Better English for You

<b>Better English for You</b>
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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Why These Sentences Are Incorrect

Which of the following sentences are incorrect?

(1) Coming home from school yesterday, I met my cousin who came to see me.

(2) My cousin is older than I. An undergraduate of Harvard University who is studying medicine.

(3) The man was screaming for help. No response.

(4) I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours, I felt completely exhausted.


(2) My cousin is older than I. An undergraduate of Harvard University who is studying medicine. 


“An undergraduate of Harvard University who is studying medicine” is a subordinate clause, which has to be attached to a complete sentence.

My cousin, who is older than I, is an undergraduate studying medicine at Harvard University. (improved)

My cousin is older than I. He is an undergraduate studying medicine at Harvard University. (improved)


(4) I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours, I felt completely exhausted.


Never join two independent sentences with a comma. Instead, use a period (full-stop). You may use a colon for explanation, a semi-colon to replace a conjunction, a coordinate conjunction (e.g. and, but, or, nor, for, so yet), or simply use a full-stop to have two independent sentences.

e.g. I felt completely exhausted: I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours. (improved: the colon explaining why I was exhausted)

e.g. I felt completely exhausted: I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours. (improved: the semi-colon replacing the subordinate conjunction “because” or “for”)

e.g. I felt completely exhausted because I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours.(improved)

e.g. I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours, and I felt completely exhausted. (improved)

e.g. I had worked at the computer for more than ten hours. I felt completely exhausted. (improved)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Know the Grammatical Terms


There are eight parts of speech in the English language: nounspronounsverbsadjectivesadverbsprepositionsconjunctions, and interjections

(1) Nouns are names of things (book, chair, pen), people (boy, David, policeman)

(2) Pronouns stand for nouns: I (me); we (us); he (him); she (her); it (it); they (them); who (whom). The words in brackets are object pronouns.

e.g. I like him.

e.g. We like it.

e.g. He likes her.

e.g. She likes him.

e.g. It likes them.

e.g. They like it.     

e.g. Who likes it?

e.g. Whom do you like?

(3) Verbs are words that show being:

e.g. I am a student.

e.g. You are happy.

e.g. He is poor.

e.g. We are doctors.

e.g. They are nurses.

Verbs are also words that describe an action:

e.g. I love you.

e.g. You go away!

e.g. She cries a lot.

e.g. We sleep at night.

e.g. They work in the office.

Some verbs are transitive: they need an object; some verbs are intransitive: they do not need an object; some verbs are both transitive and intransitive.

e.g. Please bring a chair. (transitive)

e.g. The sun rises. (intransitive)

e.g. He sings a song. (transitive)

e.g. He sings every morning. (intransitive)

(4) Adjectives describe nouns: e.g. a heavy chair; e.g. a pretty dress; e.g. You are happy.

(5) Adverbs describe verbs or adjectives: e.g. He eats slowly. e.g. You look very pretty.

(6) Prepositions are words that show the relationship between words.

e.g. I depend on you.

e.g. Give this to him.

e.g. We live in the United States.

e.g. They go with you.

to join sentences: andbutornorforsoyet.

e.g. Get up and go to bed.

e.g. You like him, but he does not like you.

e.g. Put it here, or put it there.

e.g. I do not eat this, nor do I drink that.

e.g. You can stay, for it is raining.

e.g. I am tired, so I lie down.

e.g. You are tired, yet you do not want to go to bed.

(8) Interjections are words used to express different levels of emotions, such as surprise: e.g. Wow! My goodness!

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Can You Tell Their Differences?

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


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: 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: 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: 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 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 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: 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: 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© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Use Pronouns Correctly

Use Pronouns Correctly

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 YorkHe 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 (i.e. containing essential information), or non-restrictive (i.e. 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 me: both of us went to see the show)

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

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

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

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

e.g. John and he went to the movie. (NOT him: both 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 I like him.)

e.g. She 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, May 2, 2019

My Book Just Published

This 145-page book is about TAO, the wisdom of Lao Tzu, the ancient sage from China more than 2,600 years ago, who authored the immortal classic Tao Te Ching on human wisdom. 

His unique and controversial wisdom shows you how to think. It is your thinking mind that may make you live longer. Continue and go through the rest of your life journey with self-awakening to the realities of your true self, of others around you, and of the world you are living in. Look at anything and everything through the lens of the TAO.

According to the TAO, the end of anything is always the beginning of something else; the material world you are living in is forever filled with these cycles of beginnings and endings. Get the profound wisdom to intuit these cycles of balance and harmony so that you may continue the rest of your life journey and live as if everything is a miracle.

Here is the outline of the book:




The Composition of the Thinking Mind
The Thinking Process
The Conscious Mind and the Subconscious Mind
The Power of the Thinking Mind
The Role of the Thinking Mind


The Ancient Wisdom
The Eastern Wisdom
The Conventional Wisdom
The Spiritual Wisdom
The Essence of True Wisdom


Tao Te Ching
Empty Mind and Reverse Thinking
The Mind and the Now
Humility and the Ego
No Judgment and No Separation
No Picking and No Choosing
No Expectation and No Over-Doing
Control and Spontaneity
Embracing and Letting Go
Attachments and Detachments
The Awakening and the Manifestation


The Step of Intent and Desire
The Step of Unlearning and Relearning
The Step of Body Awareness and Mind Focus
The Step of Being and Becoming
The Step of Actions and Inactions
The Step of Recovery and Rejuvenation
The Step of Patience and Perseverance
The Step of Accepting and Embracing
The Step of Confronting Changes and Challenges
The Step of Returning and Awakening


Click here to get your copy.

Stephen Lau

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Correct Use of Words

Correct Use of Words

Effective writing means you use the language appropriately.

Indoor and Indoors: The former is an adjective, while the latter is an adverb. 

e.g. Bowling is an indoor sport.
e.g. It's raining; let's go indoors

Pretense and PretensionPretense (Br. English "pretence") is make-belief; pretension is a claim.

e.g. She made a pretense to faint in front of the audience.
e.g. Your pretension to the money is groundless.

Welcome and Welcomed: The former is an adjective, while the latter is a  participle.

e.g. You are most welcome (i.e. you are free) to take whatever you need..
e.g. The Queen was welcomed by the President of the United States

Infer and ImplyInfer means draw a conclusion from; imply means to suggest.

e.g. I can infer from what you said that you don't like him.
e.g. Your comments imply that she was not speaking the truth.

Await and WaitAwait must have an object (meaning be in store for); wait for a person or a thing.

e.g. A big fortune awaits the person with the winning lottery ticket.
e.g. I will wait for my wife here.

Forbidding and ForebodingForbidding means discouraging; foreboding means suggesting in advance.

e.g. The embassy with its heavy iron gates has a forbidding appearance.
e.g. Look at the dark clouds and high winds foreboding an imminent storm.

Beside and BesidesBeside means next to; besides means in addition to.

e.g. He was sitting beside the President.
e.g. Besides the difficulties, you must also consider the costs of these projects.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Knowing Your Verbs

Knowing Your Verbs

Verbs govern person as well as number (whether the verb is singular or plural in form). 

Person refers to the person or the thing that is a subject or an object.

First person refers to I and we, with me and us as the object, respectively.

e.g. go. (subject)

e.g. We go.(subject)

e.g. They speak to me. (object)

e.g. They speak to us. (object)

Second person refers to you with you as the object.

e.g. You go. (subject)

e.g. They speak to you. (object)

Third person refers to hesheit, and they, with himherit, and them as the object, respectively.

e.g. He goes.

e.g. She goes.

e.g. It goes.

e.g. They go.

e.g. They speak to him. (object)

e.g. They speak to her. (object)

e.g. They speak to it. (object)

e.g. They speak to them. (object)

Verbs affect the moods or attitudes of the writer. Verbs have three moods:

Indicative mood  indicates a statement or a question.

e.g. He loves to paint.

e.g. Do you believe in God?

Imperative mood indicates making a request or command.

e.g. Please tell me the truth. (The subject “you” is understood.)

e.g. Go out! (The subject “you” is understood.)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Why These Sentences Are Incorrect

Which of the following sentences are incorrect? (1) Coming home from school yesterday, I met my cousin who came to see me. (2) My co...