Your “prayers not answered” means your “expectations not fulfilled.” The TAO wisdom explains why: your attachments to careers, money, relationships, and success “make” but also “break” you by creating your flawed ego-self that demands your “expectations to be fulfilled.”

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Use of Subjunctive Mood

Subjunctive mood indicates making a hypothetical statement (i.e. not true).

e.g. If I were you, I would do it. (Past tense for a present action to indicate something contrary to the fact)

e.g. If he were the president, he would do it. (He is not the president, and therefore he will not do it.)

e.g. If you worked hard now, you would pass the exam. (You are not working hard now, and so you will not pass the exam; it is merely an assumption. Compare: “If you work hard, you will pass the exam.” Here, it becomes a condition, and therefore there is a probability that you will pass the exam.)

e.g. If pigs had wings, they would fly. (Pigs do not have wings, and therefore they will never fly.)

Subjunctive mood can also be used in the past tense. In that case, the past perfect tense (instead of the past tense) is used to show the hypothetical statement in the past.

e.g. If he had been the president, he would have done it. (He was not the president, and so he did not do it.)

e.g. If you had worked hard last year, you would have passed the exam. (You did not work hard last year, and so you failed in the exam last year.)

Stephen Lau  
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Difficult But Common Words

Focus on learning some of the most popularly used difficult-but-common words in the English language. The objective here is to familiarize yourself with the most common senses of the difficult words you are most likely to come across. 

Opulent: having wealth and luxury

e.g. Now that he had filed for bankruptcy, it would be difficult for him to maintain his opulent lifestyle.

Insolent: rude and disrespectful

e.g. He was simply offering his advice out of goodwill, but your response was insolent and inappropriate.

Malleable: easily adaptable or changeable

e.g. In this economic environment, people are malleable to economic reforms.

Emanate: come from a source

e.g. The sounds emanating from next door were so disturbing that we finally called the police.

Flaunt: to show off in an ostentatious way

e.g. Nobody likes her because she is always flaunting her wealth in her jewels and her furs.

Homage: high respect or honor

e.g. Even the Queen paid homage to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country.

Contrition: sadness or remorse over past wrong actions

e.g. The judge gave him the maximum sentence because he showed no contrition even when confronted by his victims.

Baneful: harmful or destructive influence

e.g. The custody of the children was taken from the parents because of the baneful influence of their lifestyle on their children.

Fledgingyoung and inexperienced.

e.g. As a fledging reporter, he was quite nervous when he interviewed the President.

Catch-22: an impossible situation, a predicament

e.g. He found himself in a catch-22: he could not stay, but he did not have the means to leave.

Debaclea complete failure

e.g. The bailout, to many, was a financial debacle.

Obliqueindirect or unclear.

e.g. The young man’s testimony was oblique to be of any use as a witness for the police.

Consternationsudden amazement.

e.g. The plunge of the Dow Jones Industrial Average caused a great deal of consternation in the financial markets worldwide.

Incorrigibleincapable of being reformed (often used in a lighthearted, ironic sense).

e.g. You’re incorrigible, forever getting into scrapes and causing mischief.

Elucidate: explain in full or make clear

e.g. To throw more light on the issue, the President began to elucidate his statement.

Cumbersomehard to manage, or troublesome

e.g. The task of tidying up the entire basement is not only exhaustive but also cumbersome to a nine-year-old kid.

Incognito: hidden or unknown with the purpose of intentionally changing appearance.

e.g. Many movie stars wear dark sunglasses in hopes of remaining incognito at public places.

Nether: lower, such as the nether regions of something are the parts that lie beneath or beyond the main part.

e.g. Dante takes the reader on a journey to the nether regions of hell.

Clandestinesecretive or kept hidden from authorities.

e.g. Nowadays, terrorists may use the Internet for their clandestine communication with one another.

Déjà vu (pronounced as day-zhuh VOO): (French) something “already seen” in the past.

e.g. If you still remember the decoration and design of last year's exhibition, you will have a sense of deja vu when visiting this year's exhibition.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, September 22, 2023

Correct Choice of Words


Currant means a kind of black berry; current means a movement of air or water; or of the present time.
e.g. We enjoy the dessert made with honey and currant.
e.g. The water may not be safe for swimming because there is a strong current below the water surface.
e.g. His secretary always keeps him updated with current affairs.

e.g. Soaking the beans overnight should precede the cooking.
e.g. We decide
Precede means come or go before in time or place; proceed means to go forward.

d to proceed with the plan, even without the funding.


Terminable: can be ended.
e.g. Your job is only temporary and terminable at any time.
Terminal: at the end.
e.g. The doctor told the patient PRETENSE / PRETENSION
that she had terminal cancer.


Secondary means next after the first in importance; secondly means in the next place.

e.g. Concentrate on this; that is only a secondary source.
e.g. Firstly, you have to take care of yourself. Secondly, take care of your family.

Pretense is to make believe; pretension is a claim

e.g. I make no pretense to like her (I do not pretend that I like her).
e.g. He laughed and made a pretense not to be offended by the insult.
e.g. I make no pretension to that award.
e.g. I never make any pretension that I am an expert in this field.

Waive means to forgo or relinquish; wave means to move.
e.g. If you sign this document, you will waive all your rights.
e.g. He was waving his hands at you.


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.


Accountable to: responsible to someone; accountable for: responsible for something
e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions. 

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, September 21, 2023



"YOU CORRECT THE INCORRECT" is a newly published book on how to write well. To write well, you must know how to avoid incorrect sentences.

First and foremost, you are given some grammar basics, such as the Eight Parts of Speech. Knowing how to avoid incorrect sentences is the first step toward good writing.

Then, you are given many groups of sentences, containing both the correct and the incorrect ones in each group. You will be provided explanation why the sentences are correct and incorrect. Correcting the incorrect is the only way to help you write correctly.

After correcting the incorrect many times, you will be shown how to write well through practice and practice, using the right tools, knowing the subject, knowing the readers, developing style and strategy.

Get this book YOU CORRECT THE INCORRECT for only $5.50. Learn how to write by writing and how to correct by correcting.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

More Colloquial Expressions

Dead from the neck upwards: stupid.
e.g. Don’t follow his example; he’s dead from the neck upwards.

In for it: likely to have trouble.
e.g. If you don't listen to my advice, you're in for it.

Easy on the eye: good looking.
e.g. I say, your girlfriend is easy on the eye.

Killer: a very funny joke.
e.g. That last one was really a killer;  everybody laughed.

Kick back: relax and enjoy.
e.g I really want to kick back and enjoy the music.

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!

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.”

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.

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?

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

A NEW BLOG: "Books By Stephen Lau"


A New Blog about the 40 Books Written By Stephen Lau in the past two decades.

His books include books on Chinese Wisdom and Spiritual Wisdom, as well as books on Learning English, American Idioms, and English Slang and Colloquial Expressions.  Some of his books also focus on health, such as Autoimmune Diseases, Vision Health, and Longevity Living.

The Blog gives a brief Book Description and a Sample from each of the 40 books to help you see if any of them is suitable for you.



Tuesday, September 19, 2023


Human freedom of choice is often held hostage by its bondage to the flesh, where your corrupted body dwells and the origin of the desires and wants of your thinking mind that ultimately change the freedom of your choice.

No matter how soft or strong your bondage may be, one bondage always leads to another. The more bondages you have, the greater their control on the freedom of your choices and decisions, and the more wrong things you will subsequently do.

An illustration of one bondage leading to another and yet another

On July 4, 2022, a 25-year-old Black man in Akron, Ohio, was shot 60 times by 8 policemen. The news was widely reported in the media because the victim was a Black man and the police had presumably used “excess force” to gun him down.

The victim, who had no criminal record, was initially stopped at a routine traffic stop.

Maybe “racial injustice” and “excessive use of force by police” told the victim’s mind that he had the “freedom” to get away. So, he chose to get away. His “freedom” tied him to the “bondage” of “getting away.”

Driving away his car and being chased by the police put him in another mental situation that gave him the “freedom” to choose to fire his gun to “stop the police chase.” His freedom of choice only reinforced his bondage to “getting away.”

After stopping his car at some point, the bondage of “getting away” told his thinking mind that he had the freedom to “flee on foot” and so he did.

While running, his bondage told his thinking mind that he had the freedom to turn around to do whatever he chose and decided to do. But he was shot dead.

The above tragedy could have been avoided if the victim had not taken his “freedom” to “get away” in the first place, which led to his bondage that distorted his thinking mind with another freedom of wrong decision leading to another and yet another bondage that finally tied him to his own death.

The "freedom" of choice of actions and decisions is controlled and manipulated by the human mind which lives in the flesh. Probably, that's what happened in the victim's mind: "I'm a Black, and the police don't like me. The police always use excessive force. I've my freedom to get away as soon as possible."

FREEDOM with BONDAGE shows you how to free yourself from your bondage to the flesh that gives you the "freedom" to make the wrong choices and decisions in your everyday life.

 Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, September 18, 2023

Everyday American Idioms

Learn some idiomatic expressions. The English language is rich in idioms. A student with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions, and debates, not to mention in effective writing.

In hot water: in serious trouble.

e.g. If you don't listen to me, you'll find yourself in hot water.

A rough house: a fight.

e.g. We'd better leave before there is a rough house.

All the rage: fashionable; in great demand.

e.g. Pink will be all the rage this summer.

Article of faith: an important element in one's philosophy.

e.g. Honesty is one of my articles of faith.

Come off second best: lose a fight or contest.

e.g. Despite all his efforts, he came off second best in the competition.

Writing on the wall: a warning of impending doom.

e.g. There were obvious signs that the company would soon be out of business; they should have seen the writing on the wall.

Third degree: physical or mental torture.
e.g. The police gave the suspect the third degree, but were unable to get any information about the crime.

Let the cat out of the bag: give away a secret

e.g. If you tell him that, you are letting a cat out of the bag; he has a big mouth!
Come to naught: come to nothing.

e.g. Despite all the efforts, the project came to naught.

A diamond in the rough: a person or thing with hidden value or qualities.
e.g. Don’t underestimate her—she’s a diamond in the rough.

Get on the wrong side of someone: to displease, or get out of favor
e.g. If you keep on bugging her, you will soon get on the wrong side of her.

In the melting-pot: not yet decided.
e.g. Because the President is not here, all the arrangements are backin the melting-pot again.

As safe as houses: very safe and secure.
e.g. Your money invested in this stock is as safe as houses.

Bad blood: unfriendly feelings.

e.g. There has always been bad blood between the two brothers.

Attitude of mind: mindset, way of thinking or feeling.
e.g. In order to succeed, you must have the right attitude of mind.

Bug off: stop bothering.

e.g. Bug off! And leave me alone!

Capitalize on something: make the most out of; exploit something to one’s advantage.
e.g. You should capitalize on your talents, instead of whiling away your time.

Keep an even keel: remain cool and calm.
e.g. In this situation, it is difficult to keep an even keel and not panic.

Have other fish to fry: other more important work to do.

e.g. I am not wasting my time over this matter; I just have other fish to fry.

Stephen Lau
All About Stephen Lau