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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

American Slang and Colloquial Expressions

 Dead from the neck upwards: stupid.
e.g. Don’t follow his example; he’s dead from the neck upwards.
In for it: likely to have trouble.
e.g. If you don't listen to my advice, you're in for it.
Easy on the eye: good looking.
e.g. I say, your girlfriend is easy on the eye.
Act your age: behave yourself according to your age..
e.g. You’re almost an adult. Come on, act your age, and stop behaving like a spoiled brat!
Go: attempt.
e.g. Have a go at doing this on your own.
Easy mark: a likely victim.
e.g. If you are so unsuspecting, you may become an easy mark for swindlers.
Bazillion: a great number of.
e.g. The national debt is now in bazillion dollars, and the Congress needs to do something about that.
No way: not at all.
e.g. “Are you going to give him a hand?” “No way; he’ll be on his own.”
Beat: broke, no money.
e.g. Without a job, we are beat, no copper and no bread.
 Chip on one’s shoulder: a grudge against.
e.g. She still has a chip on her shoulder: your infidelity some years ago. 
 Ace someone out: win out over someone.
e.g. I plan to ace him out in the first round of the competition.
 Ask me another: I don't know.
e.g. "Does your daughter want a baby?" "Ask me another!"
 No two ways about it: no other alternative.

e.g. The man had to file for bankruptcy; no two ways about it
Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How to Be a Better Writer

There is no formula for success in writing. The key to success is “practice, practice, practice.” After all, writing is a skill; like any other skill, you must practice it before you can master it. You learn from your mistakes, and practicing writing improves your writing. If you write everyday, you will become a more competent and proficient writer. If you learn the mechanics and techniques of writing, your writing will become more effective. It is just a matter of time. And it is just that simple.

Writing is a learning experience for all. Anybody who wants to write learns how to write. One learns how to write by writing—just as one learns how to walk by walking. Everybody can write, as long as the heart is willing to learn and master the skill of writing.

However, to be a good writer, you must possess certain innate qualities:

An interest in words—the subtle shades of meaning between words; the power of words; the sound and rhythm of words

A knowledge of and passion for the subject—writing what you love and loving what you write

A creative mind—the creativity to visualize with vivid imagination, and to see things from different perspectives; the ability to see the relationship of the whole to its various parts

Personal discipline—time set aside to write, to re-write, to edit, and to re-edit

Willingness to learn and to improve—mastering basic writing skill through repeated practice and editing

Remember this: failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Distinguish the Differences between the Following Words

Effective writing involves not only having a good vocabulary but also knowing how to choose the right words to express the right ideas. There are many English words that are frequently confused and misused.
Could denotes potentiality; might suggests possibility.
e.g. Don't play with the knife; you might accidentally hurt yourself.
e.g. Could you close the window, please?
Exhausting means making one very tired; exhaustive means very thorough, covering a lot.
e.g. To remove all the books from this room is exhausting work.
e.g. This is an exhaustive inquiry, covering every aspect of what happened.
Momentary means lasting only a moment; momentous means important with great consequence.
e.g. There was a momentary flash in the sky after a heavy thunder.
e.g. The Senator made a momentous decision to run for President of the United States.
Afflict means to cause someone to suffer; inflict means to punish or put a burden on someone.
e.g. For years, he has been afflicted with muscle pain.
e.g. The tyrant had inflicted punishment on those who opposed him.
Pretense means make believe; pretension means claim.
e.g. He laughed and made a pretense not to be offended by the insult.
e.g. I never make any pretension that I am an expert in this field.
Circumspect means being careful and cautious of behavior; circumstantial means giving full details.
e.g. You have to be very circumspect when you meet the Governor.
e.g. The prosecutor is looking at the police’s circumstantial report.
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.
Secondary means next after the first in importance; secondly means in the second or next place.
e.g. Concentrate on this; that is only a secondary source.
e.g. Firstly, you have to take care of yourself. Secondly, take care of your family.
Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Idiomatic Expressions

Learn some idiomatic expressions. The English language is rich in idioms. A student with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions, and debates, not to mention in effective writing.

In hot water: in serious trouble.

e.g. If you don't listen to me, you'll find yourself in hot water.

A rough house: a fight.

e.g. We'd better leave before there is a rough house.

Get one's own back: to revenge oneself.

e.g. He wants to get his own back for the insult he has received.

Fall from grace: lose favor or popularity.

e.g. Armstrong has fallen from grace because of the doping.

All the rage: fashionable; in great demand.

e.g. Pink will be all the rage this summer.

Article of faith: an important element in one's philosophy.

e.g. Honesty is one of my articles of faith.

Come off second best: lose a fight or contest.

e.g. Despite all his efforts, he came off second best in the competition.

Writing on the wall: a warning of impending doom.

e.g. There were obvious signs that the company would soon be out of business; they should have seen the writing on the wall.

Third degree: physical or mental torture.
e.g. The police gave the suspect the third degree, but were unable to get any information about the crime.

Come to naught: come to nothing.

e.g. Despite all the efforts, the project came to naught.

A diamond in the rough: a person or thing with hidden value or qualities.
e.g. Don’t underestimate her—she’s a diamond in the rough.

Get on the wrong side of someone: to displease, or get out of favor
e.g. If you keep on bugging her, you will soon get on the wrong side of her.

In the melting-pot: not yet decided.
e.g. Because the President is not here, all the arrangements are backin the melting-pot again.

As safe as houses: very safe and secure.
e.g. Your money invested in this stock is as safe as houses.

Bad blood: unfriendly feelings.

e.g. There has always been bad blood between the two brothers.

Attitude of mind: mindset, way of thinking or feeling.
e.g. In order to succeed, you must have the right attitude of mind.

Bug off: stop bothering.

e.g. Bug off! And leave me alone!

Capitalize on something: make the most out of; exploit something to one’s advantage.
e.g. You should capitalize on your talents, instead of whiling away your time.

Keep an even keel: remain cool and calm.
e.g. In this situation, it is difficult to keep an even keel and not panic.

Have other fish to fry: other more important work to do.

e.g. I am not wasting my time over this matter; I just have other fish to fry.

Stephen Lau

All About Stephen Lau

Friday, September 16, 2016

Using the Correct Words and Phrases

Necessaries / Necessities

Necessaries: things that are necessary but may not be indispensable; necessities: things that are absolutely indispensable.

e.g. Food and water are necessities of life.

e.g. The necessaries of life may include a house and a car.

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.

Obligatory / Obliging

Obligatory: compulsory; obliging: willing to help, kind  and polite.

e.g. Attendance is obligatory, not an option.

e.g. She is obliging, always ready to help others.

On the contrary / On the other hand

On the contrary: the second statement cancels or contradicts what is said in the first statement; on the other hand: the second statement is in contrast to the first, but not necessarily irreconcilable to the first.

e.g. People thought that the Mayor was honest. On the contrary, he was the most dishonest man in the office.

e.g. On the one hand, the kitchen is spacious; on the other hand, the bedrooms are a bit small in size.

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.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Words Easily Confused and Misused

The following words are easily confused and misused:

Abjure: swear or promise to give up; perjure: swear falsely under oath.

e.g. There were times when Christians were forced to abjure their faith.

e.g. If you perjure in a court of law, you will be prosecuted.

Some time:  a period of time; sometime: approximately (as an adverb), former or occasional (as an adjective); sometimes now and then (as an adverb).

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, but sometimes I don’t.

Lay: put down (a transitive verb requiring an object); lie: be in a resting or horizontal position (an intransitive verb, without an object).

e.g. To lay down one's life to save the life of another is a courageous act.

e.g. They laid a cable under the river bed (past tense).

e.g. They had laid a cable under the river bed (past participle)

e.g. I want to lie on the sofa (present tense).

e.g. I am lying on the sofa (present participle).

e.g. I lay on the sofa (past tense).

e.g. I had lain on the sofa for an hour (past participle).

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase is a combination of a verb with a preposition. Such a combination may give different meanings to the same verb with different prepositions. For example, the verb “ask” may result in different meanings with different prepositions:  


Ask about: find out more about.

e.g. I want to ask about my application for that position.

Ask after: ask about the health and wellbeing of someone.

e.g. My in-laws asked after you.

Ask around: request information from a number of people.

e.g. I plan to ask around to see what people think about the new mayor.

Ask back: invite someone to come again.

e.g. Because of your rudeness, they will never ask you back.

Ask for: request for someone or something.

e.g. The policeman is asking for you.

Ask of: ask of something from someone.

e.g. I want to ask a favor of you.

Ask out: invite someone to go out.
e.g. I asked her out to dinner, but she refused.

Ask over: invite someone to visit.

e.g. I asked my neighbor over to fix my computer.

Therefore, learn more prepositional phrases with different meanings when used with different prepositions.


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.


Run down: hit with a vehicle

e.g. The old man was run down by the bus.

Run down: stop functioning

e.g. My lawn mower is running down; I need to get a new one.

Run into: meet by accident

e.g. Yesterday, I ran into an old friend that I had not seen for decades.

Run out of: not have any more of something

e.g. Hurry! We're running out of time!

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau