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.

Wednesday, July 31, 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

Tuesday, July 30, 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, July 29, 2019

The Appropriate use of Words and Phrases

Effective writing means trying to avoid the overuse of clich├ęs (overused catch phrases and figures of speech)

e.g. busy NOT busy as a bee

e.g. confront the truth NOT face the music

e.g. everyone NOT each and every one

e.g. finally NOT last but not the least

e.g. firstly NOT first and foremost

e.g. gentle NOT gentle as a lamb

e.g. infrequent or seldom NOT few and far between

e.g. obviously NOT it goes without saying

e.g. seldom NOT once in a blue moon

Avoid weakling modifiers. Most of the following weakling modifiers can be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence:

e.g. actually

e.g. both

e.g. certainly

e.g. comparatively

e.g. definitely

e.g. herself, himself, itself, themselves

e.g. needless to say

e.g. particularly

e.g. per se

e.g. really

e.g. relatively

e.g. very

To use these weakling modifiers occasionally is permissible, but to use them frequently makes your writing ineffective.

Figures of speech add life and vividness to writing. Figures of speech compare one thing abstract with another thing, which is usually literal or concrete.

Metaphors

Metaphors are implied comparisons.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was a volcano within although I was still calm without.

e.g. He is a hog at mealtime.

 Similes

Similes are direct comparisons to bring out the imagination of the readers.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was like a volcano about to erupt although I was still calm on the outside.

e.g. He eats like a hog.

Similes always use words as or like.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Brainstorming Your Writing

Beginning to write begins with an idea or a topic you want to share with or to communicate to others.

Choice

You must have an inordinate interest in that idea or topic for various reasons: you are passionate about it; you strongly believe it is right or wrong; you want to analyze or discuss it in detail; you wish others may share  or even support your views. Or, simply, you may not have a choice: you have been assigned to write about the subject.

Brainstorming

You must brainstorm that idea or topic. Your mind may come up with many thoughts about that idea or topic. You jot down all your relevant thoughts simply by asking yourself some relevant questions regarding what you are going to write about:

What happened?

How did it happen?

When did it happen?

Why did it happen?

What does it mean?

What is its significance?

What is it similar to?

What is it different from? 

Is it true or false?

Are there examples?

What do people think?

Who do you think?

Keep a journal for your brainstorming. The word “journal” comes from French, meaning “daily.” A journal is a day-to-day record of what you see, do, hear, think, and feel. Use a journal to jot down any idea that comes to your mind. Regular recording enhances your power of observation, which improves your writing skill.

Stephen Lau     
Copyright© by Stephen Lau



Saturday, July 27, 2019

Expressions Commonly Confused By ESL Learners


EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY CONFUSED BY ESL LEARNERS

DRIFT


Drift apart
: separate slowly.


e.g. He drifted apart from his friends and lived a secluded life.


Drift back
: go back to someone or something slowly.


e.g. He drifted back to her former girlfriend, and they were married.


Drift off to sleep
: fall asleep gradually.


e.g. He sat on the sofa, and finally drifted off to sleep.


ARGUE


Argue about: dispute or quarrel with someone over.


e.g. They often argue about racial injustice over the dinner table.


Argue against: make a case against someone or something.


e.g. My wife and I often argue against what is best for our child.

EASE


Ease someone of something: to relieve or reduce someone of something.


e.g. The doctor eased me of my back pain.


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!


DIFFER

Differ about: disagree about.


e.g  We differ about who should be the next president.


Differ from: be different from


e.g. How does this one differ from that one?


Differ in: be different in a specific way.


e.g. This one and that one differ in color.


Differ with: disagree with.


e.g. I differ with you on many things.


Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Friday, July 26, 2019

More American Idioms


For a song: inexpensive

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

Feel like: have a desire for something

e.g. I feel like eating a hamburger.

Easy does it: go carefully and slowly

e.g. This TV set is heavy, so easy does it.

All at sea: confused

e.g. The lawyer was all at sea when he read the two conflicting reports of the incident.

Rule the roost: be the boss

e.g. Who rules the roost at your house?

Then and there: on the spot

e.g. As soon as the candidate finished his speech, he was shot then and there.

Make or break: succeed or fail

e.g. This book will make or break my career as a writer.

Ins and outs of something: details to do something right

e.g. Take your time; you need to know the ins and outs of this procedure in order to do it right.

Has had its day: no longer popular

e.g. This bulky lawn mower has had its day. We need to get a new one.

That’s the ticket: what is needed

e.g. That’s the ticket! If you do as I tell you, you will succeed.

Under a cloud: under suspicion

e.g. He has been under a cloud; the police has been investigating him for some time.

Open a Pandora’s box: uncover a lot of previously unsuspected problems

e.g. If I were you, I would not look into his past; you might be opening a Pandora’s box.

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.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Knowing Their Differences

Eminent / Imminent / prominent

Eminent means important or outstanding; imminent means coming soon.

e.g. He is an eminent author whose books have been translated into multiple languages worldwide.
e.g. Look at the dark clouds above; I think a storm is imminent.

Endure / Persevere

Endure means to bear bravely; persevere means to keep on doing.

e.g. It is not easy to endure the physical pain.
e.g. In spite of all the difficulties, he persevered with his plans.

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.

Deplete / Replete

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

e.g. My illness might have depleted me of energy and strength.
e.g. Your garage is replete with garden tools.


Everyday / Every day

Everyday is an adjective.

e.g. This is an everyday event.
e.g. This happens in every day.
e.g. Every day somebody is killed on the road.

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

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.

Noteworthy / Noticeable

Noteworthy means deserving attention; noticeable means easily seen.

e.g. The candidate's accomplishments are noteworthy.
e.g. The flaws in the Governor's character are easily noticeable to the public.

Emigrate means to move to a country; immigrate means to come to country.

e.g. Many people like to emigrate to the United States.
e.g. Those who immigrate from other countries must abide by the laws in this country.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau