Little to no or little to none

This phrase has many variations with none deemed as the official, but the most common by far (at least when using Google's ngram viewer) is little or no. Little or no is a phrase that means something or someone has a small amount of something, if at all. Usually this is used when critiquing or criticizing something. If the object or person has it in any amount, which is doubtful, it is a very tiny amount. It is used as a submodifier The second most popular variation is little or nothing. … [Read more...]

Limelight vs spotlight

A limelight can be either a bright light used in theater that uses lime and a lens, the light created by that instrument, or it can also be figurative when media or the general public is focused on a person to that he or she is the center of attention. The noun can be plural, but is rarely used that way. The most common phrase is in the limelight for the definition of being in the public's eye. A spotlight can be a light in theater that is circular and follows an actor or performer around … [Read more...]

Leery vs leary

Leery is an adjective that describes something or someone as not trusting something or being suspicious of a place or person. It is usually used with the preposition of (e.g., I am leery of warehouses). The noun form is leeriness. Some American dictionaries list leary as a variant spelling of leery. However, it is more commonly seen as a surname and is considered by most to be a misspelling, not an alternative spelling. Interestingly, the distinction between word and name is the same … [Read more...]

Later vs latter

Later is an adverb, usually used in relation to time. It means for something to happen in the future. It isn't define specifically, but just generally in the future. Note here this can also be used as an exclamation when departing a person or group of people. Later is short for the phrase see you later. Outside the United States, the plural laters is more common. Latter is an adjective to describe one of two things in a comparison. The latter happens or exists after something else; or … [Read more...]

Sub vs infra

As a prefix, sub- means that the modified word is underneath, below, or in some way less than something else. It can mean a lower level of classification or a smaller part of something bigger. With one exception, sub- words do not use a hyphen inside the United States. Outside, including Canada, most sub- words use a hyphen in their official spellings. Infra- is also an prefix that can mean below, but usually means inside or within. With a few exceptions, whether the classification … [Read more...]

Petulant vs impetuous

Petulant is an adjective used to describe something or someone as being rude or disrespectful, especially when said person is disappointed or denied a desire. It is commonly associated with children who throw tantrums and adults who may act like children who throw tantrums. The adverb form is petulantly and the noun form is petulance. Impetuous is an adjective used to describe something or someone as being or doing things that are not thought out or researched, someone who makes rash or … [Read more...]

Imaginary or imaginative

Imaginary is an adjective used to describe something or someone as being in one's imagination, or not existing in reality. It is also commonly used in mathematics to a square root of a negative number, something which does not actually exist and can only be imaginary. The adverb form of this word is imaginarily and the noun form is imaginariness. Imaginative is also an adjective and can be used to describe something as not being real or pertaining to imagination. But it is not always a … [Read more...]

In point of fact or in fact or as a matter of fact

In fact is by far the more common idiom. It is phrase that is used to emphasize a particular truth, especially if it is contrary to what would commonly be understood. A good synonym is actually. In point of fact means exactly the same thing, only takes more words to do it. Most of the time it is listed in dictionaries, if it is listed at all, as in (point of) fact. One benefit to the longer phrase is that it calls even more attention to the shared truth. However, most of the time it is … [Read more...]

American Indian vs Native American

The name by which it is polite to call a group of people is sometimes in flux and changes over time as political and social perceptions change. What was once normal can become offensive over time, usually because it was always offensive to begin with. The name of peoples whose ancestors were originally in the Americas before colonization is a tricky subject, mainly because they were never lumped together in one group before. Each tribe or family group called themselves something different. As … [Read more...]

Impromptu or improvised

Impromptu can be a noun, an adverb, or an adjective. It describes something as not being organized or planned in advance. The plural form of the noun is impromptus. Improvised is an adjective and is a synonym of impromptu. It carries the additional definition of being created with what's around, or being makeshift. In music, improvisation or an improvised piece is distinctly different than an impromptu piece. Improvisation is creating the music without sheet music or a plan, just … [Read more...]

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