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Detract vs. distract

To detract is to diminish, take away from, or reduce the value of (something). The word is mainly used intransitively (i.e., not requiring a direct object), and its usually followed by from. For instance, a pile of unfinished work might detract from your enjoyment of a football game. Distract, which is always used transitively (meaning that it must have a direct object), means to divert attention or interest. The verb almost always acts directly on the person or thing being distracted. For … [Read more...]

French indefinite articles

An indefinite article is used when referring to a general noun rather than a particular noun. While definite articles are used with specific nouns that are understood by both speaker and listener (the being the only English definite article), indefinite articles are used to call upon unspecified people or things. In English, the main indefinite articles are a and an, while a few other words such as some and any can also fill the role. In French, the indefinite articles are un, une, and … [Read more...]

English moods (imperative, indicative, and subjunctive)

In a sentence, the grammatical mood conveys the speaker's attitude about the state of being of what the sentence describes. This may sound a little complicated, but it's simple enough: In the indicative mood, for instance, the speaker is sure that something is the case, while in the imperative mood the speaker desires that something should happen.  Mood is only one of many verb properties, others being tense, aspect, and voice. It is expressed through the sentence's verbs and grammatical … [Read more...]

Negative prefixes

The most common negative prefixes in English are in-, un-, non-, de-, dis-, a-, anti-, im-, il-, and ir-. While some of these prefixes are interchangeable in some uses, there are subtle differences between them. in-, im-, il-, ir- The in- prefix (from which im-, il-, and ir- are derived) is generally the least useful of the negative prefixes, as it only goes with certain Latin-derived stems (e.g., intolerant, inarticulate, impenetrable), is highly conventionalized, and is identical to … [Read more...]

Whilst

The conjunction whilst means the same as while. For Americans the word tends to have an archaic ring, so it is rare in American English and tends to give the impression that the writer is either British or affecting a British voice. There is less prejudice against whilst outside the U.S., however, and the word is fairly common in British publications (though all the British style books we checked recommend while over whilst). Examples With each of these examples, note … [Read more...]

Farther vs. further

Farther and further both mean at a greater distance, and they are used interchangeably in this sense. In the United States, though, farther is more often used to refer to physical distances, and further more often refers to figurative and nonphysical distances. For example, we might say that one mountain is farther away than another, while we might say the price of a stock (a nonphysical thing) fell further today than yesterday. This is not a rule, however, and further is often used for physical … [Read more...]

Flaunt vs. flout

To flaunt is to exhibit or parade (something) in an ostentatious manner. To flout is (1) to show contempt for or to scorn, or (2) to contemptuously ignore (especially rules or conventions). These verbs are often confused due to their similarity in sound, but they share no common ground. Examples The most common mixup involving these words is the use of flaunt in place of flout, as in these instances: [T]he cyclists will sometimes flaunt the law and say their name is "Donald Duck" rather than … [Read more...]

Ideogram

In contexts unrelated to poetry, an ideogram is a character or symbol that represents a thing or an idea without expressing its pronunciation. For example, many street signs---such as those in the U.S. representing "construction ahead," "handicap parking," or "no parking"---are ideograms. Ideograms that use pictures rather than letters or letterlike symbols are sometimes known as pictograms. Poetic ideograms In poetry, an ideogram is a group of juxtaposed words and phrases meant to represent a … [Read more...]

Affect vs. effect

Affect is usually a verb, and effect is usually a noun. To affect something is to change or influence it, and an effect is something that happens due to a cause. When you affect something, it produces an effect. Here are a few examples of the words used correctly in these senses: The storm knocked down power lines, affecting several thousand people in rural communities. [CBC] Gauging the disaster’s effect requires assessing economic activity that might be lost. [Wall Street Journal] The … [Read more...]

Who’s vs. whose

Who's is a contraction of who is or who has. Whose is the possessive form of who or which. Think of it this way: If you were to replace it with who is or who has, would its meaning change? If no, you want who's. If yes, you want whose. Here are a few examples of the words used correctly: Celebrity birthdays: Who's another year older Jan. 11? [OC Register] Who's Renting What on Netflix? [World's Strangest] Whose ass should I kick at ping-pong? [Warming Glow] I am convinced this … [Read more...]

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