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20 Common Words That You’re Using Wrong

20 Common Words That You’re Using Wrong
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Are you using some common words wrongly? All sorts of weird uses are making their appearance on the language stage. Here are twenty of the most common ones but maybe soon, they will no longer be a problem, as language evolves. Ask me again, ten years from now.

1. Acute vs. Chronic

These words are normally used to describe pain. An acute pain means one that is sharp and sudden while a chronic one has been affecting you for a very long time. ‘Acute’ has other meanings which usually refer to a penetrating insight or a crucial situation.

Correct: ‘ I felt an acute pain in my shoulder which did not last long, fortunately.’

Incorrect: ‘He has suffered from acute pain in the hip for almost ten years’. ‘Chronic’ should be used here.

2. Affect vs. Effect

We talk about side effects when referring to illness or medication. ‘Effect’ is used as a noun which simply means ‘the result of’. The problem arises when people confuse this with the verb ‘affect’ which means to influence in a negative way.

Correct : ‘One of the effects of the recession was an increase in unemployment.’

Incorrect:- ‘Her serious illness effected him greatly.’ ‘Affected’ should be used here

3. Because vs. Since

Look at this sentence:  ‘Since you know Jack, there was no need to introduce you’. ‘Since’ is used when the reason is actually known by everybody.  We use ‘because’ when the reason is not clear or obvious.  ‘I was late because of the awful traffic’ is fine here. Imagine if we used ‘since’ in this sentence. It would sound very strange!

4. Bring vs. Take

If you are coming to my house for dinner, I can ask you to bring a bottle of wine. When leaving, I can remind you, ‘Don’t forget to take your smartphone’.  It all depends on the direction. Usually, ‘bring’ denotes that someone is coming towards you. If you are headed in another direction, ‘take’ is the right one to use.

5. Cache vs. Cachet

You often come across the word ‘cache’ when you are told that there is a problem with your browser and that the cache should be emptied. It just means a memory storage unit for URLs has become rather crowded. ‘Cache’ can also be used for storing weapons and treasure.

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‘Cachet’ can mean a mark of excellence or prestige, as in ‘The name Churchill has a certain cachet’. It can also mean an official seal on a document or letter.

6. Deserts vs Deserts vs Desserts

Brown Betty, Funnel cake and Red velvet cake are all American desserts. That is easy (and delicious).  Note the double ’s’ in the spelling. But how do you pronounce it? Click here to hear it.

Now, what about the other two? The first one is desert (stress on first syllable) which is the word we use when talking about the Sahara and sandy places. It can be singular or plural.

The other ‘deserts’ (more often plural than not; second syllable is stressed) can mean deserving punishment or the reward for something nasty. It comes from the old French word ‘deservir’ which means ‘deserve’. So, when you are satisfied that someone has been fairly punished for some nasty crime, then you can safely use it. It usually goes well with the word ‘just’ to emphasis that justice has been done.

Correct:  ‘Finally the murderous Archdeacon gets his just deserts and is killed by Quasimodo’

Here is one ridiculous example I have invented which illustrates the use of all three in one sentence: – ‘As I sat in my desert tent, enjoying my pecan pie dessert, I could not help feeling delighted that Bernie Madoff had got his just deserts for stealing money from his investors.’

7. Discreet vs Discrete

How discreet are you?  If you are an expert in avoiding asking people embarrassing questions or you are careful to keep confidential information to yourself, then you are discreet. Congrats!

‘Discrete’ means something entirely different. It means separate or distinct parts or units. We can correctly write:

‘We examined discrete market segments before deciding on pricing’

8. Elicit vs. Illicit

The word ‘elicit’ comes from the Latin ‘elicere’ or ‘licere’ which means to entice or coax, especially in the context of getting the truth or getting a response. A correct use would be: ‘Our survey did not elicit many responses’ It is typically used in situations where you are seeking a comment, a testimony or information of some kind.

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The word ‘illicit’ describes something illegal or which does not conform to common standards.

Incorrect: ‘He carried on an elicit affair with John’s wife.’ The correct word should be ‘illicit’

9.  Emigrate vs. Immigrate

Think of ‘emigrate’ as a means of exit. Both words begin with ‘e’ and means that emigrants get out when they want to leave their country of origin. We usually talk about our family in this way. ‘My great grandfather emigrated from Ireland when famine stalked the land’ is correct.

‘Immigrate’ describes the process of entering the country. We talk about ‘immigration policies’ and ‘illegal immigration’.

10.  Expresso vs. Espresso

I cannot understand why people incorrectly label espresso coffee as ‘expresso’.  Does it mean that it has an extra shot of caffeine or am I missing something? It is a complete mystery to me. I have heard a rumour that some baristas at Starbucks are incorrectly using the term ’expresso’.

11. I could care less vs. I couldn’t care less

Another mystery! People are actually saying ‘I could care less’ which means that they basically care but they want to do it less.  What they really mean is that they do not give a damn. The correct way of saying that is ‘I couldn’t care less’.

12.  I.e. vs. E.g.

If you want to give an example of something and do not want to give the whole list, just use ‘e.g.’ The original Latin meaning is ‘for example’.  A correct sentence would be ‘Some staff (e.g. Mary and Lou) are on a training course.’

If you want to explain something, use ‘ i.e.’ from the Latin id est which basically means you need to give an explanation, reiterate or simply say it in other words. Spot the incorrect sentence here:

1. It happened in July, i.e. three months ago.

2. It happened in July, e.g. three months ago.

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Number 2 is incorrect because it is not an example, it is a specific event.

13.  Incredible vs. Incredulous

‘Unbelievable’ is the idea you want to get across when you use ‘incredible’. It has a very positive meaning in that it is unbelievably good.

‘Incredulous’ has the meaning of a person being slightly sceptical or unwilling to believe, so it does have a negative connotation.

‘She looked at them with an incredulous stare’ is correct.

14.  Ironic

This word is often misused. It simply means there is some incongruity in a situation or comment. When I told my sister that a cardiologist friend of mine had died of a heart attack, she remarked that it was rather ironic. This was a correct usage of the word. You could be ironic if you say you feel great when you are clearly suffering from a terrible cough. But annoying events such as bad weather on your holiday are not ‘ironic’. They are just an unhappy coincidence or bad luck.

15.  It’s vs. its

Look, it is just an apostrophe (‘), so what on earth is all the fuss?  Well, the problem is that people are using ‘it’s, (the contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’) instead of ‘its’ (the possessive pronoun).  Spot the incorrect sentence here:

1. It’s been a long time

2. Australia has a booming economy; it’s mining industry has helped enormously

3. The fox did not venture far from its den

Number 2 is incorrect as the possessive pronoun (its) is needed. If you are ever in doubt, just try substituting the ‘it’s’ with ‘it is’, the full form, and you quickly see the problem. If we do that with sentence number 2, we get

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‘Australia has a booming economy – it is mining industry has helped enormously’. It does not make sense.

16.  For all intents and purposes vs. For all intensive purposes

People have started misusing ‘for all intents and purposes’ which simple means ‘the most usual or practical situations or purposes’. If you use ‘for all intensive purposes’ in describing a job, the person may think that there are emergency or life saving scenarios involved.

17.  Lose vs. loose

If you are wearing a loose fitting dress, it just means the opposite of tight. It has nothing to do with ‘lose’ which is a verb for not winning a match, or missing an opportunity.

18.  Me-me Vs. Meme

The word ’meme’ rhymes with ‘cream’ so dead easy to say. As we all know, it is just a viral image or piece of funny text which gets spread round the Internet. The only problem is that if you say this word incorrectly and use ‘me-me’, people may think you are being more than a little selfish!

19.  Principle vs. Principal

“My guiding principles in life are to be honest, genuine, thoughtful and caring.”- Prince William Prince William is talking about his values, ethics and beliefs. But when we use the word ’principal’ it can have different meanings such as:

  • The head of a school.
  • The primary or main element.
  • A sum of money lent.
  • First in order of importance, e.g. ‘The country’s principal cities’.
  • The leading performer in opera or concerts.

20. Than vs. Then

These get easily confused because they have almost the same pronunciation, as many of the examples above. When you make comparisons, you have to use ‘than’, e.g. ‘John is a better performer than Robin’

As for ‘then’, this is used to describe various time events. It can mean afterwards, a consequence or at a time in the past.

Look at these examples using ‘then’ correctly:

  1. Turn right at the traffic lights, then continue along Highway 23
  2. If you had listened to her, then you would not be in trouble now.
  3. I was much slimmer back then.

This list is by no means exhaustive and I have only covered the principal meanings and usage. Let us know in the comments which ones you have trouble in remembering and using.

Featured photo credit: Dictionary/Kenneth Movie via flickr.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 12, 2021

100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier

100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier
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Want to learn some quick and easy life hacks that are easy to do, low cost and saves you time?

By tweaking little things in your daily life, it can make your life much more convenient!

Here’re 100 of the most practical life hacks so you can just pick up any of them right away!

83 tie a small piece of bright colored fabric

    84 write random letter

      85 use a rubberband

        86 dorm smell bad

          87 lean your phone on your sunglassess

            89 how to waterproof your shoes

              90 take a picture of the name card

                91 iron inside out

                  92 old newspaper

                    93 tumble try shoes

                      keep a card like this

                        SONY DSC

                          94 soap bar

                            95 make a hole

                              96 drop the battery

                                97 use a coozie

                                  98 when taking a picture

                                    use a clean dust pan

                                      try a pants hanger

                                        use your cellphone light

                                          use a spring from an old pen

                                            quick and easy iphone speaker

                                              user binder clips

                                                wrap a wet paper towel around your beverage

                                                  put pancake mix in a ketchup bottle

                                                    clean out an old lotion bottle for your beach

                                                      use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a bbq

                                                        doritos are great for kindling

                                                          use nail polish to identify different keys

                                                            use a hanging shoe rack to store cleaning supplies

                                                              freeze grapes to chill white wine without

                                                                use paper clips to organize your cables

                                                                  almost finished your jar of nutella

                                                                    sick of having a box full of tangled

                                                                      unroll the rim to increase the capacity

                                                                        cut open toilet paper rolls and use as a cuff

                                                                          remove the stem from strawberries

                                                                            turn an old bottle into a simple little cord holder

                                                                              for iced coffee and iced cappuccino, use frozen coffee cubes

                                                                                how to fold a fitted bed sheet

                                                                                  tired of snoozing past your alarm

                                                                                    place a rubber band around an open paint can to wipe your brush on

                                                                                      ut a wooden spoon across a boiling pot

                                                                                        use bread clips to save flip-flops

                                                                                          take pictures of friends holding items

                                                                                            how i always know which headphone is the left one

                                                                                              put a stocking over the end of a vacuum

                                                                                                How to make sure you drink enough water

                                                                                                  user a can opener to open blister

                                                                                                    good sandwich guide

                                                                                                      turn your muffin pans upside down

                                                                                                        50 pounds of groceries and living on the 5th floor

                                                                                                          the right way to make a blt

                                                                                                            add one teaspoon of baking soda

                                                                                                              38

                                                                                                                hair straighteners equals to collar irons

                                                                                                                  stack your clothes vertically to see them all

                                                                                                                    the right way to make cookies in the summer

                                                                                                                      how to clean a blender

                                                                                                                        the right way to eat a popsicle

                                                                                                                          use bread clips to label and organize power cords

                                                                                                                            to get the built up residue off of your shower head

                                                                                                                              user a hair clip to orgainize long wires

                                                                                                                                a frozen saturated sponge in a bag

                                                                                                                                  rub stuck zipper teeth with a graphite pencil

                                                                                                                                    use a soda pop tab

                                                                                                                                      50

                                                                                                                                        51 How to multiply large numbers in your head.

                                                                                                                                          52 How to open a bottle if you dont have a corkscrew.

                                                                                                                                            rub a walnut on damaged wooden furniture

                                                                                                                                              kids fall out of bed

                                                                                                                                                use toothpaste to clear up hazy car

                                                                                                                                                  58

                                                                                                                                                    59 keep pizza out while driving home

                                                                                                                                                      60 put your straw through the tab to keep it from rising

                                                                                                                                                        hold oreos with a fork so your fingers

                                                                                                                                                          Never lose your remotes again

                                                                                                                                                            hiding your emergency money

                                                                                                                                                              use a bread tab to hold your spot on a roll

                                                                                                                                                                if you are at a hotel and run out of chargers

                                                                                                                                                                  keep a square of cardboard in a ziplock bag

                                                                                                                                                                    If you need to pee or smoke at a bar

                                                                                                                                                                      drill holes in the bottom of your garbage

                                                                                                                                                                        use an accented letter as your passcode

                                                                                                                                                                          use a squeeze ketchup bottle top with your shopvac

                                                                                                                                                                            do something unusual when locking the door

                                                                                                                                                                              when heating leftovers space out a circle in the middle

                                                                                                                                                                                dont burn yourself in those hard to reach candles

                                                                                                                                                                                  put a small amount of water in a glass when you microwave your pizza

                                                                                                                                                                                    75 use a piece of paper to organize

                                                                                                                                                                                      use half a pool noodle

                                                                                                                                                                                        pencil case to store cables

                                                                                                                                                                                          78 clothespin to hold nail

                                                                                                                                                                                            79 make blts

                                                                                                                                                                                              80 take a picture of your fridge

                                                                                                                                                                                                81 fill plastic water bottles

                                                                                                                                                                                                  82 right ways to eat chips

                                                                                                                                                                                                    99 if your plug keeps failing

                                                                                                                                                                                                      100 put the banana on the wire

                                                                                                                                                                                                        88 before you throw away a post it

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Source: Reddit LifeProTips

                                                                                                                                                                                                          There you go, 100 awesome life hacks that you can try right now to make your life a lot easier!

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