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Thursday, June 28, 2018

More Colloquial Expressions


More Colloquial Expressions

Pipe dream: something impossible or unrealistic.

e.g. The Mayor said that building another highway would be a pipe dream in the current economic environment.

Snap it up: be quick.

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

No can do: I cannot do it.

e.g. "Can you do this now?" "No can do.”

Says who?: who do you think you are to say that?

e.g. "I heard you were reprimanded by your boss for being late again." "Says who?"

Try as I may: I regret or fail to do something.

e.g. "Can you do something with this machine?" "Try as I may, I can't make it work."

Search me: I don't know; I don't have the answer.

e.g. "Do you know the author of this quotation?" "Search me."

Keep one's shirt on: calm down; don't get too excited.

e.g. "Cool off! Keep your shirt on. This is not the end of the world."

I am like you: we share the same opinion.

e.g. "I don't like cheese in my food." "I am like you: cheese makes me feel sick."

See to it right away: take care of a complaint or problem.

e.g. "The tap is leaking." "Yes, I'll see to it right away."

See where you're coming from: confirm understanding.

e.g. "So, what you're saying is that it was a misunderstanding. Now, I see where you're coming from."

I spoke too soon: spoke without getting all the facts.

e.g. "You were wrong about that." "I'm sorry. Maybe I spoke too soon."

So much for that: that's the end of that.

e.g. "Well, so much for that. I'm not going to get involved any more. That's it!"

Sorry I asked: I wish I had not asked.

e.g. "I didn't pass my test." "Sorry I asked."

Spare me the details: don't want to hear; avoid an unpleasant subject.

e.g. "Today I got fired." "Spare me the details!"

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 divorce."

What about it?: so what?

e.g. "You were late for the meeting." "What about it? I didn't want to come in the first place."

What about you?: what's your choice?

e.g. "I'll have a beer. What about you?'

What else is new?: it is not new.

e.g. "Last night my husband came home dead drunk." "What else is new?" (i.e. he is always drunk)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, June 25, 2018

Common Colloquial Expressions for ESL Learners


Common Colloquial Expressions for ESL Learners

Expressing an opinion

As I see it
e.g. As I see it, the cold weather is going to stay for some time.

If you ask me
e.g. If you ask me, the weather is extremely cold and frigid.

The way I look at it
e.g. The way I look at it, gas price is going to go up again.

Expressing reassurance and support

We can get to the bottom of this.
e.g. Trust me, we can get to the bottom of this.

You're doing the best you can
e.g. Believe me, you're doing the best you can.

Expressing an alternative

All that's left
e.g. All that's left is to declare bankruptcy.

If all else fails
e.g. If all else fails, you can turn to your parents for financial support.

If nothing else works
e.g. If nothing else works, go on a fast to lose those extra pounds.

Expressing warning

Just a heads-up
e.g. Just a heads-up: don't go to that neighborhood at night all by yourself..

You’d better not
e.g. You'd better not put all your money on that stock; it's like putting all your eggs in one basket.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wrong Choice of Words

Effective writing involves not only having a good vocabulary but also knowing how to choose the right words to express the right ideas. There are many English words that are frequently confused and misused.

Fewer / Less
Fewer is used for items that can be counted; less is used for items that cannot be counted.

e.g. Fewer people came to the meeting today than yesterday.
e.g. We have less money to spend on this trip than we used to have.

Moral / Morale
Moral as a noun means a standard of behavior or teaching of a story; morale as a noun means a positive state of mind with reference to confidence.

e.g. Not to take advantage of the poor is a moral act (as an adjective).
e.g. The moral of the story is that dishonesty never pays off.
e.g. This victory has increased the morale of the soldiers.

Farther / Further
Father refers to greater distance; further means more or greater intensity.

e.g. Our new house is farther from the lake than from the river.
e.g. The demonstration only led to further racial tension.

Allow / Allow of
Allow: permit; allow of: leave room for.

e.g. The regulation does not allow you to do this.
e.g. The regulation is so clear and specific that it does not allow of any other interpretation.

Bereaved / Bereft
Bereaved: taken away by death; bereft: being taken away or deprived of.

e.g. He was bereaved of his parents when he was a child.
e.g. He was bereft of all his possessions when he went bankrupt.

Definite / Definitive
Definite: clear and unmistakable; definitive: final and unchangeable.

e.g. The path going forward is definite with its goals carefully outlined.
e.g. The proposal is definitive with no further amendment.

Negligent / Negligible
Negligent: careless; negligible: that may be disregarded, not very important.

e.g. That officer is always negligent of his duties; he has been warned by his supervisor on several occasions.
e.g. These details are negligible; you don’t need to include them in the report.

Spoiled / Spoilt
Spoiled: (past tense or past participle of spoil) lay waste, rob; spoilt: mar or ruin.

e.g. Your car accident spoiled my vacation: I had to cancel the trip and take care of you.
e.g. You are a spoilt child!

Aside / beside
Aside: to one side; beside: by the side of.

e.g. We turned aside from the main road to avoid the heavy traffic.
e.g. The mother put the toddler beside her.

Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

Monday, June 18, 2018

Learn Some Common Colloquial Expressions


Common colloquial expressions for ESL learners

Expressing an opinion

As I see it

e.g. As I see it, this cold weather is going to stay for some time even though spring has officially come.

e.g. Well, as I see it, Trump will become the presidential nominee.

If you ask me

e.g. If you ask me, the weather is extremely cold and frigid.

e.g You're all wrong, if you ask me

The way I look at it

e.g. The way I look at it, gas price is going to go up again.

e.g. They're going to get married, whether you like it or not; that's the way I look at it.

Expressing reassurance and support

Get to the bottom of this.

e.g. Trust me, we can get to the bottom of this, and find out who is really behind this.

e.g. Don't worry; we'll get to the bottom of this. Just leave it to us!

You're doing the best you can

e.g. Trust me, you're doing the best you can.

e.g. You'll ace it; you're doing the best you can.

Expressing an alternative

All that's left

e.g. All that's left is to declare bankruptcy; you've no other option.

e.g. Take it or leave it; that's all that's left.

If all else fails

e.g. If all else fails, turn to your parents for financial help.

e.g. Talk to the manager. If all else fails, resign and look for another job.

If nothing else works

e.g. If nothing else works, go on a fast to lose those extra pounds.

e.g. You're doing the best you can. If nothing else works, just leave it to God.

Expressing warning

Just a heads-up

e.g. Just a heads-up: don't go to that neighborhood at night all by yourself.

e.g. He's not an honest guy. Just a heads-up if you go out with him.

You'd better not

e.g. You'd better not put all your money on that stock; it's like putting all your eggs in one basket.

e.g. He is very persuasive and untrustworthy. You'd better not believe every word he says. 


Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Learn English Tenses


English tenses may be challenging to ESL learners because some learners may not have tenses in their own native language; for example, the Chinese language uses adverbs (e.g. "today," "yesterday," "tomorrow") to indicate the time element or sequence without changing the verbs (i.e. the tenses).

In English, the Present Tense is used when something is factual; that is, it is true all the time.

e.g. She is my daughter (a fact that is true all the time).
e.g. He likes hamburgers (a fact that is true as of now, though it may change in the future).

e.g. He used to like hamburgers (he liked hamburgers in the past, but he no longer likes them)
e.g. He liked hamburgers (a fact that was true in the past; the focus is not on the present).

The Present Continuous Tense is used to indicate that an action is going on or continuing at the present moment.

e.g. You are reading my blog page on the Present Tense and the Present Continuous Tense.

If you say "the actor is singing beautifully (the use of the Present Continuous Tense)," you are referring to "what the actor is doing right now -- singing beautifully." But you can also say "the actor sings beautifully" when you are referring not just to "what he is doing right now -- singing beautifully" but also to the fact that "the actor is always a good singer." See, you can use both the Present Tense and the Present Continuous Tense; it all depends on what you are referring to.

There is another use of the Present Continuous Tense: to indicate an action or event that will definitely take place very soon.

e.g. He is coming back soon (an event that is definite and will happen very soon).e.g. He will come (the Future Tense) back next week (a mere statement of a future event).

To sum up, you use the Present Tense for what is true or factual all the time, or at least for a certain period of time. Other than that, it is more appropriate to use the Present Continuous Tense for a present event or an action that will happen soon.

To learn more tenses in greater detail, go to Effective Writing Made Simple.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions


Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Beat about the bush; prevaricate; not being direct.
e.g. Don't beat about the bush; tell me what's on your mind.

Pull a fast one: trick or deceive.
e.g. Don't try to pull a fast one on me: I wasn't born yesterday.

Get one's teeth into: make a vigorous start.
e.g. Look, he's very serious; he really gets his teeth into his project.

At a pinch: in emergency.
e.g. You may need this sum of money at a pinch.

Make a dead set at: very determined to.
e.g. He made a dead set at getting that house on the market.

Bone up on: study hard.
e.g. If you wish to pass your test, you'd better bone up on it.

At that: in addition.
e.g. The restaurant was expensive, and the service was bad at that.

In deep water: in a difficult situation.
e.g. I understand that you are in deep water, now that you've lost your job.

Boo-boo: an error.
e.g. This is just a boo-boo; don't take it too seriously.

Odd fish: an unusual type of person.
e.g. I must say your brother is an odd fish: the way he dresses himself, and the way he behaves.

Fed up: bored.
e.g. I'm fed up with what's going on.

In the family way: pregnant.
e.g. My daughter is in the family way; I'm going to be a grand parent.

Get cracking: start.
e.g. We don't have all the time in the world; come on, get cracking.

Get out of bed of the wrong side: be irritable.
e.g. Your Mom seems to have got out of bed on the wrong side.

Gasping: urgently in need of something.
e.g. I'm gasping for a drink.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Confusing Words


Confusing Words and Phrases

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

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 singin

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.

 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.

INGENIOUS / INGENUOUS

Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.

e.g. I must say that was an ingenious way to steal the money.

e.g. His response was sincere and ingenuous.

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: being nice and showing care

e.g. Be gentle with the baby.

 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..

FRAGILE / FRAIL

Fragile: delicate, easily broken.

e.g. This piece of antique is fragile; please handle it with care.

Frail: weak in health; without strong support.

e.g. Are you OK? You look pale and frail.

e.g. The Senator received frail support from his party.

PERIODIC / PERIODICAL

Periodic: occurring again and again.

e.g. The singer has never really retired with periodic appearance on TV.

Periodical: published at regular intervals.

e.g. This is a periodical magazine -- published once a month.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018