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.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Choice of Words

Choosing the Right Words

Effective writing is about choosing the right words and using them correctly.

Flair and Flare

e.g. You always have a flair for fashion. (natural talent)

e.g. The fireworks exploded in a flare. (bright light)

Censor and Censure

e.g. We had to censor this film before letting the public view it. (edit or remove anything objectionable)

e.g. We had to censure the producer for making this controversial film. (condemn)

Exhausting and Exhaustive

Exhausting means “tiring out”; exhaustive means “complete or thorough.”

e.g. This work is too exhausting for me.

e.g. Exhaustive research on cancer cure has been conducted for decades.

Different from and Different than

e.g. The movie was different from the book.

e.g. The movie was different than I had expected. (than a subordinating conjunction)

Grisly and Grizzly

e.g. A grisly crime was committed in this quiet neighborhood. (terrifying)

e.g. I saw a grizzly bear at our backyard. (hairy)

Eminent and Imminent

e.g. My daughter is an eminent attorney. (prominent; well known)

e.g. A storm was imminent. (coming soon)

Beside and Besides

e.g. He was sitting beside me. (next to)

e.g. Besides cycling, he was interested in swimming. (in addition to; apart from)


Complement and Compliment

e.g. What a wonderful dessert to complement the meal! (complete)

e.g. I wish to compliment you on your success.(praise)

Any way and Anyway

e.g. I cannot think of any way to do this. (any method)

e.g. I didn’t like it, but I did it anyway. (in any case; just the same)

Bad and Badly

Bad is always an adjectivebadly is always an adverb:

e.g. Don’t feel bad about getting a “C” in your English. (NOT badly: a bad feeling)

e.g. I performed badly in the piano competition. (NOT bad: performed badly or poorly)

e.g. The food looked bad to me. (NOT badlybad or rotten food)

e.g. He coughed badly. (NOT bad: coughed seriously)

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Misuse of the Semi-Colon

The Semicolon is one of the punctuation marks frequently misused in writing.

A semicolon is used between a dependent clause and an independent clause.

e.g. Although he was very tired; he did not want to go to bed. (incorrect)

e.g. Although he was very tiredhe did not want to got to bed. (a comma should be used instead)

A semicolon is used to introduce a list.

e.g. The box was filled with everything but booksclothing, snacks, hammers and tools. (incorrect)

e.g. The box was filled with everything but booksclothing, snacks, hammers and tools. (a colon should be used instead)

A semicolon is not used between an introductory phrase and the rest of the sentence.

e.g. Her hands tremblingshe managed to pour the toxic liquid into the tube. (incorrect)

e.g. Her hands tremblingshe managed to pour the toxic liquid into the tube (a comma should be used instead)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, May 27, 2019

Correct Use of Words

Effective writing means you use the language appropriately.

Indoor and Indoors: The former is an adjective, while the latter is an adverb. 

e.g. Bowling is an indoor sport.
e.g. It's raining; let's go indoors

Pretense and PretensionPretense (Br. English "pretence") is make-belief; pretension is a claim.

e.g. She made a pretense to faint in front of the audience.
e.g. Your pretension to the money is groundless.

Welcome and Welcomed: The former is an adjective, while the latter is a  participle.

e.g. You are most welcome (i.e. you are free) to take whatever you need..
e.g. The Queen was welcomed by the President of the United States

Infer and ImplyInfer means draw a conclusion from; imply means to suggest.

e.g. I can infer from what you said that you don't like him.
e.g. Your comments imply that she was not speaking the truth.

Await and WaitAwait must have an object (meaning be in store for); wait for a person or a thing.

e.g. A big fortune awaits the person with the winning lottery ticket.
e.g. I will wait for my wife here.

Forbidding and ForebodingForbidding means discouraging; foreboding means suggesting in advance.

e.g. The embassy with its heavy iron gates has a forbidding appearance.
e.g. Look at the dark clouds and high winds foreboding an imminent storm.

Beside and BesidesBeside means next to; besides means in addition to.

e.g. He was sitting beside the President.
e.g. Besides the difficulties, you must also consider the costs of these projects.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Learn Some American Idioms

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

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.

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

Better English for You

Friday, May 24, 2019

Avoid These Sentence Errors

Double Negatives

e.g. I didn’t see nobody. (incorrect)

I didn’t see anybody. (correct)

e.g. We are not going nowhere. (incorrect)

We are not going anywhere. (correct).

e.g. There isn't no money left. (incorrect)

There isn't any money left. (correct)

Omission of Key Verbs

e.g. The room was cleaned, and the curtains washed. (incorrect)

The room was cleaned, and the curtains were washed. (correct)

e.g. I never have, and never will do such a thing. (incorrect)

e.g. I never have done, and never will do such a thing. (correct)

Omission of Words in Comparison

e.g. His performance was better. (incorrect)

His performance was better than that (i.e. the performance) of the other candidates. (correct)

e.g. Your hands are bigger than any man that I know of. (incorrect)

e.g. You hands are bigger than those (i.e. the hands) of any man that I know of. (correct)
Dangling Participles

e.g. Walking down the street, the City Hall could be seen. (incorrect)

Walking down the street, we could see the City Hall. (correct)

e.g. By exercising every day, your health will improve. (incorrect)

By exercising every day, you will improve your health. (correct)

Misuse of Dependent Clauses

e.g. Because he had no money was the reason he stayed at home. (incorrect)

He stayed at home because he had no money. (correct)

Because he had no money, he stayed at home. (correct)

Having no money was the reason he stayed at home. (correct)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, May 23, 2019

More Confusing Words

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

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.

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.

Habitable / Habitual

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Confusing Words

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.
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
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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Correct Use of Verbs

Effective writing means a good understanding of the correct use of verbs, especially with respect to tenses.

Verbs govern person as well as number (whether the verb is singular or plural in form). 

Person refers to the person or the thing that is a subject or an object.

First person refers to I and we, with me and us as the object, respectively.

e.g. go. (subject)

e.g. We go.(subject)

e.g. They speak to me. (object)

e.g. They speak to us. (object)

Second person refers to you with you as the object.

e.g. You go. (subject)

e.g. They speak to you. (object)

Third person refers to hesheit, and they, with himherit, and them as the object, respectively.

e.g. He goes.

e.g. She goes.

e.g. It goes.

e.g. They go.

e.g. They speak to him. (object)

e.g. They speak to her. (object)

e.g. They speak to it. (object)

e.g. They speak to them. (object)

Verbs affect the moods or attitudes of the writer. Verbs have three moods:

Indicative mood indicates a statement or a question.

e.g. He loves to paint.

e.g. Do you believe in God?

Imperative mood indicates making a request or command.

e.g. Please tell me the truth. (The subject “you” is understood.)

e.g. Go out! (The subject “you” is understood.)

Subjunctive mood indicates making a hypothetical statement (i.e. not true).

e.g. If I were you, I would do it. (Past tense for a present action to indicate something contrary to the fact)

e.g. If he were the president, he would do it. (He is not the president, and therefore he will not do it.)

e.g. If you worked hard now, you would pass the exam. (You are not working hard now, and so you will not pass the exam; it is merely an assumption. Compare: “If you work hard, you will pass the exam.” Here, it becomes a condition, and therefore there is a probability that you will pass the exam.)

e.g. If pigs had wings, they would fly. (Pigs do not have wings, and therefore they will never fly.)

Subjunctive mood can also be used in the past tense. In that case, the past perfect tense (instead of the past tense) is used to show the hypothetical statement in the past.

e.g. If he had been the president, he would have done it. (He was not the president, and so he did not do it.)

e.g. If you had worked hard last year, you would have passed the exam. (You did not work hard last year, and so you failed in the exam last year.)

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau