Common Mistakes And Confusions In English Usage
English can be a confusing language at times, with even native speakers at odds as to the correct usage. While many mistakes and confusions are ambiguous in nature, there are some mistakes which are comparatively clear cut and are recognized as such by most. These mistakes have probably been emphasised again and again by our English teachers, but for many of us, myself included, it’s been sometime since our last English class.
So this hub or article serves as a sort of revision. A revision of lessons learnt but forgotten, of lessons learnt but not really put into practice and of lessons that we slept through and never learnt.
Advise / Advice
Advice should be used as a noun as when a person is given a piece of advice or when a teenager turns a deaf ear to your advice. Advise, on the hand, is a verb. So, you advise your teenager to be more tolerant of her siblings and not to blow her top every time someone advises her of something.
More examples of the use of advise and advice:
- Henry was diagnosed with an advanced and very malignant form of cancer and was advised to put his affairs in order as soon as possible.
- Paul felt that the advice given to him was very generic and practically useless in real life situations.
- It is so easy to advise somebody that they need to exercise and eat properly in order to lose weight, but so difficult to take that same piece of advice yourself.
Practise / Practice
Practice is a noun, so you get an ugly look from the coach when you are late for volleyball practice. But when you put in the effort and practise really hard, the coach will smile at you and tell you that he will let you off, just this time.
In American English, practice is generally used both as a verb and as a noun. So, if you are an American, you practice very hard at basketball practice while those who are British practise very hard at basketball practice.
Further examples of the use of practise and practice if you do not follow the American way of writing:
- A surgeon needs lots of practice so that he will cut where he is supposed to, and will not cut where he is not supposed to.
- When you are just starting to trade the forex markets, it is best that you do not practise with real money.
- At this week’s practice session, we practised throwing the ball to each other.
Principle / Principal
A principal is the head of a school. Principal can also mean the initial capital outlay for an investment. However, when you talk about the principle of a matter, you are talking about a fundamental or accepted rule or truth for that matter.
Some examples of the use of principle and principal:
- The principal of the school insisted on upholding the principle of the school.
- There was an argument between the principal of the high school and the child’s parent over the principle of corporal punishment.
- When you take up a long term loan, a large percentage of your monthly installments go to servicing the interest of the loan and not to repaying the principal.
Its / It’s
In the English language, the apostrophe is used to signify possession such as the professor’s class or the wives’ chatter. However, when possession is applied to “it”, such as “the rotational speed of it”, the apostrophe is deleted and it is written as “its rotational speed” and not “it’s rotational speed”. The apostrophe “s” can also be used as an abbreviation for “is” and “has”, such as, “it’s great that you can make time for our business presentation” or “it’s been such a long time since we met”.
More examples of the use of its and it’s:
- Although its innocence is never in question, it’s still necessary to carry out the due process of law.
- It’s been just yesterday since they met, but she misses him already.
- It’s really a pity that this pair of shoes is not available in my size.
Your / You’re
This is probably more a typo than an actual error but I have seen this error been made many times. When you use your, you are actually implying possession, such as in your business or your pictures. On the other hand, you’re is an abbreviation of you are, such as in you’re pretty or you’re nice.
More examples on the use of your and you’re:
- You’re the nicest girl that I have ever met although your punk rock hairstyle and tattoos do take a little getting used to.
- Your employment contract is for a period of two years but you’re free to stay on after that.
- You’re guilty of contempt of court but based on your previous good behaviour, the judge decided to let you off.