P – Q

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  • Paddy wagona large police vehicle used to transport multiple arrestees.
  • Paean, paeon, peonPaean: a fervent expression of praise. Paeon: a four-syllable metrical foot in prosody. Peon: an unskilled laborer.
  • Pajamas vs. pyjamaspajamas in the U.S.; pyjamas everywhere else.
  • Palate, palette, palletPalate: the roof of the mouth and the sense of taste. Palette: the board painters use to mix their colors, and the colors used in a work. Pallet: a platform used for moving cargo or freight.
  • Pale in comparisonto look weak, small, meager, or inferior in comparison to something else.
  • Palindrome (poetry)a poem, line, or sentence that reads the same both forward and backward, either letter by letter or word by word.
  • Pall vs. pallorA pall is a coffin cover, something that shrouds, or a gloomy atmosphere. A pallor is a pale complexion.
  • Par excellence1. quintessential; 2. excellent; 3. to a degree of excellence.
  • Paralyse vs. paralyzeparalyze in North America; paralyse outside North America.
  • Paramount vs. tantamountTantamount: equivalent. Paramount: 1. of chief concern; 2. supreme in rank.
  • Parentheses (round brackets)
  • Parlay vs. parleyParlay: to place a bet as part of a series of cumulative bets; 2. to bet; 3 to maneuver something of advantage to receive something of much greater value. Parley: to have a discussion.
  • Parricide vs. patricideTraditionally, patricide is the murder of one's father or the murderer of one's father, and patricide is the murder of a close family member. Today, through, they are mostly used interchangeably, usually in reference to father murder.
  • Part and parcela basic or essential part.
  • Participial prepositions
  • Participles
  • Pass the buck, the buck stopsPass the buck: to hand responsibility to someone else. The buck stops with someone who fully accepts responsibility.
  • Passed vs. pastPassed: 1. past tense of pass; 2. past participle meaning having passed. Past: 1. the time before the present; 2. completed, finished, or no longer in existence.
  • Patsy1. a person who is easily taken advantage of; 2. a scapegoat.
  • Payback vs. pay backPayback: a noun and an adjective. Pay back: a verb.
  • Peace of mind, piece of (one's) mindPeace of mind is serenity, quietude, or an absence of mental stress. To give a piece of your mind is to tell someone what you think, usually angrily or self-righteously.
  • Peaceable vs. peaceful In real-world usage, there is not much difference between them.
  • Peak vs. peek vs. piquePeak: 1. a maximum; 2. to achieve a maximum. Pique: 1. to provoke or arouse; 2. a feeling of resentment or indignation. Peek: a quick glance or to glance quickly.
  • Peal vs. peelPeal: 1. a ringing of a set of bells; 2. a loud burst of noise. Peel: the skin or rind of a fruit or vegetable.
  • Pecking order= a hierarchical system in which each individual is ranked in order of dominance.
  • Pedal vs. peddle vs. petalPedal: a foot-operated component of a machine. Peddle: to sell. Petal: one of the colored parts around a flower's reproductive organs.
  • Pell-mell1. confused or reckless; 2. in a confused or reckless manner.
  • Penal vs. penilePenal has to do with punishment. Penile has to do with the penis.
  • Pendant vs. pendentPendent: hanging, dangling, or suspended. Pendant: something that hangs from something else.
  • People vs. personsPeople is the usual modern plural of person, and persons is reserved for a few specific contexts.
  • Per diemby the day, per day, reckoned on a daily basis, or paid by the day.
  • Per sein itself, by itself, of itself, or intrinsically.
  • Percent vs. per centpercent in the U.S.; per cent everywhere else.
  • Perchancearchaism for perhaps.
  • Perfect storma rare combination of events or circumstances creating an unusual situation.
  • Period (full stop or full point)
  • Periodic vs. periodicalPeriodic: 1. happening at regular intervals; 2. intermittent. Periodical: 1. published at regular intervals; 2. something published at regular intervals.
  • Pernickety vs. persnicketypersnickety in North America; pernickety outside North America.
  • Perquisite vs. prerequisite (vs. requisite)Perquisite: a perk. Prerequisite: a requirement that must be achieved prior to something else. Requisite: a requirement.
  • Persecute vs. prosecuteProsecute: 1. to initiate legal proceedings against; 2. to carry on or engage in; 3. to pursue an undertaking to completion. Persecute: to oppress or harass, especially because of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
  • Persona non grataunacceptable or unwelcome.
  • Perspective vs. prospectivePerspective: 1. a view; 2. the angle from which something is viewed; 3. the proper appearance of objects in relation to each other. Prospective: 1. likely to happen; 2. likely to become.
  • Peruseto read thoroughly.
  • Pet vs. pettedPetted is the standard inflection.
  • Petrifaction vs. petrification
  • Phenomena, phenomenon Phenomenon is singular. Phenomena is plural.
  • Phial vs. vial (vs. vile)Both refer to small containers for holding liquid. Vial is the more common speling in modern English. Vile is an unrelated word meaning disgusting, contemptible, or immoral.
  • Phony vs. phoneyphony in the U.S. and Canada; phoney outside North America.
  • Phosphorous vs. phosphorusThe element is phosphorus, and phosphorous is traditionally an adjective describing things having to do with the element or with phosphor. The adjective is commonly used in place of the noun, though.
  • Phrasal adjectives
  • Phrasal prepositions
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Phrases
  • Picaresque vs. picturesquePicaresque: involving clever rogues or adventurers. Picturesque: suitable for a picture, or visually striking.
  • Pickup vs. pick up (vs. pick-up)Pickup (and pick-up): noun and adjective. Pick up: verb.
  • Piecemeal1. piece by piece; 2. little by little; 3. something done piecemeal.
  • Pincer vs. pincherPincer: an arthropod's grasping appendage. Pincher: someone or something that pinches.
  • Pixelated vs. pixilatedPixelated: rendered with visible pixels. Pixilated: crazed or intoxicated.
  • Plain vs. planePlain: a flat, treeless area. Plane: a flat, level surface.
  • Plainclothes(of a law enforcement officer) operating in civilian clothes.
  • Plateaus vs. plateauxPlateaus is the usual plural, but the French plateaux is a common secondary form in British English.
  • Playwright vs. playwriteA playwright writes plays. The writing of plays is playwriting.
  • Pleaded vs. pledPleaded remains the more common form.
  • Plenitude vs. plentitudePlenitude is the traditional form, but plentitude has gained ground.
  • Plethoraan overabundance.
  • Plough vs. plowplow in North America; plough everywhere else.
  • Plum vs. plumbPlum: 1. a sweet, purplish fruit; 2. desirable. Plumb: 1. to determine the depth of; 2. to work as a plumber; 3. exactly vertical; 4. utterly; 5. squarely; 6. a weight at the end of a line, used to determine water depth.
  • Point in timeIt could often be shortened to point or time.
  • Point of view, standpoint, viewpointThey are essentially synonyms.
  • Poisoning the wellthe fallacy involving preemptively discrediting what an opponent says.
  • Polemic vs. polemicalPolemic (n): a controversial argument hostilely refuting a specific belief or opinion. Polemical (adj): of or relating to controversy, refutation, or hostile argument.
  • PoliticsIt is usually singular, but it's usually plural when it's short for political beliefs.
  • Pollyannaa blindly or foolishly optimistic person.
  • Polygamy vs. polygyny vs. polyandryPolygamy: the practice of having more than one spouse. Polygyny: one man with multiple wives. Polyandry: one woman with multiple husbands.
  • Pompom vs. pompon (vs. pom-pom etc.)Pompom and pompon are both common. There is no reason for the word to have a hyphen.
  • PonderousPonderous: 1. having great weight; 2. unwieldy due to great weight or bulk; 3. labored and dull.
  • Poo vs. poohPooh: an interjection used to express disdain, contempt, or disbelief. Poo: defecation and the product of defecation. Both are also terms of endearment.
  • Populace vs. populousPopulace (n): the population or the general public. Populous (adj): having many people.
  • Pore over vs. pour overPore over: study carefully. Pour over: to upend a container of liquid above (something).
  • Port vs. starboardPort: the left side of a craft from the perspective of one facing the front. Starboard: the right side.
  • Portend vs. portentPortend (v): 1. to serve as an omen or a warning of; 2. to forecast. Portent (n): 1. an indication of something calamitous about to occur; 2. prophetic or threatening significance.
  • Poster childa person or thing that is a prominent example or representative of something.
  • Postpositive adjectives
  • Potentialityoften bears replacement with potential or possibility.
  • Practicable vs. practicalPracticable: capable of being put into practice. Practical: 1. of or relating to practice; 2. capable of being put to good use; 3. concerned with ordinary, tangible things; 4. being such for all useful purposes.
  • Practice vs. practiseOutside the U.S., practice is the noun and practise is the verb. In the U.S., practice fills both roles.
  • Pray vs. preyPray: 1. to utter a prayer; 2. to make a fervent request. Prey: 1. one that is hunted or attacked; 2. to hunt, catch or eat as prey.
  • Precede vs. proceedPrecede: go before. Proceed: go forward or continue.
  • Predicate nominatives
  • Premier vs. premierePremiere: the first public performance of something. Premier: 1. first in status; 2. the prime minister of a country.
  • Preposition vs. propositionPreposition: 1. a word or phrase used to relate a noun or a pronoun to another part of a sentence; 2. to position in advance. Proposition: 1. a plan or offer suggested for acceptance; 2. a matter to be dealt with; 3. to propose a private bargain.
  • Prepositions
  • Prescribe vs. proscribePrescribe: 1. to set down as a rule; 2. to order the use of. Proscribe: to prohibit or condemn.
  • President (capitalization)It's capitalized when it's a title immediately preceding the name of a president of a country. Elsewhere, there's no reason to capitalize it.
  • Presumptive vs. presumptuousPresumptive: probable. Presumptuous: 1. going beyond what is proper; 2. excessively forward.
  • Pretence vs. pretensepretense in the U.S.; pretence everywhere else.
  • Preventative vs. preventiveThe shorter form is preferred, but the longer one is an accepted variant.
  • Previous vs. priorThey are essentially interchangeable.
  • Principal vs. principlePrincipal: 1. one who holds a presiding position or rank; 2. capital or property before interest; 3. first or most important in rank. Principle: a basic truth, law, assumption, or rule.
  • Proactiveacting in advance to deal with expected circumstances.
  • Problematic vs. problematicalThe shorter form is preferred.
  • ProcrastinateIt can be either intransitive or transitive.
  • Prodigal son1. one who leaves home, behaves extravagantly, and eventually returns; 2. one who leaves home and eventually returns.
  • Program vs. programmeIn British English, program refers to computer programs, and programme is used for all other senses of the word. Program is preferred for all senses everywhere else.
  • Pronouns
  • Proof by examplethe fallacy involving deriving general conclusions from one or a few examples.
  • Prophecy vs. prophesyTo prophesy is to make a prophecy.
  • Proportional vs. proportionateProportional: 1. forming a whole with other quantities; 2. considered quantitatively with respect to something else. Proportionate: in due proportion.
  • Propsproper respect.
  • Prostate vs. prostrateProstrate: 1. lying face down; 2. to put or throw face down. Prostate: a gland in male mammals.
  • Protagonist, antagonistProtagonist: the main character in a drama. Antagonist: the protagonist's chief opponent.
  • ProtégéIt is used both with and without the accents.
  • Proved vs. provenProven is usually an adjective, and proved is usually the inflected form of the verb prove.
  • Psych vs. psychePsyche: 1. the spirit or soul; 2. the center of thought, emotion, and behavior within the human mind. Psych has many verb definitions and is an abbreviation of psychiatry.
  • Psychiatry vs. psychologyPsychiatry is a branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders. Psychology is the science of mind and behavior.
  • Pull the rug out from underto upset someone's stability or to cause their plans to fail.
  • Pullout, pull-out, pull outPullout (or pull-out): noun and adjective. Pull out: verb.
  • Purposely vs. purposefullyPurposely: on purpose. Purposefully: determinedly or with a sense of purpose.
  • Putrefactionnot putrefication or putrification.
  • Qualitative vs. qualitiveThe longer form is standard.
  • Qualitative, quantitative Quantitative: having to do with numbers and measurements. Qualitative: having to do with nonnumerical things and things that can't be measured.
  • Quantitative vs. quantitive The longer form is standard.
  • Quash vs. squashSquash: to beat, squeeze, press, or crush something into a flattened mass. Quash: 1. to set aside or annul by judicial action; 2. to suppress forcibly and completely.
  • Quasisort of, seeming, seemingly, or in the nature of. It can be either a prefix or a standalone word.
  • Question mark
  • Quid pro quo1. reciprocal exchange; 2. reciprocal.
  • Quislinga traitor, especially one who openly collaborates with an occupying force.

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