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, September 24, 2018

Confusing Words

In the English language, there are many words that look similar and can be confusing, especially to ESL learners. 

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

e.g. The workload has depleted me of energy and strength.
e.g. Your garage is replete with garden tools.

Common means shared or used by many; commonplace means ordinary and not very interesting.

e.g. To be healthy and wealthy is a common New Year’s resolution.
e.g. Running may be a commonplace sport for many. 


Sedative: calming or soothing. Sedentary: accustomed to sitting; physically inactive.

e.g. The doctor gave her some sedative medicine to put her to sleep.
e.g His sedentary work -- sitting in front of the computer -- took a toll on his health.
e.g. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle even if you are approaching 60..

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich. Gentle: kind, friendly, mild.

e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.
e.g. Be gentle to my puppy.

Arise: appear; begin. Rise: appear above the horizon; get out of bed.

e.g. When he was just about to call 911, a few men in uniform arose.
e.g. The sun rises in the east.
e.g. He rises very early every morning.

Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.

e.g. I must say that was an ingenious way to steal the money.
e.g. His response was sincere and ingenuous.

Wander means to walk aimlessly; wonder means to consider or question some issue.

e.g. The hiker lost his direction and wandered in the forest for some hours.
e.g. I wondered if he would come to the birthday party. 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, September 10, 2018

Choosing the Right Words

Writing is made up of words. Effective writing requires having a good stock of vocabulary, as well as selecting the most suitable words and phrases to express the  intended ideas.

Remember, words are neither effective nor ineffective; they just impart different meanings to the sentences in which they are used. It is the writer's effective use of words and phrases that makes sentences effective or ineffective.

The English language is made up of nearly a million words and phrases. A writer, especially one whose English is not his or her first language, may face two major problems in writing: not knowing "enough" words; and not knowing how to choose the "right" words. 

Circumspect / Circumstantial

Circumspect: means being careful and cautious of behavior; circumstantial: means giving full details.

e.g. You have to be very circumspect when you meet the Governor.

e.g. The prosecutor is looking at the police’s circumstantial report.

Instant / Instantaneous

Instant: means right away; instantaneous: means events happening at once.

e.g. I love instant coffee.

e.g. The air strike and the ground invasion were instantaneous.
Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to: means responsible to someone; accountable for: means responsible for something or having to explain.

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

Real / Really

Real is an adjective; really is an adverb.

e.g. The firefighter was really brave when he saved the child; he demonstrated real courage.

Right / Rightly

Right: immediately; rightly: justly, correctly.

e.g.  Don't wait! Do it right now!

e.g. You will get your money right away.

e.g. I rightly canceled the trip: a storm was coming

e.g. We refused the offer, and rightly so because it was a bad deal.

Mediate / Meditate

Mediateact as a peacemaker; meditate: 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.

Stephen Lau

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Frequently Misused Words

Here are some of the frequently misused words:

Welcome / Welcomed
Welcome is an adjective; welcomed is a participle.

e.g. You are most welcome.
e.g. You were welcomed by all of us in front of the house.

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.

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)

Ingenious / Ingenuous
Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.

e.g. I must say that was an ingenious way to fund the project.
e.g. The Mayor's response to the questions from the reporter was sincere and ingenuous.

Decorative / Decorous
Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.

e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.

Decorous: showing good taste.

e.g. The movie star looks decorous in that simple but elegant dress.

Foul / Fowl
Foul means dirty or offensive.

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)

Fowl is a bird, such as hen.

e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.

Pretense / Pretension
Pretense is to make believe; pretension is a claim

e.g. He made no pretense to like her (He did not pretend that he liked her).
e.g. She made no pretension to that award. (She did not say she got that award)

Terminable Terminal
Terminable: can be ended.

e.g. Your job is only temporary and terminable at any time.

Terminal: at the end.

e.g. The doctor told the patient that she had terminal cancer.

Genteel / Gentle
Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.

e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he really rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Gentle:  soft and well-behaved.

e.g. He is a gentleman: he is especially gentle with the ladies.

Ingenious / Ingenuous
Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.

e.g. I must say that was an ingenious way to steal the money.
e.g. His response was sincere and ingenuous.

Lose Loose
Lose means being unable to find.

e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).

Loose means to set free or to become less tight.

e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).

Bulk / Hulk
Bulk: in large quantities; the greater part of.

e.g. His business was selling brown rice in bulk.
e.g. The billionaire gave the bulk of his estate to charity.

Hulk: a big, clumsy person.

e.g. If you do nothing to your obesity, you will soon become a hulk.

Some time / Sometime / Sometimes
Some time means a period of time.

e.g. We have been waiting for the bus for some time.

Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.

e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?

Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.

e.g. Sometimes we are on good terms, and sometimes we are not -- that's our relationship.

Providing that / Provided that
Providing that is incorrect.

e.g. You can go out to play provided (that) you have finished your home work.
e.g. You can keep the book for another week providing that no one has reserved it (incorrect: provided that should be used instead).

Accountable to
 / Accountable for
Accountable to someone; accountable for something
 (meaning "responsible for").

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, September 3, 2018

Correct Use of Prepositions

Correct Use of Prepositions

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and that of another noun or pronoun.

e.g. The book is on the table.

e.g. This telephone message came from your wife.

e.g. Everybody can go except you.

e.g. The house is situated between the river and the wood.

e.g. That piece of cake was shared among the three boys. (NOT betweenbetween is for two; among is for more than two)

Some words can be a preposition as well as a conjunction.

e.g. He stood before the window. (preposition indicating the relationship between the man and the window)

e.g. Before the police came, the man had fled. (before is a subordinating conjunction joining two otherwise independent clauses the police came and the man had fled)

Consider the following sentences:

e.g. The police came, the man had fled. (incorrect: without a conjunction)

e.g. The police came, and the man had fled. (correct with a conjunction)

e.g. Before the police came, the man had fled (improved: showing the sequence of events with the addition of the subordinating conjunction before)

Do not use prepositions unnecessarily.

e.g. Where are you going to? (NO to)

e.g. Don’t go near to the lake. (NO to)

e.g. The child fell off from his bike. (NO from)

A preposition can introduce a word group called a prepositional phrase or verbal idiom:

     Accompanied by

e.g. All children will be accompanied by their parents.

     Accompanied with

e.g. His speech was accompanied with slander and accusation. (linked with; containing)

     Accountable for

e.g. As an adult, you are accountable for your actions. (responsible for)

     Accountable to

e.g. Your are directly accountable to the manager, and not your supervisor. (reporting to a person)

     Agree on

e.g. This is something we can never agree on.

     Agree to

e.g. I agreed to paying the damages.
     Agree with
e.g. I can never agree with you as far as this is concerned.

     Angry at

e.g. I was angry at your irresponsible behavior.

     Angry with

e.g. Are you still angry with me?
     Contend for
e.g. The job situation is bad: more than fifty applicants contend for that position. (compete for)

     Contend with

e.g. To succeed, you must contend with your lack of confidence. (overcome an obstacle)

     Differ from

e.g. Your account of the event is different from that of your brother.

     Differ with

e.g. You differ with your brother on this issue. (disagree)

     Grateful for

e.g. We should all be grateful for our blessings from God.

     Grateful to

e.g. You should be grateful to your parents for what they have done for you.

     Impatient at

e.g. Now I am becoming more impatient at your lack of enthusiasm. (angry)
     Impatient for
e.g. We are impatient for a response from the government. (waiting eagerly for a result)

     Reconcile to

e.g. My grandfather reconciled himself to old age. (accept an outcome)

     Reconcile with (resolve differences)

e.g. The two brothers finally reconciled with each other and resolved their differences.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau