Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Choosing the Right Words


Adherence / Adhesion

Much more: especially in a positive sense; much less: not to mention in a negative sense.

e.g. I would help a stranger in need, much more if he is my son.

e.g. She wouldn't even look at me, much less talk to me.

Dutiable / Dutiful

Dutiable: subject to imported tax; dutiful: showing respect and obedience.

e.g. Tobacco is often dutiable in most countries.

e.g. He is my dutiful son.

Adherence: following faithfully (metaphorically); adhesion: sticking to (literally).

e.g. No matter what may happen, our company will demonstrate to our shareholders our adherence to the project.

e.g. You can use this glue to strengthen the adhesion of these two pieces of material.

Defer / Infer

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 / Accountable for

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

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Confusing Words and Phrases

Common / Commonplace

Common: shared or used by many; commonplace: ordinary, not unusual.

e.g. English is a common language used in Europe.

e.g. Nowadays, carrying a gun is commonplace.

Habitable / Habitual

Right / Rightly

Right: immediately; rightly: justly, correctly.

e.g. Do it right now.

e.g. Do it right away.

e.g. I rightly canceled the trip.

e.g. We refused the offer, and rightly so.

Sensual / Sensuous

Sensual: related to the body; sensuous: related to the five senses.

e.g. It is difficult to be spiritual when one focuses too much on sensual pleasures.

e.g. The painter is able to provide some sensuous images in his painting.

Defer / Infer

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.

Potent / Potential

Potent: strong, powerful; potential: power that could be, but is not yet.

e.g. He is a potent politician.

e.g. He has great potential in American politics.

Compare to / Compare with

Compare to: state a resemblance to; compare with: put side by side to find out the similarities and differences.

e.g. The poet compares living in this modern world to riding on a bullet train.

e.g. If you compare Plan A with Plan B, you will know that Plan B is much better than Plan A. 

Mediate / Meditate

Mediate means to act as a peacemaker; meditate means to think deeply.

e.g. The Secretary of State is trying to mediate between the two warring nations.

e.g. He meditated revenge after he was insulted by his coworkers.
  
Reverend / Reverent

Reverend: worthy of respect; reverent: showing respect.

e.g. Have you met the Rev. Mr. Johnson?

e.g. He gave a reverent speech on drug addiction.

In regard to / As regards

Both mean with reference to.

e.g. As regards your performance, I think you did a good job (no “to”).

e.g. She is very generous in regard to charity donation.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Sunday, August 14, 2016

English Words and Phrases Frequently Confused and Misused

I have just published my book on Amazon:


Words are neither effective nor ineffective; they just impart different meanings to the sentences in which they are used. It is the writer's effective use of words and phrases that makes sentences effective or ineffective.

The English language is made up of nearly a million words and phrases. A writer, especially one whose English is not his or her first language, may face two major problems in writing: not knowing "enough" words; and not knowing how to choose the "right" words. 

Writing is made up of words. Effective writing requires having a good stock of vocabulary, as well as selecting the most suitable words and phrases to express the  ded ideas.


There are many English words and phrases that are frequently confused and misused by ESL learners. This book provides hundreds of those words and phrases with examples to show how they should be used correctly, such as: advance and advancement; acceptance and acceptation; accountable to and accountable for; acquirement and acquisition, etc. 

Stephen Lau

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Learn Slang and Colloquial Expressions

As an ESL learner, it is important to learn as many slang and colloquial expressions as possible. You may not remember what you have learned, but they will come back to you.

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.

Turkey: a failure; a sham.
e.g. The whole business was a turkey—there were no investors at all!.

Dead set: very determined.
e.g. We were dead set to finish the project despite the shortage of funds.

Jaw breaker: difficult word to pronounce.
e.g. Can you help me with this jaw breaker? It looks like a foreign word to me.

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.

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

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

To get English Slang and Colloquial Expressions for ESL Learners, get here to get the digital copy and here to get the book copy. 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Correct Use of These Words

Fragile / Frail

Fragile: delicate, easily broken; frail: weak in health; without strong support.

e.g. This piece of glassware is fragile; please handle it with care.
e.g. You look pale and frail today. What's wrong with you?
e.g. The presidential candidate received frail support from his own State.

High / Highly

High: referring to altitude or position; highly: the degree or intensity. 

e.g. The airplane is flying high.
e.g. This disease is highly contagious.

Portend / Portent

Portend: foretell or forewarn; portent: self-importance.

e.g. This political decision may portend more trouble in the coming election.
e.g. The arrogant demeanor reflects the portent of the candidate.

Genteel / Gentle

Genteel: trying to be polite, and imitating good manners; gentle: kind, friendly.

e.g. He is living in genteel poverty (i.e. he is living a lifestyle that imitates that of the rich).
e.g. She is gentle in nature, and people like her.

Exhausting / Exhaustive

Exhausting: using much energy; exhaustive: very thorough or complete.

e.g. The exhausting work of working in the garden made me want to go to bed right away.
e.g. The police conducted an exhaustive investigation into this crime.

Observance / Observation

Observance: following rules and regulations; observation: seeing or paying attention to.

e.g. Tell me about your observation of the future of this company.
e.g. What do you think of the observance of the law on texting while driving?

Precede / Proceed

Precede: come or go before in time or place; proceed: go forward.

e.g. Soaking the beans overnight should precede the cooking.
e.g. We decided to proceed with the plan, even without the funding.

Half-blood / Half-breed

Half-blood: a person having one parent in common with another; half-breed: a person whose parents are of different races.

e.g. He is my half-blood: we have the same mother.
e.g. My girlfriend is a half-breed: her father is Danish, and her mother is Chinese.

Overall / Total

Overall: describing a measurement between two extremities, from one end to the other; total: complete;

e.g  What is the overall length of the bridge?
e.g. The project was a total success (not overall) 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Book on Chinese Wisdom Published

The Complete TAO TEACHING in Plain English contains the total 81 chapters of "Tao Te Ching," the ancient Chinese classic by the sage Lao Tzu, on human wisdom. In addition to the translated text in plain English, the book also includes a detailed description of the essentials of Tao wisdom, which is the essence of "Tao Te Ching."

The original text of "Tao Te Ching" is difficult to understand because the language, without any punctuation, was intentionally controversial and open to multiple interpretations. Stephen Lau has expressed and interpreted the original text in simple and plain English for readers to understand the profound Tao wisdom.

Stephen Lau has already published several books based on the wisdom expressed in "Tao Te Ching": "TAO: The Way to Biblical Wisdom", "No Ego No Stress", "Be A Better And Happier You With Tao Wisdom", "The Book of Life and Living". and "As If Everything Is A Miracle." Visit: Books by Stephen Lau.