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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Colloquial Expressions

Language is forever changing. What is currently acceptable or popular may be replaced by something else in years to come, and the use of slang is a strong testament to that. Slang is just an alternative way of saying something. It is sometimes hard to identify what is slang and what is not. Slang and colloquial expressions are often acceptable in informal writing because they are used in communication in movies, newspapers, radio, television, and other mass media The more you learn, the more you will know when to use or not to use them in your formal writing. No matter what, knowing these common everyday expressions is a plus for all ESL learners.

By a long chalk: by a great amount.
e.g. He lost his re-election by a long chalk.

Get wise to: discover; realize.
e.g. Soon you’ll get wise to what is really happening under the roof.

Go the whole hog: go through thoroughly.
e.g. The prosecutor went the whole hog when he inspected the murder weapon.

Alive and kicking: in good health.
"How is your grandmother doing?" "Very much alive and kicking."

For a song: very cheaply.
e.g. I got that piece of antique for a song.

Head above water: out of debt.
e.g. Nowadays, it is not easy to keep your head above water.

Mean-green: money.
e.g. Can I borrow a little mean-green from you?

All that jazz: all that sort of thing; etcetera.
e.g. He was telling everyone about his success in real estate investment and all that jazz. Well, we all heard that before.

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

Next to nothing: hardly anything.
e.g. “Did she leave you anything at all?” “Well, next to nothing.”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Idioms and Slang

Hard stuff: whisky or any liquor.

e.g."Would you like a Coke?" "I'd prefer some hard stuff."

Make one's pile: make one's fortune.

e.g. Real estate is where he makes his pile.

Half-baked: silly.

e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Keep early hours: go to bed early.

e.g. If you want good health, keep early hours.

Go under: fail.

e.g. I am sorry to say that all your proposals have gone under.

Hook on to: attach oneself to.

e.g. Don't hook on to your computer all day.
Hook it: depart immediately.

e.g. Come on, hook it; our parents will be back soon.

Can't complain: okay.

e.g. "How are things going with you?" "Can't complain."

What gives?: what happened?

e.g. "Hey, guys, what gives?" "We just had an argument; now it's okay."
e.g. "Where's your purse? What gives?"

Heads up: look around; be careful.

Pooped: exhausted.

e.g. I was pooped after working for nine hours in the yard.

Hard at it: busy.

.e.g. "Are you working on the project?" "You bet! I'm hard at it."

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions join unequal elements in a sentence or a clause that cannot stand by itself.

e.g. When we arrived at the station, the train had left.

e.g. We will not succeed unless we get your support.

e.g. His parents worked hard so he might have a good future.

e.g. I will help you as long as you ask me.

e.g. I will help you whenever you ask me.

e.g. I will help you provided (that) you ask me.

e.g. I will help you if you ask me.

e.g. I will not help you even you ask me.

e.g. Although I am your brother, I will not help you.

e.g. You will stay here till everything is done.

e.g. He behaved as though he were better than you.

e.g. Though he had lost his fortune, he remained cheerful.

e.g. Since spring is coming, we have to prepare the garden.

e.g. Because spring is coming, we have to prepare the garden.

Stephen Lau  
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, November 6, 2020

Confusing Vocabulary

Writing is made up of words. The first requirement of writing English is to learn some English words every day to build up your vocabulary -- you may have to know at least a few thousand words before you can write effectively.

Learning vocabulary may look daunting to you (you may not know the word daunting, but most probably you can still guess that it means something like "difficult"; that is how you learn a new work  by relating it to the context in a sentence), but you have to learn it cumulatively, that is, learning a few words every day. 

Advance / Advancement

Advance, as a verb, means going forward or making progress; advancement means promotion.

e.g. With the advance of winter, days are growing shorter.

e.g. To seek advancement in your career, you need to work extra hard or get a higher qualification.

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.

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.

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 likess her mother-in-law)

e.g. He made no pretension to that award. (He never claimed that he received that award)

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.

 / Ingenuous

Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.

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.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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

Monday, August 10, 2020

Expressions Commonly Confused By ESL Learners



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 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 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 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

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Learning Vocabulary

Learning vocabulary may look daunting to you (you may not know the word daunting, but most probably you can still guess that it means something like "difficult"; that is how you learn a new work  by relating it to the context in a sentence), but you have to learn it cumulatively, that is, learning a few words every day. 

Corporal / Corporeal

Corporal means related to the body; corporeal means bodily and not spiritual.

e.g. Corporal punishment is no longer acceptable in schools.
e.g. We should be more concerned with our spiritual rather than our corporeal welfare.

Forbear / Forebear

Forbear means to tolerate, refrain from; forebear means an ancestor

e.g. You have to forbear from asking too many questions.
e.g.  He always takes pride in that Charles Dickens was his forebear.

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.

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.

Indispensable / Indisputable

Indispensable means absolutely necessary; indisputable means factual, without a doubt, and not arguable.

e.g. Air is indispensable to life.
e.g. It is indisputable that the verdict of the judge is final.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The English Sentence

The English Sentence

In English, the number of sentences is infinite. However, within this infinity, there are FIVE patterns:

Subject + verb

e.g. An accident happened.
            (subject) (verb)

Subject + verb + object (direct)

e.g. The man took the money.
              (s)     (v)         (o)

Subject + verb + object (indirect) + object (direct)

e.g. The man give me the money.
               (s)   (v)   (o)       (o)

Subject + verb + complement (of the subject)

e.g. She is pretty.
       (s) (v) (c)

Subject + verb + object + complement (of the object) 

e.g. They elected him President.
       (s)     (v)       (o)   (c)

e.g. They made her unhappy.
       (s)     (v)     (o)  (c)

Sir Winston Churchill once said that the English sentence is a "noble thing." As such, in order to write an effective sentence, one must know what an English sentence is.

A sentence is for communicating a complete thought, a command, a question, or an exclamation.

    e.g. I love you.
    e.g. Take it.
    e.g. Is it right?
    e.g. How wonderful!

In most cases, a sentence requires at least one subject-verb combination (e.g. I came.); in some cases, a sentence can be a single word (e.g. Help!).

The basic sentence pattern or sentence structure is made up of a subject and a verb:

           Subject                 Verb
           Birds                     sing

But you can add single descriptive words (modifiers) to add more meaning to the basic sentence pattern. These words can be: an article (a, an, the); an adjective (a word to describe the noun or subject); an adverb (a word to describe the verb).

e.g. The (specify which birds) yellow birds (the color of the birds) sing beautifully. (how they sing)

You can add a phrase (made up of two or more words with no subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are different types of phrases:

1.    an infinitive phrase: to + verb e.g. to do the work, to play the piano
2. participle phrase: present participle/past participle + noun, e.g. playing the piano, the broken window
3.    prepositional phrase: under the table, in the beginning

You can add a clause (made up of words with a subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are two different types of clauses:

1.  an independent clause: communicating a complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.
2.   dependent clause: describing another clause, and not communicating a complete thought, e.g. When the man was singing (what happened?)

You can change sentences into different types by adding different clauses:

1. The simple sentence: one independent clause making one complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.
2. The compound sentence: more than one complete thought, with two or more independent clauses, e.g. The man was singing and the children were dancing.
3. The compl ex sentence: one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause), when the children were dancing (dependent clause).
4.  The compound complex sentence: two independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause) and the children were dancing (independent clause) when the light suddenly went out.

Effective writing is the use of different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, compound complex) to give variety. In addition, vary the sentence length to avoid monotony in writing.

Copyright© by Stephen Lau