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.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Easy on the eye: good looking.
e.g. I say, your girlfriend is easy on the eye.
Act your age: behave yourself according to your age..
e.g. You’re almost an adult. Come on, act your age, and stop behaving like a spoiled brat!
Go: attempt.
e.g. Have a go at doing this on your own.
Easy mark: a likely victim.
e.g. If you are so unsuspecting, you may become an easy mark for swindlers.
Bazillion: a great number of.
e.g. The national debt is now in bazillion dollars, and the Congress needs to do something about that.
No way: not at all.
e.g. “Are you going to give him a hand?” “No way; he’ll be on his own.”
Beat: broke, no money.
e.g. Without a job, we are beat, no copper and no bread.
Chip on one’s shoulder: a grudge against.
e.g. She still has a chip on her shoulder: your infidelity some years ago. 
Ace someone out: win out over someone.
e.g. I plan to ace him out in the first round of the competition.
Ask me another: I don't know.
e.g. "Does your daughter want a baby?" "Ask me another!"
No two ways about it: no other alternative.
e.g. The man had to file for bankruptcy; no two ways about it

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, January 18, 2019

Words Misused

Here are some of  the words which are frequently misused:

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

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.

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.

Common / Commonplace

Common: shared or used by many; commonplace: ordinary, not unusual.

e.g. English is a common language used in Europe.

e.g. Nowadays, carrying a gun is commonplace.

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. 

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Spread oneself: spare no expense.
e.g. The farmers' market has many good stuffs, but don't spread yourself.

Standing on one's head: doing something easily.
e.g. It's no big deal! I can do it standing on my head.

Put one's feet up: take a break; rest.
e.g. I'll call it a day. I'm going to put my feet up.

Put one's shirt on: wager everything.
e.g. We have to put our shirt on this project; we've no other option.

Make a dead set at: very determined to.
e.g. He made a dead set at getting that house on the market.

Jolly well: most certainly.
e.g. "Do you want another drink?" "Jolly well!"

Long in the tooth: very old.
e.g. "How old is he? " "I don't know, but he's long in the tooth

Keep early hours: go to bed early.
e.g. If you want good health, keep early hours.

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

Make it snappy: be quick.
e.g. Common on, make it snappy! We don't have all the time in the world!

Hold one's horse: wait a minute; not immediately.
e.g. Dinner is ready, but hold your horse; wait for the host to come down!

In good nick: in good condition.
e.g. If I were you, I would buy this car; it's in good nick.

Talk through the back of one's neck: talk nonsense.
e.g. Look what he's doing: talking through the back of his neck.

Tall order: a challenging demand.
e.g. To finish the project in a week is certainly a tall order for me.

In a jiffy: soon.
e.g. The manager will see you in a jiffy.

Stand to reason: be logical.
e.g. It stands to reason that the Mayor should resign now that he has admitted his wrongdoing.

Shoot: speak out.
e.g. "I've something I'd like to say to you, but I'm afraid. . ." "Shoot!"

In the picture: informed.
e.g. Thank you for putting me in the picture; now I know what's going on.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Success in Writing

There is no formula for success in writing. The key to success is “practice, practice, practice.” After all, writing is a skill; like any other skill, you must practice it before you can master it. You learn from your mistakes, and practicing writing improves your writing. If you write everyday, you will become a more competent and proficient writer. If you learn the mechanics and techniques of writing, your writing will become more effective. It is just a matter of time. And it is just that simple.

Writing is a learning experience for all. Anybody who wants to write learns how to write. One learns how to write by writing—just as one learns how to walk by walking. Everybody can write, as long as the heart is willing to learn and master the skill of writing.

However, to be a good writer, you must possess certain innate qualities:

An interest in words—the subtle shades of meaning between words; the power of words; the sound and rhythm of words

A knowledge of and passion for the subject—writing what you love and loving what you write

A creative mind—the creativity to visualize with vivid imagination, and to see things from different perspectives; the ability to see the relationship of the whole to its various parts

Personal discipline—time set aside to write, to re-write, to edit, and to re-edit

Willingness to learn and to improve—mastering basic writing skill through repeated practice and editing

Remember this: failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Past Tense and the Past Perfect Tense

Learn the past tense and the past perfect tense.

The past tense referes to an action in the past. The past perfect tense also refers to an action in the past, but there is a twist in that the action can indicate the sequence of past actions.

e.g. He lived in South America before he came to the United States. (a fact that he came from South America)

e.g. He had lived in South America for many years before he came to the United States. (indicating a period of time)

e.g. The patient had died before the doctor arrived.(it was too late for the doctor to come)


e.g. I have called the police. (I called the police some time ago, and NOW you don't have to call the police again)

e.g. I called the police half an hour ago; they should be on their way.

e.g. I had called the police before you came back. (both actions took place in the past; calling the police took place BEFORE coming back)

You use different tenses according to the sequence of actions or the meaning attributed to your sentences.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Learn How to Use the Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is one of the more difficult tenses in the English language. The subjunctive mood uses the past tense or the past perfect tense to indicate a wishful thinking or an action that is not likely to happen or did not happen in the past.

e.g. If I were you, I would accept the offer. (i.e. the offer is good, do accept it NOW)

e.g. If I were you, I would have accepted the offer last week. (i.e. you didn't accept the offer)

e.g. If you had called the doctor, the patient would have lived. (i.e. you did not call the doctor; the patient did not live)

e.g. If pigs had wings, they would fly. (i.e. pigs don't have wings, and that's why they don't fly)

e.g. If he has the money, he will help you. (i.e. he may have the money; if he does, he will certainly help you)

e.g. If he had the money, he would help you. (i.e. he doesn't have the money NOW; therefore, he will not help you)

e.g. If he had the money, he would have helped you. (i.e. he didn't have the money, and that's why he didn't help you)

Remember this: using past tense for a present action indicates the improbability of that action, while using the past perfect tense, the improbability of that action in the past.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Better English for You

Saturday, January 12, 2019

They Are Not the Same

Point of view / view

Point of view: a spot on which one stands to look at something; view: what one sees.

e.g. What would be your point of view if you were the President of the United States?

e.g. We would like to hear your views on this matter.

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.

Loud / Loudly

Loud: an adverb referring to the note or volume of sound; loudly: an adverb referring to shouting and screaming.

e.g. You played that note too loud.

e.g. Don't talk so loud.

e.g. The protestors were shouting loudly

Altogether / All together

Altogether: completely; all together: suggesting more than one, or as a group.

e.g. The books were all together in a box, But going through all these books is altogether a waste of time.

e.g. We will work this out all together

Ineffective / Ineffectual

Ineffective: not showing any result; ineffectual: unsuccessful.

e.g. The proposition was ineffective, and, as a result, the whole project was ineffectual.

Overall / Total

Overall: describing a measurement between two extremities, from one end to the other; total: complete;

e.g.  What is the overall length of the bridge?

e.g. The project was a total success

Cover in / Cover with / Covered by

Cover in has the force of an adjective; covered with is used as a participle; covered by means hidden, and the word following the preposition is the agent or  cause.

e.g. My shoes are covered in snow.

e.g. The bed was covered with a beautiful blanket.

e.g. The bottle was completely covered by the box.

Approve / Approve of

Approve: give consent to; approve of: think well of.

e.g.  I do not think the committee will approve your plan.

e.g. I do not approve of my daughter's marriage to that young man.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau