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, April 18, 2021

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, April 17, 2021

Learn Some 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.

Say-so: permission.
e.g. Do I have your say-so to launch the project?

See with half an eye: see easily.
e.g. The mistake is so obvious: you can see it with half an eye.

Where one gets off: stop disagreeable behavior.
e.g. I'll tell him where he gets off.

The necessary: the cash.
e.g. You want to buy this car? Do you have the necessary?

The never-never: the hire-purchase system.
e.g. Renting a car puts you on the never-never.

Whistle for: wish in vain.
e.g. The stock market has fallen sharply. You can whistle for your money invested.

Tall story: exaggerated story
e.g. No one would believe your tall story.

Tell that to the marines: do you expect anyone to believe that.
e.g. "I lost all the money at the casino." "Tell that to the marines!"

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

Friday, April 16, 2021

Common English 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!
Call it a day: consider something to be done or finished.
e.g. Let’s call it a day, and just go home.

Nod is as good as a wink: take note of the hint.
e.g. I think he was trying to tell you to resign; a nod is as good as a wink.

Butter up: flatter.
e.g. Now that you have been promoted, everybody seems to butter up you.

Bang-up: excellent.
e.g. We did spend a bang-up week in Greece.

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

All hot and bothered: agitated, confused, or excited.
e.g. She was all hot and bothered when she heard the news of her daughter’s divorce.

Lame duck: someone who needs help but undeserved.
e.g. My brother, who is always unemployed, is a lame duck to me.

Buy it: die.
e.g. During the car crash, I thought I was going to buy it.

Much of a muchness: practically the same.
e.g. I don’t see any difference between the twins; they’re pretty much of a muchness to me.

Catch it: be scolded.
e.g. If you do this again, you’ll catch it.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Learning 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:

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.

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.

Everyday American Idioms: In this book, there are approximately 900 American idioms selected for ESL learners to provide them with a better understanding of American English. Learn them so that you may know what they mean when they are used by Americans, and use them in their right context in your speaking and writing in your daily contacts with Americans.

Each American idiom comes with a simple explanation followed by one or more examples, showing you how to use it. Make an effort to learn ten American idioms a day, and then review what you have learned over the weekend. Then proceed to learning another ten, and so on and so forth. You may not remember all the American idioms that you have learned, but, rest assured, they will come back to you when you hear them in your social contacts with Americans.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

What Is Good Writing?

Good writing means trying to avoid the overuse of clich├ęs (overused catch phrases and figures of speech)

e.g. busy NOT busy as a bee

e.g. confront the truth NOT face the music

e.g. everyone NOT each and every one

e.g. finally NOT last but not the least

e.g. firstly NOT first and foremost

e.g. gentle NOT gentle as a lamb

e.g. infrequent or seldom NOT few and far between

e.g. obviously NOT it goes without saying

e.g. seldom NOT once in a blue moon

Avoid weakling modifiers. Most of the following weakling modifiers can be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence:

e.g. actually

e.g. both

e.g. certainly

e.g. comparatively

e.g. definitely

e.g. herselfhimselfitselfthemselves

e.g. needless to say

e.g. particularly

e.g. per se

e.g. really

e.g. relatively

e.g. very

To use these weakling modifiers occasionally is permissible, but to use them frequently makes your writing ineffective.

Figures of speech add life and vividness to writing. Figures of speech compare one thing abstract with another thing, which is usually literal or concrete.

Metaphors are implied comparisons.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was a volcano within although I was still calm without.

e.g. He is a hog at mealtime.


Similes are direct comparisons to bring out the imagination of the readers.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was like a volcano about to erupt although I was still calm on the outside.

e.g. He eats like a hog.

Similes always use words as or like.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Knowing Their Differences

Eminent / Imminent / prominent

Eminent means important or outstanding; imminent means coming soon.

e.g. He is an eminent author whose books have been translated into multiple languages worldwide.
e.g. Look at the dark clouds above; I think a storm is imminent.

Endure / Persevere

Endure means to bear bravely; persevere means to keep on doing.

e.g. It is not easy to endure the physical pain.
e.g. In spite of all the difficulties, he persevered with his plans.

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.

Deplete / Replete

Deplete means to empty; replete means to be filled with.

e.g. My illness might have depleted me of energy and strength.
e.g. Your garage is replete with garden tools.

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.

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 likes her mother-in-law)
e.g. He made no pretension to that award. (He never claimed that he received that award)

Ingenious / Ingenuous

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.

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.

Emigrate means to move to a country; immigrate means to come to country.

e.g. Many people like to emigrate to the United States.
e.g. Those who immigrate from other countries must abide by the laws in this country.

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, April 12, 2021

American Idioms for ESL Learners

Get the blues: become sad.
e.g. Many people get the winter blues in this kind of dreary weather.

Back to back: following immediately.
e.g. We were busy with appointments back to back.

Come to think of it: I just remembered.
e.g. Come to think of it, you owe me some money.

Have one's head in the clouds: not knowing what is happening.
e.g. She drifted along with her head in the clouds.

Bark up the wrong tree: ask or choose the wrong person.
e.g. If you think I'm the guilty person, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Get a load off one's mind: say what one is thinking.
e.g. I have a lot to tell you; I just want to get a load off my mind.

Bury one's head in the sand: ignore the obvious danger.
e.g. You need to deal with the situation; you just cannot bury your head in the sand.

Johnny-come-lately: a late comer.
e.g. We have been doing this for years. Why should we let a Johnny-come-lately tell us what to do?

Kiss and make up: forgive and be friends again.
e.g. We had a big quarrel, but in the end we kissed and made up.

By the same token: in the same way.
e.g. I gave you financial assistance before; by the same token, I expect you to help me this time.

Stephen Lau 
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Comma

The Comma

The comma is used for clarity in separating different parts (words, phrases, or clauses) of a sentence.

e.g. The bag contained old shoes, worn clothes, and a pair of trousers.

The comma before and is optional, but is preferable where clarity may be an issue. The comma is not omitted before and in a series of independent clauses.

e.g. The man took the key, his children carried the box, and their dog followed them.

The comma separates independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (but).

e.g. This is an excellent book, but many have not read it.

The comma separates a dependent clause from an independent one.

e.g. Although this is an excellent book, many have not read it.

The comma separates coordinate adjectives (describing the same noun) without the conjunction and.

e.g. a tall, dark, handsome man (coordinating adjectives)

However, the comma is omitted in cluster adjectives (describing the subsequent words)

e.g. a dark brown leather jacket (dark describes brown; brown describes leather; and leather describes jacket)

The comma is used for clarity of meaning.

e.g. At sixty-five, you may consider retirement.

e.g. Not getting any sleep, she felt exhausted.

e.g. To write effectively, you must learn some basic writing skills.

The comma separates a non-essential clause or sentence element from the rest of the sentence.

e.g. Look at this book, which was found on the kitchen floor!

There is only one book here, and it was found on the kitchen floor; which was found on the kitchen floor becomes only additional but not essential information (indicated by the presence of the commas).

Look at another example:

e.g. Look at this book that was found on the kitchen floor!

There are many other books, and this one was found on the kitchen floor; that was found on the kitchen floor is essential information because it identifies which book to look at (indicated by the absence of the commas).

The comma separates modifiers and conjunctive adverbs.

e.g. on the other hand,

e.g. for example,

e.g. in fact,

e.g. in the first place,

e.g. therefore,

e.g. moreover,

e.g. nevertheless,

e.g. thus,

The comma is NOT used before subordinating conjunctions (after, although, because, before, if, since, unless, until, when, where).

e.g. You cannot leave now because the airport is closed. (NO comma)

e.g. Because the airport is closed, you cannot leave now. (comma here)

e.g. Do not call 911 unless it is an emergency. (NO comma)

e.g. Unless it is an emergency, do not call 911. (comma here)

e.g. We left the bar when we finished our drinks. (NO comma)

e.g. When we finished our drinks, we left the bar. (comma here)

Copyright© by Stephen Lau