Thursday, December 29, 2011

Commonly Confusing Words


Masterly uses master in the sense of master craftsman. It means of a master-in other words, first-rate: It was a masterly presentation! Masterful uses master in the sense of a dog and its master. It means like a master-in other words, domineering: He was masterful when the strikers confronted him.


Nauseated means disgusted or sick to one’s stomach. Nauseating and nauseous both mean causing nausea or revulsion. If you want to say that you’re feeling queasy, use nauseated, not nauseous. Her new perfume made me feel nauseated. Her makeup job is nauseating too.


Oral means spoken, as opposed to written: She gave me written instructions, and explained them orally. Verbal means having to do with words or language. It can refer to spoken and written words. He has a terrible temper, but he only expresses it verbally, never physically.


To persecute someone is to continually make trouble for him; to prosecute someone is to press civil or criminal charges against him. Hitler persecuted many ethnic and religious groups. You can’t be prosecuted for making a face at someone.


To pour is to dump something out of a container. To pore over something is to read it very intently. If you like a book, you’ll pore over it. If you don’t like it, you might pour your tea on it.


Precede means come before; proceed means go ahead. A precedes B in the alphabet. As soon as you’ve stopped screaming, we’ll proceed with this meeting.


Premier as an adjective means most important. (Some people use it to mean first in time, but this usage is almost extinct.) As a noun, it means prime minister. As a noun or verb, premiere means the first performance or exhibit of a play, film, or piece of music. The premier attended the premiere of my new play. The premier reason for doing it is that you’ll be fired if you don’t..


Principle is a noun, meaning a fundamental truth or law; principal is an adjective and a noun, and can mean the head of a school, a sum of money that accrues interest, or a person of the highest rank within a group. The principal of my school didn’t have any principles!” A principle of sound investment is to get a high interest rate for your principal. He’s the principal tenor in the opera company. If you’re referring to a person, you will always use principal rather than principle. Just remember: The principal is your pal!

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