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While searching online for the difference between "sometime" and "some time", I stumbled upon this page. At the middle of the page you can see these two sentences that demonstrate the difference:

I'll visit London again sometime. Sometimes I let some time pass before returning.

These seemingly simple sentences strike me as magical because I can simply recite them like a spell whenever I have problems choosing between using "sometime" and "some time" in my writing.

So, my question is, can anyone help to provide similar "magical" sentences that show the differences among the following similar-looking words:

  • maybe vs may be
  • anymore vs any more
  • anyway vs any way
  • anyone vs any one
  • altogether vs all together
  • enquire vs inquire
  • complimentary vs complementary
  • defence vs defense
  • assure vs ensure

Please add any additional word pairs together with their examples.


  • I'm not looking for definitions of the words. I'm looking for usage examples that succinctly show how the words are used in context, something akin to mnemonics.
  • I don't mind if this question is made CW.
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closed as not a real question by waiwai933 Jan 6 '12 at 1:05

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

For the difference Enquire/Inquire, see Enquire and inquire. – Alenanno Jun 23 '11 at 10:11
This question should be flagged "EL&U-porn" :-) – JeffSahol Jun 23 '11 at 11:46
I don't know how to make this 'Community Wiki'. Maybe I just don't have enough rep points to see the option. But this .se page implies it shouldn't even go there... Q. What if we want to create a list or poll? A. Don't. This site is intended for questions that can not only be answered objectively, but also voted on objectively. If a question encourages members to post or vote for their "favourites" then it does not belong here...meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/913/… – FumbleFingers Jun 23 '11 at 14:15
@FumbleFingers: I think it's not possible to make something wiki anymore. Only mods can: you must flag it to moderator attention and write that you'd like it to be a Community Wiki... – Alenanno Jun 23 '11 at 14:43
@Alenanno: ty. I think I'll do that then. – FumbleFingers Jun 23 '11 at 20:34
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Here are some sentences which illustrate these differences:

  • You may be right; maybe I am boring.
  • I don't want any more apples. They just aren't as good anymore.
  • You'll just do it any way you need to, anyway.
  • Anyone to answer correctly can choose any one of the prizes.
  • We have an altogether higher chance of survival if we're all together.
  • He said some nice, complimentary things about how my tie is complementary to my suit.
  • I assure you, we're just trying to ensure your safety.

Unfortunately, I can't come up with anything for defense/defence or enquire/inquire. Are these not just regional differences in spelling of the same word?

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Your sentences for 'altogether' vs 'all together', and 'complimentary' vs 'complementary' are superb! +1 – Lukman Jun 23 '11 at 10:33
+1 for excellent examples covering those word-form pairs where the is a difference in meaning. Like you, I don't think there are any meaningful differences betwen the ones you didn't bother with - they're just alternative spellings. I don't really think it's a very good question though - it may make a 'sort of interesting' page, but one could go on forever listing usages illustrating similar words with different meanings. So how could any particular answer be 'right'? – FumbleFingers Jun 23 '11 at 14:08
I would think defense would be to defend yourself, yet defence would be to make a fenced area no longer fenced. I could be wrong but if so, maybe "Defense for the castle will be harder if we defence the outer area". – JD Isaacks Jun 23 '11 at 14:55

Maybe, he already knows that she may be dead.

He cannot stand any more of her actions, just not anymore.

Though you did not tell me any way to solve this, thanks anyway.

Anyone with any one of the answers will be rewarded.

They counted the cats and dogs all together and found there were hundred altogether.

These complimentary tickets for the concert are complementary to the dinner.

I assure you that we will ensure this case is solved.

I would like to enquire which team will inquire into the case. (BrE: distinction sometimes made, though either form can be used for either meaning; AmE: inquire usually used for both meanings)

Defense is the American variant of defence.

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"Any one answer will do, anyone?" looks unnatural to me. But the rest are good examples. +1 – Lukman Jun 23 '11 at 10:36

Maybe(perhaps) she is right: John may be(possibly be) hiding something.

Are any more(any additional) guests coming? The boat can't stand the weight anymore(Any longer)

Anyway(Notwithstanding), you can spend your day any way(In whatsoever manner)

Anyone(Anybody) can choose from any one(whichever) of the following.

When we worked all together(as a group), the result was pretty satisfactory altogether(All in all; in total)

Enquire(Ask generally) for Job; if you find him, inquire(investigate by asking) him about Sarah.

Any complimentary(encouraging) statement would be complementary(helpful)

The defence of this country would put up a good defense against any invasion.

Assure(Make confident) John that all is well, by ensuring(Make sure) that his wallet is still with us.

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We were caught all together in the altogether.

Can you assure me that you will ensure that your car is insured?

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If you're looking for something magical, how about a "School House Polka"? It's one of the "Silly Songs with Larry" in the VeggieTales movies.

Here's the link to the song on Youtube. The lyrics are below:

Whether, whether, whether, whether Whether you like it or not Weather, weather, weather, weather Weather is cold, warm and hot.

Two, two, two, two Two of my favorite toys I'm bringing to, to, to, to A place the first one enjoys… and I like it, too!

Homophones! Homophones! Where the crews come cruising down the plane! Homophones! Homophones! I need my kneaded biscuits plain!

I know a pear, pear, pear, pear With a pair of really soft shoes. He wears them to pare, pare, pare, pare Bushes that easily bruise.

I planted rows, rows, rows, rows of a horribly bad smelling rose Now no one knows, knows, knows, knows If the scent will be leaving my nose! But most likely no.

Oh! Homophones! Homophones! Where the toads are towed out on the plane! Homophones! Homophones! I need my kneaded biscuits plain!

Whether, whether, whether, whether, Whether you like it or not Weather, weather, weather, weather Weather is cold, warm and hot.

Also, The Oatmeal has an excellent comic regarding the common mispellings of words (some of which are homophones) along with some excellent explanatory phrases here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

The Oatmeal has an entire grammar section devoted to comics about grammar.

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Please write to Mr. Wright right now!

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  • They may be in trouble, if she decides to stall the process by answering with a "maybe".
  • Given the new findings, we cannot state with absolute certainty anymore that there aren't any more permutations yet to be discovered.
  • The fact that there cannot be any way prove such a hypothesis is neither here nor there; we all know that his paper will be published anyway.
  • Anyone can access the mainframe via that portal. However, how many people may do so at any one time remains to be seen.
  • Unlike the first lot, these were found all together. Altogether, the team recovered about fifty.
  • I was asked to ensure that a customer did not enquire about his substandard goods until after the "big bosses" had returned to the city. The easiest way to do that, I thought, was to assure the fellow that we had already contacted the relevant authority to inquire into the manufacturer's quality assurance process.
  • The complimentary towels provided by the airline had been designed to complement the décor; they were decorated with triangles of various complementary colours. Incidentally, the triangles were all right angled, which immediately brought to mind my childhood lessons in complementary and supplementary angles.
  • The leader of the national Defence Force was called in to explain the new defense strategies.
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