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.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Confusing Words and Phrases

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.

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.

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.

Its / It’s

Its is the possessive of the pronoun “it”; It’s is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.”
e.g. It’s a fact that the earth is round.
e.g. The company has lost its control over the market in Asia.

Judicial / Judicious

Judicial means relating to a judge or a court of law; judicious means of good judgment or wise.

e.g. As an assistant to the judge, everyday he has to go through many judicial documents.

e.g. Your judicious decision not to retire will have long-term impact on your finance.

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.

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

Correct Use of Commas

Punctuation is a device in writing to help your readers understand better what you have expressed in your writing. There are certain punctuation rules you need to follow in order to make your meaning clear and your sentences effective.

The Comma

(1) The comma is used for clarity in separating different parts (words, phrases, or clauses) of a sentence.
e.g. The box contained some nailsa pair of clovesand a hammer.
The comma before and is optional, but is preferable where clarity may be an issue. The comma is not omitted before and in a series of independent clauses.
e.g. The father took the keyhis children carried the bagand their dog followed them.
(2) The comma separates independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (but).
 e.g. This is an excellent moviebut many people have not seen it.
(3) The comma separates a dependent clause from an independent one.
e.g. Although this is an excellent moviemany people have not seen it.
(4) The comma separates coordinate adjectives (describing the same noun) without the conjunction and.
e.g. a tall, dark, handsome man (coordinating adjectives)
However, the comma is omitted in cluster adjectives (describing the subsequent words)
e.g. a dark brown leather jacket (dark describes brownbrown describes leather; and leather describes jacket)
(5) The comma is used for clarity of meaning.
e.g. At sixty-five, you may consider retirement.
e.gNot getting any sleepthe man felt exhausted.
e.g. To write effectively, you must learn some basic writing skills.
(6) The comma separates a non-essential clause or sentence element from the rest of the sentence.
e.g. Look at this book, which was found on the kitchen floor!
There is only one book here, and it was found on the kitchen floor; which was found on the kitchen floor becomes only additional but not essential information (indicated by the presence of the commas).
Look at another example:
e.g. Look at this book that was found on the kitchen floor!
There are many other books, and this one was found on the kitchen floor; that was found on the kitchen floor is essential information because it identifies which book to look at (indicated by the absence of the commas).
(7) The comma separates modifiers and conjunctive adverbs.
e.g. He was helpful. For examplehe always helped in the kitchen.
e.g. He was a fast runner. In facthe was the fastest on record.
e.g. There are several things you must do. In the first placeyou must have the mindset to be diligent.
e.g. He wanted to pass the exam. Thereforehe worked extra hard.
e.g. She was beautiful. Moreovershe had a taste for fashion.
e.g. He is always helpful. Neverthelessthis time he did not lift a finger to help me.
e.g. He knew he was wrong. Thushe apologized right away.
(8) The comma is NOT used before subordinating conjunctions (afteralthoughbecausebeforeifsince, unless, untilwhenwhere).
e.g. You cannot leave now because the airport is closed. (NO comma)
e.g. Because the airport is closed, you cannot leave now. (comma here)
e.g. Do not call 911 unless it is an emergency. (NO comma)
e.g. Unless it is an emergencydo not call 911. (comma here)
e.g. We left the bar when we finished our drinks. (NO comma)
e.g. When we finished our drinks, we left the bar. (comma here)
Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Learn Some Colloquial Expressions

Have it in for someone: bear someone a grudge; be determined to punish someone.
e.g. All these years he has it in for you: you married his sweetheart.

Not a patch on: nothing to compare with; very inferior to.
e.g. Your current proposal is not a patch on your previous one.

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.

Hook on to: attach oneself to.
e.g. Don't hook on to your computer all day.

Guinea-pig: person used as a subject for tests or investigations.
e.g. I wouldn't like to be a guinea-pig in this scientific research, if I were you.

Kick the bucket: die.
e.g. He finally kicked the bucket at the age of 95.

Kiss of death: support that will prove damaging.
e.g. If I were you, I would not ask for her help: it would be your kiss of death.

Gumption: common sense.
e.g. If you've some gumption, you 'll understand the difference between this and that.

Hell for leather: at a reckless speed.
e.g. Some teenagers drive their cars hell for leather; they endanger not only their lives but also those of others.

Hit the roof: explode with anger.
e.g. When he heard the bad news, he hit the roof.

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Choosing the Right Words

Effective writing requires the correct use of words,  which sometimes may be confusing to writers. 


Pundit: a scholar; a learned person.
e.g. My neighbor is a pundit he seems to know everything.

Punt: a flat-bottomed boar, moved by a long pole.
e.g. In Venice, people move around in punts.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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: 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. 


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.


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.


Wet is the present, past, and particle of “wet”; wetted, as the past and participle of “wet”, means something done deliberately and purposely.
e.g. The heavy rain last night wet the balcony completely.
e.g. He wetted the cloth in the hot water before putting it on his body.
e.g. They wetted the appetite of the guests with a fragrant soup.


Defer means to delay or postpone; defer to means to give way or show respect for.
e.g. I wish to defer my trip.
e.g. I defer to your request to cancel my trip.


Purposely means deliberately; purposefully means in a determined way.
e.g. That guy purposely left the trash on the sidewalk.
e.g. The student purposefully worked on his project to get a better score for further advancement. 


Common sense is always put in two words. Use a hyphened compound work ass an adjective, and not as one single word.
e.g. Use your common sense when you do this.
e.g. This is just a common-sense approach to the problem.


Allow means permit; allow of means leave room for.
e.g. The new regulation will not allow you to do this.

e.g. The procedure is so precise that it will not allow of any variation.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Everyday American Idioms

Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them. American idioms are no exception; they reflect American culture at every social level. They are used in everyday life, in speaking and in writing, in movies and on television, and by people from all walks of life.

Through thick and thin: through good times as well as bad times
e.g. Don’t worry! I’ll stick by you through thick and thin.

Meet someone halfway: compromise
e.g. He settled the agreement with her by meeting her halfway.

Name of the game: the main goal

e.g. The name of the game is winning; we must win this election no matter what.

Dog in the manger: a very selfish person
e.g. Don’t be a dog in the manger! You no longer need this; why don’t you give it to us?

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

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.

Had better: ought to, should
e.g. You had better finish your homework before going to bed.
Half a mind: a thought about something but without specific details
e.g. I have half a mind to close the store since the business has not been good.
Hammer out: work with great effort

e.g. We tried to hammer out a solution to the problem but without much success.
Late in the day: kind of late
e.g. Don’t you think it’s late in the day to change your tactics?

First and last: above all; under all circumstances
e.g. She was an accomplished pianist first and last.

Hit like a ton of bricks: surprise or shock
e.g. The sudden resignation of the President hit the people like a ton of bricks.

Go the distance: do the whole thing
e.g. This is a long, complicated project. To succeed, you must go the distance.

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

Pull the wool over someone’s eyes: deceive
e.g. Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes: I wasn’t born yesterday.

Take something on the chin: get a direct blow
e.g. The bad news was a shock to me; I took it on the chin.

Hold one’s end up: do one’s part; reliable
e.g. I know I can count on you; you always hold your end up.

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.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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