g. You should be grateful to your parents for what they have done for you.

     Impatient at

e.g. Now I am becoming more impatient at your lack of enthusiasm. (angry)
     Impatient for
e.g. We are impatient for a response from the government. (waiting eagerly for a result)

     Reconcile to

e.g. My grandfather reconciled himself to old age. (accept an outcome)

     Reconcile with (resolve differences)

e.g. The two brothers finally reconciled with each other and resolved their differences.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, May 12, 2019

More Sentence Errors to Acoid

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, May 9, 2019

Common Sentence Errors

Which of the following sentences are incorrect?

(1) He is one of those few students who get into an elite college.

(2) She is the only one of the students who get into Harvard University.

(3) Everybody thinks they are smart.

(4) None of us is perfect.

(5) None are so wrong as those who think they are always right.

(6) In the burglary, every window, door, and mirror were smashed.

(7) The long and the short of this proposal are that it is easy but costly.

(8) Give and take is important to a healthy marriage.

(9) Politics are something that many like to pursue.

(10) The police are coming.

Incorrect sentences:

(2),(3),(6), (7), and (9)

Go through these sentences once again, and try to see why they are incorrect.


(2) She is the only one of the students who gets into Harvard University. (Improved: there are many students, and she is the only one student who gets into Harvard University. In sentence (1), a few students get into an elite college, and he is one of them.)

(3) Everybody thinks he or she is smart. (Improved: “everybody” is singular. A singular verb is used when “none” means “no one” or “not one” as in(4); a plural verb is used when “none” suggests more than one, as in (5).)

(6) In the burglary, every window, door, and mirror was smashed. (Improved: “every” is singular.) 

(7) The long and the short of this proposal is that it is easy but costly. (Improved: certain common compounds are often considered singular, requiring a singular verb, e.g. “bread and butter”, “give and take” as in (8); and “the long and the short.”) 

(9) Politics is something that many like to pursue. (Improved: some nouns, although appearing plural, such as “economics” and “politics” as in (9), require a singular verb. Likewise, some nouns, appearing singular, such as “police” as in (10), may require a plural verb.)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Common 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© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Correct Punctuation

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© by Stephen Lau