Monday, August 13, 2018

Choosing the Right Words

STUDIO / STUDIOUS

Studio: a place where pictures are taken, or films are made.

e.g. The film was made in a Hollywood studio.

Studious: fond of study; careful and thoughtful.

e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be studious.

MELLOW / MELODIOUS

Mellow: mature; soft and pure; rich and full.

e.g. As he continues to age, he become more mellow and compassionate.

Melodious: tuneful; pleasant to the ear.

e.g. He voice is melodious; he should take up singing.

GENTEEL / GENTLE

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.

e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?

e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Gentle: kind, friendly, mild.

e.g. Be gentle to my puppy.

DISPOSABLE / INDISPOSED

Disposable: cant be removed or got rid of.

e.g. This machine is disposable; we can do without it

Indisposed: not feeling well; unwilling to

e.g. You look indisposed. Is there something wrong with you?

e.g. Many people are indisposed to working on weekends.

TERMINABLE / TERMINAL

Terminable: can be ended.

e.g. Your employment is only temporary and terminable at any time.

Terminal: at the end.

e.g. The doctor told him that he had terminal cancer.

DECORATIVE / DECOROUS

Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.

e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.

Decorous: showing good taste.

e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but beautiful dress.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Common Slang Expressions

Back number: a person with outdated ideas or information.
e.g. If I were you, I wouldn’t take any advice from someone who is a back number

Swell-head: a conceited person.
e.g. Look at his ego, and he’s such a swell-head.

Hard and fast: unalterable.
e.g. He held hard and fast to his decision to retire.

Bean time: dinnertime.
e.g. Come on, guys, wash your hands; it’s bean time.

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

Hard hit: financially ruined
e.g. Our business was hard hit by the recession.

Caught short: caught at a disadvantage.
e.g. The market plunged, and we were caught short just as thought we were on the road to recovery.

Apple-pie order: very orderly; perfect condition.
e.g. When we returned home, we were surprised to find that everything was still in apple-pie order.

Also-ran: someone not likely to win.
e.g. In this presidential election, he was just an also-ran. In less than two months, he called it quit.

Turn in: go to bed.
e.g. Come on, guys, it’s time to turn in.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, August 6, 2018

Learn Some Common Colloquial Expressions


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

Get the hang of: understand.
e.g. I still don't get the hang of how this machine works.

Put one's shirt on: wager everything.
e.g. We have to put our shirt on this project; we've no other option.

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

Are you with me?: understand or agree with me.
e.g. I've been explaining this for an hour. Are you with me?

Bang out: reveal.
e.g. If you go into politics, you must be prepared to let all your secrets bang out.

Deliver the goods: do what is expected or required.
e.g. The new employee seems to deliver the goods -- very hard working and conscientious.

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

Not worth powder and shot: not worth the effort.
e.g. If I were you, I would just give it up; it's not worth powder and shot.

Have someone by the short hair: have control over; have someone at a disadvantage.
e.g. Not having adequate preparation will let your opponent have you by the short hair.

Cry blue murder: make a great fuss.
e.g. Just ignore him: he's crying blue murder over everything.

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.

Gift of the gab: ability to give effective speeches.
e.g. The new Mayor has the gift of the gab: people like listening to him.

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


Thursday, August 2, 2018

American Idioms


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.

Late in life: in old age
e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Afraid of one’s own shadow: easily frightened.
e.g. Don’t tell him that this is an unsafe neighborhood; he is even afraid of his own shadow.

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.

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.

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
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions


Are you with me?: understand or agree with me.
e.g. I've been explaining this for an hour. Are you with me?

Bang out: reveal
e.g. If you go into politics, you must be prepared to let all your secrets bang out.

Deliver the goods: do what is expected or required.
e.g. The new employee seems to deliver the goods -- very hard working and conscientious.

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

Not worth powder and shot: not worth the effort.
e.g. If I were you, I would just give it up; it's not worth powder and shot.

Cry blue murder: make a great fuss.
e.g. Just ignore him: he's crying blue murder over everything.

Beat hollow: be superior to.
e.g. She is bossy, beating everyone hollow.

Jump down one's throat: criticize or scold severely.
e.g. The boss jumped down my throat for not completing the project on time.

Back to square one: back to where one started.
e.g. We're back to square one: no deal.

Jump on: blame or criticize strongly.
e.g. You jumped on him every time he opened his mouth.

Darned sight more: a lot more.
e.g. "Do you think he should put more effort on this?" "A darned sight more!"

Dead to the world
Fast asleep.
e.g. When I paid him a visit, he was dead to the world; I didn’t have a chance to speak to him.



Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Friday, July 27, 2018

Knowing Their Differences


In English, there are many words which look similar, but they are different in meaning:

PERISHABLE / PERISHING

Perishable: liable to die quickly.

e.g. Fresh vegetables are perishable; put them in the refrigerator.

Perishing: causing suffering.

e.g. Negative thinking may cause perishing emotions and thoughts.

SEDATIVE / SEDENTARY

Sedative: calming or soothing.

e.g. The doctor gave her some sedative medicine to put her to sleep..

Sedentary: accustomed to sitting; physically inactive.

e.g His sedentary work -- sitting in front of the computer -- took a toll on his health.

e.g. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle even if you are approaching 60.

GENTEEL / GENTLE

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.

e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?

e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Gentle: kind, friendly, mild.

e.g. Be gentle to my puppy.

DISPOSABLE / INDISPOSED

Disposable: cant be removed or got rid of.

e.g. This machine is disposable; we can do without it

Indisposed: not feeling well; unwilling to

e.g. You look indisposed. Is there something wrong with you?

e.g. Many people are indisposed to working on weekends.

WANDER / WONDER

Wander means to walk aimlessly; wonder means to consider or question some issue.

e.g. The hiker lost his direction and wandered in the forest for some hours.

e.g. I wondered if he would come to the birthday party. 

PROVIDING THAT / PROVIDED THAT

Providing that is incorrect.

e.g. You can go out to play provided (that) you have finished your home work.

e.g. You can keep the book for another week providing that no one has reserved it (incorrect: provided that should be used instead).

TERMINABLE / TERMINAL

Terminable: can be ended.

e.g. Your employment is only temporary and terminable at any time.

Terminal: at the end.

e.g. The doctor told him that he had terminal cancer.

DECORATIVE / DECOROUS

Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.

e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.

Decorous: showing good taste.

e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but beautiful dress.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Some Common Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions are sentences or phrases whose meanings cannot be easily worked out from the words they contain. As an ESL learner, avail yourself the opportunity to learn some idiomatic expressions ivery day. Here are some common ones:


In the clear: safe, secure; out of debt.

e.g. He was suspected of driving under the influence, but now he is in the clear.
e.g. After paying back his gambling debts, he is now in the clear.


Get cracking (informal): start doing something; it is similar to get going.

e.g. Let's get cracking, we still have much to finish before the day is over.
e.g. We'd better get going if we don't want to miss the flight.


For good: for ever.

e.g. After their quarrel, she left him for good.
e.g. In the accident, our new car was totaled (destroyed) for good. 


In the raw: without material comforts; very poor.

e.g. If you had been a refugee, you would know what it would be like living in the raw.

In the same boat: in the same bad situation.

e.g. We are in the same boat now that I,  too, have lost my job.

Gt something into one's head: get an idea stuck into one's head; become obsessed or stubborn with an idea.

e.g. Don't get it into your head that she will never help you financially; after all, she is your mother.

Strange to say: surprisingly.

e.g. The car plunged into the waterfall; strange to say, the drive survived without any injury.

For a song: very cheaply

e.g. Do you want my car? I'l sell it to you for a song.

Red-letter day: a very important day.

e.g. Tomorrow is a red-letter day: my son is getting married.

Also, learn some American idioms: Everyday American Idioms for ESL Learners.

Look here: emphasizing a point.

e.g. "Look here, I can't help you right now; I'm cooking our dinner."

e.g. "Look here, it was impolite to talk to your parents like that."



Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

Common Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions are sentences or phrases whose meanings cannot be easily worked out from the words they contain. As an ESL learner, avail yourself the opportunity to learn some common idiomatic expressions every day. Here are some common ones:


In the clear: safe, secure; out of debt.

e.g. He was suspected of driving under the influence, but now he is in the clear.
e.g. After paying back his gambling debts, he is now in the clear.


Get cracking (informal): start doing something; it is similar to get going.

e.g. Let's get cracking, we still have much to finish before the day is over.
e.g. We'd better get going if we don't want to miss the flight.


For good: for ever.

e.g. After their quarrel, she left him for good.
e.g. In the accident, our new car was totaled (destroyed) for good. 


In the raw: without material comforts; very poor.

e.g. If you had been a refugee, you would know what it would be like living in the raw.

In the same boat: in the same bad situation.

e.g. We are in the same boat now that I,  too, have lost my job.

Gt something into one's head: get an idea stuck into one's head; become obsessed or stubborn with an idea.

e.g. Don't get it into your head that she will never help you financially; after all, she is your mother.

Strange to say: surprisingly.

e.g. The car plunged into the waterfall; strange to say, the drive survived without any injury.

For a song: very cheaply

e.g. Do you want my car? I'l sell it to you for a song.

Red-letter day: a very important day.

e.g. Tomorrow is a red-letter day: my son is getting married.

Also, learn some American idioms: Everyday American Idioms for ESL Learners.

Look here: emphasizing a point.

e.g. "Look here, I can't help you right now; I'm cooking our dinner."

e.g. "Look here, it was impolite to talk to your parents like that."



Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau