A clause is a group of words containing a subject (a noun or noun phrase) and a predicate (a verb, its qualifiers, and its object). Some sentences are made of single clauses. For example, This clause is a sentence. Others are made of multiple clauses. For instance, this sentence has three clauses: Since no one could pick us up, we had to take a cab, which cost almost $70. A clause is different from a phrase in that it is a self-contained unit with both a subject and a predicate, while a … [Read more...]

Restrictive and nonrestrictive

In grammar, a restrictive clause, word, or phrase provides crucial clarifying information about a previously named element. A nonrestrictive clause or phrase adds information that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Examples Let's identify the restrictive and nonrestrictive elements in a few examples: [1] Democrats in the state Senate fled Wisconsin on Thursday ... [Wall Street Journal] The phrase in the state senate is restrictive because Democrats without the modifying phrase … [Read more...]


When two or more words have the same or nearly the same meaning, they are synonyms. Some synonyms are exactly the same in certain senses---for example, student and pupil, buy and purchase, stroll and saunter, rush and hurry, language and tongue, and on and upon. Others aren't exactly alike, but close enough to be called synonyms---for example, walk and stroll, job and gig, talk and lecture, teenager and youth, brown and tawny, and ocean and sea. Although we usually think of synonyms as … [Read more...]

Dice vs. die

The singular of dice---a plural noun referring to the small cubes used in games of chance---is die. Because the irregular plural is more common than the singular, many writers forget to use the singular at all---for example: If the dice is rolled and there is a choice, what do we need to consider? [Irish Times] The way the dice is loaded, as things stand, the company takes on interest bearing loans and in turn advances interest free loans to its 100% owned subsidiaries. [Equity Master] The … [Read more...]

Adverse vs. averse

Averse means (1) to be opposed or (2) to be strongly disinclined. Adverse means to be acting in opposition. Averse describes an attitude or a feeling, while adverse describes something that works against something else. The two adjectives are often confused. Adverse's corresponding noun is adversity. Averse's is averseness (aversity is not a word so far recognized by dictionaries). As adverbs, they're inflected similarly---adversely and aversely. Synonyms and examples Averse---some of whose … [Read more...]


The verb enthuse, formed by backformation from the adjective enthusiastic, means to be enthusiastic or to show enthusiasm. The word peeves some people who care about English usage, but it has been widespread in the language long enough to gain at least grudging acceptance. No one is forced to use it, but it is certainly a word, and most English speakers know what it means. Similar backformations such as donate (from donation) and diagnose (from diagnosis) are now unquestioned. Whether enthuse … [Read more...]

Flavor vs. flavour

Flavor and flavour are different spellings of the same word. Flavor is the preferred spelling in the United States, while flavour is the preferred spelling throughout the rest of the English-speaking world. The preference extends to all derivatives; American English has flavored, flavoring, flavorful, etc., while the other main varieties of English have flavoured, flavouring, flavourful, etc. Though flavor has become the American spelling, it is not new. Examples of its use are easily found … [Read more...]


In English, viz. means that is or namely. It's used in legal and technical writing as well as in footnotes of books because it saves space. Elsewhere it is unpronounceable, so it should give way a more familiar alternative. Viz. is short for the Latin loanword videlicet (meaning, literally, it is permitted to see). As with the abbreviations e.g. and i.e., viz. is followed by a period and should be set off from the surrounding sentence by commas. Examples This World Cup is seen to be … [Read more...]

Complement vs. compliment

To complement is to complete something, supplement it, enhance it, or bring it to perfection. For example, your shoes may complement your dress, you and your spouse may complement each other, or minced garlic may complement a pasta dish. To compliment is to give praise. For example, if I were to say that you have a very nice turtle, this would be a compliment to both you and your turtle. Both words also work as nouns whose meanings are easily inferred from the verb senses. A corresponding … [Read more...]


To vouchsafe is to condescend to grant something. These writers the word in its traditional sense: At last I am at liberty to vouchsafe to you the dozen rules in reading a political column. [NY Times] We note that the true Prince of Darkness, Dick Cheney, has been dutifully silent, and conspicuously absent, during the recent national security festivities, to vouchsafe the limelight to Junior. [Register] The condescension is key. Vouchsafe is not merely a synonym of grant. For example, … [Read more...]

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