In an age of autocorrect, abbreviations and simplified language, we can very easily forget the little contrasts that make a huge difference in meaning.
This sometimes leads to misunderstanding or even the risk of sounding illiterate. Using these simple tips will change the way of expressing yourself and help you start sounding smarter.
Preventative vs Preventive
Preventative is an obsolete form which although has the same meaning as preventive, it is not used anymore. It was banned almost a hundred years ago, so someone might seek preventive health care or others may take preventive measures for their safety, business or anything else.
Infamous vs Famous
While both refer to reputation, they have a complete different connotation and meaning, so you should be careful! While some may be referred to as rich and famous, those who are rich and infamous means they have a reputation of the worst kind and may as well earned their money in dubious ways. Just look at it this way: Unless grandma’s cookies are notoriously evil and disgraceful, they are famous, not infamous.
Evoke vs Invoke
A painting evokes emotion; a comedy show evokes laughter – to evoke means “to elicit or call forth.” We use invoke when we wish “to call on a higher power, petition for support, or implement.” For example: “Ben invoked Robert Frost for his first assignment” or “The principal invoked the aid of the teachers”
Denounce vs Renounce
These may sound similar, but their meanings are not: Denounce means “to condemn publicly or accuse formally” as in “The prosecutor denounced the CEO for insider trading”; Renounce on the other hand means “to give up or refuse to follow”, a typical example being “He renounced his faith”.
Uninterested vs Disinterested
While the two mean exactly the same, the difference is subtle but important in certain situations where one should convey a lack of bias. In other words, if you wish to convey a lack of bias you would use disinterested. If you don’t care about such grammatical subtlety you are uninterested.
Him, her and myself vs Him, her and I
Myself is a reflexive pronoun and it is used when an action is directed toward the subject: “I treated myself with a nice wine after a job done well,” or for emphasis: “I myself have done that a million times.” This is why you cannot use this pronoun in the above example in any circumstance. If you wish to sound smarter, keep it simple and correct.
Former vs Latter
Although the difference is clear-cut, sometimes writers and speakers mix these up. Former is the first of two, while latter is the second. Speaking of which, be careful with formerly vs formally: the former means “at an earlier time,” while the latter means “by an established form or structure.”
Neither/either are vs Neither/either is
Both neither and either are singular pronouns and take a singular verb. Confusion sets in when the verb appears far from its subject and/or when a plural object falls after it: “Turns out, neither of the mischievous kids was(not were) responsible for the broken window; it was Mr. Jack who did it!”
Fall between the cracks vs Fall through the cracks
You can’t really fall between an opening; you fall into or through it. Having said that, don’t let logic fall through the cracks when you use this idiom.
Mute vs Moot
They are very different and confusion comes when pronouncing them. Moot commonly means “deprived of practical significance,” whereas mute means silent. So you can choose to be mute about a moot point, but be careful about the difference.
Just desserts vs Just deserts
When someone needs to get what he deserves, you hope he reaps his just deserts. But on a particularly well-behaved three-year-old’s birthday, she might be allowed in just desserts.
Modern-day vs Modern
Modern-day is a redundant form and modern simply covers it. So be a modern speaker and sound smarter by using the superior word.
So-called “good grammar” vs So-called good grammar
The difference here is in the quotation marks and it is really an important difference. Using quotation marks after so called is obsolete and silly, since this phrase covers the need for that. It introduces a term as falsely, improperly, or commonly referred to as something. So forget about the quotation marks in writing or the so-called air quotes in speaking.
Exuberant vs Exorbitant
While both mean “extreme”, these terms are often confused in relation to money. Exuberant refers to unrestrained enthusiasm or flamboyance, while exorbitant means “exceeding an appropriate amount.” So, an exuberant use of a credit card, leads to an exorbitant bill down the road.
Come vs Go
Come stands for movement toward the speaker, while go denotes the opposite. “Jacques said: “Come to Paris!” but after having stayed there for two months he said I should go.”
Jealous vs Envious
Jealousy is a feeling of resentment toward another, particularly in matters relating to an intimate relationship, while envy refers to covetousness of another’s advantages, possessions or abilities. So your ex is jealous of your new partner, but your neighbor is envious of your pretty house.
Effect vs Affect
Affect is generally considered to be a verb which means “to produce change in or influence something”. Effect, on the other hand, is a noun which can also be used as a verb and it means “a change that occurred.” So, the negative effect of pollution affects the environment in a bad way and all of this has a disastrous effect on our lives.
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from psychology, to all sorts of disciplines such as science and news.