Many words in English are phonetically very close to another word with a different meaning. These troublesome words are often confused and used erroneously. Here we give you a key to some of these troublesome words and their usages.
A and An are both indefinite articles. A is used before words beginning with a consonantal sound (e.g. a dog, a baby) or with ‘u’/’oa’ sound (e.g a one-act play, a university), while an is used before words beginning with a vowel sound (an apple, an opportunity, an hour, etc.)
To accede is to take office or to agree.
To exceed is to be more than a given amount, extend, degree, etc.
To accept is to consent to receive something offered.
To except is to exclude.
Access is used as a verb or a noun. When used as a noun it means a way of approaching or reaching or entering. As a verb, it means to gain accession.
Excess is used as an adjective or a noun, to mean surplus.
Advice is a noun (I won’t force you to take my advice).
Advise is a verb (He advised me to subscribe to this magazine).
6. All ready/Already
All ready (two separate words) simply means that all are ready.
Already (one word) means ‘before this time’ or ‘by this time’.
Though very similar phonetically, altar and alter have completely different meanings.
An altar is a place, usually a small platform, on which offerings are made to god.
To alter is to change.
To assure is to make sure or convince (I can assure you of his honesty).
To ensure is to make certain (Please ensure that the consignment reaches us in time).
To insure is to secure a sum of money in the event of loss or damage to property, life, etc. (We should insure our new car).
(i) One’s career is one’s advancement through life—especially in a profession.
(ii) A carrier is a thing or a person that carries goods, or a living being that transmits a disease without suffering from it.
(i) To cite is to show something as an instance or example, or to quote a passage, author, book etc. in support of an argument (She cited a passage from Dickens).
(ii) Sight can be used both as a noun or verb. As a noun it means vision on faculty of seeing and as a verb it means to see or observe. (As the moon came out of the clouds the mansion came into sight).
(iii) A site is a place where a building or some construction is being made or an activity is taking place (camping site).
11. Compare to/Compare with
(i) When a person or a thing is compared to another person or thing, it is suggested that one resembles the other thought they are originally dissimilar in type. (She compared her friend to a rabbit. Anger is compared to fire.) (ii) When a person or a thing is compared with another person or thing, they are compared to find out similarities and difference between them. (Many people compare Rabindranath with Shakespeare.)
(i) Complement can be used both as a noun or a verb. As a noun it means a thing that makes another thing complete or perfect. As a verb it means to make complete or perfect. (Her speech complemented the occassion.)
(ii) Compliment is used as a noun or a verb. As a noun it means an expression of praise and as a verb it means to congratulate or praise.
(i) Decent is an adjective which means respectable or proper.
(ii) Descent can be used as a noun or a verb meaning a fall, or to fall.
(i) An emigrant is a person who leaves one’s own country to settle in another.
(ii) An immigrant is a person who comes as a permanent resident to a country other than one’s native land.
(i) Eminent means distinguished (e.g. eminent scholar), where as imminent is used to denote an event that is bound to happen (His fall is imminent.)
(i) Farther is used with reference to physical distance and further is used to signify to or at a more advanced time, space or a greater extent.
(i) Formally means in a formal manner.
(ii) Formerly means previously.
(i) Its is the possessive case of it. The elephant never forgives its enemy.
(ii) It’s is the contraction of it is (It’s not possible).
(i) Later is the comparative form of late (I shall arrive no later than 8’o clock.)
(ii) Latter is used to denote the second mentioned of two. (Between Samuel and Jonathan I always like the latter more.)
(iii) Letter means characters representing different sounds or a written, typed or printed communication. All three words are very commonly used and therefore one should be very careful about using the correct spelling.
(i) Loose means not tight.
(ii) Lose means to suffer a loss of somebody or something or not to be able to win.
(i) A miner is a person who works in a mine.
(ii) A minor is a person who has not yet reached adulthood. The word minor is also used to denote somebody or something of comparatively less importance.
(i) Peace is a state of freedom from war, dispute, anxiety, worries etc.
(ii) A piece is a portion of a larger object or one of several similar things.
(i) Personal means one’s own, or private.
(ii) Personnel means a body of employees. It is often used in combination as personnel department, which means a section of an organization concemed with appointment, training, and welfare of the employees.
(i) Practice is the noun (She needs more practice to improve her handwriting.).
(ii) Practise is the verb (He should practise his lessons.).
(i) Price is the value of a thing in terms of money.
(ii) A prize is an award.
(i) Principal means first in rank or amount, leading. The head of an academic instituion is often called the principal.
(ii) Principle is one’s personal code of conduct or the fundamental truth as a basis of argument.
(i) A slander is a malicious, false statement spoken about somebody. The word can be used as a verb as well.
(ii) Slender is an adjective which means scanty or gracefully thin.
28. Some time/Sometime/Sometimes
(i) Some time—written as two separate words—mean a considerable amount of time (It will take us some time to do this job.)
(ii) Sometime—written as one word—means at an unspecified time (Come to our house sometime!).
(iii) Sometimes means occasionally (Sometimes we eat out on Sundays.).
(i) Stationary means ‘not moving’.
(ii) Stationery means ‘writing materials’.
(i) Storey is any of the parts into which a building is divided horizontally. (A three storey appartment). However, the adjective form storeyed (please note the spelling) is still widely used in expressions like multi-storeyed building.
(ii) Story, on the other hand, is the most familiar word for a tale or a narrative.
(i) Thorough means complete and detailed (thorough knowledge).
(ii) Through means from end to beginning or from side to side (He read through the letter.)
(i) Who’s is the contraction of who is.
(ii) Whose is the possessive form of who.
(i) Your is an adjective that means ‘of you’ or belonging to you or yourself or yourselves (your dog).
(ii) Your’re is the contraction of ‘you are’ (you’re my best friend.).
(iii) Yours means the one or ones belonging to or associated with you (Yours are waiting at the gate.). It is also used in introducing a phrase for ending a letter (yours truly). ours is also a possessive case of ‘you’ used in the predicative part of a sentence (This yours).