Questions regarding words/phrases which are commonly confused with one another

learn more… | top users | synonyms

32
votes
3answers
189k views

What's the difference between “eldest” and “oldest”?

When should I use "eldest" and when should I use "oldest"? Are the differences semantic or regional? (Or both?) (What got me wondering is the removeEldestEntry() method in Java's LinkedHashMap ...
32
votes
2answers
30k views

When I should use “assure” vs. “ensure” vs. “insure”?

When is it appropriate to use assure vs. ensure vs. insure?
31
votes
2answers
4k views

What is the difference between “everyday” and “every day”?

I constantly see "everyday" being used in cases where the writer really means "every day". For example, here's a sentence from Google's eBooks documentation: "New titles are being added to Google ...
28
votes
8answers
88k views

Is it correct to say Person A is the “spitting image” or the “splitting image” of Person B?

I understand that when trying to describe a person who has a resemblance to another, the common term is spitting image. As in: Person A is a spitting image of Person B. Here's my issue, I've ...
26
votes
3answers
13k views

Why is there confusion between depreciated and deprecated?

For at least a year and half, I read "deprecated" as "depreciated", even when writing it down myself, I would spell it as "depreciated", even though pretty much every time I read it, it was spelt ...
24
votes
3answers
5k views

What is the difference between “lay” and “lie”?

How do I know when to use lay and when to use lie, and what are the different forms of each verb? I'm always getting them confused.
19
votes
5answers
37k views

“Electronic” vs. “electric”

Most people would refer to computers as being electronic, whereas a flashlight would be described as electric. I know the general difference (electronic devices use transistors?), but what is it ...
19
votes
2answers
93k views

“Farthest” vs. “furthest”

My spellchecker insists on replacing "furthest" with "farthest". I was under the impression that farthest is strictly speaking in terms of distance, whereas furthest is more abstract. A poster on ...
18
votes
3answers
55k views

“Alternately” or “alternatively”

What is the difference between alternately and alternatively? I've seen both words being used, but which one is grammatically correct? He could do X. Or alternately, he could do Y. He could do ...
11
votes
10answers
16k views

How do you remember the difference between a “stalactite” and a “stalagmite”?

Is there a good mnemonic for remembering the difference between "stalactite" (hangs down) and "stalagmite" (points up)?
11
votes
3answers
83k views

“Without further adieu” vs “Without further ado” [closed]

I have just seen an email containing the phrase "Without further adieu"; I always thought it was "Without further ado." Which is it?
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it absolutely necessary to use “than” over “then” in a comparison? [closed]

Do you think you are smarter then me? While this question should be using than...I have to wonder if this is a debatable topic within English or is this cut and dry? If this specific instance is ...
9
votes
4answers
6k views

“There’s” or “There are”?

I wanted to get the usage of There’s clarified. I have read sentences like: There’s a lot of projects on that topic. It appears to me that There’s applies to a lot of projects, rather than to ...
7
votes
2answers
30k views

Can one “affect” change?

In an article today in the Christian Science Monitor, they give a Fox transcript of Palin's recent speech as follows: “Somebody like me – is a title and is a campaign too shackling?” said Palin. ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the difference between “raise” and “rise”?

What is the difference between raise and rise? When and how should I use each one?
6
votes
3answers
36k views

“Emigrant” vs. “immigrant”

While studying one word substitution I came across these two words, what I understood till now is like this: Emigrant: One who leaves his own country to reside to another. Immigrant: A person who ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Easy trick to remember difference between beside <-> besides

I really struggle with these two. I never seem to be able to remember when to use the right one. All my english teachers so far told me the difference but still I'm not able to remember the ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

“Invidious” vs. “Insidious”

Can anyone give me a really short & sharp distinction between these two words? Are they notorious for often getting mixed up?
5
votes
16answers
2k views

Is there a word that means deliberately ignorant, choosing to ignore?

I know what this word really means but I cannot help to think that ignorant also means he ignores his surrounding or the consequences of his actions. "He was ignorant, unwilling to warn the police ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

She was carrying twins and a bulky bag in her hands [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Using verbs with multiple meanings I am not sure if this is Indian English but the verb carry is often used in India to speak of a pregnant woman and often without an ...
5
votes
4answers
11k views

You didn't miss me, right? (possible answer with correct use of English)

A) No, I didn't miss you. B) Yes, I didn't miss you. C) No, I did miss you. D) Yes, I did miss you. According to my common sense perfect answers can be C) and B) only, and reason behind it is- ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

How did the word “busybody” end up meaning so different from what it appears on its face to imply?

When I learned the word busybody the first time, I was in 5th grade. It appeared in a story I had to learn for class. I figured it meant someone who was very busy, and didn't bother to look it up. ...
5
votes
1answer
3k views

Difference in usage between “ostensive” and “ostensible” [closed]

I know that ostensive and ostensible are both adjectives, but can someone give me proper usage of each in their adjective forms? In their adverb forms, they almost sound identical.
4
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the difference between sugar cane and cane sugar?

I've heard people use them interchangeably. Just so I don't go crazy, what is the difference?
4
votes
8answers
1k views

How to remember the difference between: “Can you try to open” and “Can you try opening”?

I am well aware that a similar question has been asked in the past, namely “Try to save” or “try saving”. However, I am not totally satisfied by the posted answers. My problem is that, every time I ...
4
votes
2answers
617 views

What is the error called when numbers are confused with letters?

In serial numbers etc., there are many cases where you can't tell if the intended character is a number or a letter. For example, the number 0 and the letter O, the number 1 and the letters l or I, ...
4
votes
3answers
755 views

Should I say “declutter” or “unclutter”?

Which verb is more appropriate (and older) for clearing out my desk: declutter or unclutter and why? I should declutter my desk I should unclutter my desk Dictionary.com defines ...
4
votes
2answers
976 views

Biweekly, bimonthly, semi-confused [closed]

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion surrounding the meaning of the prefix bi when used with units of time measurement. Biweekly, according to dictionary.com, can mean either "occurring twice ...
3
votes
4answers
553 views

Does one “douse” or “dowse” a spotlight or projector?

A recent SMS conversation has prompted me to question my use of "dowse", "dowsing", and so on in relation to lighting instruments and projection equipment. I do not remember from where I got this ...
3
votes
3answers
5k views

When to use “essay” vs “assay” (as a verb)?

By the dictionary definition as a verb, I can see that essay and assay have the same meaning, i.e. "make an effort or attempt". I'm wondering if they are totally interchangeable, or is there a ...
3
votes
4answers
11k views

What is this phrase, “I hope we catch up,” called when “catch” may be confused with what's done with a baseball?

I asked someone “I hope we catch up soon” and he imagined himself being lightly or violently tossed in the air hoping someone will catch him. Obviously a non-native English speaker. Is there a term ...
3
votes
2answers
965 views

Time: Move “backwards” or “forwards”

Let us pay attention to the terms back and forward in the quote below. On the 4th of June they had the drill for independence day. But if you go back further you'd find that around mid-May, they ...
3
votes
3answers
173 views

How to use the phrase “come doing” properly?

How do you use the phrase 'come doing' properly? On the one hand, 'come doing' means that someone comes for doing something. For example, "Why not come dancing tonight?". This sentence never means ...
2
votes
3answers
986 views

An International English Olympiad question

I had recently appeared for an English Olympiad, and this particular question confused me: Q) Choose the odd pair: A. cat:feline B. monkey:simian C. horse:stallion D. cow:bovine Now, the ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the difference between “palazzo” and “palace”?

I have noticed that palazzo is used not only in Italian but in English too. So what is the difference between palazzo, and palace (in English)?
2
votes
3answers
10k views

Can “whatever” be split into two words?

I tend to write, "say whatever they want", but I'm always tempted to write "say what ever they want". Is it acceptable to split the word in this context?
2
votes
2answers
435 views

How does an animal sit on their haunches?

This should be a relatively simple question—one that I cannot seem to find anywhere. Does, for example, a dog sit down on its haunches, or sit up on its haunches? "Charlie sat up on his haunches ...
2
votes
4answers
486 views

Aren't adverbs related to the closest word? What about other modifiers?

Aren't adverbs related to the closest word? Does nightly in nightly business report refer to business? Update: I am still confused. Is relation of non-adverb modifiers different from that of ...
2
votes
3answers
316 views

Usage of 'customs' in lieu of 'immigration'

Over at the Travel SE beta (it's in private beta so I'm not sure how many here will be able to access it), I came across a question whether the OP uses "clearance through US Customs" when I'm ...
2
votes
3answers
353 views

Difference between 'lie' and 'lie down'

What is difference between lie and lie down? Please explain with some examples.
2
votes
1answer
903 views

Difference between “improvisation” and “extempore” [closed]

What is the difference between improvisation¹ and extempore² and where should one use each of these terms?
2
votes
2answers
80 views

Why does 'continual' involve interruption, and 'continuous' none ?

Source: Continuous indicates duration without interruption. ... Continual indicates duration that continues over a long period of time, but with intervals of interruption. ... The ...
2
votes
3answers
4k views

“Location” vs. “locality” [closed]

I can't seem to find a good explanation of what the differences are between the words location and locality. Are they interchangeable, or are there certain contexts in which one or the other must be ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

all but.. none but.. usage

I'm a bit confused with the usage of all but and none but: "We are all but defenseless" – should mean we are definitely defenseless? "None but misfortunes follow" – only ...
1
vote
4answers
173 views

Present, present, and present?

Please present your next idea. Did you buy her a present? No vacancies at present. Do all the bold words have the same spelling, yet all of them have different meanings based on the ...
1
vote
3answers
584 views

What is “the hottest seat/seed in town”?

What is "the hottest seat/seed in town"? I am not sure if it's a seed or seat or something else. I heard it a few times on "CNN" when a new upcoming "Larry King Live" program was being advertised. ...
1
vote
2answers
272 views

“I'm migrating to Australia” or “I'm immigrating to Australia”? [duplicate]

I am confused as to which is the correct way of saying I am migrating to Australia OR I am immigrating to Australia Which one is appropriate?
1
vote
2answers
746 views

How to specify the letter O, not a zero

Imagine a technical specification that reads: In the text box, enter "O1" (O the letter, not the number zero) Is there a convention which achieves this explanation more succinctly, or is more ...
1
vote
1answer
56 views

Is “Mandation” a valid word?

Is mandation a valid word? If it is, then what are its proper uses? I have heard people using this as a synonym to mandate; however, I am not exactly sure that it is a valid word.
1
vote
4answers
46k views

How do you differentiate “thru”, “threw”, “through”, and “thorough”?

How do I know which word to use in the correct context? How do I recognize these words when hearing them? Examples: Jimmy threw the ring at Emiko. Elvis walked through the door. ...