Dreamed vs. dreamt

There is no difference between dreamed and dreamt. Both are considered correct, and both function as the past tense and past participle of the verb dream. Dreamed is preferred in all main varieties of English, but dreamt is especially common in British English; while American writers use dreamt about a tenth as often as dreamed, British writers use dreamt about a third of the time. Dreamt is more often used in the figurative senses of the word---especially in the phrase dreamt … [Read more...]

Speak to

The phrasal verb speak to is widely used idiomatically to convey various senses, including show, demonstrate, express, relate to, address, or speak about. For example, one might say that this post speaks to the meaning of speak to, or that the existence of this idiom speaks to a gap in the language, or that these examples speak to how the phrase is commonly used. The phrase could usually give way to a one-word synonym, but people seem to like using it, especially in speech. Because the … [Read more...]

Invaluable vs. valuable

Invaluable and valuable are nearly synonyms, despite the potentially misleading negative prefix in- on invaluable. Valuable means of considerable value, and invaluable means incapable of being valued. If you need an opposite of valuable, there are many options such as inexpensive, cheap, and worthless.  The difference between invaluable and valuable can be subtle, but think of it this way: valuable usually applies to things that have monetary value, while invaluable usually applies to things … [Read more...]

Hail vs. hale

Hail is a noun referring to precipitation in the form of spherical pellets of ice, and it's a verb meaning (1) to salute or greet, (2) to call out in order to catch the attention of, and (3) to come or originate from. The precipitation-related sense can also be used as a verb. Hale usually means free from infirmity or illness, but it also has a rarer verb sense---to compel to go (usually to court). Examples Hail Winds gusted up to 65 miles per hour Saturday night as hail pounded much of the … [Read more...]

Qualitative vs. qualitive

Qualitative is the standard form of the adjective meaning of or relating to quality (not to be confused with quantitative). A few dictionaries list qualitive as an accepted variant of qualitative, but this is not borne out in practice. Most, if not all, edited publications prefer qualitative. … [Read more...]


One traditional definition of evacuate is to empty, and until the late 20th century, evacuate was often used as a polite way of saying empty one's bowels. So, for example, if you were to say I have to evacuate immediately, someone might direct you to the restroom. But while this obsolescent use of evacuate still entertains people who take an interest in English usage, there is nothing wrong with using evacuate to mean to withdraw from or vacate a place, and these senses have in fact been common … [Read more...]

Impinge vs. infringe

Impinge, meaning (1) to collide or strike, or (2) to encroach, is usually followed by on or upon. In the second sense, in which the word is most common today, impinge is an intransitive verb, so it can't have a direct object (that is, it can't act directly on something and must have the on or upon to intervene). For example, you might impinge on something's privacy, but you don't impinge their privacy. Impinge's near synonym infringe is both transitive and intransitive. As a transitive verb … [Read more...]

Abided vs. abode

The versatile verb abide has several meanings, including (1) to tolerate, (2) to withstand, (3) to stay in a place, and (4) to dwell. When followed by the preposition by, abide also means to conform or comply---for example, "I always abide by the rules." The traditional past tense and past participle of abide is abode. The form is also a noun meaning a dwelling place---so, for example, one might say, "I have abode in that abode for a year." But through the past several centuries, abided has … [Read more...]

Accord vs. accordance

To be in accord is to be in agreement. The noun usually refers to a state of harmony between two or more people or groups. To be in accordance is to be in compliance. For example, you might build a house in accordance with zoning laws. Accord usually takes the preposition with, while accordance can take either to or with. While accordance has only the one narrow definition, accord doubles as a verb meaning (1) to cause to agree, (2) to bestow upon, or (3) to be in agreement. It's also a noun … [Read more...]

Phrasal prepositions

A phrasal preposition (not to be confused with a prepositional phrase) is two or more words functioning as a preposition. Below are some of the most common phrasal prepositions in English: according to apart from because of by means of contrary to given that in addition to in front of in reference to in regard to instead of in spite of on account of on top of out of prior to pursuant to rather than with regard to with the exception of Phrasal … [Read more...]

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