Every now and then, we tend to use words that we’re not too familiar with in order to stand out, or simply to impress someone else. However, it’s the words that we think we’re using correctly that causes the most damage.
Following are the 20 words that many of us are guilty of misuse.
Ironic vs. Coincidental
Most people get this wrong. If you trip right in front of your crush, that’s not ironic—it’s coincidental (and bad luck).
Irony has three meanings, all of which include some type of opposite of what was expected. Verbal irony is when a person says one thing but actually means another. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something the characters do not. Situational irony is when a result is the opposite of what was expected.
If you trip right in front of your crush, that’s coincidental. If you are a tightrope walker who has won many competitions, and still managed to trip right in front of your crush, that’s ironic.
Accept vs. Except
These two words sound similar but mean very differently. “Accept” means to receive something willingly: “His friend accepted his invitation” or “She accepted the reason readily.” “Except” signifies exclusion: “I can go for every training except the one tomorrow.”
To help you remember, just take note that both except and exclusion start with ex.
Affect vs. Effect
What make these words even more confusing than they already are, both can be used as either a noun or a verb.
Let’s begin with the verbs. To influence something or someone, we use the word “affect”; to accomplish something, the word “effect” is used. “Your job was affected by economic slowdown” but “These new policies will be effected on Monday.”
As a noun, an effect is the result of something: “The thunderstorm had a detrimental effect on sales.” It’s usually the correct choice because the noun ‘affect’ refers to an emotional state and is very seldom used beyond the psychological circles: “The patient’s affect was undesirable.”
Lie vs. Lay
We all know that a lie means an untruth. It’s the other usage that confuses most of us. Lie also means to recline: “Why don’t you lie down and rest?” Lay requires an object: “Lay the book on the table.” Lie is something you can do by yourself, but you need an object to lay.
It get even more confusing in the past tense. The past tense of lie is—you guessed it—lay: “I laydown for an hour last night.” And the past tense of lay is laid: “I laid the book on the table.”
Bring vs. Take
The words “bring” and “take” both describe transporting something or someone from one place to another, but the right usage depends on the speaker’s point of view. Somebody brings something to you, but you take it to somewhere else: “Bring me the mail, then take your shoes to your room.”
Just keep in mind, if the movement is toward you, use “bring”; if the movement is away from you, use “take”.
Imply vs. Infer
To imply means to suggest something without saying it outright. To infer means to draw a conclusion from what someone else implies.
Just remember this- the speaker/writer implies, and the listener/reader infers.
Nauseous vs. Nauseated
These words are so commonly used interchangeably that it makes everyone confused. Still, it’s important to know the difference. “Nauseous” means causing nausea; “nauseated” means “feeling sick”.
So, if your circle includes ultra-particular grammar sticklers, never say “I’m nauseous“ unless you want them to be correcting you in front of your peers.
Comprise vs. Compose
These are two of the most commonly misused words in the English language. Comprise means “to include”; compose means “to make up”.
It all comes down to parts versus the whole. When you use comprise, you put the whole first: “The buffet comprises (includes) two sections.” When you use compose, you put the pieces first: “The five courses compose (make up) the entire dinner.”
Farther vs. Further
“Farther” refers to physical distance, while “further” is used for figurative distance. “I can’t run any farther,” but “I have nothing further to say.”
If you can substitute “more” or “additional,” use “further”.
Fewer vs. Less
Use “fewer” when you’re referring to countable things, like ingredients, people, or puppies. “I have fewer friends than my mother.”
Use “less” when referring to uncountable things, like salt, money, or love: “I wish my husband spent less of his time on games.”
English grammar can be very tricky, and, too often, the words that sound right are actually wrong. With words such as those listed above, you just have to remember the rules so that when you are about to use them, think for a little bit and know for certain that you’ve written or said the right one.
For over 15 years, Augustine’s English Classes has helped hundreds of students fall in love with the subject and excelling in school exams. If you are interested to know how our classes work, or what our secret winning formula is, do feel free to drop us a message or give us a call.