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



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Choice of Words

In effective writing, choice of words plays a pivotal part. Always choose the right words to use, and not their confusing counterparts.

Precognition / Preconception

Precognition means knowledge that something is going to happen; preconception is forming an idea without any knowledge that something is going to happen.


e.g. The engineer had precognition that the machine would not last long.

e.g. You must have an open mind, and not preconception that you are not going to succeed.

Concise / Precise

Concise means short and clear; precise means exact in details.


e.g. Your explanation was brief but concise, and we all had an understanding of the situation we were in.

e.g. The measurements were precise, allowing no room no room for any error.

Access / Assess

Access means a way of entering or getting; assess means to calculate the value of something; 


e.g. All students should be given access to these text books.

e.g  The door is locked, and there is no other access to the house
e.g. The antique dealer is assessing the value of this piece of jewelry.

Condescend / Descend

Condescend means agree to do something below one's status or make one appear to be of a higher social rank than others; descend means come from a higher to a lower level.


e.g. The master of the house condescended to dine with his servants.

e.g. We descended the stairs.

Assign / Designate

Assign means to give as a share or for use; designate means to appoint


e.g. The guests were all assigned their rooms.

e.g. I have assigned a day next month for the meeting. 
e.g. I want to designate you to speak on my behalf if I am not back for the meeting.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, June 9, 2017

New Book on Prepositional Words and Phrases

Here is my new book publication on ESL:


Prepositions are words that indicate the relationships between various elements within a sentence. In formal English, prepositions are almost always followed by objects.

e.g. The policeman shot (verb) the man (object) with (preposition identifying the man being shot) a knife.
e.g. I put (verb) the pen (direct object) on (preposition indicating the position of the pen) the table (indirect object).
e.g. I put (verb) the pen (direct object) under (preposition indicating the position of the pen) the table (indirect object)

Prepositional phrases always consist of the object and the preposition. Prepositional phrases can act as adjectives or adverbs. When they are used as adjectives, they modify nouns and pronouns in the same way single-word adjectives do. When prepositional phrases are used as adverbs, they also act in the same way single-word adverbs and adverb clauses do, modifying adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.

Prepositional words and phrases are difficult, especially for ESL learners, because different prepositions may impart different meanings to the prepositional words and phrases. Even the same preposition may have different meanings to the same verb.

Break in: enter without permission; interrupt; train; get used to something new.

e.g. A burglar attempted to break in last night but without success.
e.g. Don’t break in while someone is talking; it’s rude!
e.g. The manager has to break the new employees in so that they may know what to do.
e.g. You should break your new car in before you drive on the highway.

This 121-page book has hundreds of prepositional words and phrases with explanations and examples, just like the ones illustrated above, for you reference. Improve your English with your mastery of prepositional words and phrases. 

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

Stephen Lau





Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Learn Some American Idioms

Kettle of fish: a mess, an unpleasant incident

e.g. That was a pretty kettle of fish: your in-laws and your parents arguing at the party.

Come what may: no matter what


e.g. Don’t worry! Come what may, I’ll be on your side.
Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Afraid of one’s own shadow: easily frightened.

e.g. Don’t tell him that this is an unsafe neighborhood; he is even afraid of his own shadow.
Abide by: accept and follow

e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.

Take to one’s heels: run away

e.g. Before the police could come, the thief took to his heels.

Feel like: have a desire for something

e.g. I feel like eating a hamburger.

Under a cloud: under suspicion

e.g. He has been under a cloud; the police has been investigating him for some time.

Paddle one's own canoe: do something by oneself

e.g. You're now a young adult; you should learn to paddle your own canoe.

Open a Pandora’s box: uncover a lot of previously unsuspected problems

e.g. If I were you, I would not look into his past; you might be opening a Pandora’s box.

Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Bark up the wrong tree: make the wrong choice; accuse the wrong person.

e.g. If you think I took your money, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Poke one’s nose into something: interfere with

e.g. I don’t like the way you poke your nose into my affairs.

Above all: most importantly

e.g. Above all, you must have a valid visa if you wish to continue to stay in the United States.

A little bird told me: somehow I knew

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

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, May 29, 2017

Prepositional Words and Phrases

Learn some prepositional phrases:



DELIGHT

Delight in: take great pleasure in.

e.g. We all delight in your baby.

Delight with: please someone with something.

e.g. He delighted his wife with a diamond bracelet.



ANSWER

Answer for: be responsible for.

e.g. You will have to answer for your mistakes.

Answer to: explain or justify for.

e.g. You will have to answer to the judge for what you did.

HOLD

Hold someone or something at bay: keep someone or something at a safe distance.

e.g. The bombing might be able to hold the enemies at bay, at least for a while.

Hold back on something: withhold something.

e.g. Hold back on this. We might need it in the days to come.

Hold by: stick to a promise.

e.g. I hope you will hold by this agreement.

Hold good for someone or something: remain open e.g.  an offer to someone or something.

e.g. Does it hold good for everyone, including members of the family?

Hold no brief for someone or something: not to tolerate someone or something.

e.g We should hold no brief for social injustice.

Hold off from doing something: delay or postpone doing something.

e.g. Can you hold off buying this car? We can't afford it.

Hold out: survive.

e.g. I don't think we can hold out much longer with this kind of income.

Hold a candle to someone or something: be equal to someone or something.

e.g. You don't hold a candle to your brother when it comes to playing the guitar.

Hold one's head up: be confident.

e.g.  Hold your head up when it comes to public speaking.

FADE

Fade down:  diminish.

e.g. The thunder faded down, and soon the sun came out.

Fade up: increase the sound gradually.

e.g. Let's fade up the music when the speaker finished his speech.

HORSE

Horse around: play around nosily and roughly.

e.g Stop horsing around! It's time to go home!

ABIDE

Abide by: follow a set of rules.

e.g. We must abide by all the instructions from the Mayor.

Abide with: stay with someone.

e.g. She is your wife; you must abide with her no matter what.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Use of Different Prepositions

Learn how the use of different prepositions may affect the meanings of  sentences.



DELIGHT

Delight in someone or something: take great pleasure in.

e.g. We all delight in your baby.

Delight with: please someone with something.

e.g. He delighted his wife with a diamond bracelet.

ANSWER

Answer for: be responsible for.

e.g. You will have to answer for your mistakes.

Answer to: explain or justify for.

e.g. You will have to answer to the judge for what you did.

HOLD

Hold by: stick to a promise.

CHECK

Check out: leave; pay bills.

e.g. We are going to check out the hotel at noon.

Check up on: investigate.

e.g. The account will check up on the sum of money unaccounted for.

GAIN

Gain in: advance in something.

e.g. As you age, you may gain in wisdom.

Gain on: begin to catch up with.

e.g. We were able to gain in on the car in front of us.

FADE

Fade down:  diminish.

e.g. The thunder faded down, and soon the sun came out.

Fade up: increase the sound gradually.

e.g. Let's fade up the music when the speaker finished his speech.

HORSE

Horse around: play around nosily and roughly.
e.g Stop horsing around! It's time to go home!

ABIDE

Abide by: follow a set of rules.

e.g. We must abide by all the instructions from the Mayor.

Abide with: stay with someone.

e.g. She is your wife; you must abide with her no matter what.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau