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, May 10, 2021

Prepositional Words and Phrases


Go above and beyond one's duty: exceed what is required of one.

e.g. Do you know that doing what you ask goes above and beyond my duty?

Go against the grain: run counter to one's ideas or principles.

e.g. Taking this without permission goes against the grain.

Go astray: get lost.

e.g. My keys go astray again.

Go back on something: reverse one's position.

e.g. I don't want to go back on my word, but an emergency has happened.

Go for broke: risk everything.

e.g. She went for broke and decided to marry him despite all the rumors about his infidelity.

Go for nothing: fail to achieve anything.

e.g. All our efforts helping out went for nothing.

Go in for something: enjoy doing something.

e.g. I don't go in for that kind of sport.

Go off the deep end: over do something.

e.g. You have the habit of going off the deep end about almost everything.

Go out of one's head: go crazy.

e.g. He saw what happened in front of his eyes, and went out of his head.


Hold someone or something at bay: keep someone or something at a safe distance.

e.g. The bombing might be able to hold the enemies at bay, at least for a while.

Hold back on something: withhold something.

e.g. Hold back on this. We might need it in the days to come.

Hold by: stick to a promise.

e.g. I hope you will hold by this agreement.

Hold good for someone or something: remain open e.g.  an offer to someone or something.

e.g. Does it hold good for everyone, including members of the family?

Hold no brief for someone or something: not to tolerate someone or something.

e.g We should hold no brief for social injustice.

Hold off from doing something: delay or postpone doing something.

e.g. Can you hold off buying this car? We can't afford it.
Hold out: survive.

e.g. I don't think we can hold out much longer with this kind of income.

Hold a candle to someone or something: be equal to someone or something.

e.g. You don't hold a candle to your brother when it comes to playing the guitar.

Hold one's head up: be confident.

e.g.  Hold your head up when it comes to public speaking.


Fade down:  diminish.

e.g. The thunder faded down, and soon the sun came out.

Fade up: increase the sound gradually.

e.g. Let's fade up the music when the speaker finished his speech.


Horse around: play around nosily and roughly.
e.g Stop horsing around! It's time to go home!


Abide by: follow a set of rules.

e.g. We must abide by all the instructions from the Mayor.

Abide with: stay with someone.

e.g. She is your wife; you must abide with her no matter what.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Idioms and Colloquial Expressions

Hard stuff: whisky or any liquor.

e.g."Would you like a Coke?" "I'd prefer some hard stuff."

Make one's pile: make one's fortune.

e.g. Real estate is where he makes his pile.

Half-baked: silly.

e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Keep early hours: go to bed early.

e.g. If you want good health, keep early hours.

Go under: fail.

e.g. I am sorry to say that all your proposals have gone under.

Hook on to: attach oneself to.

e.g. Don't hook on to your computer all day.
Hook it: depart immediately.

e.g. Come on, hook it; our parents will be back soon.

Can't complain: okay.

e.g. "How are things going with you?" "Can't complain."

What gives?: what happened?

e.g. "Hey, guys, what gives?" "We just had an argument; now it's okay."
e.g. "Where's your purse? What gives?"

Heads up: look around; be careful.

Pooped: exhausted.

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

Hard at it: busy.

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

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Which Is the Right Word?

     its and it’s

e.g. The tree had most of its branches chopped off. (possessive of it )

e.g. It’s wrong to do this! (it is)

     lay and lie

e.g. Lie down and take a nap! (repose; rest)

e.g. Yesterday, I lay down for a nap. (past tense of lie)

e.g. I have lain down every afternoon this week. (past participle of lie)

e.g. Just lay the magazine on the table. (put down)

e.g. I laid the magazine on this table yesterday. (past tense of lay)

     like and as

e.g. The plan turned out to be successful, just like I said it would. (WRONG: like is not a subordinating conjunction)

e.g. The plan turned out to be successful, just as I said it would. (RIGHT: as is a subordinating conjunction)

     literally and almost

e.g. I literally dropped on the floor. (according to the actual meaning of the word)

e.g. The man literally dropped dead. (actually died)

e.g. I almost dropped dead. (almost, but did not die)

     loath and loathe

e.g. I am loath (unwilling) to tell you that I loathe (despise; hate) your parents.

     oral and verbal

e.g. I will give an oral presentation tomorrow. (spoken)

e.g. That was a verbal attack on my character (in words, either spoken or written)

     passed and past

e.g. I passed the exam with flying colors.

e.g. He ran past me. (beyond)

Past is never used as a verb.

     permissible and permissive

e.g. It is permissible to end a sentence with a preposition. (permitted)

e.g. They are very permissive parents, who do not even stop their teenagers from taking drugs. (permitting; liberal-minded)

     precede and proceed

e.g. This ceremony will precede the event. (go before)

e.g. Before we proceed, we must be prepared. (move forward)

    pretence and pretension

 Pretence means “make-believe”; pretension means “claim.”

e.g. The patient made a pretence to faint. (pretending)

e.g. I made no pretension to authorship of that article.

     principal and principle

e.g. Did you meet the new principal of our school? (head of a school)

e.g. Integrity is an important principle in life. (basic truth)

    purposely and purposefully

Purposely means “deliberately”; purposefully means “in a determined   manner.”

e.g. He purposely broke the chair to show his anger.

e.g. He began the project purposefully and without delay.

     rebut and refute

e.g. The attorney is going to rebut his opponent’s arguments. (speak or write against)

e.g. The judge has decided to refute the arguments. (disapprove)

     regretfully and regrettably

e.g. I regretfully told him that the plan did not work. (with regret)

e.g. Regrettably, the plan did not work. (unfortunately)

     reticent and reluctant

e.g. He was reticent (unwilling to talk) about his reluctance (noun of reluctant: unwillingness) to discuss the tragedy. 

     sensual and sensuous

Sensual means “appealing to the body, especially pleasures, such as sex”; sensuous refers to the pleasure of the senses.

e.g. The film was filled with sensual images of sex.

e.g. I stretched myself with sensuous pleasure in the warm tropical sun.

     some time, sometime, sometimes

e.g. I will see you sometime this week. (unspecified time)

e.g. Some time passed before the police came. (a span of time)

e.g. Sometimes I feel sick. (at times; not always)

     stationary and stationery

e.g. Before school starts, students need to get all their stationery. (pens, pencils, paper, etc.)

e.g. The bus is now stationary: you can get off. (not moving)

     use and utilize

e.g. You can utilize your abilities in this job. (make good use of, or else it will be wasted)

e.g. Use your brain!

     whose and who’s

e.g. Whose book is this? (who owns this book?)

e.g. Who’s going to tell me the truth? (who is)

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, May 7, 2021

Learning Grammar - NOUN

Learning a new language is never easy, especially if you want to master it. In some languages, there is no grammar; the written language is simply a reflection of the spoken language; in others, there are grammar rules to follow, and the English language is one of them.

Knowing the rules of grammar does not mean that you will become a good writer, but it will certainly help you avoid bad writing. In addition, knowing the essentials of grammar may give you the following advantages:

  • Avoiding grammatical errors
  • Providing clarity to your writing
  • Giving credibility to your readers
Knowing grammatical terms is essential for effective writing because these grammatical terms provide a common language for discussing and talking about what is good and effective writing.

Knowing grammar basics means knowing the eight parts of speech in English words and writing:


A noun names a person, place, or thing.

A noun can be singular (referring to only one) or plural (referring to more than one). Generally, you make a singular noun plural by adding an “s”; however, some nouns do not follow this general rule:

e.g. enemy becomes enemies

e.g. goose becomes geese

e.g. hero becomes heroes

e.g. sheep remains sheep

Some nouns are countable, e.g. books, while some are not, e.g. hunger.

A noun can be possessive (indicating ownership).

e.g. Tom and Jerry’s house (NOT Tom’s and Jerry’s house)

e.g. Jesus’ sayings (NOT Jesus’s sayings)

e.g. the bottom of the page (NOT the page’s bottom)

e.g. the characters of Star Wars (NOT Star Wars’ characters)

From the above, a possessive noun is applicable only to a person, and not a thing.

A noun MUST AGREE with a verb in a sentence, that is, a singular noun requiring a singular verb, and a plural noun requiring a plural verb. A singular verb in the present tense generally needs an “s”; of course, there are exceptions, such as the following:

e.g. The data indicate (NOT indicates) that there is a strong demand for this type of goods. (data is the plural form of datum.)

e.g. The criteria for selection are based (NOT is) on the recommendations of the trustees. (criteria is plural)

e.g. Human rights is an important issue in this country. (singular: human rights treated as a single unit and thus requiring a singular verb)

e.g. Human rights are ignored in many parts of the world. (plural: human rights considered individual rights of people)

e.g. Four thousand dollars is a lot of money to me. (singular: a monetary unit)

A proper noun names a specific person, place, or event, e.g. Tom Cruise, Chicago, and World War I.

A proper noun is always capitalized, e.g. The Great Depression (BUT an economic depression).

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Confusing Words


Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl is a bird, such as hen.
e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for dinner tonight.


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 continue to age.


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.


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.

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