“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?