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, January 12, 2018

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Not in my books: not according to my views.

e.g. "Is this good enough?" "Not in my books."

It blows my mind: it's amazing, almost unbelievable.

e.g. "Did you hear that he passed the exam with flying colors?" "It blows my mind."

I can live with that: I'm okay with that; I'll get used to it.

e.g. "That one may cost more." "I can live with that." 

Make heads or tails of: Do not understand.

Keep one's shirt on: Calm down; don't get too excited.

e.g. "Cool off! Keep your shirt on. This is not the end of the world can't make heads or tails of what you're saying.  You're totally beyond me."

Snap it up: be quick.

e.g. "Snap it up! We need to finish it before noon."

No sweat: it's ok; no problem.

e.g. "I'm sorry I'm late." "No sweat! We've all the time in the world."

Over my dead body: absolutely not!

e.g. "Can I come with you? " "Over my dead body!"

Yesterday wouldn't be too soon: as soon as possible.

e.g. "When do you want me to give this to you?" "Yesterday wouldn't be too soon!"

Turkey: a failure; a sham.

e.g. The whole business was a turkey—there were no investors at all!.

Dead set: very determined.

e.g. We were dead set to finish the project despite the shortage of funds.

Jaw breaker: difficult word to pronounce.

e.g. Can you help me with this jaw breaker? It looks like a foreign word to me.

What would you say if: asking for an opinion; what about?

e.g. "I heard you were recently offered a job." "What would you say if I decline the offer?"

Speak out of turn: speak at the wrong time.

e.g. "Beware of what you're going to say at the meeting. Don't speak out of turn by talking about your divorce."

What gives?: what's wrong? what's the problem?

e.g. "You were screaming at each other. What gives?"

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Knowing Their Differences


Sedative: calming or soothing.
e.g. Without her sedative medicine, she could not go to sleep.

Sedentary: accustomed to sitting; physically inactive.
e.g His sedentary work -- sitting in front of the computer -- took a toll on his health.
e.g. Most seniors have a sedentary lifestyle as they continuing e to age.


Anxious means worried; eager means impatiently desirous.
e.g. He was anxious about his future.
e.g. The children are eager to open their Christmas presents.


Fragile: delicate, easily broken.
e.g. This piece of antique is fragile; please handle with care.

Frail: weak in health; without strong support.
e.g. He looks pale and frail.
e.g. The Senator received frail support from his party.


Periodic: occurring again and again.
e.g. The singer has never really retired with periodic appearance on TV.

Periodical: published at regular intervals.
e.g. This is a periodical magazine -- published once a month.

Removable: can be dismissed or removed.
e.g. This is a removable position, not a permanent one.

Removed: distant, remote, separate.
 e.g. He is my removed relative.


Impair: weaken or repair.
e.g. Spending too much time on the computer may impair your vision.

Repair: fix
e.g. Eye exercises can repair your vision

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

American Idioms

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. Some of them may be unfamiliar even to some Americans, especially ESL (English as a Second Language) learners.

The following are examples of common American idioms:

Go through the roof: very angry

e.g. When he found out that you took his money, he went through the roof.
In the hole: in debt
e.g. You are always in the hole because you spend too much.

Hand in glove: in very close relationship
e.g. You are hand in glove with these government officials.

Let bygones be bygones: forget all past wrongdoings
e.g. After all these years, she will not let bygones be bygones: she still holds me responsible for the tragic car accident.

Late in the day: kind of late
e.g. Don’t you think it’s late in the day to change your tactics?

Just as well: good that an unexpected problem has come up
e.g. It was just as well the customer didn’t show up; we didn’t have anything ready for him.

Put in a good word for someone: say something in support of
e.g. I hope you will put in a good word for me when you see the manager.

After a fashion: somehow or somewhat
e.g. I play the piano after a fashion—well, not a concert pianist.

Drop the ball: make a mistake; fail in some way
e.g. I just can’t rely on you to do anything. You always drop the ball.

Keep someone posted: keep in touch; keep someone up to date
e.g. When you go to college, I expect you to keep us posted every now and then.

Live out of a suitcase: travel a lot
e.g. I am just tired of living out of a suitcase for so many years.

Play second fiddle: assume a less important position
e.g. I hate to play second fiddle to you, who get all the credit.

Everyday American Idioms: In this book, there are approximately nine-hundred American idioms selected for ESL learners to provide them with a better understanding of American English. Learn them so that you may know what they mean when they are used by Americans, and use them in their right context in your speaking and writing in your daily contacts with Americans.

Each American idiom comes with a simple explanation followed by one or more examples, showing you how to use it. Make an effort to learn ten American idioms a day, and then review what you have learned over the weekend. Then proceed to learning another ten, and so on and so forth. You may not remember all the American idioms that you have learned, but, rest assured, they will come back to you when you hear them in your social contacts with Americans.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Common Colloquial Expressions

No can do: I cannot do it..
e.g. "Can you do this now?" "No can do.”

Turkey: a failure; a sham.
e.g. The whole business was a turkey—there were no investors at all!.

Dead set: very determined.
e.g. We were dead set to finish the project despite the shortage of funds.

Jaw breaker: difficult word to pronounce.

e.g. Can you help me with this jaw breaker? It looks like a foreign word to me.

Try as I may: I regret or fail to do something.
e.g. "Can you do something with this machine?" "Try as I may, I can't make it work."

Worst-case scenario: the worst consequence.
e.g.  A blizzard is coming. The worst-case scenario is that all public transport will be suspended.

Pipe dreamSomething impossible or unrealistic
e.g. The Mayor said that building another highway would be a pipe dream in the current economic environment.

Not budging / Not giving an inch / Sticking to my gunsBeing firm.
e.g. "We're not going to cancel the charges. We're not budging."
e.g. Despite the protests, the government would not give an inch.
e.g.  "I'm not moving out. That's out of the question. I'm sticking to my guns."

See to it right awayTake care of a complaint or problem.
e.g. "The tap is leaking." "Yes, I'll see to it right away."

Call for an apologyDemand an apology.
e.g. Your reckless behavior calls for an apology.

In a nutshellIn summary
e.g. "We're having serious financial and relationship problems." "In a nutshell, you want to divorce your wife?"

Beats me: I don't know; I've no idea.
e.g. "Do you know how this works?" "Bets me."

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, January 5, 2018

Don't Misuse These Words


Common: shared or used by many; commonplace: ordinary, not unusual.
e.g. English is a common language used in Europe.
e.g. Nowadays, carrying a gun is commonplace.


Perishable: liable to die or perish quickly.
e.g. Fresh vegetables are perishable if you don't put them in the refrigerator.
Perishing: causing suffering.
e.g. Negative thinking may cause perishing emotions and thoughts.


Refrain means to hold back; sustain means to hold up.

e.g. You have to refrain from making any noise.
e.g. Can you sustain the silence?


Pundit: a scholar; a learned person.
e.g. My neighbor is a pundit he seems to know everything.

Punt: a flat-bottomed boar, moved by a long pole.
e.g. In Venice, people move around in punts.


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.


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.


Sensual: related to the body; sensuous: related to the five senses.
e.g. It is difficult to be spiritual when one focuses too much on sensual pleasures.
e.g. The painter is able to provide some sensuous images in his painting.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Go the whole hog: go through thoroughly.
e.g. The prosecutor went the whole hog when he inspected the murder weapon.

Bean time: dinnertime.
e.g. Come on, guys, wash your hands; it’s bean time.

Turn in: go to bed.
e.g. Come on, guys, it’s time to turn in.

Bushed: exhausted.
e.g. After a hard day at the office, I'm completely bushed.

Turkey: a failure; a sham.
e.g. The whole business was a turkey—there were no investors at all!.

Get the sack: fired; be dismissed from work.
e.g. The company was downsizing, and he got the sack.

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!
Get with it: hurry up and get busy.
e.g. Come on, get with it; we’ve a lot to do.

In for it: likely to have trouble.
e.g. If you don't listen to my advice, you're in for it.
No oil painting: ugly.
e.g. To tell the truth, the dress you bought me is no oil painting.

By a long chalk: by a great amount.
e.g. He lost his re-election by a long chalk.

Get wise to: discover; realize.
e.g. Soon you’ll get wise to what is really happening under the roof.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Effective Use of Words

Effective writing requires the correct use of words when you write. Be aware of your choice of words, especially as you begin to know more words.

Avoiding wordiness or unnecessary words

Do not use a phrase if a word will do:

e.g. Many students have a tendency to skim through the instructions on the test.

e.g. Many students tend to skim through the instructions on the test. (better)

e.g. I will show you the way in which to do it.

e.g. I will show you the way to do it. (better)

 e.g. I will show you how to do it. (better)

e.g. The Senate did not pass the bill due to the fact that it was unconstitutional.

 e.g. The Senate did not pass the bill because it was unconstitutional. (better)

e.g. You should take the advice given to you by your doctor.

e.g. You should take your doctor’s advice. (better)

e.g. I was supportive of your decision.

 e.g. I supported your decision. (better)

e.g. The man conducted himself with irrational behavior.

 e.g. The man behaved irrationally. (better)

Do not say the obvious:

e.g. Her hat was red in color.

e.g. Her hat was red. (better)

e.g. The basketball player was tall in height.

e.g. The basketball player was tall. (better)

Avoid unnecessary adjectives, nouns, or adverbs:

e.g. These are vital essentials of life.

e.g. These are essentials of life. (better)

e.g. Do not question his technique employed.

e.g. Do not question his technique. (better)

e.g. There is too much danger involved.

e.g. There is too much danger. (better)

e.g. The Congress would make decisions about changing the Constitution.

e.g. The Congress would decide on changing the Constitution. (better)

e.g. You committed an act of violence.

e.g. You committed violence. (better)

e.g. It took a long period of time.

e.g. It took a long time. (better)

e.g. It was clearly evident that he took the money.

e.g. It was evident that he took the money. (better)

e.g. Evidently, he took the money. (better)

Avoid constructions with it is … and there are …:

e.g. It is truth that will prevail.

e.g. Truth will prevail. (better)

e.g. There were many people inside the cinema when the bomb exploded.

e.g. Many people were inside the cinema when the bomb exploded. (better)

However, it is and there are may have their legitimate uses in emphasizing an idea.

e.g. It is the truth that we are seeking, not the myth.

e.g. Fortunately, there were only two persons inside the cinema when the bomb exploded.

Avoid excess use of abstract nouns:

e.g. The effectiveness of writing requires an element of conciseness.

e.g. Effective writing requires conciseness. (better)

Avoid flowery or high-sounding language:

e.g. now NOT at this point in time

e.g. nowadays NOT in this day and age

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau