Commonly Misused Words in English - Part 3

Here is the third and final part of commonly misused words in English. As you know, it is important to use words in the right context, so let's look at more words that look very similar but have very different meanings:

Ingenuous and Ingenious

Both are adjectives. Whereas Ingenuous means to be open or frank about something, Ingenious is to be very clever.

Jane is too ingenuous sometimes.
It was an ingenuous idea that made the inventor a millionaire.

Licence and License

Licence is a noun and means to have the permission to do something. License is the verb and means to give permission to do something:

She passed the driving test and now has her driving licence.
The restaurant is not licensed to sell alcohol.

Loose and Lose

Loose is an adjective and means something is not securely attached or fastened whereas lose is a verb and means to fail to keep, maintain or cease to have:

The bolts holding the shelves together are loose.
If you lose too much weight you will start to look ill.

Maybe and May be

Maybe means possibly or perhaps and May be implies something can happen or has the ability to happen. Some examples:

Maybe she likes chocolate ice cream.
One day she may be a famous dancer.

President and Precedent

Both these words are nouns. President means to be the head or an organization or a state and Precedent means to use something as an example or as a rule for what will occur in the future:

She is the President of the company.
The incident in the court was a precedent for changing the law.

Principal and Principle

Both are nouns but Principal can also be used as an adjective and means to be the highest in rank, the main person, the main reason whereas Principle means a rule, method or standard or basic truth.

She was the Principal of St Mary's School.
She hates any sort of violence on principle.

Prophesy and Prophecy

Prophesy is the verb and means to predict what will occur in the future and Prophecy is the noun and is the power of predicting the future. Here are examples:

I prophesy that the world will end in a hundred years from now.
His prophecy sent chills of fear down their spines.

Some time and Sometime

Some time means an unstated or indefinite period of time (here, "time" is the noun and "some" is the adjective) whereas Sometime relates to an unspecified point of time and is an adverb as well as an adjective:

Can you give me some time to discuss the report?
Come up and see me sometime.

Stationary and Stationery

Stationary is an adjective and means when something or someone is not moving or changing. Stationery is a noun and relates to writing materials and products:

The cars in the traffic jam were all stationary.
She was responsible for ordering the office's supply of stationery.


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