30 Problematic Words and Idioms

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The complication of written communication is something beyond our control and all we can do is find remedies for the situations. There are many pairs or trios of words that obstruct us due to f their resemblance. Here is the quick review of these words for your affluence:

1. Awhile vs. a while: “Awhile” is an adverb but “A while” is a noun phrase.

2. Altogether vs. all together: Altogether means completely and is an adverb while all together is a phrase and it refers to a group. 

3. Emend vs. emend: “To emend” means to correct while “to amend” means to change.

4. Number vs. amount:  The number speaks about a quantity e.g. “A large number of dollars is saved.” The amount speaks about the mass e.g. “A large amount of paper is saved.”

5. Between vs. among: The difference between these two does not depend on whether two or more things are referred, it depends on whether one thing is referred or a collective number or unclear number e.g. “Play among the trees.” but “Play between two trees.”

6. Biennial vs. biannual: Biennial refers to something that happened only once every two years while biannual refers to twice in one year.

7. Take vs. bring: If something is directed away from you then it’s taken while if something is directed towards you, it’s brought

8. Compare with vs. compare to: “Compare with” involves both similarity and contrast while “compare to” involves the similarity only.

9. Complement vs. Compliment: “Complement” means to complete while “compliment” means to applause.

10. Comprise, consist of vs. compose, constitute: Comprise refers to include so if we test by replacement-“is included of”, it doesn’t make any sense, and is “is comprised of”

The small parts compose or constitute a whole but the whole is comprised of or consists of small parts.

11. Denote vs. connote: Denote means to specify and connote means to deliver e.g. “The stop sign on the roads denotes the condition to halt.” and “The word family connotes love and comfort for me.”

12. Continuous vs. continual: Continuous events are without any interruption or an unbroken stream while continual events are repeated but with breaks between them. 

13. Credulous vs. credible: Credulous means to be gullible or innocent while credible means to be commanding or authoritative.

14. Desserts vs. deserts: Dessert refers to the sweet dishes offered at the end of the meal like ice-cream, cakes, etc. Deserts refer to the rewards or punishment that a person deserves. 

15. Different from vs. different than: “Differently from” is used mostly in formal writing while “different than” is also correct.

16. Discreet vs. discrete: Discreet refers to be careful while discrete refers to separate or distinct. (“She discreetly told them about their discrete meaning.”)

17. Each other vs. one another: “One another” refers to more than two of something and is preferred in formal writing.

18. Economic vs. economical: Economic talks about the science of economics while economical refers to prudence.

19. Elemental vs. elementary: Elemental refers to something essential or vital to nature while elementary means something basic.

20. Ensure or insure or assure: Ensure means to guarantee or promise, insure means to protect or cover and assure means to ease or persuade.

21. Pandemic vs. endemic or epidemic: Pandemic is the disease that is persistent over a large geographical area, endemic disease is frequent or recurrent in a particular population or place and endemic is the disease outbreak for a particular period or place. 

Forego vs. forgo: Forego means to go before (and is usually used in forgoing or foregone form which is rare) and forgo means to go without.

23. Gibe vs. jibe vs. jive: Gibe refers to insult or taunts someone while jibe is its alternate spellings and it refers to agree or compatible with someone and jive means to deceive or cheat.

24. Historical vs. historic: Historical is an event in history while historic is noteworthy for an impact on history. 

25. Home in vs. hone in: Home in has a resemblance to word home and it means to close in while hone in is also acceptable and has the same meaning. 

26. Jealousy vs. Envy: Jealousy is the fear of losing or insecurity i.e. resentful while envy is the desire to have a quality or possession i.e. covetousness. 

27. Lay vs. lie: Lay is a transitive verb and requires some object e.g. “Lay down this pencil.”, “I laid down that pencil, yesterday.” The Lie is an intransitive verb and it doesn’t require an object e.g. “I laid down.” or “I planned to lain down already.” Lie explains something already moving. 

28. Leach vs. leech: Leach refers to drain or removes a soluble substance through percolation while leech refers to bleed with or a parasitic worm.

29. Libel vs. slander: Libel refers to the written offense while slander is the spoken form.

May vs. might: May and might are used in the same context and may is the present form while might is the past form, may refer to possibility while might is hypothetical.