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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Learn Some American Idioms


All at sea: confused

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

Kettle of fish: a mess, an unpleasant incident

e.g. That was a pretty kettle of fish: your in-laws and your parents arguing at the party. 

Meet someone halfway: compromise

e.g. He settled the agreement with her by meeting her halfway.

First and last: above all; under all circumstances

e.g. She was an accomplished pianist first and last.

Poop out: tire out

e.g. The marathon race pooped me out; I could hardly walk.

Make as if: pretend

e.g. You made as if you enjoyed the film, but you really didn’t.

Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Bark up the wrong tree: make the wrong choice; accuse the wrong person.

e.g. If you think I took your money, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Poke one’s nose into something: interfere with

e.g. I don’t like the way you poke your nose into my affairs.

Come what may: no matter what

e.g. Don’t worry! Come what may, I’ll be on your side.

Handwriting on the wall: a warning

e.g. If the Governor had seen the handwriting on the wall, he would not have adopted those unpopular proposals.

Go through the roof: very angry

e.g. When he found out that you took his money, he went through the roof.

Fork out: pay

e.g. I like this computer, but I don’t want to fork out a lot of money.

Above all: most importantly

e.g. Above all, you must have a valid visa if you wish to continue to stay in the United States.

A little bird told me
: somehow I knew

e.g. “How did you know what I did?” “Well, a little bird told me.”

Stephen Lau

Monday, October 8, 2018

Confusing Words


Refrain / sustain

Refrain means to hold back; sustain means to hold up.

e.g. You have to refrain from making any noise.
e.g. Can the government sustain the booming economy for long?

Forbear / Forebear

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

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

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.

Reign / Rein

Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)

e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).

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.

Spoiled / Spoilt

Spoiled (the past tense or past participle of “spoil”) means lay waste, rob; spoilt means mar or ruin.

e.g. Your car accident spoiled my vacation.
e.g. You are a spoilt child!

Recourse / Resort

Recourse means turning to others or something for help; resort means to turn to for help (both noun and verb)

e.g. His only recourse was the police.
e.g. The police should not resort to violence to stop the peaceful demonstration.
e.g. The army decided using violence as the last resort.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Everyday American Idioms


Pour money down the drain: waste money
e.g. It’s better to declare bankruptcy, rather than pouring money down the drain; nothing can revive the business.

Trump up: make up something untrue

e.g. The witness trumped up an excuse why he lied previously.

After all: in spite of everything

e.g. She didn’t get a good score; after all, it was her first attempt

Take one’s medicine: accept misfortune or punishment that one deserves
e.g. I messed it up; it was all my fault. I’ll take my medicine.

Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Poke one’s nose into something: interfere with

e.g. I don’t like the way you poke your nose into my affairs.

Run in the family: a characteristic in all members of a family

e.g. Longevity runs in the family: they all live to a ripe old age.

Above all: most importantly

e.g. Above all, you must have a valid visa if you wish to continue to stay in the United States.

Have it coming: deserve what one gets
e.g. Failure was unavoidable. What you did had it coming.

A little bird told me: somehow I knew

e.g. “How did you know what I did?” “Well, a little bird told me.”

Tie up: engage or occupy in doing something

e.g. He was tied up at the meeting, and could not come to the phone.

Push someone to the wall: force someone into a difficult or defensive position
e.g. Don’t push him to the wall! He might even kill you!

All at sea: confused

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

Presence of mind: clarity of thinking
e.g. Without presence of mind, it is impossible to handle one crisis after another.

As flat as a pancake: very flat

e.g. You left front wheel tires is as flat as a pancake.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, October 1, 2018

The 8 Parts of Speech of English


First and foremost, you must know the 8 parts of speech of the English language.

8 PARTS OF SPEECH

There are eight parts of speech in the English language: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections

(1) Nouns are names of things (book, chair, pen), people (boy, David, policeman)

(2) Pronouns stand for nouns: I (me); we (us); he (him); she (her); it (it); they (them); who (whom). The words in brackets are object pronouns.

e.g. I like him.
e.g. We like it.
e.g. He likes her.
e.g. She likes him.
e.g. It likes them.
e.g. They like it.
e.g. Who likes it?
e.g. Whom do you like?

(3) Verbs are words that show being:

e.g. I am a student.
e.g. You are happy.
e.g. He is poor.
e.g. We are doctors.
e.g. They are nurses.

Verbs are also words that describe an action:

e.g. I love you.
e.g. You go away!
e.g. She cries a lot.
e.g. We sleep at night.
e.g. They work in the office.

Some verbs are transitive: they need an object; some verbs are intransitive: they do not need an object; some verbs are both transitive and intransitive.

e.g. Please bring a chair. (transitive)
e.g. The sun rises. (intransitive)
e.g. He sings a song. (transitive)
e.g. He sings every morning. (intransitive)

(4) Adjectives describe nouns: e.g. a heavy chair; e.g. a pretty dress; e.g. You are happy.

(5) Adverbs describe verbs or adjectives: e.g. He eats slowly. e.g. You look very pretty.

(6) Prepositions are words that show the relationship between words.

e.g. I depend on you.
e.g. Give this to him.
e.g. We live in the United States.
e.g. They go with you.

(7) Conjunctions are words that are used to join sentences: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet.

e.g. Get up and go to bed.
e.g. You like him, but he does not like you.
e.g. Put it here, or put it there.
e.g. I do not eat this, nor do I drink that.
e.g. You can stay, for it is raining.
e.g. I am tired, so I lie down.
e.g. You are tired, yet you do not want to go to bed.

(8) Interjections are words used to express different levels of emotions, such as surprise: e.g. Wow! My goodness!

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Thursday, September 27, 2018

My FREE Book for You!! Don't Miss It!

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Lao Tzu was the author of the immortal classic Tao Te Ching, made up of 81 short chapters of Chinese poetry on human wisdom, one of the most translated books in world literature.

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The TAO of Living for Life shows you the wisdom of living not just for yourself, but also for others as well --  just as the famous English poet John Donne says: "No man is an island."  Once you perceive this intricate inter-connection between people, you will self-intuit the wisdom of Lao Tzu.  After all, according to Lao Tzu, there is no word or blueprint for human wisdom -- it is all about self-intuition.

Stephen Lau


Monday, September 24, 2018

Common Colloquial Expressions for ESL Learners


Common colloquial expressions for ESL learners

Expressing an opinion

As I see it

e.g. As I see it, this cold weather is going to stay for some time even though spring has officially come.

e.g. Well, as I see it, Trump will become the presidential nominee.

If you ask me

e.g. If you ask me, the weather is extremely cold and frigid.

e.g You're all wrong, if you ask me

The way I look at it

e.g. The way I look at it, gas price is going to go up again.

e.g. They're going to get married, whether you like it or not; that's the way I look at it.

Expressing reassurance and support

Get to the bottom of this.

e.g. Trust me, we can get to the bottom of this, and find out who is really behind this.

e.g. Don't worry; we'll get to the bottom of this. Just leave it to us!

You're doing the best you can

e.g. Trust me, you're doing the best you can.

e.g. You'll ace it; you're doing the best you can.

Expressing an alternative

All that's left

e.g. All that's left is to declare bankruptcy; you've no other option.

e.g. Take it or leave it; that's all that's left.

If all else fails

e.g. If all else fails, turn to your parents for financial help.

e.g. Talk to the manager. If all else fails, resign and look for another job.

If nothing else works

e.g. If nothing else works, go on a fast to lose those extra pounds.

e.g. You're doing the best you can. If nothing else works, just leave it to God.

Expressing warning

Just a heads-up

e.g. Just a heads-up: don't go to that neighborhood at night all by yourself.

e.g. He's not an honest guy. Just a heads-up if you go out with him.

You'd better not

e.g. You'd better not put all your money on that stock; it's like putting all your eggs in one basket.

e.g. He is very persuasive and untrustworthy. You'd better not believe every word he says. 


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wrong Choice of Words


Wrong Choice of Words

Effective writing involves not only having a good vocabulary but also knowing how to choose the right words to express the right ideas. There are many English words that are frequently confused and misused.

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.

Fewer / Less
Fewer is used for items that can be counted; less is used for items that cannot be counted.

e.g. Fewer people came to the meeting today than yesterday.
e.g. We have less money to spend on this trip than we used to have.

Moral / Morale
Moral as a noun means a standard of behavior or teaching of a story; morale as a noun means a positive state of mind with reference to confidence.

e.g. Not to take advantage of the poor is a moral act (as an adjective).
e.g. The moral of the story is that dishonesty never pays off.
e.g. This victory has increased the morale of the soldiers.

Farther / Further
Father refers to greater distance; further means more or greater intensity.

e.g. Our new house is farther from the lake than from the river.
e.g. The demonstration only led to further racial tension.

Allow Allow of
Allow: permit; allow of: leave room for.

e.g. The regulation does not allow you to do this.
e.g. The regulation is so clear and specific that it does not allow of any other interpretation.

Bereaved Bereft
Bereaved: taken away by death; bereft: being taken away or deprived of.

e.g. He was bereaved of his parents when he was a child.
e.g. He was bereft of all his possessions when he went bankrupt.

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.

Definite Definitive
Definite: clear and unmistakable; definitive: final and unchangeable.

e.g. The path going forward is definite with its goals carefully outlined.
e.g. The proposal is definitive with no further amendment.

Negligent Negligible
Negligent: careless; negligible: that may be disregarded, not very important.

e.g. That officer is always negligent of his duties; he has been warned by his supervisor on several occasions.
e.g. These details are negligible; you don’t need to include them in the report.

Spoiled / Spoilt
Spoiled: (past tense or past participle of spoil) lay waste, rob; spoilt: mar or ruin.

e.g. Your car accident spoiled my vacation: I had to cancel the trip and take care of you.
e.g. You are a spoilt child!

Aside beside
Aside: to one side; beside: by the side of.

e.g. We turned aside from the main road to avoid the heavy traffic.
e.g. The mother put the toddler beside her.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau