Ere vs. err

  • Ere is a preposition, often seen in old poetry, meaning before or previous toErr is a verb meaning (1) to make an error or a mistake, or (2) to violate accepted standards. It is the word used in common expressions such as “to err is human” and “err on the side of caution.”


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    Ere sounds archaic, but modern writers sometimes use it to give their text a poetic ring—for example:


    Summer will arrive ere long. [The Telegram]

    Ere she was installed as the czarina of Writers’ Building, Mamata made known her demand. [Economic Times]

    Ere we had time to process this unwelcome datum, we landed hard on something soft, which gave out a “Whoof” and a “Squeak.” [Northfield News]

    Err is more common. It’s usually used in the phrases mentioned above, but it’s useful elsewhere:

    Liberal pundits err when they assume a figure such as Santorum is there to propound a governing agenda. [Washington Post]

    [Y]ou err, confess, make penance, receive absolution, err again, confess again. [The Road Washes Out in Spring, Baron Wormser]

    The opposition on Wednesday slammed the administration for treating erring local officials from the ruling Liberal Party with kid gloves. [Manila Standard Today]


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