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 29, 2018

Learn Some Slang Expressions


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.

Deliver the goods: do what is expected or required.
e.g. The new employee seems to deliver the goods -- very hard working and conscientious.

Say-so: permission.
e.g. Do I have your say-so to launch the project?

See with half an eye: see easily.
e.g. The mistake is so obvious: you can see it with half an eye.

Where one gets off: stop disagreeable behavior.
e.g. I'll tell him where he gets off.

The necessary: the cash.
e.g. You want to buy this car? Do you have the necessary?

The never-never: the hire-purchase system.
e.g. Renting a car puts you on the never-never.

Whistle for: wish in vain.
e.g. The stock market has fallen sharply. You can whistle for your money invested.

Tall story: exaggerated story
e.g. No one would believe your tall story.

Tell that to the marines: do you expect anyone to believe that.
e.g. "I lost all the money at the casino." "Tell that to the marines!"

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.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Prepositional Words and Phrases


Touch up: repair.


e.g. Can you touch up the scratches on the car?

e.g. This chair needs some touch-up.


Make up: invent; apply cosmetics; become reconciled.


e.g. He had to make up an excuse explaining why he was so late.

e.g. She made up beautifully before she put on the fancy dress.

e.g. After the heated argument, the man and his wife made up.


Run against: compete


e.g. I am going to run against him in the coming mayor election.


Die away: disappear.


e.g. The noise died away and it was silent.


Hand over: yield control of.


e.g. The manager has handed over the human resources section to the assistant manager.


Call off: cancel


e.g. Due to the bad weather, the meeting was called off.


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

Walk over: go to where someone is.


e.g.  I have something to give to you. Can you walk over?


Back down: retreat from a position in an argument.

e.g. Knowing that he did not have a valid point, he backed down.

e.g. We cannot back out of the contract; we are legally obligated to do what we are supposed to do.

Back up: support

e.g. Are you going to back me up if I decide to go ahead with the project?

Dally over something: waste time doing something.

e.g. Don't dally over your food. Just eat it!

Dally with: flirt with someone.

e.g. Don't dally with that girl; she has no interest in you.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, October 11, 2018

More American Idioms


For a song: inexpensive

e.g. You can get this on the Internet for a song.

Feel like: have a desire for something

e.g. I feel like eating a hamburger.

Easy does it: go carefully and slowly

e.g. This TV set is heavy, so easy does it.

All at sea: confused

e.g. The lawyer was all at sea when he read the two conflicting reports of the incident.

Rule the roost: be the boss

e.g. Who rules the roost at your house?

Then and there: on the spot

e.g. As soon as the candidate finished his speech, he was shot then and there.

Make or break: succeed or fail

e.g. This book will make or break my career as a writer.

Ins and outs of something: details to do something right

e.g. Take your time; you need to know the ins and outs of this procedure in order to do it right.

Has had its day: no longer popular

e.g. This bulky lawn mower has had its day. We need to get a new one.

That’s the ticket: what is needed

e.g. That’s the ticket! If you do as I tell you, you will succeed.

Under a cloud: under suspicion

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

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.

Hit the nail on the head: do exactly the right thing

e.g. Your remark hit the nail on the head; that was precisely the solution to the problem.

Pay the piper: receive the punishment due

e.g. You just can’t keep on spending without paying the piper.

Ball of fire: an energetic and enthusiastic person

e.g. We all want his presence; he is a ball of fire.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, October 8, 2018

Words Frequently Misused


Writing is made up of words. The first requirement of writing English is to learn some English words every day to build up your vocabulary -- you may have to know at least a few thousand words before you can write effectively.

Learning vocabulary may look daunting to you (you may not know the word daunting, but most probably you can still guess that it means something like "difficult"; that is how you learn a new work  by relating it to the context in a sentence), but you have to learn it cumulatively, that is, learning a few words every day. 

Corporal / Corporeal

Corporal means related to the body; corporeal means bodily and not spiritual.

e.g. Corporal punishment is no longer acceptable in schools.
e.g. We should be more concerned with our spiritual rather than our corporeal welfare.

Observable / Observant

Observable: can be seen or noticed; observant: quick to pay attention.

e.g. The solution to the problem is observable to many scientists.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be observant of all the relevant details and data collected.

Adverse / Averse

Adverse means unfavorable; averse means opposed to.

e.g. We managed to survive in these adverse economic conditions.
e.g. He was averse to giving financial aids to the poor.

Deplete / Replete

Deplete means to empty; replete means to be filled with.

e.g. My illness might have depleted me of energy and strength.
e.g. Your garage is replete with garden tools.

Pretense Pretension

Pretense is to make believe; pretension is a claim

e.g. She makes no pretense to like her mother-in-law. (She does not pretend that she likes her mother-in-law.)
e.g. He made no pretension to that award. (He never claimed that he received that award.)

Noteworthy / Noticeable

Noteworthy means deserving attention; noticeable means easily seen.

e.g. The candidate's accomplishments are noteworthy.
e.g. The flaws in the Governor's character are easily noticeable to the public.

Prepossessing / Preposterous

Prepossessing means very attractive or impressive; preposterous means absurd or contrary to reason.

e.g. She had put on a prepossessing dress to impress the audience.
e.g. You look preposterous in that ridiculous outfit!

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, October 4, 2018

American Idioms


Act one’s age: behave maturely

e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

Play the field: date many different people at the same time
e.g. He wanted to play the field while he was still young.
Plead/take the Fifth (the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution): not to incriminate oneself
e.g. After consulting with his lawyer, he decided to take the Fifth.
Call someone on the carpet: scold or reprimand

e.g. If you late for work one more time, the manager will call you on the carpet.

Full of crap: talking nonsense all the time

e.g. I don’t like your friend; he’s full of crap.

Lead someone astray: cause someone to do something wrong or illegal

e.g. If you are always in the company of lawbreakers, you  may be easily be led astray.

Pass the hat: collect money for

e.g. He is always passing the hat for something.

Pop the question: propose to marry
e.g. Now that you’ve got the ring; when are you going to pop the question?

No can do: impossible

e.g. He asked me for more money. I told him no can do.

Bag your face: shut up!

e.g. You and your loud mouth! Go and bag your face!

One’s days are numbered: about to die or to be dismissed

e.g. The manager doesn’t like her.  I would say her days are numbered.

Occur to someone: come to mind

e.g. It never occurred to me that I would fail my driving test.

Live beyond one’s means: spend more than one can earn

e.g. You are in debt because you are living beyond your means.

Pain in the neck: annoyance

e.g. You are pain in the neck, always complaining about this and that.

Over the hump: overcome the most difficult part

e.g. We are now over the hump; the rest may not be that difficult.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, October 1, 2018

The English Sentence Patterns


In English, the number of sentences is infinite. However, within this infinity, there are FIVE patterns:

Subject + verb

e.g. An accident happened.
            (subject) (verb)

Subject + verb + object (direct)

e.g. The man took the money.
              (s)     (v)         (o)

Subject + verb + object (indirect) + object (direct)

e.g. The man give me the money.
               (s)   (v)   (o)       (o)

Subject + verb + complement (of the subject)

e.g. She is pretty.
       (s) (v) (c)

Subject + verb + object + complement (of the object) 

e.g. They elected him President.
       (s)     (v)       (o)   (c)

e.g. They made her unhappy.
       (s)     (v)     (o)  (c)

Sir Winston Churchill once said that the English sentence is a "noble thing." As such, in order to write an effective sentence, one must know what an English sentence is.

A sentence is for communicating a complete thought, a command, a question, or an exclamation.

    e.g. I love you.
    e.g. Take it.
    e.g. Is it right?
    e.g. How wonderful!

In most cases, a sentence requires at least one subject-verb combination (e.g. I came.); in some cases, a sentence can be a single word (e.g. Help!).

The basic sentence pattern or sentence structure is made up of a subject and a verb:

           Subject                 Verb
           Birds                     sing

But you can add single descriptive words (modifiers) to add more meaning to the basic sentence pattern. These words can be: an article (a, an, the); an adjective (a word to describe the noun or subject); an adverb (a word to describe the verb).

e.g. The (specify which birds) yellow birds (the color of the birds) sing beautifully. (how they sing)

You can add a phrase (made up of two or more words with no subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are different types of phrases:

an infinitive phrase: to + verb e.g. to do the work, to play the piano

participle phrase: present participle/past participle + noun, e.g. playing the piano, the broken window

prepositional phrase: under the table, in the beginning

You can add a clause (made up of words with a subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are two different types of clauses:

an independent clause: communicating a complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.

dependent clause: describing another clause, and not communicating a complete thought, e.g. When the man was singing (what happened?)

You can change sentences into different types by adding different clauses:

The simple sentence: one independent clause making one complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.

The compound sentence: more than one complete thought, with two or more independent clauses, e.g. The man was singing and the children were dancing.

The complex sentence: one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause), when the children were dancing (dependent clause).

The compound complex sentence: two independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause) and the children were dancing (independent clause) when the light suddenly went out.

Effective writing is the use of different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, compound complex) to give variety. In addition, vary the sentence length to avoid monotony in writing.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau