Qualitative, quantitative

Because the adjectives qualitative and quantitative are antonyms, they're often used in contrast with each other, and their close association and similarity in sound makes them easily confused. The distinction is simple: quantitative relates to numbers and amounts, while qualitative relates to nonnumeric characteristics and properties. Both qualitative and quantitative are preferred over their shorter alternatives, qualitive and quantitive. Examples Quantitative And this week, after a … [Read more...]

Lended vs. lent

The verb lend is traditionally inflected lent in the past tense and as a past participle. Lended appears from time to time, but nowhere in the English-speaking world is it common. Examples A few instances of lended used in place of lent are easily found---for example: It was a regular season match-up that lended itself to a postseason atmosphere. [Walton Tribune] The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Home Depot and too many other organizations to name lended a hand with the cleanup. [Gwinnett … [Read more...]

One-time vs. onetime

In 21st-century North America usage, one-time, with a hyphen, means occurring only once. For instance, a payment you have to make only once is a one-time payment. Onetime, without a hyphen, is synonymous with former. For example, George W. Bush is the onetime president of the United States. You will not see the one-time/onetime distinction noted in dictionaries because it is a new development, not widely borne out until this century. Outside North America, the hyphenated one-time is commonly … [Read more...]

Paralyse vs. paralyze

Paralyse and paralyze are different spellings of the same word. Paralyze is preferred in the U.S. and Canada, while paralyse is preferred outside North America. The spelling difference extends to derivative words such as paralysed/paralyzed and paralysing/paralyzing, but not to paralysis, which has two s's everywhere. Both spellings are old, and it was not until the middle 19th century that English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic settled on their respective spellings (though Americans … [Read more...]


The misuse of ironic is a common peeve among careful users of English. Some of the complaints are overblown, but ironic has undoubtedly been overextended. The one definition of ironic of which everyone approves is using words to express the opposite of their literal meaning. Irony is similar to sarcasm, but the goal of sarcasm is to mock, while irony is usually used to make subtler points. The following writers use ironic in its one unassailable sense: And yes, I do say 'LOL' out loud. In … [Read more...]

One and the same, one in the same

One and the same is the logical formulation of the expression meaning the same person or thing. This expression is not hard to parse; it uses redundancy (one and the same being synonyms) for emphasis. The eggcorn one in the same sort of makes sense---if we imagine something being inside the same thing as itself---but it's not the standard phrase and is widely viewed as a misspelling. Examples True nuts don't split---the seed and the fruit are one and the same. [Telegraph] To them, … [Read more...]

Supposed to

Supposed to is the conventional spelling of the adjectival phrase meaning required to, expected to, or allowed to. But suppose to is common enough to be considered acceptable at least in informal writing, and it does not cause confusion. For example, no English speaker would misunderstand these sentences simply because they use suppose to instead of supposed to: It does what it's suppose to do at least as well as any other stick I've used. [Wired] Capps has been a proven closer and was … [Read more...]

Oneself vs. one’s self

The two-word phrase one's self is only justifiable when self is used in a spiritual, philosophical, or psychological sense. In all other cases, one's self can be replaced with the pronoun oneself. Examples For example, oneself could replace one's self in these sentences: There are individual chapters devoted to how to attire one's self for such things as an art gallery, a barbecue, the country club. [Wall Street Journal] Very seldom does the opportunity come along to immerse one's self in … [Read more...]

Magnate vs. magnet

The noun magnate, referring to a powerful or influential person in business or industry, is traditionally pronounced MAG-nate, but it's sometimes pronounced MAG-net. And because the latter pronunciation is now in the world, the occasional use of magnet in place of the less common word is inevitable. For example, these writers use magnet where they obviously mean magnate: I decided to become a 12-year-old oil magnet. [Lancaster Eagle-Gazette  (article now offline)] The Nigerian business … [Read more...]

Purposely vs. purposefully

Purposely means on purpose. It is a synonym of intentionally. When you mean to do something, you do it purposely. Purposefully means (1) with a sense of purpose, or (2) with determination. For example, when you are determined to ask your boss for a raise, you might walk into her office purposefully. These adverbs are often understandably confused, and they are more or less interchangeable in some uses, especially where actions are both intentional and determined. For example, a football … [Read more...]

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