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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Prepositional Words and Phrases for ESL Learners


Labor for: work on behalf of someone or something.

e.g. I labored for you all day long, and you didn’t even thank me.

Labor over: work hard on.

e.g. The lawyer labored over my case for months.

e.g. The doctor labored over his patient for hours.


Ask about: find out more about.

e.g. I want to ask about my application for that position.

Ask after: ask about the health and wellbeing of someone.

e.g. My in-laws asked after you.

Ask around: request information from a number of people.

e.g. I plan to ask around to see what people think about the new mayor.

Ask back: invite someone to come again.

e.g. Because of your rudeness, they will never ask you back.

Ask for: request for someone or something.

e.g. The policeman is asking for you.

Ask of: ask of something from someone.

e.g. I want to ask a favor of you.

Ask out: invite someone to go out.
e.g. I asked her out to dinner, but she refused.

Ask over: invite someone to visit.

e.g. I asked my neighbor over to fix my computer.

Therefore, learn more prepositional phrases with different meanings when used with different prepositions.


Run down: hit with a vehicle

e.g. The old man was run down by the bus.

Run down: stop functioning

e.g. My lawn mower is running down; I need to get a new one.

Run into: meet by accident

e.g. Yesterday, I ran into an old friend that I had not seen for decades.

Run out of: not have any more of something

e.g. Hurry! We're running out of time!

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, December 24, 2018

Learn Some Slang


Learn some slang and colloquial expressions everyday:

In all conscience
: No!

e.g. You cannot, in all conscience, ask him for money again. No way!

Even Stephen: fair shares.

e.g. Now I should get my even Stephen: you owe me $500.

That’s the ticket!: That is what is required.

e.g. “I’ve got it! At last, my first digital phone!” “That’s the ticket!

Can it!: Be quiet!

e.g. “That’s enough out of you. Can it!

Take it or leave it: That is all there is. You have no choice.

e.g. “I want an orange.” “We only have bananas; take it or leave it.”

Don’t you know it!: You’re exactly right!

e.g. “Man, is it freezing cold today!” “Don’t you know it!

Get my drift?: Do you understand what I’m getting at?

e.g. “I want to retire. Get my drift?“ “Sure.”

Tell me another: That’s a lie; that’s not true.

e.g. “I was late because the train broke down.” “Ch, come on! Tell me another.”

Give me a break!: Stop bothering me; give me another chance

e.g. “Can I bum a few bucks from you?” “Come on. Give me a break!”

e.g. “Sorry I messed it up. Can you give me a break?”

Hang a left: turn left.

e.g. Hang a left when you reach that intersection.

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!

Go west: die.

e.g. When I go West, I don’t want a memorial service.

Thanks but no thanks
: I’m not interested.

e.g. “You want this cheesecake?” “Thanks but no thanks; I’m watching my weight.”

Go ahead: Please do it.

e.g. “I want to try this.” “Go ahead.”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Words Commonly Misused by ESL Learners

Here are some of the words which are commonly misused by ESL learners:

Good and Well

Good is an adjective; well can be an adjective or an adverb.

e.g. The food looks good. (adjective: good taste)
e.g. This is good advice. (adjective)
e.g. You look well today. (adjective: in good health)
e.g.  The engine works well. (adverb: functions efficiently)

Human and Humane

Human refers to a person; humane means considerate and merciful.

e.g. This is profound human wisdom.
e.g. This is not a humane way of treating an animal

Common and Mutual

Common refers to many or all; mutual means “reciprocal.”

e.g. This is our common interest.
e.g. Our love and respect are mutual, and that is why we can get along.

Ability and Capacity

Ability is the power to do something; capacity is the power to hold or contain.

e.g. We have the ability to finish this project on time.
e.g. This room has the capacity for a few hundred people.

Genius and Genus

Genius means a talented person; genus refers to class or kind.

e.g. Albert Einstein was a genius.
e.g.  This bird belongs to an uncommon genus.

Healthful and Healthy

Healthful means making you healthy; healthy means possessing good health.

e.g. This food is healthful.
e.g. We are not living in a healthful environment.
e.g. You are healthy, and your dog is also healthy.

If and Whether . . or

If suggests a condition; whether . . . or suggests doubt.

e.g. If it rains, we will stay home.
e.g. I wondered whether the money was stolen or not.

Inferior than and Inferior to

Inferior to means not as good as; inferior than is not a standard idiom.

e.g. My performance was inferior to yours.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, December 17, 2018

Use of Pronouns

A pronoun is a word that stands for a noun. Effective use of pronouns gives flexibility in your writing.

e.g. The manager left for New York. He took a train.

e.g. I bought a winter coat. It cost me one hundred dollars.

Relative pronouns (whowhomwhichthat) introduce clauses that describe nouns or pronouns. These relative clauses can be restrictive (that is, containing essential information), or non-restrictive (that is, containing only additional but non-essential information).

Compare the following pairs of sentences:

e.g. The man who shot the policeman was an illegal immigrant. (correct)

The relative clause above identifies the man, and therefore is essential to meaning of the sentence.

e.g. The man, who shot the policeman, was an illegal immigrant. (incorrect)

The non-restrictive relative clause above provides only additional information. The use of a non-restrictive clause with the two commas further implies that it can be deleted; however, without who shot the policeman, the sentence would not make much sense. unless you would emphasize the fact that he was an illegal immigrant. 

e.g. The reporter who took the photos is now being sued for invasion of privacy. (correct)

The relative clause above is restrictive because it identifies the reporter being sued.

e.g. The reporter, who took the photos, is now being sued for invasion of privacy. (correct)

The relative clause above becomes non-restrictive with the addition of two commas, and “who took the photos” becomes extra information non-essential to the meaning of the sentence. The sentence without the non-restrictive clause “who took the photos” would still make sense, and therefore is correct as it stands.

Knowing the difference between a restrictive and non-restrictive relative clause will help you in effective sentence construction.

Incorrect use of subjective pronouns is a common grammatical error.

e.g. My father and I went to see the show. (NOT meboth of us went to see the show)

Compare to this one” My father took me to the show.”

e.g. It is I who made the decision. (NOT memade the decision.)

e.g. The real winners are we ourselves. (NOT uswe are the real winners.)

e.g. The man who called us was who? (NOT whomwho called us?)

e.g. The woman who lost her purse was she. (NOT hershe lost her purse.)

e.g. John and he went to the movie. (NOT himboth went to the movie.)

The correct use of pronouns can be difficult with certain expressions, such as, as and more than. The following pairs of sentences are correct, but the meaning is different.

e.g. She likes him more than I. (She likes him more than like him.)

e.gShe likes him more than me. (She likes him more than she likes me.)

e.g. I like Peter better than she. (I like Peter better than she likes Peter.)

e.g. I like Peter better than her. (I like Peter better than I like her.)

Use possessive pronouns with gerunds (words ending in ing) correctly.

e.g. You don’t like my going to the movie by myself. (NOT me going: you don’t like the “going” not “me” the person.)

e.g. Your smirking irritates me. (NOT you smirking: not “you” but your “smirking” irritates me)

A pronoun must agree with its antecedent (the noun that a pronoun refers to).

e.g. All is well. (referring to the sum of all things)

e.g. All are well. (referring to a number of people)

e.g. Everyone wants to get his or her application submitted. (NOT their)

e.g. None of them is going to succeed. (NOT are: the subject is none)

e.g. Some is better than none. (referring to a quantity)

e.g. Some are good. (referring to a number of things)

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Do You Know Their Differences?


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 movie star looks decorous in that simple but elegant dress.

Foul / Fowl

Foul means dirty or offensive.

e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)

Fowl is a bird, such as hen.

e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.

Pretense / Pretension

Pretense is to make believe; pretension is a claim

e.g. He made no pretense to like her (He did not pretend that he liked her).
e.g. She made no pretension to that award. (She did not say she got that award)

Genteel / Gentle

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.

e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he really rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Gentle:  soft and well-behaved.

e.g. He is a gentleman: he is especially gentle with the ladies.

Terminable / Terminal

Terminable: can be ended.

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

Terminal: at the end.

e.g. The doctor told the patient that she had terminal cancer.

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.

Lose Loose

Lose means being unable to find.

e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).

Loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).

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).

Bulk / Hulk
Bulk: in large quantities; the greater part of.

e.g. His business was selling brown rice in bulk.
e.g. The billionaire gave the bulk of his estate to charity.

Hulk: a big, clumsy person.

e.g. If you do nothing to your obesity, you will soon become a hulk.

Some time / Sometime / Sometimes

Some time means a period of time.

e.g. We have been waiting for the bus for some time.

Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.

e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?

Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.

e.g. Sometimes we are on good terms, and sometimes we are not -- that's our relationship.

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to someone; accountable for something (meaning "responsible for").

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Learn These Everyday Expressions

Learn These Everyday Expressions

Learning a language takes time and effort, especially if it is not your first language. Even if it is your mother tongue, you still need time and effort to master it because almost every language has its own slang and colloquial expressions, and the English language is no exception.

Ask me another: I don't know.

e.g. "Does your daughter want a baby?" "Ask me another!"

Fork out: pay

e.g. Well, everybody has to fork out $30 for the farewell present to the boss.

In the picture: informed.

e.g. Thank you for putting me in the picture; now I know what's really going on.

Beat: broke, no money.

e.g. Without a job, we are beat, no copper and no bread.

Go: attempt.

e.g. Have a go at doing this on your own.

All the rage: fashionable.

e.g. Wearing a big hat will be all the rage this summer.

Answer is a lemon: no!

e.g. "Can I come with you? "The answer is a lemon!"

How goes it?: what has happened lately?

e.g. “How goes it?” “I just got married!”

In the same boat: in the same difficult situation.

e.g. I just got fired from my job; now we're in the same boat.

e.g. We're now in the same boatflat broke (meaning having no money).

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau