CONFUSING WORDS AND PHRASES
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Pretense / Pretension
Pretense is to make believe; pretension is a claim
e.g. She makes no pretense to like her mother-in-law. (She does not pretend that she likes her mother-in-law)
e.g. He made no pretension to that award. (He never claimed that he received that award)
Ingenious / Ingenuous
Ingenious is clever; ingenuous is natural, free from deceit.
e.g. I must say that was an ingenious way to fund the project.
e.g. The Mayor's response to the questions from the reporter was sincere and ingenuous.
Providing that / Provided that
Providing that is incorrect; provided that means on condition that
e.g. You can go out to play provided (that) you have finished your homework. (meaning: on condition that)
e.g. You can keep the book for another week providing that no one has reserved it (incorrect: provided that should be used instead)
e.g. The millionaire has helped the poor, providing many of them with food and shelter. (correct; meaning: giving or offering)
Masterful / Masterly
Masterful: determined, strong-willed, like a master; masterly means having good skills.
e.g. He has demonstrated that he is a masterful personality.
e.g. This is a masterly piece of performance.
Afflict / Inflict
Afflict: cause someone to suffer; inflict: punish or put a burden on someone.
e.g. For years, he has been afflicted with muscle pain.
e.g. The tyrant had inflicted punishment on those who opposed him.
Indoor / Indoors
Indoor is an adjective; indoors is an adverb.
e.g. Bowling is an indoor game.
e.g. It's going to rain; let's go indoors.
Complacent / Complaisant / Compliant
Complacent means being self-satisfied; complaisant means being too eager to please; compliant means obeying or submissive
e.g. I was filled with a complacent satisfaction when I eventually completed the project.
e.g. You are too complaisant with your boss: you over flatter him.
e.g. Unlike the computer, people are not compliant, and neither are they predictable.
Observable / Observant
Observable: can be seen or noticed; observant: quick to pay attention.
e.g. The solution to the problem is observable to many scientists.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be observant of all the relevant details and data.
Common / Commonplace
Common: shared or used by many; commonplace: ordinary and not very interesting.
e.g. Smoking in an enclosed area is common nuisance.
e.g. To be healthy and wealthy is a common New Year’s resolution.
e.g. Running may be a commonplace sport for many.
Approve / Approve of
Approve means pgive consent to; approve of means think well of.
e.g. Your proposal will not be approved by the committee.
e.g. We approve of our daughter’s marriage to that promising young man.
Born / Borne
Born means to be brought into existence; borne means to be carried or tolerated.
e.g. Don't take me for a fool; I wasn't born yesterday!
e.g. The heavy burden of taking care of his family was borne by him for many years.
e.g. All human sorrows can be well borne if you have faith in God.
A few / Few
A few: not many with a more positive meaning; few: not many with a more negative meaning.
e.g. A few people might ask for your help (some, not too many).
e.g. We were disappointed that only few people showed up (hardly any).
Read / Peruse
Read: look at and understand; peruse: read thoroughly.
e.g. Don’t just read through the document; you have to peruse it to see if there is any hidden code.
Farther / Further
Father: refers to greater distance; further: with more or greater intensity.
e.g. Our new house is farther from the lake than from the river.
e.g. The demonstration only led to further racial tension.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
Welcome / Welcomed
Welcome is an adjective or a verb; welcomed is a participle.
e.g. You are most welcome.
e.g. This is a welcome party for all newcomers.
e.g. I like to welcome all of you.
e.g. The guests were welcomed by all of us in front of the house.
Terminable / Terminal
Terminable: can be ended; terminal: at the end.
e.g. Your job is only temporary and terminable at any time.
e.g. The doctor told the patient that she had terminal cancer.
Accountable to / Accountable for
Accountable to someone; accountable for something
(meaning "responsible for").
e.g. The CEO is accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau