Common Errors with Word Choice – Part 1

Jul 31, 2020 | Uncategorized

Should I use this word or that one? Does this sentence mean what I think it means? If you have such a thought, you are not alone. The English language has a lot of words that look, sound, or are spelled alike but that have different meanings and roles. To help you choose the right words for every occasion, I have compiled this list of commonly misused words and their actual meanings. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I hope to keep you updated with more cases of this kind in another post.

  1. Farther vs. further
    • The shopping mall will be closed until farther notice.
    • The shopping mall will be closed until further notice.

    Explanation: When we refer to a greater degree of physical distance, both ‘farther’ (American English) and ‘further’ (British English) can be used. That being said, it is worth noting that ‘further’ also means ‘more’, ‘extra’, or ‘at a more advanced level’, in which cases ‘farther’ is inappropriate.
    Now that they live farther/ further away we don’t see them so often.
    It was much farther/ further to the shop than I expected.
    If you have any further problems, please let me know.
    We need to discuss this further.

  1. Lightning vs. lighting
    • a flash of lighting
    • a flash of lightning

    Explanation: ‘Lightning’ is a flash of bright light in the sky that is produced by electricity moving between clouds or from clouds to the ground. Meanwhile, ‘lighting’ refers to the lights in a room, building, street, etc.
    That tree was struck by lightning in a recent thunderstorm.
    The computer failure was due to a glitch caused by lightning.
    They use energy-efficient bulbs for street lighting.
    The lighting in the living room is too dim.

  1. Loose vs. lose

    • She doesn’t want to loose her job.
    • She doesn’t want to lose her job.

    Explanation: While ‘loose’ is an adjective which means ‘not firmly or tightly held or fastened in place,’ ‘lose’ – a verb – means ‘to no longer have something’, ‘to stop feeling something’, or ‘to have less of something than you had before.’
    There were some loose wires hanging out of the wall.
    Wear comfortable, loose clothing to your exercise class.
    At least 1,000 staff will lose their jobs if the factory closes.
    I started to lose interest halfway through the book.

  1. Early vs. soon

    • You should be a little soon for interviews.
    • You should be a little early for interviews.

    Explanation: We use ‘early’ when we refer to something that is happening or done before the usual, expected, or planned time. Meanwhile, ‘soon’ means ‘in or within a short time’, or ‘quickly.’
    I hate having to get up early in the morning.
    She wasn’t feeling well, so she went home early.
    Everyone will soon know the truth.
    Be patient! They’ll be here soon.

  1. Adverse vs. averse

    • The match has been canceled because of averse weather conditions.
    • The match has been canceled because of adverse weather conditions.

    Explanation: ‘Adverse’ suggests ‘having a negative or harmful effect on something.’ ‘Averse’, on the other hand, means ‘strongly disliking or opposed to something’ and is followed by preposition ‘to.’
    He attracted a lot of adverse criticism with his speech about unmarried mothers.
    It is clear that these violent movies have an adverse effect on children.
    He is averse to smoking.
    Few politicians are averse to appearing on television.

  1. Disinterested vs. uninterested
    • a piece of uninterested advice
    • a piece of disinterested advice

    Explanation: ‘Disinterested’ means ‘not being influenced by considerations of personal advantage. Some of its synonyms include ‘unbiased’, ‘impartial’, or ‘objective.’ ‘Disinterested’ is sometimes used to refer to a lack of interest, but many people consider this use to be incorrect. ‘Uninterested’, however, unarguably means ‘not interested,’ followed by preposition ‘in’.
    The financial dispute was settled by a disinterested third party.
    A banker is under an obligation to give disinterested advice.
    Many students are uninterested in sports.
    Unlike most boys his age, he was totally uninterested in cars or girls.

  1. Affect vs. effect
    • The recession had a negative affect on sales.
    • The recession had a negative effect on sales.

    Explanation: ‘Affect’ (verb) means ‘to cause a change in or have an influence on someone or something.’ However, ‘effect’ (noun) refers to ‘the result of a particular influence.’
    Researchers are looking at how a mother’s health can affect the baby in the womb.
    The disease only affects cattle.
    The radiation leak has had a disastrous effect on the environment.
    I tried taking tablets for the headache but they didn’t have any effect.

  1. Everyday vs. every day
    • He goes to work by bus everyday.
    • He goes to work by bus every day.

    Explanation: The biggest difference is ‘everyday’ is an adjective that means ‘ordinary, typical, or usual,’ whereas ‘every day’ is an adverbial phrase that means ‘each day or daily.’ In other words, while there should be nouns that follow ‘everyday’, ‘every day’ should be preceded by verbs.
    I need a laptop for my everyday work.
    The movie is about the everyday lives of working mothers.
    I get up at six every day.
    He goes to college every day.

  1. Complement vs. compliment
    • She used photographs to compliment the text of the news story.
    • She used photographs to complement the text of the news story.

    Explanation: ‘Complement’ means ‘to help make something or someone more complete or effective’, while ‘compliment’ means ‘to praise or express admiration for someone.’ Both words can function as verbs or nouns.
    The music complements her voice perfectly.
    We had a full complement of reporters and photographers along.
    I must compliment you on your handling of a very difficult situation.
    He was surprised by her remark, but decided to take it as a compliment.


Online Cambridge Dictionary:



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