Was That Really The Right Word? 8

“Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.”

– Mark Twain

One important mark of a gentleman is a strong grasp of the English language (or the language in his particular country).  Unfortunately, many men today do not understand English fully, and, therefore, make basic mistakes in speech and writing which undermine their influence and expertise.

One particularly common type of mistake comes from using the wrong word because of a misunderstood definition.

To solve this problem, study the correct usage of words starting with the nine commonly confused word pairs below.

#1 Accept vs. Except

People confuse these two words all the time. Except is a preposition which means “excluding”, but accept is a verb which means “to receive” or “to agree”.

No one except Alexander accepted the dangerous volunteer mission.

#2 Adverse vs. Averse

Although similar, these two words have different meanings. Adverse means “unfavorable” while averse means “unwilling”.

Because of the adverse driving conditions, Ted was averse to attending the lecture.

#3 Affect vs. Effect

The small one letter difference in these words has a large consequence. Affect is a verb meaning “to influence”. Effect, on the other hand, functions as a verb meaning “to accomplish” or as a noun meaning “the result”.

The gospel had a large affect (verb) on Alvin York’s life, and he, in turn, effected (verb) great change in the World War I trench warfare. The capture of 132 German prisoners was the largest effect (noun) of his courage.

#4 e.g. vs. i.e.

These Latin abbreviations are rarely understood. In fact, many people seem to think that these abbreviations mean the same thing. On the contrary, e.g. means “for example” while i.e. means “that is”.

Patrick Henry was a great patriot, e.g., he once said that he valued liberty over life itself.

Bob was autodidactic, i.e., a self-teacher, and read everything he could find about history.

#5 Its vs. It’s

These two words used to confuse me to no end… until I memorized the difference. It’s (with an apostrophe) means “it is”, and its (without an apostrophe) is the possessive form of “it”.

It’s time for the cat to eat its food.

#5 Irregardless vs. Regardless

This is one of the funniest mix-ups: irregardless is simply not a word! The proper word is regardless.

Regardless of Alfonse’s choice, I will stand for manliness!” Sam declared.

#6 Lay vs. Lie

These words have similar meanings but different uses. Lie means “to recline”, while lay means “to put or place something.”  If the subject is reclining use the word lie. If the subject is making something else recline use the word lay.

Just before lying in bed, Dick laid his wallet on the nightstand.

#7 Loose vs. Lose

Once again, these similar words have dissimilar meanings. Loose means “not tight”, but lose means “failing to keep”.

Because of a loose screw, Bob might lose his bicycle’s fender.

#8 There’s vs. There Are

I never noticed how often this word was used incorrectly until my father pointed it out. There’s means “there is”, but people often try to use it to mean “there are”.

Incorrect: There’s many reasons people should learn to speak correctly.

Corrected: There are many reasons people should learn to speak correctly.

#9 Your vs. You’re

Once again, this is a contraction problem. Your is a possessive word while you’re means “you are”.

You’re damaging your writing by using your words incorrectly.

Once you learn to use these words and others correctly, you will be prepared to participate in an intelligent conversation without accidentally using the wrong word.

What words have you noticed people confusing?

8 thoughts on “Was That Really The Right Word?

  1. Reply Tanner @ Art of Citizenship Mar 1,2010 10:01 AM

    There/They’re/Their is another one that most people get wrong, and it drives me crazy.

  2. Reply Geoff Hill Mar 1,2010 11:10 AM

    Thank you. This is a great encouragement and help to me. We were just talking about affect and effect today based on the use of the word effect in a document produced by the S.D. legislature on climate change.

    I am forwarding this to my wife and daughters, who…probably already use these properly!

  3. Reply Stormbringer Mar 1,2010 4:38 PM

    I’m glad you axed me that.

    That’s one.

    Another hangup I have is when people try to impress others by talking in a fake formal matter. This often includes the word “myself”, as in, “Myself and Dan were investigating the lobby…” What did I miss out on? I was taught to say, “Dan and I were investigating the lobby”.

    That’s two.

    For number three, I want to go with the singular possessive. One (unfortunately) typical example was in a small convenience store. There was a problem with people returning bottles for deposit, so a sign on a cardboard flap (3A, that’s just plain tacky) taped to the window that read, “Bottles must be checked by employee’s.” Ummm…employee’s WHAT?

  4. Reply RJ Licata Mar 5,2010 12:21 PM

    Yes, Tanner, that is extremely annoying. Two other similar one’s:

    The misuse of too and to and the misuse of then and than.

    I also can’t stand when people use “and I” incorrectly when it should be “and me”. For instance if there’s a photo of two people at the museum and the caption reads “Joe and I at the museum”. It should read “Joe and me at the museum” An easy way to tell is to remove “Joe and” from the sentence and see which one sounds correct. Not a huge deal but kind of the same thing Stormbringer was saying about “fake formal matter”.

  5. Reply Josh Hanagarne Mar 18,2010 6:08 PM

    Hi Nate, this is my first time here. I really like what you’re doing. I’m a librarian who abhors typos and also happens to be a Mark Twain fanatic. I found an awesome note on my desk the other day that said, “Reading is for stupeds.” Your/you’re is my perpetual poke in the eye, particularly online. If you are ever looking for opportunities to guest post and get more eyes on your thrilling blog, I’d love to host you over at World’s Strongest Librarian if you have any interest.

    Good stuff, homie.

  6. Reply Nate Desmond Mar 18,2010 7:40 PM

    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for visiting! I have enjoyed reading your writing (particularly your guest posts on Problogger), and it is great to have you join the community.

    I would be thrilled to write on your blog! I have sent you an email with a couple of topic ideas.

    Thank you for the opportunity!

    – Nate

  7. Reply Kevin S. Feb 16,2011 2:39 AM

    It is unfortunate to see the majority of men today mangle the English language. They gutteralise their sentences and truly make a mockery of themselves. I’m not a scholar by any means (i.e. I have only a high school diploma), but there is no excuse for me to sound uneducated. As men we need to take pride in our vocabulary. Outstanding post Nate. You touched on a subject that I believe needs more listeners.

  8. Reply Alan L Carpenter May 16,2011 9:49 AM

    Kevin S

    I agree with you fully.I have as well, just posses a highschool education.However I am always striving to speek and write properly.Men in general have become lazy in speech.Gutteralise indeed.

    Alan L

Leave a Reply