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| As proficient as many of us claim to be in the English language, there is always the risk of running into, or using, those pesky words that sound alike but mean completely different things. There’s also the risk of using the wrong words in the wrong (or right) situations which changes the tone of a story whether it was your intention or not.
Let’s take a look at the fifteen most common troublesome word pairs:
AFFECT vs. EFFECT:
Affect is used as a verb that means “to influence or to change.”
- The new ruling affects your business.
As a noun, affect is an emotional response or disposition.
- The troubled teenager with the flat affect attempted suicide.
Effect may be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun, it means “result or outcome.”
- The medication had a strange effect on me.
As a verb, it means to “bring about or accomplish”.
- As a result of my test scores, I was able to effect some new goals in my life.
AMONG vs. BETWEEN:
Among is used to show a relationship involving more than two persons or things being considered as a group.
- The professor will distribute the test papers among his students.
Between is used to show a relationship involving two persons or things.
- I sit between David and Mary.
To compare one person or one things with an entire group.
- What’s the difference between this book and the other novels?
To compare more than two things in a group if each is considered individually.
- I can’t decide between the latte, cappuccino, or green tea.
AMOUNT vs. NUMBER:
Amount is used when referring to things in bulk.
- The police officer had a huge amount of paperwork.
Number is used when referring to individual, countable units.
- The police officer had a number of forms to complete.
GOOD vs. WELL:
Good is an adjective. It is used before nouns.
- We did a good job.
And after linking verbs to modify the subject.
- She smells good.
When modifying a verb, use the adverb well.
- She plays softball well.
Well is used as an adjective only when describing someone’s health.
- She is getting well.
BAD vs. BADLY:
Apply the same rule for bad and badly that applies to good and well. Use bad as an adjective before nouns.
- He is a bad teacher.
And after linking verbs to modify the subject.
- That smells bad.
Use badly to modify an action verb.
- The student behaved badly in class.
Note: Do not use badly when using verbs that have to do with the senses. Say, “You felt bad.” To say, “You felt badly” implies that something was wrong with your sense of touch. Say, “The mountain air smells wonderful.” To say, “The mountain air smells wonderfully” implies that the air has a sense of smell that is used in a wonderful manner.
BRING vs. TAKE:
Bring conveys action toward the speaker – to carry from a distant place to a near place.
- Please bring your textbooks to class.
Take conveys action away from the speaker – to carry from a near place to a distant place.
- Please take your textbooks home.
CAN vs. MAY:
Can and could imply ability or power.
- I can make an A in that class.
May and might imply permission.
- You may leave the class.
- I may leave early.
FARTHER vs. FURTHER:
Farther refers to a measurable distance.
- The walk to class is much farther than I expected.
Further refers to a figurative distance and means “to a greater degree” or “to a greater extent.”
- I will have to study further to make better grades.
Further also means “moreover” and “in addition to”
- Further/Furthermore, let me tell you something.
- The student had nothing further to say.
FEWER vs. LESS:
Fewer refers to number – things that can be counted or numbered – and is used with plural nouns.
- The professor has fewer students in his morning class than he has in his afternoon class.
Less refers to a degree or amount – things in bulk or in the abstract – and is used with singular nouns.
- Fewer girls mean less fun for the boys.
Less is also used when referring to numeric or statistical terms.
- It is less than 2 miles to school.
- He scored less than 90 on the test.
- She spent less than $400 for this class.
HEAR vs. HERE:
Hear is a verb meaning “to recognize sound by means of the ear.”
- Can you hear me?
Here is most commonly used as an adverb meaning “at or in this place.”
- The test will be here tomorrow.
i.e. VS. e.g.:
The abbreviation i.e. (that is) is often confused with e.g. (for example); i.e. specifies or explains.
- I love to study chemistry, i.e., the science of dealing with the composition and properties of matter.
e.g. gives an example:
- I love to study chemistry, e.g., chemical equations, atomic structure, and molar relationships.
LEARN vs. TEACH:
Learn means “to receive or acquire knowledge.”
- I am going to learn all that I can about Albert Einstein.
Teach means “to give or impart knowledge.”
- I will teach you how to fix the microwave.
LIE vs. LAY:
Lie means “to recline or rest.” The principal parts of the verb are lie, lay, lain, and lying. Forms of lie are never followed by a direct object:
- I lie down to rest.
- I lay down yesterday to rest.
- I had lain down to rest.
- I was lying on the sofa.
Lay means “to put or place.” The principal parts of the verb are lay, laid, and laying. Forms of lay are followed by a direct object.
- I lay the book on the table.
- I laid the book on the table yesterday.
- I have laid the book on the table before.
- I am laying the book on the table now.
Note: To help determine whether the use of lie or lay is appropriate in a sentence, substitute the word in question with “place, placed, placing’” (whichever is appropriate). If the substituted word makes sense, the equivalent form of lay is correct. If the sentence doesn’t make sense with the substitution, the equivalent form of lie is correct.
WHICH vs. THAT:
Which is used to introduce nonessential clauses, and that is used to introduce essential clauses. A nonessential clause adds information to the sentence but is not necessary to make the meaning of the sentence clear. Use commas to set off a nonessential clause.
- The mall, which was built last July, is down the street.
An essential clause adds information to the sentence that is needed to make the sentence clear. Do not use commas to set off an essential clause.
- All the girls that dance ballet are dedicated to their craft.
WHO vs. WHOM:
Who and whom serve as interrogative pronouns and relative pronouns. An interrogative pronoun is one that is used to form questions, and a relative pronoun is one that relates groups of words to nouns or other pronouns.
- Who is getting an A in this class? (Interrogative)
- Susan is the one who is getting an A in this class. (Relative)
Who and whom may be singular or plural.
- Who is getting an A in this class? (Singular)
- Who are the students getting As in this class? (Plural)
- Whom did you say is passing the class? (Singular)
- Whom did you say are passing the class? (Plural)
Who is the nominative case. Use it for subjects and predicate nominatives.
Note: Use who or whomever if he, she, they, I, or we can be substituted in the who clause.
- Who passed the chemistry test? He/She/They/I passed the chemistry test.
Whom is the objective case. Use it for direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of the prepositions.
Note: Use whom or whomever if him, her, them, me, or us can be substituted as the object of the verb or as the object of the preposition in the whom clause.
- To whom did the professor give the test? He gave the test to him/her/them/me/us.
As tedious as these rules might seem, remember that these are always the fundamentals for any well-written short story, so be sure to keep these in mind the next time you begin to pen your next masterpiece.
Source: Hesi Evolve Reach Review