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.

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.


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.


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

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Correct Use of Semi-Colon

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Learning and Mastering English

American Idioms

All of it: the best
e.g. From the way he presented himself at the debate, he was all of it.
 Far cry from: very different from
e.g. Your achievement this time is a far cry from your previous one.

Sit on one’s hands: refuse to give any help
e.g. When we needed your help; you just sat on your hands.

As easy as pie: very easy
e.g. Cooking a turkey is as easy as pie.
Alive and kicking: living and healthy; okay
e.g. I had been sick for some time, but now I am alive and kicking.”
e.g. “How are you?” “Well, alive and kicking.”

Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Make no odds: make no difference
e.g. It makes no odds to me whether you come or not.

No oil painting: ugly.
e.g. To tell the truth, the dress you bought me is no oil painting.

Pardon my French: excuse my bad language.
e.g. Please pardon my French: I was so angry with his remarks.

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

Fall over oneself: too eager.
e.g. He fell over himself to get that job.

All the rage: fashionable.
e.g. Wearing a hat will be all the rage this summer.

Slow on the uptake: slow to understand.
e.g. I'm a bit slow on the uptake. Can you explain it once more?

Choice of Words

Adverse / Averse

Adverse means unfavorable; averse means opposed to.

e.g. We managed to survive in these adverse economic conditions.
e.g. He was averse to giving financial aids to the poor.

Await / Wait

Await means wait for an event, an occurrence, or a development; it does not require a preposition, such as for. Wait always carries the preposition for.

e.g. We await your decision.
e.g. The people were awaiting the outcome of the election.
e.g. He is waiting for your reply.
e.g. Don't wait for me; just go ahead.

Prepositional Words and Phrases

Follow on: die at a date later than someone.
e.g. His wife passed away. He followed on a few months later.

Follow through: continue to supervise.
e.g. I hope someone would follow through on this project until its completion.

Follow up:  check something out.
e.g. Please follow up this lead, and see what will happen next.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Learning and Mastering English

Friday, July 12, 2019

Idiomatic Verbal Phrases


Keep at: continue to do.

e.g. You must keep at it until it is done.

Keep down: prevent from advancing.

e.g. His lack of an advanced degree will keep him down in his career.

Keep on: continue.

e.g. Keep on, and don't give up!

e.g. Keep on with your good work.

Keep up: maintain the pace.

e.g. Keep up and don't fall behind.

e.g. You have to work extra hard to keep up with the rest of the class.


Clear of: show someone is innocent.

e.g. After the investigation, the police cleared me of all charges.

Clear off: depart.

e.g. As soon as the police arrived, the crowd cleared off.

Clear out: get out of some place.

e.g. The fire alarm is on; everybody has to clear out!

Clear up: clarify something; improve.

e.g. Can you clear up this statement for me?

e.g. His cold cleared up after a week.

e.g. The sky finally cleared up, and we could see the sun.

Clear with: get the approval of.

e.g. We will have to clear this with the Mayor’s office.


Dress down: scold severely.

e.g. The manager dressed him down in front of all the employees.

Dress up: put clothes on; adorn.

e.g. Wow! Look at you! You really get dressed up for the party in this fancy dress!

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, July 8, 2019

Common Colloquial Expressions

Spill the beans: give information unintentionally.

e.g. "I told them that you will be on vacation next week." "It's supposed to be a secret. Well, you just spilled the beans.

Spitting image: exact image.

e.g. He has a spitting image of his brother: they are twins.

Bat along: move along smoothly.

e.g. This is not rush hour, and cars do bat along.

Bone-head: a simple-minded person

e.g. Don't be a bone-head! Do some thinking!

Blue pencil: censor.

e.g. The committee will blue pencil whatever you are going to say.

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.

Boil over: become angry.

e.g.  Get away from him: he's boiling over with rage.

Put one's thinking cap on: seriously consider.

e.g. Well, I'll have to put my thinking cap on this before I can give you an answer.

Rake it in: earn money quickly.

e.g. If you invest in this, you can really rake it in.

Bone idle: very lazy.

e.g. She's bone idle: she never does any household chore.

Bone up on: study hard.

e.g. If you wish to pass your test, you'd better bone up on it.

Bowl over: overwhelm.

e.g. I was bowled over by all the information received at the seminar.

Pooped: exhausted.

e.g. What's the matter?  Everybody looks pooped today. We haven't even started the work!

Break down on: be a disadvantage for.

e.g. The new job broke down on me.

Breeze up: becoming frightened.

e.g. Whenever you mention terrorist attack, I have the breeze up.

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Learn Some 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. Some of them may be unfamiliar even to some Americans, especially ESL (English as a Second Language) learners.

The following are examples of common American idioms:

Earn one’s keep: help out with chores
e.g. You can stay with us, but you must earn your keep by doing the dishes.
Easier said than done: easy to say but difficult to do

e.g. Dog training is easier said than done.
In the hole: in debt
e.g. You are always in the hole because you spend too much.

Let bygones be bygones: forget all past wrongdoings
e.g. After all these years, she will not let bygones be bygones: she still holds me responsible for the tragic car accident.

Go to the dogs: deteriorate, go to ruin

e.g. If you don’t take care of your house, it will soon go to the dogs.
Late in the day: kind of late
e.g. Don’t you think it’s late in the day to change your tactics?

Just as well: good that an unexpected problem has come up
e.g. It was just as well the customer didn’t show up; we didn’t have anything ready for him.

Put in a good word for someone: say something in support of
e.g. I hope you will put in a good word for me when you see the manager.

After a fashion: somehow or somewhat
e.g. I play the piano after a fashion—well, not a concert pianist.

Drop the ball: make a mistake; fail in some way
e.g. I just can’t rely on you to do anything. You always drop the ball.

Keep someone posted: keep in touch; keep someone up to date
e.g. When you go to college, I expect you to keep us posted every now and then.

Live out of a suitcase: travel a lot
e.g. I am just tired of living out of a suitcase for so many years.

Play second fiddle: assume a less important position
e.g. I hate to play second fiddle to you, who get all the credit.

Abide by: accept and follow

e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, July 5, 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.

Copyright© by Stephen Lau