English for Everyone

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Choosing the Right Words

     its and it’s

e.g. The tree had most of its branches chopped off. (possessive of it )

e.g. It’s wrong to do this! (it is)

     lay and lie

e.g. Lie down and take a nap! (repose; rest)

e.g. Yesterday, I lay down for a nap. (past tense of lie)

e.g. I have lain down every afternoon this week. (past participle of lie)

e.g. Just lay the magazine on the table. (put down)

e.g. I laid the magazine on this table yesterday. (past tense of lay)

     like and as

e.g. The plan turned out to be successful, just like I said it would. (WRONG: like is not a subordinating conjunction)

e.g. The plan turned out to be successful, just as I said it would. (RIGHT: as is a subordinating conjunction)

     literally and almost

e.g. I literally dropped on the floor. (according to the actual meaning of the word)

e.g. The man literally dropped dead. (actually died)

e.g. I almost dropped dead. (almost, but did not die)

     loath and loathe

e.g. I am loath (unwilling) to tell you that I loathe (despise; hate) your parents.

     oral and verbal

e.g. I will give an oral presentation tomorrow. (spoken)

e.g. That was a verbal attack on my character (in words, either spoken or written)

     passed and past

e.g. I passed the exam with flying colors.

e.g. He ran past me. (beyond)

Past is never used as a verb.

     permissible and permissive

e.g. It is permissible to end a sentence with a preposition. (permitted)

e.g. They are very permissive parents, who do not even stop their teenagers from taking drugs. (permitting; liberal-minded)

     precede and proceed

e.g. This ceremony will precede the event. (go before)

e.g. Before we proceed, we must be prepared. (move forward)

    pretence and pretension

 Pretence means “make-believe”; pretension means “claim.”

e.g. The patient made a pretence to faint. (pretending)

e.g. I made no pretension to authorship of that article.

     principal and principle

e.g. Did you meet the new principal of our school? (head of a school)

e.g. Integrity is an important principle in life. (basic truth)

    purposely and purposefully

Purposely means “deliberately”; purposefully means “in a determined   manner.”

e.g. He purposely broke the chair to show his anger.

e.g. He began the project purposefully and without delay.

     rebut and refute

e.g. The attorney is going to rebut his opponent’s arguments. (speak or write against)

e.g. The judge has decided to refute the arguments. (disapprove)

     regretfully and regrettably

e.g. I regretfully told him that the plan did not work. (with regret)

e.g. Regrettably, the plan did not work. (unfortunately)

     reticent and reluctant

e.g. He was reticent (unwilling to talk) about his reluctance (noun of reluctant: unwillingness) to discuss the tragedy. 

     sensual and sensuous

Sensual means “appealing to the body, especially pleasures, such as sex”; sensuous refers to the pleasure of the senses.

e.g. The film was filled with sensual images of sex.

e.g. I stretched myself with sensuous pleasure in the warm tropical sun.

     some time, sometime, sometimes

e.g. I will see you sometime this week. (unspecified time)

e.g. Some time passed before the police came. (a span of time)

e.g. Sometimes I feel sick. (at times; not always)

     stationary and stationery

e.g. Before school starts, students need to get all their stationery. (pens, pencils, paper, etc.)

e.g. The bus is now stationary: you can get off. (not moving)

     use and utilize

e.g. You can utilize your abilities in this job. (make good use of, or else it will be wasted)

e.g. Use your brain!

     whose and who’s

e.g. Whose book is this? (who owns this book?)

e.g. Who’s going to tell me the truth? (who is)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Learn Some American Idioms

Learn Some American Idioms

Vested interest: a personal stake
e.g. He showed a vested interest in his uncle’s business.

Have a good mind to: tend to
e.g. I have a good mind to tell you the truth.

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

Under one’s own steam: by one’s own effort 
e.g. He cannot succeed under his own steam; he needs the support of his family.

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.

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

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

Poop out: tire out
e.g. The marathon race pooped me out; I could hardly walk.

Make as if: pretend
e.g. You made as if you enjoyed the film, but you really didn’t.

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.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Learn some slang and colloquial expressions:

Take it on the chin: accept without evasion.
e.g. You were yelling at him; he took it on the chin, without a word.

Darned sight more: a lot more.
e.g. "Do you think he should put more effort on this?" "A darned sight more!

Take the rap: take the blame or responsibility of another person.

e.g. If you want to do it, go ahead, but I'm not going to take the rap.

Streets ahead of: far superior to.
e.g. As far as computer technology is concerned, he is streets ahead of me.

Taken short: in need of urination.
e.g. I was taken short, and I rushed to the bathroom before I could finish the talk.

Alive and kicking: in good health.
"How is she doing?" "Very much alive and kicking."

Drive up the wall: irritate intensely.
e.g. Don't drive me up the wall every time I see you.

Talk through the back of one's neck: talk nonsense.
e.g. Look what he's doing: talking through the back of his neck.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Don't Confuse These Words!

Pretense Pretension
Pretense is to make believe; pretension is a claim

e.g. She makes no pretense to like her mother-in-law. (She does not pretend that she likes her mother-in-law)

e.g. He made no pretension to that award. (He never claimed that he received that award)

Ingenious / Ingenuous
Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.

e.g. I must say that was an ingenious way to fund the project.

e.g. The Mayor's response to the questions from the reporter was sincere and ingenuous.

Providing that / Provided that
Providing that is incorrect; provided that means on condition that

e.g. You can go out to play provided (that) you have finished your homework. (meaning: on condition that)

e.g. You can keep the book for another week providing that no one has reserved it (incorrect: provided that should be used instead)

e.g. The millionaire has helped the poor, providing many of them with food and shelter. (correct; meaning: giving or offering)

Indoor Indoors
Indoor is an adjective; indoors is an adverb.

e.g. Bowling is an indoor game.
e.g. It's going to rain; let's go indoors.

Terminable Terminal
Terminable: can be ended; terminal: at the end.

e.g. Your job is only temporary and terminable at any time.

e.g. The doctor told the patient that she had terminal cancer.

Observable / Observant
Observable: can be seen or noticed; observant: quick to pay attention.

e.g. The solution to the problem is observable to many scientists.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be observant of all the relevant details and data.

Welcome / Welcomed
Welcome is an adjective or a verb; welcomed is a participle.

e.g. You are most welcome.

e.g. This is a welcome party for all newcomers.

e.g. I like to welcome all of you.

e.g. The guests were welcomed by all of us in front of the house.

Accountable to / Accountable for
Accountable to someone; accountable for something
 (meaning "responsible for").

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

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, June 26, 2017

How to Avoid Faulty Agreement in a Sentence

Faulty Agreement

The subject and verb of a sentence must agree in person and in number. A single and simple sentence may not have faulty agreement, but in a more complicated complex sentence, certain problems in agreement may arise:

when the word order is unusual

e.g. Sitting on the sofa was five teenagers (incorrect).

e.g. Sitting on the sofa were five teenagers (correct). (Five teenagers were sitting on the sofa.)

when the sentence contains more than one subject

e.g. Swimming and cycling are good sports for you .(correct)

e.g. Bread and butter is good for breakfast (correct). (“Bread” and “butter” are considered one common subject, and therefore a singular verb is used, instead of a plural one.)

when the sentence contains indefinite pronouns

e.g. Each of the students is going to bring his or her own lunch (correct: “each” is the subject,  and not “students”).
e.g. One of us is going to win the prize (correct).

e.g. All of us are going to the picnic (correct).

e.g. None of them is interested in the game (correct).

e.g. Everyone is included in the dinner (correct).

when the subject may be a collective noun

e.g. The committee is meeting today (correct: the whole group).

e.g. The committee are unable to come to a unanimous decision (correct: all the members of the committee).

when the sentence contains such phrases as “as well as”. “together with” and “in addition to

e.g. The man, as well as his family, is flying to Vancouver tomorrow (correct).

e.g. The man and his family are moving in this afternoon (correct).

e.g. This new evidence, together with the evidence the police have found, is proof that you committed the crime (correct).

e.g. This box, in addition to the one I sent you yesterday, has to be put away (correct).

when the sentence contains such phrases as “either or” and “neither nor

e.g. Either you or I am going to the party (correct).

e.g. Either the boy or the girls are right  (correct).

e.g. Either the boys or the girl is right (correct).

e.g. Neither you nor he is invited (correct).

e.g. Neither of us are coming (correct).

when the sentence contains such phrases as “here is”. “here are”, “there is”and “there are

e.g. Here is your book (correct).

e.g. Here are the instructions (correct).

e.g. There is only one person in the room (correct).

e.g. There were two guns found (correct).

e.g. There was a huge crowd of demonstrators on the street (correct).

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Prepositional Words and Phrases

Using prepositions correctly is one of the difficult parts  of the English language. A verb may have different prepositions to go with it, and thus generating different meanings. To illustrate, take the verb FALL:

Fall apart: break into pieces.
e.g. This old house is falling apart; we'd better sell it as soon as possible.

e.g. After the death of his wife, his life began to fall apart.

Fall away: drop away from something.

e.g. The paint is falling away from the side of the house.

Fall back on someone or something: use someone or something as reserve.

e.g. Your father is someone you can fall back on when you run out of money.

e.g. We fell back on the emergency generator when the power went out.

Fall behind: lag behind schedule.

e.g. You are falling behind in your mortgage payments.

e.g. Get cracking, and don't fall behind your work.

Fall by: drop in value.

e.g. The gold price fell by 10 percent within this week.

Fall down on the job: fail to do a job efficiently.

e.g. If you keep falling down on the job, you will be fired!

Fall for someone: be in love with someone.

e.g. He had fallen for his cousin, and soon they became engaged.

Fall in with someone or something: become involved with someone or something.

e.g. I am afraid he has fallen in with the wrong group with people.

e.g. Your son has fallen in with drugs.

Fall into disfavor: lose one's influence.

e.g. The Mayor has fallen into disfavor with his supporters; he might lose in the coming election.

Fall into disgrace: become without honor.

e.g. The Governor fell into disgrace because of his involvement with the murder case.

Fall into disuse: to be used less and less.

e.g. Your car has fallen into disuse; if I were you, I would sell it.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau