Category Archives: English Vocabulary

How to Use Commonly Misused Words

“Affect” and “Effect”
“Anxious” and “Eager”
” Convince” and “Persuade”
“Could of” and “Could have”
“Decimate” and “Devastate”
“Each other” and “One another”
“E.g.” and “I.e.”
“Good” and “Well”
“Historic” and “Historical”
“If” and “Whether”
“Lay” and “Lie”


“Like,” “As,” “Such as,” and “As though”
“Prone” and “Supine”
“Raise” and “Rise”
“Real” and “Really”
“Set” and “Sit”
“Shall, “Will,” “Should,” “Would”
“To,” “Too,” and “Two”
“Which” and “That”
“Who’s” and “Whose”
“Hilarious” and “Hysterical”

“Affect” and “Effect”

Effect

  • “Effect” is a noun referring to something that happens as a result of something else, e.g., “The antibiotic had little effect on the illness.”
  • “Effect” is also a verb meaning to bring something about, e.g., “I have decided to effect a change in the scope of this article.”

Affect

  • The verb “affect” means to change something in some way, e.g., “His steady gaze affected my ability to breathe.”
  • The noun “affect” is used fairly rarely. It refers to a display of an inner state of mind, e.g., “Her affect is subdued this evening.”

“Anxious” and “Eager”

“Anxious” should refer to anxiety and not pleasant feelings such as enthusiasm or excitement. It should be followed by a gerund (the “–ing” verb form), not an infinitive (“to” and the verb). Use “eager” with the infinitive.

  • “He was anxious about becoming the President.” (He had an uncomfortable feeling about it.)
  • “He was anxious to become the President.”
  • “He was eager/ready to become the President.” (He was happy about it.)
  • “He was waiting to become the President.”

” Convince” and “Persuade”

You convince a person of the truth or validity of an idea; you persuade a person to take action. “Convince” is usually followed by “that” or “of” whereas “persuade” is followed by an infinitive.

  • “The teacher convinced her students that good grammar could aid in communication.”
  • “The teacher persuaded her students to use good grammar.”

“Could of” and “Could have”

Modals (“could,” “would,” “should,” “may,” “might,” “must”) use the auxiliary verb “have,” not the preposition “of.” The auxiliary can be contracted as “‘ve” (as in “could’ve” and “couldn’t’ve”).

  • Incorrect: “She must of done it.”
  • Correct: “She must have (or “must’ve”) done it.”

“Decimate” and “Devastate”

“Decimate”, a great word from ancient Rome, means “kill one of every ten soldiers.” Using creative license, you would be correct in saying that the flu decimated Larry’s sixth grade class, if ten percent of the class were home sick. Remember that “decimate” is similar to “decimal,” which refers to counting by tens.

Oftentimes, “decimate” is misused to mean “devastate,” which means “overwhelm or lay waste to.” Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but did not decimate its population.

“Each other” and “One another”

“Each other” is used for two; “one another” is used for more than two.

  • “The two brothers helped each other study.”
  • “These five businesses compete with one another.”

“E.g.” and “I.e.”

These Latin abbreviations can add formality to your writing. Use “e.g.” (exemplī grātiā) to mean “for example” or “such as” and “i.e.” (id est) to mean “that is” or “in other words.” Remember the “i” in “in other words” and the “e” in “for example.” The comma after “e.g.” or “i.e.” is optional.

“Good” and “Well”

“Good” is an adjective or noun; “well” is usually an adverb. Say “I am doing good” only if “good” is a noun. For instance, charities can do good. Otherwise, use “well” with all verbs other than linking and be verbs. “I am doing good today” is incorrect (unless you are doing good things, like Superman) but you can say “I am good today.”

  • Incorrect: “She cannot see good.” (Use “well.”)
  • Incorrect: “This car runs good.” (Use “well.”)
  • Incorrect: “This plan works real good.” (Use “very well.”)
  • Correct: “This plan sounds good.” (“Good” follows the linking verb “sounds.”)
  • Correct: “I am well today.” (“Well” is an adjective showing my well-being and health.)

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How to Use These and Those

Use “this” when something is nearby.

Use “that” when something is a distance away. something is a distance away.

  • This book belongs to you.
  • That dog is asleep.
  • This shirt is mine.
  • That car is his.

“These” and “those” are the plural forms of “this” and “that”.

  • These children have been reading all afternoon. (Meaning the ones in the same room)
  • These are mine.
  • Those children have been playing outside all day.
  • Those are yours.

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How to Use the Words “Mad” and “Angry”

Understand the definitions:

  1. Mad:
    • Very foolish (Ex. “That was rather mad of you, challenging Dracula to a blood-drinking contest.”)
    • Marked by uncontrolled excitement or emotion (Ex. “When he saw the wine glasses filled with red liquid, the vampire was swept away in a mad whirl of giddiness.”)
    • Affected with madness or insanity (Ex. “Upon arriving at the scene, the doctor, taking one look at the waxen, heavily draped creature which lay twitching nervously in the corner, pronounced his patient as being ‘quite mad.'”).

  2. Anger (often used as ‘angry):
    • A strong emotion; a feeling that is oriented toward some real or supposed grievance.
    • Belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong.

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