53 Words and Phrases That Are Often Misunderstood

Do you have the habit of judging a person’s intelligence or educational qualification when you hear them misusing grammar or misunderstanding words and phrases? The way you talk leaves a lasting impression on the minds of other people. It is like walking into a conference with untidy hair and appearance. The sense of malapropism is being carried on and getting applied to phrases. The truth cannot be ignored that in acting sophisticated or using words that you have just heard incorrectly can make you sound dumb. Unlike the French language, English language is not governed by any definitive rules. Matters of grammar and style in case of English language have always remained arguable.

53 Words and Phrases That Are Often Misunderstood

Here are Certain Words that are Often Misunderstood

1. Adverse

The word means something that is harmful and unfavorable.

Correct usage: Taxes have an adverse effect on production.

2. Appraise

The word means to assess the quality or value of and not to inform.

Correct usage: I appraised the crown studded with rubies and gems.

3. As far as

The word means something the extent or degree to which something is concerned. It cannot be used in place of ‘as for’.

Correct usage: We felt pretty scared as far as the horror movie was concerned.

4. After

If, in a sentence, time sequence is involved then the precise word for it would be ‘after’ rather than ‘following’.

Correct usage: We went to watch a movie after the exams.

5. Allow

Whenever the word is employed in a sentence it should be expressed as ‘allows one to’ in the place of ‘allows to’.

Correct usage: Instead of writing “the system allows to evaluate the achievements of a student” it should be “the system allows one to evaluate the achievements of a student”.

6. Alternate & alternative

The former word means something that happens once in a series, then stops, then happens again. The latter means either one of the two possibilities given.

Correct usage: “Every alternate girl standing in the queue was wearing white skirt”. “There were several alternative ideas to choose from”.

7. Among & between

Among is used when more than two persons or things are involved.

Correct usage: The food was divided among five people.

Between is used when only two people are involved.

Correct usage: The food was divided between the two of them.

8. Anticipate

The word means to expect something that will happen or to look ahead to something. In case of expressing simple expectation, use ‘expect’.

Correct usage: The expenditure turned out to be much more than anticipated.

9. Anybody

The word means any person or anyone. But when it is written separately as ‘any body’ then it implies any particular group or human form or any corpse. The same rule is applicable for ‘somebody’, everybody’ and ‘nobody’.

Correct usage: The task is so simple that anybody can do it.

10. As to whether

It is enough to write ‘whether’ because both mean the same. Adding extra words does not increase the emphasis.

Correct usage: Instead of “one would often wonder as to whether the carriage will ever come to take them” it should be “one would often wonder whether the carriage will ever come to take them”.

11. As yet

Only ‘yet’ is sufficient which means so far.

Correct usage: No decision has been taken yet.

12. Begs the question

The words mean a statement which is assumed to be true without providing any evidence.

Correct usage: “When I enquired of the dealer why I should pay more for the product, he said I would be getting high quality, but that just begs the question”.

13. Being

The word is not appropriate to be used after ‘regard…as’.

Correct usage: Instead of “He is regarded as being the most ambitious in the class”, it should be “he is regarded as the most ambitious in the class”.

14. Bemused

The word does not indicate being amused but it means bewildered or confused.

Correct usage: The unnecessary fight with mom left me bemused.

15. Beside & besides

The former word means to be near to or next to or closer to someone or something.

Correct usage: I sleep beside my pet every night.

The latter word means ‘moreover’ or ‘in addition to’.

Correct usage: Besides English, she also wanted to learn French and Spanish.

16. But

The word is unnecessarily used after ‘doubt’ and ‘help’.

Correct usage: Instead of She had no doubt but that he had committed the murder” it should be “she had no doubt that he had committed the murder”.

Similarly, instead of “He could not help but fall in love with her” it should be “he could not help falling in love with her”.

17. Can

The word means to be able to do something. It cannot be used as a substitute for ‘may’.

Correct usage: I can hear you.

18. Case

The word is often misused and unnecessarily incorporated in sentences.

Correct usage: You should write “Most of the time people hardly paid any attention” instead of “in most of the cases people hardly paid any attention”.

19. Cliche

The word is not an adjective but a noun.

Correct usage: She used a lot of clichés.

20. Compare

‘Compare to’ implies the resemblance between objects belonging to different order.

‘Compare with’ implies the dissimilarity between objects belonging to the same order.

Correct usage: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Congress is being compared with the British Parliament.

21. Complement and Compliment

The former word means something that betters something else.

Correct usage: “His faults are accepted as the necessary complement to his merits”.

The latter word means an expression of praise or admiration.

Correct usage: He complimented her on her white gown.

22. Comprise

The word means to consist of or to include something.

Correct usage: A classroom comprises of students and teachers. But students and teachers do not comprise a classroom. They ‘constitute’ a classroom.

23. Consist of

The word means to be composed of or to be made up of something.

Correct usage: The report consists of information of other companies.

24. Constitute

The word means to create or establish or form something.

Correct usage: Education does not only constitute of reading, writing or arithmetic.

25. Contrast

The word means to compare two things or two people to highlight their differences.

Correct usage: The teacher contrasted the two students of the same class.

26. Credible

The word means something that is reasonable enough to be trusted or believed.

Correct usage: She has done some credible job of playing the perfect contemporary dancer.

27. Criteria

Criteria is the plural of the singular word criterion.

Correct usage: These are some significant criteria that I have presented in the meeting today.

28. Data

Data is not a singular noun but plural, which is best suitable with a plural verb. But the word is slowly gaining recognition as singular.

Correct usage: The data provided are misleading.

29. Depreciate

The word means to reduce in value or to describe something that has little value. It is not to be confused with deprecate.

Correct usage: The business has depreciated over the years.

30. Dichotomy

The word means to differentiate between two mutually exclusive alternatives.

Correct usage: There is a dichotomy between her elegant gown and old tennis shoes.

31. Different from

The word is used to differentiate one thing from the other. Different to is also acceptable sometimes.

Correct usage: My sister is different from me.

32. Disinterested

Often misunderstood as uninterested, the word means to not get influenced by the opinions or personal feelings of others.

Correct usage: The dispute should be settled by a disinterested judge.

33. Divided into

The word means to divide something into parts or sections and not to be misused for ‘composed of’.

Correct usage: An orange is divided into sections but an orange is composed of skin, seeds and the flesh.

34. Due to

The word is used in a sentence to imply ‘as a result of’.

Correct usage: The mishap took place due to the bad weather.

35. Effect

The word has different meanings. As a noun the word means ‘result’, ‘to bring about’ as a verb. It is confused mostly with ‘affect’ which means ‘to influence’.

Correct usage: The experience had a discouraging effect on her.

36. Enervate

The word means to weaken or sap the physical or mental vigor.

Correct usage: The surgery enervated me for several weeks and I could hardly stay awake.

37. Enormity

The words implied something which is extremely evil or an act of severe immortality.

Correct usage: The enormity of the political leaders corrupted the nation completely.

38. Etc.

Coined from the Latin term “et cetera’, it is used at the end of a sentence to represent the last terms of a list that has been already given in full.

Correct usage: Apples, oranges, grapes, watermelon, etc.

39. Fact

The word is used to mean something that has real existence. It is used for direct verification, not in case of matters of judgement.

Correct usage: Last week I was reading a book filled with interesting facts.

40. Farther and further

The former word is used to refer to something that is at a greater distance. It is best used as a distance word.

Correct usage: The place is farther away than I’d thought.

The latter word is used as a time word to express something which is at a more far-off place or time.

Correct usage: I decided to pursue my education further.

41. Fix

The word is used in America for words like ‘arrange’, ‘mend’ and ‘prepare’. The word is used to joinor connect things.

Correct usage: The pin was used to fix the scarf in place.

42. Flaunt

The word is used to show off something in such a way that people notice it.

Correct usage: She flaunted her new diamond ring to everyone.

43. Flounder

The word means to struggle mentally or to show great confusion. It does not mean sinking to the bottom.

Correct usage: The chairman floundered while giving his speech.

44. Fortuitous

The word is used to express something that happens suddenly in an unplanned way. The word cannot be used for ‘lucky’ or ‘fortunate’.

Correct usage: Her arrival there was completely fortuitous.

45. Fraction

The word can denote both small and large quantity, so while writing it in a sentence it should be qualified for better understanding.

Correct usage: A large fraction of fish was found dead.

46. Fulsome

The word means to express something in an extremely emotional or enthusiastic way. It is not used to mean full or abundant.

Correct usage: His fulsome love proposal filled her heart with disbelief.

47. Get

Many people include ‘have got’ instead of ‘have’ while writing. This should not be used in writing.

Correct usage: Instead of writing “She has not got any manners” it should be “She has no manners”.

48. Homogenous

The word is used to express something which is made up of either same kind of things or people. It is pronounced by many people as ‘homogenous’ or ‘homogenius’.

Correct usage: The population was a melting pot, not homogeneous.

49. Hone

The word means to sharpen or smoothen and it does not mean home.

Correct usage: She honed her communication skills for public speaking. / She is homing in on a solution finally.

50. Hopefully

It is an adverb which means ‘with hope’. It is not used to mean ‘it is to be hoped’ or ‘I hope’.

Correct usage: They looked at me hopefully.

51. Hot button

Often misused, the word means an issue that causes people to feel various emotions and leads to an arguable controversy. It does not mean a hot topic.

Correct usage: The controversial film triggered some hot buttons in people. / Drones are currently a hot topic in the robotic technology.

52. However

The word is often used in place of ‘nevertheless’ in the first position of a sentence. The word serves a better usage and meaning when not used in the first position. If it is used in the beginning it means ‘in whatever way’.

Correct usage: However you tell him, he will do only that which he considers to be the best.

53. Hung

Hung does not always mean someone suspended from the neck till he dies but something which is suspended.

Correct usage: She hung the portrait I gifted her on her wall. / The prisoner was hanged in charges of murder.

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