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.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

American Slang

Slang is highly ephemeral: it changes from one generation to another. Slang terms come into existence for various reasons, some obvious, some inexplicable, but most of them are delightfully direct and to the point. The use of slang adds spice to speech and writing.

Run to it: be enough.
e.g. Do you think the water supply will run to it?

Man of parts: an individual with different accomplishments.
e.g. He is a writer, a painter, and a musician--certain a man of parts.

Pull one's weight: do one's share.
e.g. Everyone should pull his weight if we want the project to succeed.

Rich: absurd; unreal.
e.g. He says he'll work hard from now on--that's rich!

Lump it: endure; bear with it.
e.g .It's too bad if you don't it; just lump it!

Near thing: almost did not succeed.
e.g. He won the race, but it was a near thing.

Clear as mud: obvious.
e.g. I thought everybody knew. It was clear as mud!

Have been had: cheated.
e.g. If you paid $50 for this, you've been had!

Go to pot: be discarded as useless.
e.g. This innovation will soon go to pot.

A bust up: a violent quarrel.
e.g. My wife and I had a bust up last night.

Keep one's countenance: refrain from moving or laughing.
e.g. She was so funny with her jokes that hardly anyone could keep his countenance.

Now you're talking!: talking sensibly.

e.g. It's good to hear your suggestions. Now you're talking! All along you were objecting to the plan! 

A look in: chance.
e.g. You can try. But I tell you what: you won't have a look in to get that job.

Go while the going is good: leave while the opportunity is still favorable.
e.g. If I were you, I would depart right now; go while the going's  good.

Made man: a successful individual

e.g. After all these years of hard work, he is finally a made man.

Go slow with: don't use too much.
e.g. Please go slow with the sugar; that's all we have left.

A lone wolf: a self-centered person.
e.g. He is a lone wolf, and never seems to get along with anyone.

Keep someone sweet: keep someone satisfied.
e.g. He is very good at keeping his boss sweet; that's why he can hold on to his job for that long.

Stephen Lau

Learning a language takes time and effort, especially if it is not your first language. Even if it is your mother tongue, you still need time and effort to master it because almost every language has its own slang and colloquial expressions, and the English language is no exception.

Language is forever changing. What is currently acceptable or popular may be replaced by something else in years to come, and the use of slang is a strong testament to that. Slang is just an alternative way of saying something. It is sometimes hard to identify what is slang and what is not. Slang and colloquial expressions are often acceptable in informal writing because they are used in communication in movies, newspapers, radio, television, and other mass media The more you learn, the more you will know when to use or not to use them in your formal writing. No matter what, knowing these common everyday expressions is a plus for all ESL learners.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Distinguish the Following

Good and Well

Good is an adjective; well can be an adjective or an adverb.
 e.g. The food looks good. (adjective: good taste)
e.g. This is good advice. (adjective)
e.g. You look well today. (adjective: in good health)
e.g.  The engine works well. (adverb: functions efficiently)

Human and Humane

Human refers to a person; humane means considerate and merciful.
 e.g. This is profound human wisdom.
e.g. This is not a humane way of treating an animal

Common and Mutual

Common refers to many or all; mutual means “reciprocal.”
 e.g. This is our common interest.
e.g. Our love and respect are mutual, and that is why we can get along.

Ability and Capacity

Ability is the power to do something; capacity is the power to hold or contain.
 e.g. We have the ability to finish this project on time.
e.g. This room has the capacity for a few hundred people.

Genius and Genus

Genius means a talented person; genus refers to class or kind.
 e.g. Albert Einstein was a genius.
e.g.  This bird belongs to an uncommon genus.

Healthful and Healthy

Healthful means making you healthy; healthy means possessing good health.
 e.g. This food is healthful.
e.g. We are not living in a healthful environment.
e.g. You are healthy, and your dog is also healthy.

If and Whether . . or

If suggests a condition; whether . . . or suggests doubt.
 e.g. If it rains, we will stay home.
e.g. I wondered whether the money was stolen or not.

Inferior than and Inferior to

Inferior to means not as good as; inferior than is not a standard idiom.
 e.g. My performance was inferior to yours.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, August 16, 2018

More Slang

Talk nineteen to the dozen: talk incessantly; talk too fast.
e.g. You were talking nineteen to the dozen; I just couldn't make hear or tail of what you were saying.

Gumption: common sense.
e.g. If you've some gumption, you 'll understand the difference between this and that.

Have a load on: very drunk.
e.g. He looked as if he had a load on.

Not born yesterday: not as naive or foolish as you think.
e.g. Don't give me all that nonsense. I was not born yesterday.

Hell-bent on: very determined.
e.g. The team is hell-bent on winning the game tonight.

Right you are: I agree.
e.g. "I think I'm going to accept this job." "Right you are."

All at sea: confused.
e.g. "What do you think of the proposal?" "I'm all at sea; I'm completely clueless."

Get cold feet: become anxious and fearful.
e.g. He got cold feet, and left without taking the challenge.

All hot and bothered: agitated, confused, or excited.
e.g. She was all hot and bothered when she heard the news of their divorce.

Poorly: sick or unwell.
e.g. What's the matter with you today? I say, you look poorly!

Saw you coming: realized your ignorance.
e.g. You gave him the money right away without asking any question; he saw you coming!

Pooped: exhausted.
e.g. I was pooped after working for nine hours in the yard.

Say one's piece: say what one ought to say.
e.g. I must say my piece: that was not a nice thing to say to your parents.

Fork out: pay
e.g. Well, everybody has to fork out $30 for the farewell present to the boss.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, August 13, 2018

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

In the raw: naked.
e.g. Did you see that man on the street? He was dancing in the raw.

Are you with me?: understand or agree with me.
e.g. I've been explaining this for an hour. Are you with me?

Bang out: reveal.
e.g. If you go into politics, you must be prepared to let all your secrets bang out.

Jam full / packed: fully packed.
e.g. The room is jam packed with boxes.

Gift of the gab: ability to give effective speeches.
e.g. The new Mayor has the gift of the gab: people like listening to him.

Keep one's head above water: stay out of debt or a difficult situation.
e.g. In this economic environment, it is not easy to keep your head above water.

Hard at it: busy.
e.g. "Are you working on the project?" "You bet! I'm hard at it."

Not so dusty: quite good.
e.g. Well the performance was not so dusty; much better than I expected.

In the clear: innocent.
e.g. I know you didn't do it; the investigation will put you in the clear.

Hook on to: attach oneself to.
e.g. Don't hook on to your computer all day.

Hot under the collar: very angry.
e.g. When they mentioned his untimely resignation, he was hot under the collar.

Stephen Lau     
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Correct Sentence Construction

Correct Sentence Construction

Effective writing means sentences are not only grammatically correct but also balanced. Awareness holds the key to better sentence construction.

e.g. We like not only watching soccer but also enjoy drinking beer.

e.g. We not only like watching soccer but also enjoy drinking beer. (improved)

If "not only" is followed by a verb, then "but also" should also be followed by a verb.

e.g.The man shot not only the policeman but also killed himself.

e.g. The man not only shot the policeman but also killed himself. (balanced)

e.g. I have and will support the politician. ("will support" is correct, but "have support" is incorrect)

e.g. I have supported and will support the politician. (improved)

e.g. This is not about your income but how you perform in your work.(not balanced)

e.g. This is not about your income but about your work performance. (improved)

e.g. This is not about how much you earn but about how well your perform. (improved)

e.g. Your tennis is better than your son. (incorrect: it is the "tennis" that is better, and not the person)

e.g. Your tennis is better than your son's tennis. (correct)

e.g. The schools in the suburbs are better than the city. (unclear)

e.g. The schools in the suburbs are better than the schools in the city. (improved)

e.g. The schools in the suburbs are better than those in the city. (improved)

e.g. The schools in the suburbs are better than the city's. (improved)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, August 6, 2018

More Prepositional Words and Phrases


Ease someone of something: to relieve or reduce someone of something.

e.g. The doctor eased me of my back pain.

Ease off: diminish; let up doing something.

e.g The rain has eased off; we'd better leave now.

e.g. Come on, he's just a kid. Ease off!


Argue down: defeat someone in a debate.

e.g. He tries to argue down everyone who has opposite views.

Argue for: make a case for someone.

e.g. My lawyer will argue for me in court.

Argue into: convince someone to do something.

e.g. I could not argue myself into helping you in this project.

Argue with: challenge someone or something.

e.g. I won’t argue with what you do; after all, it is your choice.


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 ower 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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Correct Use of Prepositions


Ace in(to): to be luck to be admitted into (slang).

e.g. My son aced into Harvard University.

Ace out of: to be lucky to accomplish something.

e.g. I aced out of my chemistry exam.


Turn against: attack, defy.

e.g. He turned against those who did not support him.
e.g. Many people have turned against the sanctions of the government.

Turn around / turn about: reverse the situation.

e.g The company is losing money, but it hopes to turn around soon.
e.g. Do you think the new manager can turn it about?

Turn aside: avoid or evade.

e.g. The presidential candidate turned aside  the reporters' question.

Turn back: reverse the journey.

e.g. I don't think there is anything ahead; let's turn back.

Turn down: reject.

e.g. We had no choice but to turn down the offer.

Turn in: go to bed; submit.

e.g. It is very late; let's turn in.
e.g. Have you turned in your homework?

Turn into: become something or someone different.

e.g. Bitterness has turned him into an unforgiving person.

Turn up: appear.

e.g. Due to the weather, not many people turned up at the meeting.


Appeal against: ask a court to cancel something.

e.g. The lawyer appealed against the court’s decision.

Appeal for: demand as a right.

e.g. I think we should appeal for justice.

e.g. They are appealing for our help.

Appeal to: attract or please someone.

e.g. The proposal appealed to many of us.

e.g. Her personality appeals to everybody around her.

e.g. Does this food appeal to your taste?

Stephen Lau     
Copyright© by Stephen Lau