Recur vs. reoccur

Something that recurs happens repeatedly, perhaps at regular intervals. Something that reoccurs happens again, but not necessarily repeatedly or at regular intervals. For example, the sunrise recurs, and an unpredictable event that happens to occur more than once---such as an earthquake or a financial crisis---reoccurs. Examples Recur Fresh off Golden Globe and SAG Award victories, the HBO drama will add this British actor in a recurring role on season two. [TV Fanatic] Seizures might … [Read more...]

Licence vs. license

In American English, license is both a noun and a verb, and licence isn't used. For example, one who is licensed to drive has a driver's license. In all the other main varieties of English, licence is the noun, and license is the verb. So, for instance, one who is licensed to perform dental surgery has a dental surgeon's licence. Examples U.S. A judge on Monday threw out a legal challenge to Illusions magic bar's entertainment license. [Baltimore Sun] During the 90-minute operation, the … [Read more...]


Series can be either singular or plural, depending on context. For example, you might write, "All of those television series are very good, but this series is my favorite." Dictionaries do list a plural of series---serieses---but instances of this form from this century are extremely rare. Examples Singular Harman International said Tuesday that its JBL Studio 1 loudspeaker series is now available. [Dealerscope] Aired in late 2009, this unmourned five-part series starred Tamzin Outhwaite … [Read more...]

Stadia vs. stadiums

Both stadia and stadiums are accepted plurals of stadium. Neither is right or wrong, but stadiums is far more common. This is the case throughout the English-speaking world, and it has been for several decades. English-speakers are not required to know the rules of Latin grammar, and most Latin-derived words with long histories in English are now pluralized in the English manner. We do still prefer some Latin plurals by convention, however, but stadia is not one of them. Besides, stadia has … [Read more...]


The noun species, referring especially to a group of organisms sharing common characteristics, can be either singular (e.g., that species is purple) or plural (e.g., these species are yellow). This is the convention in scientific writing, and it is usually followed elsewhere. Related Series The word does share a Latin origin with the singular noun specie, but species and specie have diverged in meaning over the centuries and are now unrelated in all their main uses. Specie now refers … [Read more...]

Imply vs. infer

To imply is to express something indirectly. For example, you might imply that it's time for a guest to leave by saying that you are getting tired. To infer is to surmise or conclude, especially from indirect evidence. For example, if you were to tell a guest that you're getting tired, the guest might infer that it's time to leave. More broadly, infer means to deduce. For example, when the sky grows dark in the middle of the day, you might infer that it's probably going to storm. Infer has … [Read more...]

Principal vs. principle

As a noun, principal refers to (1) one who holds a presiding position or rank, and (2) capital or property before interest, and it's also an adjective meaning (3) first or most important in rank. The head of a primary or secondary school is a principal. Principle is only a noun. In its primary sense, it refers to a basic truth, law, assumption, or rule. Though the words sound alike and share a distant origin in the Latin princeps (meaning first or original), they come from separate French … [Read more...]

Somebody vs. someone

Somebody and someone share all their definitions, and they are always interchangeable. When choosing between them, writers generally pick the one that sounds better with the surrounding sentence. This probably explains why someone is about five times as common as somebody on the web. Someone has fewer syllables, and writers presumably appreciate its brevity. Examples For example, this sentence sounds quick and breezy: Others enjoy having someone in the car to argue with. [LA Times] And this … [Read more...]

Somber vs. sombre

Somber and sombre are different spellings of the same word, meaning (1) dark and gloomy, or (2) melancholy. Somber is preferred in American English, while sombre is preferred in all the other main varieties of English. Sombre is the original, taking the spelling of the French word from with the English word derives. The more American spelling arose gradually through the late 19th and early 20th centuries until becoming the dominant form in American writing around 1940. This brought somber in … [Read more...]

Learned vs. learnt

Learned is the more common past tense and past participle of the verb learn. Learnt is a variant especially common outside North America. In British writing, for instance, it appears about once for every three instances of learned. In the U.S. and Canada, meanwhile, learnt appears only once for approximately every 500 instances of learned, and it's generally considered colloquial. Writers throughout the English-speaking world use learned as the adjective meaning possessing broad, profound … [Read more...]

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