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Friday, July 27, 2018

Knowing Their Differences


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

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.

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.

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: kind, friendly, mild.

e.g. Be gentle to my puppy.

DISPOSABLE / INDISPOSED

Disposable: cant be removed or got rid of.

e.g. This machine is disposable; we can do without it

Indisposed: not feeling well; unwilling to

e.g. You look indisposed. Is there something wrong with you?

e.g. Many people are indisposed to working on weekends.

WANDER / WONDER

Wander means to walk aimlessly; wonder means to consider or question some issue.

e.g. The hiker lost his direction and wandered in the forest for some hours.

e.g. I wondered if he would come to the birthday party. 

PROVIDING THAT / PROVIDED THAT

Providing that is incorrect.

e.g. You can go out to play provided (that) you have finished your home work.

e.g. You can keep the book for another week providing that no one has reserved it (incorrect: provided that should be used instead).

TERMINABLE / TERMINAL

Terminable: can be ended.

e.g. Your employment is only temporary and terminable at any time.

Terminal: at the end.

e.g. The doctor told him that he had terminal cancer.

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.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Some Common Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions are sentences or phrases whose meanings cannot be easily worked out from the words they contain. As an ESL learner, avail yourself the opportunity to learn some idiomatic expressions ivery day. Here are some common ones:


In the clear: safe, secure; out of debt.

e.g. He was suspected of driving under the influence, but now he is in the clear.
e.g. After paying back his gambling debts, he is now in the clear.


Get cracking (informal): start doing something; it is similar to get going.

e.g. Let's get cracking, we still have much to finish before the day is over.
e.g. We'd better get going if we don't want to miss the flight.


For good: for ever.

e.g. After their quarrel, she left him for good.
e.g. In the accident, our new car was totaled (destroyed) for good. 


In the raw: without material comforts; very poor.

e.g. If you had been a refugee, you would know what it would be like living in the raw.

In the same boat: in the same bad situation.

e.g. We are in the same boat now that I,  too, have lost my job.

Gt something into one's head: get an idea stuck into one's head; become obsessed or stubborn with an idea.

e.g. Don't get it into your head that she will never help you financially; after all, she is your mother.

Strange to say: surprisingly.

e.g. The car plunged into the waterfall; strange to say, the drive survived without any injury.

For a song: very cheaply

e.g. Do you want my car? I'l sell it to you for a song.

Red-letter day: a very important day.

e.g. Tomorrow is a red-letter day: my son is getting married.

Also, learn some American idioms: Everyday American Idioms for ESL Learners.

Look here: emphasizing a point.

e.g. "Look here, I can't help you right now; I'm cooking our dinner."

e.g. "Look here, it was impolite to talk to your parents like that."



Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

Common Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions are sentences or phrases whose meanings cannot be easily worked out from the words they contain. As an ESL learner, avail yourself the opportunity to learn some common idiomatic expressions every day. Here are some common ones:


In the clear: safe, secure; out of debt.

e.g. He was suspected of driving under the influence, but now he is in the clear.
e.g. After paying back his gambling debts, he is now in the clear.


Get cracking (informal): start doing something; it is similar to get going.

e.g. Let's get cracking, we still have much to finish before the day is over.
e.g. We'd better get going if we don't want to miss the flight.


For good: for ever.

e.g. After their quarrel, she left him for good.
e.g. In the accident, our new car was totaled (destroyed) for good. 


In the raw: without material comforts; very poor.

e.g. If you had been a refugee, you would know what it would be like living in the raw.

In the same boat: in the same bad situation.

e.g. We are in the same boat now that I,  too, have lost my job.

Gt something into one's head: get an idea stuck into one's head; become obsessed or stubborn with an idea.

e.g. Don't get it into your head that she will never help you financially; after all, she is your mother.

Strange to say: surprisingly.

e.g. The car plunged into the waterfall; strange to say, the drive survived without any injury.

For a song: very cheaply

e.g. Do you want my car? I'l sell it to you for a song.

Red-letter day: a very important day.

e.g. Tomorrow is a red-letter day: my son is getting married.

Also, learn some American idioms: Everyday American Idioms for ESL Learners.

Look here: emphasizing a point.

e.g. "Look here, I can't help you right now; I'm cooking our dinner."

e.g. "Look here, it was impolite to talk to your parents like that."



Stephen Lau
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Correct Use of Prepositions

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and that of another noun or pronoun.

e.g. The book is on the table.

e.g. This telephone message came from your wife.

e.g. Everybody can go except you.

e.g. The house is situated between the river and the wood.

e.g. That piece of cake was shared among the three boys. (NOT between: between is for two; among is for more than two)

Some words can be a preposition as well as a conjunction.

e.g. He stood before the window. (preposition indicating the relationship between the man and the window)

e.g. Before the police came, the man had fled. (before is a subordinating conjunction joining two otherwise independent clauses the police came and the man had fled)

Consider the following sentences:

e.g. The police came, the man had fled. (incorrect: without a conjunction)

e.g. The police came, and the man had fled. (correct with a conjunction)

e.g. Before the police came, the man had fled (improved: showing the sequence of events with the addition of the subordinating conjunction before)

Do not use prepositions unnecessarily.

e.g. Where are you going to? (NO to)

e.g. Don’t go near to the lake. (NO to)

e.g. The child fell off from his bike. (NO from)

A preposition can introduce a word group called a prepositional phrase or verbal idiom:

     Accompanied by

e.g. All children will be accompanied by their parents.

     Accompanied with

e.g. His speech was accompanied with slander and accusation. (linked with; containing)

     Accountable for

e.g. As an adult, you are accountable for your actions. (responsible for)

     Accountable to

e.g. Your are directly accountable to the manager, and not your supervisor. (reporting to a person)

     Agree on

e.g. This is something we can never agree on.

     Agree to

e.g. I agreed to paying the damages.
     Agree with
e.g. I can never agree with you as far as this is concerned.

     Angry at

e.g. I was angry at your irresponsible behavior.

     Angry with

e.g. Are you still angry with me?
     Contend for
e.g. The job situation is bad: more than fifty applicants contend for that position. (compete for)

     Contend with

e.g. To succeed, you must contend with your lack of confidence. (overcome an obstacle)

     Differ from

e.g. Your account of the event is different from that of your brother.

     Differ with

e.g. You differ with your brother on this issue. (disagree)

     Grateful for

e.g. We should all be grateful for our blessings from God.

     Grateful to

e.g. You should be grateful to your parents for what they have done for you.

     Impatient at

e.g. Now I am becoming more impatient at your lack of enthusiasm. (angry)
     Impatient for
e.g. We are impatient for a response from the government. (waiting eagerly for a result)

     Reconcile to

e.g. My grandfather reconciled himself to old age. (accept an outcome)

     Reconcile with (resolve differences)

e.g. The two brothers finally reconciled with each other and resolved their differences.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Colloquial Expressions

Yesterday wouldn't be too soon: as soon as possible.

e.g. "When do you want me to give this to you?" "Yesterday wouldn't be too soon!"

Over my dead body: absolutely not!

e.g. "Can I come with you? " "Over my dead body!"

No can do
: I cannot do it..

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

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."

Snap it up: be quick.

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

Worst-case scenario
: the worst consequence.

e.g.  A blizzard is coming. The worst-case scenario is that all public transport will be suspended.

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.

What would you say if: asking for an opinion; what about?

e.g. "I heard you were recently offered a job." "What would you say if I decline the offer?"

Not budging
 / Not giving an inch / Sticking to my guns: Being firm.

e.g. "We're not going to cancel the charges. We're not budging."
e.g. Despite the protests, the government would not give an inch.
e.g.  "I'm not moving out. That's out of the question. I'm sticking to my guns."

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."

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."

Call for an apology: Demand an apology.

e.g. Your reckless behavior calls for an apology.

In a nutshell: In summary

e.g. "We're having serious financial and relationship problems." "In a nutshell, you want to divorce your wife?"

No can do: I cannot do it..

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

Beats me: I don't know; I've no idea.

e.g. "Do you know how this works?" "Beats me."

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, July 23, 2018

Resources for Learning and Mastering English

American Idioms

Sit on one’s hands: refuse to give any help
e.g. When we needed your help; you just sat on your hands.

Sit tight: wait patiently
e.g. Just relax and sit tight!
Skeleton in the closet: a hidden and shocking secret
e.g. That he was a gay was skeleton in the closet.
Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Shoot off: depart quickly.

e.g. You'd better shoot off before the storm comes.

Go down with: be accepted or approved by.

e.g. The President's speech went down with the Spanish community.

Alive and kicking: in good health.

e.g. "How is she doing?" "Very much alive and kicking."

Choice of Words

Exhausting / Exhaustive

Exhausting means making one very tired; exhaustive means very thorough, covering a lot.

e.g. To remove all the books from this room is exhausting work.

e.g. This is an exhaustive inquiry, covering every aspect of what happened.

Baleful / Baneful

Baleful means evil; baneful means harmful.

e.g. I don't like your friend, especially the baleful looks on his eyes. 

e.g. Don't drink too much alcohol; beware of its long-term baneful effect on your health.

Indoor / Indoors

Indoor is an adjective; indoors is an adverb.

e.g. Bowling is an indoor game.

e.g. It's going to rain; let's go indoors.

Prepositional Words and Phrases

HEAD

Head off: intercept or divert someone or something.

e.g. I think we can head off the problem this time.

e.g. Don't worry. We can head it off with another new project

Head out: begin a journey.

e.g. What time do we head out tomorrow morning?

Head up: be in charge of something.

e.g. I think I shall head up the committee soon.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

                                           Learning and Mastering English