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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Confusing Words


Audible and Auditory

Audible: can be heard
e.g. The music from the concert hall was audible even from here.

Auditory: related to hearing or the ear
e.g. This factory manufactures auditory equipment.

Expandable and Expendable

Expandable: able to grow and develop
e.g. This business has great potential and is expandable.

Expendable: unnecessary
e.g. This is extra and is expendable.

Amused and Bemused

Amused: be delighted or entertained
e.g. We were all amused by his wonderful performance.

Bemused; bewildered or confused

e.g. The reporters were totally bemused by that contradictory information from the White House.

Farther and Further

Farther: at a greater physical distance
e.g. This place is farther away from your parents’ home.

Further: at a greater figurative distance
e.g. His explanation is further from the truth.

A lot and Allot

A lot: a large number of
e.g. A lot of people turned up at the debate.

Allot; assign something to
e.g. You should allot some of the work to the new employee.

Suppose and Supposed to

Suppose: theorize
e.g. I supposed he would turn up, but he did not.

Supposed to: obligated to do something
e.g. The policeman was supposed to arrest the criminal.

Formally and Formerly

Formally: officially
e.g. The manager formally announced your promotion.

Formerly: previously
e.g. He was formerly the President of this company.

Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, April 23, 2018

Learn Some American Idioms


Eat like a horse: eat a lot
e.g. They won’t invite you to dinner next time; just now you ate like a horse.

Don’t hold your breath: it might take longer than you think
e.g. At last the law might be passed at the Congress, but don’t hold your breath.

Ins and outs of something: details to do something right
e.g. Take your time; you need to know the ins and outs of this procedure in order to do it right.

Has had its day: no longer popular
e.g. This bulky lawn mower has had its day. We need to get a new one.

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.

You bet: yes, of course
e.g. “Are you hungry?” “You bet!”

Easy does it: go carefully and slowly
e.g. This TV set is heavy, so easy does it.

In nothing flat: in exactly no time at all
e.g. Don’t worry! I’ll get you to the airport in nothing flat.

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

Alive and kicking: living and healthy; okay
e.g. I had been sick for some time, but now I am alive and kicking.”
e.g. “How are you?” “Well, alive and kicking.”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Friday, April 20, 2018

Learn Some Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and one or more prepositions that functions as a single unit of meaning. Phrasal verbs are commonly used in writing. As an ESL learner, learn some phrasal verbs, and use them appropriately in your writing.
RUN
Run across: meet or encounter
e.g. If you live long enough, you will run across many health issues.
Run against: compete against
e.g. In the next debate, who will you be running against?
Run away: escape
e.g. My dog ran away, and we are still looking for it.
Run down: hit by a car
e.g. A homeless person was run down by the train.
Run for: campaign for
e.g Who do you think is the most likely Republican candidate running for President?
Run into: meet by accident
e.g. I didn't expect to run into your parents yesterday when I was shopping at the mall..
Run off: depart running; cause to depart; drive away; make copies
e.g. The man ran off as soon as he saw the police car coming.
e.g. They didn't like us, so they ran us off.
e.g. Please run off a few more copies of this document,
Run out of: be short of
e.g. Be frugal; we're running out of money.
GET


Get across: cause to be understood



e.g. It took the manager some time before he could get across the company's new policies to his employees.



Get ahead: advance



e.g. If you wish to get ahead in your career, you must have a higher degree.



Get ahead of: surpass; beat



e.g. Beware of your assistant; he is an ambitions man who may want to get ahead of you.




Get along / get along with: have a good relationship



e.g. The two of you seem to get along quite well.

e.g. Do you think you can get along with your in-laws?




Get around: avoid; circulate


e. g. Is there a way to get around this problem?


e.g. The gossip has been getting around that you will soon be married.




Get away: escape



e.g. The burglar got away before the police arrived.



Get away with: do something wrong without being punished



e.g. Do you think you can get away with murder (usually used figuratively)?



Get by: manage somehow



e.g. I can get by with one part-time job.



Get down to: be serious about
e.g. Let's get down to work!
Get in: enter
e.g. Please get in the car; we are leaving right now.
Get on: put on
e.g It's raining; get on your raincoat.
Get on with: proceed with an activity
e.g. Get on with your work; you have to finish it before you leave.
Get over: recover from
e.g. I got the flu last week, but now I'm getting over it.
Get through: finish
e.g. We were having some financial problems, but now we're getting through.
Get up: rise
e.g. Get up! You'll be late for work!
Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, April 19, 2018

English Slang

Slang is just an alternative way of saying something. It is sometimes hard to identify what is slang and what is not. Slang and colloquial expressions are often acceptable in informal writing because they are used in communication in movies, newspapers, radio, television, and other mass media The more you learn, the more you will know when to use or not to use them in your formal writing.

Here are some examples:

All the go: popular.

e.g. Carrying a smart phone is all the go these days
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.

Catch it: be scolded.

e.g. If you do this again, you’ll catch it.

Bag your face: go away!

e.g. Shut up, and bag your face!

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.

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.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, April 16, 2018

Increase and Improve Your Vocabulary


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, April 12, 2018

How to Begin Your Writing

Begin your writing by announcing or introducing your topic. There are different ways to do that:

Direct and no-nonsense approach

e.g. We all have some form of racial prejudice.

e.g. All men are not born equal.

The focus is on clarity and directness, rather than on interest. Place your topic sentence in the very beginning of the first paragraph.

Indirect or delayed approach

e.g. Iron is essential for life. It is required to transport oxygen in the blood, as well as to burn food and body fat. Iron deficiency has long been a health concern in the medical community. But, recently, scientists discovered that excess iron could cause cancer and heart disease.

Identification of the topic is delayed by covering another aspect of the topic first.

Limiting-the-subject approach

e.g. A community college is different from a university in  many ways—especially in teaching.

The approach conveys that the content is limited to only one aspect—teaching.

Catch-attention approach

e.g. Do you know why some cancer patients survived, and most did not?

This approach immediately arouses the curiosity and interest of the readers.

Amusing approach

e.g. “What is truth?” said jesting Pilate and would not stay for an answer. (“Of Truth” by Francis Bacon)

This approach uses the strategy of amusing the readers with a satirical remark.

Here are some tips on introducing your topic:

Do not make the opening too long, such that it seems to cover everything that will be covered.

Do not make the opening too short, such that the readers do not have time to digest what is about to be discussed.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, April 5, 2018

American Idioms


Learn some common everyday American expressions.

Nothing doing!: I'll not permit it; no way!
e.g. "Can I bring my cat along?" "Nothing doing!"

What else is new?: it is not new.
e.g. "Last week he lost his job." "What else is new?" (i.e. he has been out of employment for a long time)

I am like you: we share the same opinion.
e.g. "I don't like smoking." "I am like you: cheese makes me feel sick."

Sorry I asked: I wish I had not asked.
e.g. "I didn't pass my test." "Sorry I asked."

Not in my books: not according to my views.
e.g. "Is this good enough?" "Not in my books."

My lips are sealed: I can't tell you.
e.g. "Please don't tell anyone what I just told you." "My lips are sealed."

Snap it up: be quick.
e.g. "Snap it up! We need to finish it before noon."

He spoke too soon: spoke without getting all the facts.
e.g. "He was wrong about that." "Well, maybe he spoke too soon."

Try as I may: I regret or fail to do something.
e.g. "Can you stop the baby from crying?" "Try as I may, I can't calm him down."

Speak out of turn: speak at the wrong time.
e.g. "Beware of what you're going to say at the meeting. Don't speak out of turn by talking about your own problems."

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau


Monday, April 2, 2018

The Right Choice of Words

Effective writing is about words -- the right choice of words.

Indoor and Indoors

Indoor is an adjective, while indoors is an adverb.

e.g. We went indoors because a storm was coming.

e.g. We love to watch all indoor games.

Distinct and Distinctive

Distinct means “clear” or “obvious”; distinctive means “having a characteristic of something.”

e.g. The water had a distinct smell of petroleum.

e.g. Petroleum has a distinctive smell.

Compare with and Compare to

e.g. I want to compare this dress with that one to see which one is more suitable for me. (finding differences)

e.g. I don’t want to compare my dress to hers. (making a comparison, especially finding similarities)

Continual and Continuous

e.g. All these years, our support has been continual. (repeated often)

e.g. The sound of the alarm was continuous for more than ten minutes. (with no interruption)

Council and Counsel

e.g. Seek counsel (advice) from an expert before you go to the town council (administrative body).

Disinterested and Uninterested

e.g. A judge has to be disinterested. (impartial; fair)

e.g. I was uninterested in the game. (showing no enthusiasm)

Avenge and Revenge

e.g. He avenged her death by bringing the killer to justice. (seeking justice)

e.g. He revenged the death of his son by killing the murderer’s son. (less concerned with justice, more concerned with getting even)

     Any one and Anyone

e.g. Any one of you can come. (more specific)

e.g. Anyone can come. (generally not specifically)

Contemptible and Contemptuous

e.g. To take advantage of the poor is a contemptible act. (deserving to be looked down upon)

e.g. He is contemptuous of those who disagree with him. (showing contempt; looking down upon)

Historic and Historical

e.g. That was a historic event. (having a long history)

e.g. This is a historical novel. (about history)

 Implicit and Explicit

e.g. The security threat was implicit in this report. (hinted; suggested)

e.g. We were given very explicit instructions on how to deal with the problem. (clearly stated; detailed)

Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau