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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Learning American Idioms

Learning American idioms is as important as learning the vocabulary, the sentence structure, and the grammar usage of American English. If you plan to stay in the United States, learning American idioms is a must.

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. 

The following are some samples of common American idioms:

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?

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.

Inch along: move very slowly
e.g. Business was inching along because of the economy.

You bet: yes, of course
e.g. “Are you hungry?” “You bet!”

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.

Take something 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.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau



Friday, October 21, 2016

Choice of Sentences

Writing is made up of sentences. Effective writing consists of different types of sentences put in different paragraphs to bring out the ideas of the writer. There are different types of sentences serving different functions.

The simple sentence

The simple sentence is made up of a subject and a predicate (a verb, or a verb + noun/adjective/adverb/preposition etc. to complete the sentence).

e.g. The woman went to Mexico.
             (subject) (predicate)

e.g. Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States.
               (subject)        (predicate)

Identifying the subject and the predicate helps you in subject-predicate agreement.

e.g. Drinking a glass of warm milk and taking a hot bath help me sleep better. (NOT helps)

e.g. Every house in the neighborhood has been searched. (NOT have)

e.g. Each of the students was given an assignment to do over the weekend. (NOT were)

The simple sentence (usually short) is used to make a statement, or to emphasize an idea.

However, overuse of short simple sentences may result in choppy sentences, showing lack of unity.

e.g. It was a beautiful day. The sun was warm. We wanted to go for a walk. We decided to go to the lake. (choppy)

e.g. It was a warm and beautiful day, and we decided to go to the lake for a walk. (improved)

The compound sentence

The compound sentence is made up two or more simple sentences joined together by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, for, so, yet), or a punctuation mark (colon, semicolon).

e.g. The man took the money, and (he) ran away.

e.g. You finish this work, or you don’t get paid!

e.g. I don’t want to go, nor will I.

e.g. He was poor, but he was happy.

e.g. We were thirsty, for the weather was hot.

e.g. He worked hard so he passed his test.

e.g. The boy practiced very hard, yet he did not make the swim team.

The compound sentence is used to show relationship, sequence, or importance of ideas in a sentence.

The complex sentence

The complex sentence is made up two or more simple sentences joined together by a subordinating conjunction (after, before, since, when, although).

e.g. After the man took the money, he ran away.

The emphasis is more on he ran away than on the man took the money; the complex sentence here not only shows the sequence of the action but also focuses on he ran away “after” taking the money.

Compare: “The man took the money, and (he) ran away.” In this compound sentence, the emphasis is on the man took the money as well as (he) ran away.

e.g. Before the postman came, the woman had already finished writing the letter.

e.g. When the postman came, the woman gave him the letter.

It is important that you construct different types of sentences to express your ideas.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, October 7, 2016

Points to Remember Regarding Use of Words

Good writing means trying to avoid the overuse of clich├ęs (overused catch phrases and figures of speech)

e.g. busy NOT busy as a bee

e.g. confront the truth NOT face the music

e.g. everyone NOT each and every one

e.g. finally NOT last but not the least

e.g. firstly NOT first and foremost

e.g. gentle NOT gentle as a lamb

e.g. infrequent or seldom NOT few and far between

e.g. obviously NOT it goes without saying

e.g. seldom NOT once in a blue moon

Avoid weakling modifiers. Most of the following weakling modifiers can be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence:

e.g. actually

e.g. both

e.g. certainly

e.g. comparatively

e.g. definitely

e.g. herself, himself, itself, themselves

e.g. needless to say

e.g. particularly

e.g. per se

e.g. really

e.g. relatively

e.g. very

To use these weakling modifiers occasionally is permissible, but to use them frequently makes your writing ineffective.

Figures of speech add life and vividness to writing. Figures of speech compare one thing abstract with another thing, which is usually literal or concrete.

Metaphors

Metaphors are implied comparisons.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was a volcano within although I was still calm without.

e.g. He is a hog at mealtime.

 Similes

Similes are direct comparisons to bring out the imagination of the readers.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was like a volcano about to erupt although I was still calm on the outside.

e.g. He eats like a hog.


Similes always use words as or like.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau