Platypi vs platypuses

Platypuses are small, egg-laying mammals with webbed feet, duck-like bills and tails like  beavers that live in Australia and Tasmania. The plural of platypus has been long-established in the English speaking world as platypuses. The plural form platypi is accepted by Latinists, scientists and fans of quirky words. The platypus was scientifically described for the first time in the late eighteenth century and named after the Greek word, platupous, meaning flatfooted. Traditional names for … [Read more...]

Amends vs amends

One form of amends is the third person present tense of the verb amend, which means to alter or improve something, especially a formal document. It is often used when people are speaking to say that they corrected previously given information, or changes something they said earlier. Another form of amends is a plural noun usually found in the phrase make amends. This form of amends means a recompense or a compensation for a loss or injury. One can make an offer of amends. Note that this … [Read more...]

Beside or besides

Beside can mean to literally be on the side of something or it can be used to show two things are being compared to one another. And confusingly, it can be a synonym for besides; however, besides is not a synonym for beside. Besides can be used as a synonym for except (e.g., nothing besides that lamp), or the words together with (e.g., besides being beautiful, the car was reasonably priced). Several phrases use the term beside, not besides, such as beside oneself and beside the … [Read more...]

If need be or if needs be

If need be is an idiom which means if the need manifests. It became an idiom when conditional phrases (beginning with if) stopped requiring the subjunctive. Now we say "if it is right", not "if it be right". It is used most often as a modifying phrase and does not require commas unless needed for clarity, which may often be the case. Most dictionaries, if they list it as an idiom at all, list the singular. Therefore, in writing the singular form is used almost 10:1. But if needs be could … [Read more...]

Hope or hopes

Hope can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means to desire or believe something to be true or to come to pass. As a noun it is the feeling of desiring or believing something to be true or to come to pass. The noun form may be countable or uncountable. To lose all hope is subtly different than people losing their hopes and dreams. One is the mass idea of losing any chance of hoping, and the other is losing specific hopes that can be listed. To have hope (mass) is different than to have … [Read more...]

Schema or schematic

  A schema is a plan or an outline that is also a diagram. It is pronounced (skee ma). The plural may be made by either schemas or schemata. Note, that schemata, while uncommon, is often misused as a singular form, but it is in fact plural. There are many derivatives of schema, including schematic. Schematic, pronounced (skee maa tick), may be used as an adjective or noun. Because schema dates from around 1700 and schematic from the 1930s, our guess is that the noun form … [Read more...]

Passerbys or passersby

A passerby is literally someone who passes by something. Usually it is referenced to people who are walking outside of a store as they go on to somewhere else. This term does not require the use of a hyphen. The correct plural is passersby. Passerbys is an incorrect formation. However, it occurs once out of every 25 times the correct form is used. This popularity has increased dramatically over the last decade. This suggests that people are loosening their idea of a correct form of the … [Read more...]

Reindeer or caribou

A reindeer is a species of deer which live in the northern part of the earth. Caribou is a synonym for reindeer and is especially used for those which live on the North American continent. Reindeer can be found on nearly every northern continent and much further south than the North Pole. In 1823 reindeer were paired with St. Nicholas and with the song about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, they have been a permanent fixture in the Christmas holiday celebrations in the Western … [Read more...]

Lots of vs a lot of

Both lots and a lot of are nouns for amounts of things or quantifiers. They are used when the amount of something is known to be large, but an exact counting isn't necessary. Both are used in more informal speech and writing. More formal word choice would include many or much.  Side note: A lot of is sometimes spelled alot, which is incorrect. Some say that lots is the plural form of a lot of. While that may have been the case in the beginning, now they are more like synonyms, … [Read more...]

Lifetime or life time

Lifetime is one word which means the total time of a being's life from the time it is born until it dies. It can also be used to mean a really long amount of time. Lifetime can be used as an adjective or noun. Though not listed in the dictionary, when it is a noun the plural is lifetimes. One reason it is not recognized may be the fact that no living thing can have two lifetimes, and when speaking about two person's individual lifetimes, it would be more clear to say lives. However, when … [Read more...]

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