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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Choosing the Correct Words

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.

Currant Current

Currant means a kind of black berry; current means a movement of air or water; or of the present time.
e.g. We enjoy the dessert made with honey and currant.
e.g. The water may not be safe for swimming because there is a strong current below the water surface.
e.g. His secretary always keeps him updated with current affairs.

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.

Reign Rein

Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.

e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to means responsible to someone; accountable for means responsible for something or having to explain.

e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions.

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.

Emigrate / Immigrate

Emigrate
 means to move to a country; immigrate means to come to country.
e.g. Many people like to emigrate to the United States.
e.g. Those who immigrate from other countries must abide by the laws in this country.

 Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Learn Some Colloquial Expressions

Killer: a very funny joke.
e.g. That last one was really a killer;  everybody laughed.

Head above water: out of debt.
e.g. Nowadays, it is not easy to keep your head above water.

Mean-green: money.
e.g. Can I borrow a little mean-green from you?

Kick back: relax and enjoy.
e.g. I really want to kick back and enjoy the music.

Shag: depart.
e.g. I gotta shag now!

Kick the bucket
: die.
e.g. He kicked the bucket when he smashed his car into the wall.

Keep one's cool: calm down and in control..
e.g. The burglar was able to keep his cool when he was stopped by the policeman.

Jammed up: in trouble.
e.g. He got himself jammed up (arrested) with the police

Face-off
: a confrontation.
e.g. After my face-off with the manager, I quit the job.

Screw around
: waste time.
e.g. Stop screwing around! Find something to do!

Cop out: plead guilty.
e.g. I decided not to cop out and got a lawyer instead.

In a jiffy: soon.
e.g. The manager will see you in a jiffy.

Next to nothing: hardly anything.
e.g. “Did she leave you anything at all?” “Well, next to nothing.”

Head above water: out of debt.
e.g. Nowadays, it is not easy to keep your head above water.

Mean-green: money.
e.g. Can I borrow a little mean-green from you?

Smoke eater: a fire fighter.
e.g. Do you really want to be a smoke eater -- a dangerous occupation?

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, February 18, 2019

Choosing the Right Words

Writing has to do with words, in particular, the choice of words. A good stock of vocabulary is of course important. But other than that, you also need to know the exact meaning of each word so that you will use it correctly. There are many words that may sound similar, but they have different meanings, and thus they are confusing. 

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 singing.

Reign Rein

Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).

Defuse / Diffuse

Defuse means to decrease the danger, such as deactivate a bomb; diffuse means to spread over a wide area.
e.g. It is difficult to defuse the conflicts in the Middle East.
e.g. Once you open the bottle of fragrant herbs, their scents will diffuse.

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.

Faint / Feint

Faint (both as a noun and a verb) means loss of consciousness; feint means a misleading attack.
e.g. She fainted when she heard the bad news.
e.g. The robber, who gave a feint, began to attack the policeman.

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.

Hail / Hale

Hail means to greet or salute; hale means healthy and strong.
e.g. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
e.g. A man is hale when his complexion is rosy.
e.g. This dress is too loose for you (not tight enough).

Some time / Sometime / Sometimes

Some time means a period of time.
Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.
Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.
e.g. We have been for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't -- that's our relationship.

Lose Loose

Lose means being unable to find; loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).

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 elegant dress.

Foul / Fowl

Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl  a fowl is a bird, such as hen.
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)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Effective Writing Made Simple


Effective writing is a lifelong communication skill. To master this skill, useful information is needed. But information is useful only when you can apply it to your writing. It is the application of useful and appropriate information that makes a difference in learning effective writing skill, and it is what this book is all about.

Learning effective writing requires four easy steps. You need to find out what to do in order to write well. The next step is to do it. Strangely enough, many people know what to do, but they don’t do it. Then, you need to make sure that you are doing the right things when you write. The last step is to practice and practice writing until you become confident and proficient in your writing.

This book provides you with guidelines and the right information, including basic grammar, correct sentence construction, effective use of words, paragraph development, style and usage, with many examples and illustrations to show you how to write well.

Stephen Lau


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Everyday American Idioms

Learn some idiomatic expressions. The English language is rich in idioms. A student with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions, and debates, not to mention in effective writing.

In hot water: in serious trouble.

e.g. If you don't listen to me, you'll find yourself in hot water.

A rough house: a fight.

e.g. We'd better leave before there is a rough house.

All the rage: fashionable; in great demand.


e.g. Pink will be all the rage this summer.

Article of faith: an important element in one's philosophy.

e.g. Honesty is one of my articles of faith.

Come off second best: lose a fight or contest.

e.g. Despite all his efforts, he came off second best in the competition.

Writing on the wall: a warning of impending doom.

e.g. There were obvious signs that the company would soon be out of business; they should have seen the writing on the wall.

Third degree: physical or mental torture.
e.g. The police gave the suspect the third degree, but were unable to get any information about the crime.

Let the cat out of the bag: give away a secret

e.g. If you tell him that, you are letting a cat out of the bag; he has a big mouth!
Come to naught: come to nothing.

e.g. Despite all the efforts, the project came to naught.

A diamond in the rough: a person or thing with hidden value or qualities.
e.g. Don’t underestimate her—she’s a diamond in the rough.

Get on the wrong side of someone: to displease, or get out of favor
e.g. If you keep on bugging her, you will soon get on the wrong side of her.

In the melting-pot: not yet decided.
e.g. Because the President is not here, all the arrangements are backin the melting-pot again.

As safe as houses: very safe and secure.
e.g. Your money invested in this stock is as safe as houses.

Bad blood: unfriendly feelings.

e.g. There has always been bad blood between the two brothers.

Attitude of mind: mindset, way of thinking or feeling.
e.g. In order to succeed, you must have the right attitude of mind.

Bug off: stop bothering.

e.g. Bug off! And leave me alone!

Capitalize on something: make the most out of; exploit something to one’s advantage.
e.g. You should capitalize on your talents, instead of whiling away your time.

Keep an even keel: remain cool and calm.
e.g. In this situation, it is difficult to keep an even keel and not panic.

Have other fish to fry: other more important work to do.

e.g. I am not wasting my time over this matter; I just have other fish to fry.

Stephen Lau
All About Stephen Lau

Friday, February 15, 2019

Correct Use of Prepositions

The use of prepositions is one of the difficult aspects of learning English. A preposition is a functional word that appears before nouns and relates to some other constructions in the sentence.

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 prepositional phrases:


DRIFT

Drift apart: separate slowly.

e.g. He drifted apart from his friends and lived a secluded life.

Drift back: go back to someone or something slowly.

e.g. He drifted back to her former girlfriend, and they were soon married.

Drift off: move away slowly.

e.g. The boat drifted off and it disappeared in the thick fog.

Drift off to sleep: fall asleep gradually.

e.g. He sat on the sofa, and finally drifted off to sleep.


FROWN

Frown at: scowl at someone or something.

e.g. She frowned at my cat and gave her a kick.

Frown on: show disapproval.
e.g. His parents frown on everything he does.

HOLD

Hold no brief for: tolerate someone or something.

e.g. I hold no brief for that kind of behavior.

Hold off: delay; restrain.

e.g. The air strike might hold off the enemies for some time.

Hold one's end up: carry one's share of the bargain or burden.

e.g. We expect you to hold your end up and keep your promise to back us up.

e.g. With only that much money left, I don't know how long we could hold out.

Hold still for something: put up with something.

e.g. It is not easy to hold still for that kind of rude remark.

GROUND

Ground in: instruct.

e.g. We should ground our children in love and compassion as they grow up.

Ground on: form a foundation for.

e.g. His intelligence was grounded on reading books on wisdom.

DANCE

Dance on air: be very happy.

e.g. When she heard the good news, she was dancing on air.

Dance to another tune: change one,s manner, act very differently.

e.g. What I,m going to tell you will make you dance to another tune.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Learning American Idioms

Learning American idioms is as important as learning the vocabulary, the sentence structure, and the grammar usage of American English. 

Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them. American idioms are no exception; they reflect American culture at every social level. They are used in everyday life, in speaking and in writing, in movies and on television, and by people from all walks of life. 

Through thick and thin: through good times as well as bad times
e.g. Don’t worry! I’ll stick by you through thick and thin.

Inch along: move very slowly
e.g. Business was inching along because of the economy.

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

Above and beyond: more than is required
e.g. Asking the employees to work extra hours but without paying them is above and beyond their loyalty.

Vested interest: a personal stake
e.g. He showed a vested interest in his uncle’s business.

Act one’s age: behave maturely
e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

Under one’s own steam: by one’s own effort 
e.g. He cannot succeed under his own steam; he needs the support of his family.

Feel like: have a desire for something
e.g. I feel like eating a hamburger.

Dance to another tune: change to a different attitude or behavior
e.g. If your parents were here, you would dance to another tune.


As easy as pie: very easy
e.g. Cooking a turkey is as easy as pie.

Take something on the chin: get a direct blow
e.g. The bad news was a shock to me; I took it on the chin.

Flip-flop: change sides in an issue
e.g. Politicians who flip-flop too much are unpopular with voters.

Hold one’s end up: do one’s part; reliable
e.g. I know I can count on you; you always hold your end up.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau