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, February 26, 2018

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

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. Language is forever changing. What is currently popular may be replaced by something else in years to come, and the use of slang is a strong testament to that. Colloquial expressions are often acceptable in informal writing. The more you learn, the more you will know when to use them or not to use them in your writing or speaking.

Not in the same street: not in the same class or category.
e.g. Of course, my car in not in the same street as yours: you paid a lot more.

Look alive: hurry up.
e.g. Look alive! We don't want to miss our flight.

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

Gray matter: brains.
e.g. To solve this complex problem, you need gray matter, which you don;t have. 

Piece of cake: something easy to do.
e.g. Moving this piece of furniture is just a piece of cake.

Streets ahead of: far superior to.
e.g. As far as computer technology is concerned, he is streets ahead of me.

Good for you: well done!
e.g. "I aced my test." "Good for you!"

Hard stuff: whisky or any liquor.
"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.

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.

Back to square one: back to where one started.
e.g. We're back to square one: no deal.

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.

Not worth powder and shot: not worth the effort.
e.g. If I were you, I would just give it up; it's not worth powder and shot.

Be a devil: take a risk.
e.g. Come on, be a devil; you've nothing to lose.

Stephen Lau

Monday, February 19, 2018

English and American Idioms

Act one’s age: behave maturely
e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

Have a feel for: show a natural ability for

e.g. My daughter has a feel for classical music. 
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.

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.

Go west: die; fail
e.g. The last Vietnam veteran had gone west.
Grin and bear it: endure something pleasant

e.g. Life is not a bed of roses. Sometimes during difficult times you have to grin and bear it.
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.

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

More Prepositional Words and Phrases


Drop around: come for a casual visit.

e.g. You must drop around some time and have a drink with us.

Drop behind: fail to keep up with a schedule.

e.g. I dropped behind in my work because of my ill health recently.

Drop by: visit.

e.g. I hope you can drop by and see our new granddaughter.

Drop it on: give some bad news.

e.g. I’m sorry I’ve to drop some bad news on you.


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.


Ease of: relieve or reduce someone of something.

e.g. The doctor eased me of my back pain with some medication.

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!

Ease up on: treat gently.

e.g. Come on! Ease up on the gas! We’re going too fast!


Move ahead
: advance beyond.

e.g. If you wish to move ahead in you career, you need a higher degree.

Move along
: continue to move.

e.g. Come on! Move along; there's nothing to see here

Move around
: walk around a bit here and there.

e.g. Can you sit still, instead of moving around?

Move aside
: step out of the way.

e.g. Please move aside so that the crowd can get through.

Move away
: withdraw from someone or something.

e.g. Let's move away from those smokers.

Move back: move back and away.

e.g. Please move back! We need more space here.

Move on something
: do something about something.

e.g. This is an issue we must move on.

e.g. You must move on this matter and give it your top priority.

Move up
: advance; go higher.

e.g. She is trying to move her son up the social ladder/

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Right Choice of Words

Adherence / Adhesion

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.

Dutiable / Dutiful

Dutiable: subject to imported tax; dutiful: showing respect and obedience.

e.g. Tobacco is often dutiable in most countries.

e.g. He is my dutiful son.

Adherence: following faithfully (metaphorically); adhesion: sticking to (literally).

e.g. No matter what may happen, our company will demonstrate to our shareholders our adherence to the project.

e.g. You can use this glue to strengthen the adhesion of these two pieces of material.

Defer / Infer

Defer: give way or yield to; infer: conclude.

e.g. He is a good kid: he always defers to his parents' wishes.

e.g. We can infer from your statement that you don't like this policy.

Aside / A side

Aside is an adverb meaning apart from, in addition to, to one side; a side means on each side.

e.g. Aside from money, he also needs a place to stay.

e.g. We need to put aside some money in case of emergency.

e.g. Please stand aside so that others can move in.

e.g. The passengers sat four a side.

Irritable / Irritant

Irritable means easily made angry; irritant means causing anger or discomfort.

e.g. He has a short temper and is easily irritable.

e.g. Nobody likes him because of his irritant behavior.

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to: responsible to someone; accountable for: responsible for something

e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions. 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, February 5, 2018

Don't Confuse These Words


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.


Light: (as a verb) come across; happen to find.
e.g. I lighted upon a very interesting book in the library.

Lighten (as a verb) brighten up; make something less heavy.
e.g. Can you lighten the dark corridor?
e.g. Your financial support lightened my burden.


Neural: having to do with brain cells or nervous system.
e.g. My brother is a neural scientist.

Neutral: not helping or taking any side.
e.g. He remained neutral in this controversial issue.


Contrary: the exact opposite
e.g. You think I did not help him. On the contrary, I did everything I could to help him.

Contrast: comparison.
e.g. Contrast may make you see things very differently


Indoor is an adjective; indoors is an adverb.

e.g. Bowling is an indoor game.
e.g. It's going to rain; let's go indoors.


Infer means read a meaning into or draw a conclusion from; imply means suggest.

e.g. What are we to infer from the President’s statement?
e.g. Are you implying that I took your money?


Portend: foretell.
e.g. These minor quakes might portend a big earthquake in the near future.

Portent: a sign or warning; a marvelous thing in the future.
e.g. A bright future is your portent.


Contribution: donation; an act of helping and supporting.
e.g. Thank you for your contribution to the project.

Contrition: sincere sorrow for sin.
e.g. The convicted criminal showed contrition when he apologized to the family of the victim.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Confusing Words

Sensual / Sensuous

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.
Irritable / Irritant
rritable means easily made angry; irritant means causing anger or discomfort.
e.g. He has a short temper and is easily irritable.
e.g. Nobody likes him because of his irritant behavior.

Right / Rightly

Right: immediately; rightly: justly, correctly.

e.g. Do it right now.
e.g. Do it right away.
e.g. I rightly canceled the trip.
e.g. We refused the offer, and rightly so.

Sensual / Sensuous

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.

Defer / Infer

Defer: give way or yield to; infer: conclude.
e.g. He is a good kid: he always defers to his parents' wishes.
e.g. We can infer from your statement that you don't like this policy.

Potent / Potential

Potent: strong, powerful; potential: power that could be, but is not yet.
e.g. He is a potent politician.
e.g. He has great potential in American politics.

Compare to / Compare with

Compare to: state a resemblance to; compare with: put side by side to find out the similarities and differences.
e.g. The poet compares living in this modern world to riding on a bullet train.
e.g. If you compare Plan A with Plan B, you will know that Plan B is much better than Plan A. 

All / All of

All is used for amount, quantity, distance, and length of time.
e.g. all the money, all the way, all day, all night,
All of is used when a simple pronoun follows.
e.g. all of it, all of you, all of us.
All and all of may be used when it refers to number.
e.g. All or all of the employees are satisfied with the new policy.
e.g. All or all of the children in the family have gone to college.

Mediate / Meditate

Mediate means to act as a peacemaker; meditate means to think deeply.
e.g. The Secretary of State is trying to mediate between the two warring nations.
e.g. He meditated revenge after he was insulted by his coworkers.
Reverend / Reverent

Reverend: worthy of respect; reverent: showing respect.
e.g. Have you met the Rev. Mr. Johnson?
e.g. He gave a reverent speech on drug addiction.

In regard to / As regards

Both mean with reference to.

e.g. As regards your performance, I think you did a good job (no “to”).
e.g. She is very generous in regard to charity donation.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau