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Usage Glossary . A list of potentially troublesome words. 1. A and An. Of course, use the article “a” when the word that follows begins with a consonant sound…including a sounded h: Astronauts flew a rocket to the moon. Have you ever ridden in a helicopter?

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usage glossary

Usage Glossary

A list of potentially troublesome words

1 a and an
1. A and An
  • Of course, use the article “a” when the word that follows begins with a consonant sound…including a sounded h:
  • Astronauts flew a rocket to the moon.
  • Have you ever ridden in a helicopter?
  • Use “an” when the word that follows begins with a vowel sound or an unsounded h:
  • The museum received an endowment.
  • I was an heir to a great fortune.
  • Use “a” before a word that begins with the “yew” sound:
  • I saw the eucalyptus plant.
  • We are here to celebrate a union of two people.
2 a lot vs alot
2. a lot vs. alot
  • You should ALWAYS write this expression as two words!
  • It means “a large amount.”
  • Some authorities, however, suggest avoiding it altogether in formal English.
  • Informal: A lot of people attended the final game of the season.
  • Formal: Many people attended the final game of the season.
3 a while and awhile
3. a while and awhile
  • A while is made up of an article and a noun.
  • “In” or “for” often comes before a while, forming a prepositional phrase.
  • Awhile, a single word, is used only as an adverb.
  • The musicians paused for a while
  • The musicians will pause in a while
  • The musicians paused awhile—in this case we are modifying the verb paused—making awhile an adverb.
4 accept vs except
4. Accept vs. Except
  • Accept, a verb, means “to receive” or “to agree to.”
  • Except may be used as a preposition or as a verb. As a preposition it means “but.” As a verb it means “to leave out.”
  • Please accept my apologies.
  • Everyone except Paul can attend the meeting. (preposition)
  • If you except the planet Earth, you can consider the Solar System uninhabited (unconventional use of a verb)
5 adapt vs adopt
5. Adapt vs. Adopt
  • Adapt means “to change something so that it can be used for another purpose” or “to adjust.”
  • Adopt means “to take something for one’s own.”
  • It was difficult to adapt the play for a young audience.
  • Some people think that dinosaurs became extinct because they could not adapt to the changing environment.
  • The general must adopt a new strategy to win this battle.
6 advice advise
6. Advice, advise
  • Advice, a noun, means “helpful opinion.”
  • Advise, a verb, means “to give advice” or “to counsel”
  • Sheri asked her guidance counselor for advice in choosing a college and hoped he would advise her well.
7 affect vs effect
7. Affect vs. Effect
  • Affect, a verb, means “to cause a change in,” or “to influence.”
  • Effect may be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun it means “result.” As a verb it means “to bring about” or “accomplish”
  • This information will certainly (effect, affect) our decision.
  • What (affect, effect) will this information have on your decision?
  • What could (effect, affect) such a change in her outlook?
8 ain t
8. Ain’t
  • Ain’t is unacceptable in formal speaking and writing.
  • Use ain’t only when quoting somebody’s exact words or when writing dialogue to create a particular effect.
  • Otherwise use:
  • I am not; she is not; he is not; and so on.
9 all ready already
9. All ready, already
  • All ready means “completely ready.”
  • Already, an adverb, means “before” or “by this time.”
  • The boys were all ready to take the test, but by the time they arrived, the test had already begun.
10 all right vs alright
10. All right vs. alright
  • ALWAYS write this expression as two words.
  • Although it is sometimes spelled as one word, alright, most authorities prefer that it be spelled all right.
  • Is it all right for the baby to have ice cream?
can t hardly can t scarcely
Can’t hardly/can’t scarcely
  • Both of these expressions are considered to be double negatives.
  • Hardly and scarcely by themselves have a negative meaning. This is why we avoid using with the word or contraction not
  • Example:
  • David is so hoarse he can hardly talk.
  • The knights can scarcely move in their heavy suits of armor.
continual continuous
  • Use continual to refer to an action that occurs repeatedly.
  • Example: Continual rainstorms make the tropical forests a lush, green place.
  • Use continuous to describe an action that proceeds with no interruption or to refer to uninterrupted space.
  • Example: Hector’s research was continuous for ten hours today.
  • The gray water stretched ahead of him in a continuous expanse.
could of must of might of should of would of
Could of, must of, might of, should of, would of…
  • The auxiliary verb have, not the preposition of, should follow could, might, must, should, or would…
  • Example: If he knew he was going to be late, he should have called her.
different from different than
Different from/different than
  • Note: Different from, in general, is preferred over the expression different than.
  • Example: Janet is different from her sister.
emigrate immigrate
  • These two words are opposites.
  • Emigrate means “to leave a country or region.”
  • Immigrate means “to enter a country; to settle there.”
  • Use from with emigrate and to or into with immigrate.
  • Examples:
  • Between 1867 and 1886, nearly 450,000 persons emigrated from Sweden.
  • Most Swedes who immigrated to the United States settled in the Midwest.
farther further
  • Use farther to refer to physical distance.
  • Example: How much farther will we have to drive today?
  • Use further to refer to time or degree.
  • Example: We will not discuss this matter further.
fewer less
  • Fewer refers to nouns that can be counted.
  • Less generally refers to nouns that cannot be counted.
  • *You should also always use less to refer to figures used as a single amount or quantity.
  • Examples:
  • There have been fewer rainy days this month than last.
  • This piece of fish has fewer calories than that piece of steak.
  • We’ve had less rain this month than last. [rain cannot be counted]
  • The storm lasted for less than three hours. [three hours is treated as a single period of time]
  • My new raincoat cost less than one hundred dollars. [one hundred dollars is treated as a single sum]
hanged hung
  • Hanged should be used to mean “to put to death by hanging.”

Example: During the 1800s, the convicted murderers were hanged.

Hung should be used in all other cases.

Example: The doctor hung her diploma on a wall in her office.

in into in to
In, into, in to
  • Use in to mean “inside” or “within a place.”
  • The sick man was resting in bed.
  • Use into to indicate movement from outside to a point within or to indicate something pointing inward.
  • The doctor arrived and immediately went into the sickroom.
  • Do not mix in to with the preposition into:
  • The doctor arrived and went in to the sick man.
irregardless regardless
  • The prefix –ir and the suffix –less both have negative meanings, and so they form a double negative when used together.
  • ALWAYS use regardless.
  • Please call us when you get home, regardless of the time.
lay lie
  • Lay means “to put” or “to place something.”
  • It takes a direct object.
  • Please lay this blanket on the baby’s bed.
  • Lie means “to recline” or “to be positioned”
  • It never takes a direct object.
  • Most afternoons the baby lies quietly in the crib.
  • Base form: Lay Lie
  • Present participle: laying lying
  • Past form: laid lay
  • Past participle: laid lain
  • He laid the blanket on the baby’s bed last night.
  • The baby lay quietly in the crib yesterday afternoon.
like as
  • Use like, which is a preposition, to introduce a prepositional phrase.
  • Debra runs like an Olympic track star.
  • Use as and as if, which are subordinating conjunctions, to introduce subordinate clauses.
  • Many authorities believe that like should never be used before a clause.
  • She plans, as I do, to run six miles a day.
  • Rebecca runs as if her leg is hurt.
precede proceed
  • Use precede to mean “to go or come before.”
  • A car carrying Secret Service agents preceded the presidents.
  • Use proceed to mean “to continue” or “to move along.”
  • The president’s car proceeded slowly up the boulevard.
reason is because wordiness
Reason is because….wordiness
  • This expression is repetitious since because means “for the reason that.”
  • Use because alone or use the reason is that.
  • The reason Jan stayed home is that she is not feeling well.
  • Jan stayed home because she does not feel well.
respectfully respectively
  • Use respectfully to mean “with respect”
  • The students greeted their professor respectfully.
  • Use respectively to mean “in the order named.”
  • Dale and Pete like golf and tennis respectively.
than then
  • Than is a conjunction that is used in comparisons and to show exception.
  • Nina finds trigonometry more difficult than geometry.
  • The leader of the hike was none other than Mrs. Shen, Nina’s geometry teacher.
  • Then is an adverb meaning “at that time,” “soon afterward,” “the time mentioned,” “at another time,” “for that reason,” “in that case,” or “besides.”
  • We were on vacation then.
  • Pam set the table, and then the family sat down to dinner.
  • By then we had already heard the good news.
  • Ernesto works hard; then he takes time off.
  • If we find a larger apartment, then we will move.
  • Bicycling is good exercise, then it is fun.
who whom
  • In questions, use “who” for subjects and “whom for direct and indirect objects and for objects of a preposition.
  • Who won the game? [who is the subject of the verb won]
  • Whom did you meet this morning? [whom is the direct object of the verb did meet]
  • When a question includes an interrupting expression, such as “did you say” or “do you think,” try taking out the expression to determine weather to use who or whom.
  • Who did you say called yesterday? [Ask yourself: who called yesterday? You can determine that who is the subject of the verb called.]
who whom1
  • Use who and whoever for subjects and predicate nominatives in subordinate clauses (clauses that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence).
  • The police knew who had done it. [who is the subject of the noun clause who had done it]
  • We realized who the perpetrator was. [who is the predicate nominative of the noun clause who the perpetrator was]
  • The detectives will find whoever is guilty. [whoever is the subject of the noun clause whoever is guilty]
who whom2
  • Use whom and whomever for direct and indirect objects and for objects of a preposition in a subordinate clause.
  • We wondered whom he had called last night. [whom is the direct object of the verb had called]
  • She is a person whom I have great respect. [whom is the object of the preposition for]
  • The new employee will be whomever the employer selects. [whomever is the direct object of the verb selects]
who and whom contemporary usage
Who and whom—Contemporary Usage
  • It is getting pretty rare to see the word whom in modern-day English.
  • It tends to sound pretty stuffy….
  • To whom am I speaking with?
  • There are still some phrases where we would use whom:
  • To whom it may concern.
  • It has become acceptable to use who instead of whom in contemporary English.
who and whom traditional usage
Who and Whom—Traditional Usage
  • There is an easy way to tell whether or not to use who or whom.
  • To who/whom do I send this to.
  • Look at the words after who/whom: In this case they are “do I send this to.”
  • Rephrase those words to include he or him.
  • Do I send this to he/him. Which one sounds better?
  • If it is he, we would use who…if it is him, we would use whom.
  • *Note: It is also not customary to begin a sentence with the word whom.
  • Whom do I send this to? Instead
all together and altogether
All together and altogether
  • All together means “in a group.”
  • The single word altogether means “completely” or “on the whole”
  • The decided to leave all together, but it was altogether impossible for them to fit in one car.
allusion and illusion
Allusion and Illusion

An allusion is “an indirect reference.”

  • An illusion is “a false idea or appearance”.
  • The candidate made a disparaging allusion to his rival’s plan for lowering taxes.
  • It is an illusion that taxes can be lowered this year.
bad badly
Bad, Badly
  • Always use bad as an adjective
  • Bad is used after a linking verb:
  • Spot was bad. Spot = bad or bad Spot
  • Badly (ly) in an adverb. Follows an action verb
  • James played badly.
good well
Good, Well
  • Always use good as an adjective.
  • Tommy is a good violinist.
  • Tommy was good today.
  • Well is an adverb; it tells us how ably someone has done. As an adjective it describes someone as “in good health”
  • Tommy plays the violin well.
  • Tommy is not well this week. (not feeling well)
being as being that
Being as, Being that
  • These are both slang terms people use in everyday conversation.
  • They mean “because” or “since.” In formal writing, we use because or since.
  • Because the weather was bad…
  • Since the weather was bad…
beside besides
Beside, Besides
  • Beside is a preposition meaning at the side of:
  • Carl put his keys beside the lamp.
  • Besides is an adverb meaning “moreover” or “in addition to”:
  • Besides John, I am inviting the entire class.
anyways anywheres towards
Anyways, anywheres, towards,
  • In all of the above examples, get rid of the “s” at the end in formal writing.
  • Anyway
  • Toward
  • anywhere
between among
Between, Among
  • Between and among are prepositions that are used to state a relationship.
  • Use between to refer to:
  • Two distinct persons or things

Use among to talk about groups or nonspecific nouns or people

He was the best among is teamates.