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Common Mistakes And Confusions In English Usage V

Updated on June 17, 2012
Which is harder?  English or the Rubik's Cube?
Which is harder? English or the Rubik's Cube? | Source

This is now the fifth hub in a series that started with Common Mistakes And Confusions In English Usage, and I have to say that I have a new found respect for those brave enough to take up English as a second language. Although English is not my native tongue, I read a lot of books in English when I was younger so English comes naturally to me. After doing this series of hubs, I have come to appreciate that English is a much more complex and perplexing language than I realized.

Assure / Insure / Ensure
This is another commonly confused set of words. Assure would mean something like making a promise to somebody as in you assure her that you will take good care of her son. Insure is normally used in a financial background as when you insure your house. Ensure would be similar in meaning to make sure such as when somebody asks you to ensure that the goods are delivered on time.

Further examples on how assure, insure and ensure can be used:

  • To ensure that we are never vulnerable to an air attack, we have airplanes constantly patrolling the skies.
  • I assure you that however far you may roam and whoever you may become, there will always be a place here for you.
  • When you insure your health, you are assured of some kind of financial compensation should something unfortunate happen to you.

Alright / All right
Technically, alright is not a word. It frowned upon, spit on and grammarians would not touch it with a 10 foot pole. However, given that language is always in flux and that alright does have a small following, I think it will earn its place as a proper word sometime in the future. In support of alright as a proper word, take a look at the first sentence in the examples below. I think alright would work better than all right.

All right is definitely accepted. It actually has quite a large range of possible meanings ranging from satisfactory to gratifying to unexceptional and can at times be a little ambiguous, such as “He’s all right.”, which can be taken to mean that he is a cool dude or that he meets the required standard.

Examples on the use of alright and all right:

  • “Alright! About time somebody put that guy in his place!”
  • John’s artistic skills are all right, but I would prefer Jane to take on this job as I feel she has that rare flair that is especially crucial in this case.
  • Don’t worry, things may look bad now but I’m sure that in time you will feel better, and life will be all right again.

While / Whilst
The while and whilst pair appears to be similar to the among and amongst pair in that there is no difference in meaning in the words of the pair and that they can be used interchangeably. However, whilst is less common in usage and seems to be used more in British English than American. It also tends to be used more when in a formal or medieval setting.

Some examples on how while and whilst can be used:

  • While whilst can be used whilst writing for the British, it is best to use while while writing for the Americans.
  • The 18W soldering iron can be used while soldering the smaller parts but when you are soldering the bus bar to the board, you will need to use the 100W iron.

This pair hes been kindly suggested by: Twilight Lawns

Thorough / Through / Though
This set of words are pronounced differently and have different meanings although they are different only by one letter. Thorough means to be complete such as doing a thorough search. Through can be used as a preposition, an adjective and an adverb. As a preposition, through generally means to pass from one end to the other such as the warhead went through the wall. As an adjective, it can mean complete or washed up such as I’m through with this, or after this fiasco, he’s through as an actor. As an adverb, it also generally means from start to finish such as I’m just passing through. Though has the meaning of “in spite of” such as even though he had tried his best, he still couldn’t get a passing grade.

More examples on the use of thorough, through and though:

  • Though I’m being as thorough as I can, I still can’t complete the project to my client’s satisfaction and he told me that I’m through.
  • She drove the stake through the vampire’s heart but the vampire just giggled and told her not to do it as he’s ticklish.
  • Though the odds are stacked against her, she decided that she isn’t going to give up and that she will see it through.

Choose / Chose
I’m choosing a simple pair to round off this hub. Choose means to select and the difference between choose and chose is that the former is the present tense and the latter is the past tense. Note that this is not the case for the former pair of loose and lose.

Examples on how choose and chose can be used:

  • She chose to run the marathon the following year and nobody was able to make her rethink her choice.
  • Choose to be the wind of change and just say no to drugs.


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    • wandererh profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lim 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      astigpinoy16 - Actually, I don't know. But I'd look it up. :)

    • astigpinoy16 profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines

      Great, maybe you should include "especially" and "specially" to your future hub I am also confused about this. Thanks.

    • wandererh profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lim 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      astigpinoy16 - Another pair! I'd do a future hub about this pair. But for now, I can offer three examples of how they can be used:

      - I may be able to go to your party.

      - I can maybe make it to your party.

      - Maybe I can make it to your party.

      If it helps, anywhere in a sentence you can use perhaps, you can also use maybe.

    • astigpinoy16 profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines

      Very useful hub. I am just wondering, what is the difference sir between "maybe" and "may be"? Hope you help me about this one, I am really confused.

    • wandererh profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lim 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      2besure - These words are used in employment tests? I'm glad I'm not looking for a job. :)

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      These are words they always use on multiple choice employment tests. Great job!

    • wandererh profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lim 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hello, hello, - It's my pleasure. :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for clearing up a lot questions for me. Since English is my second language it is always a battle.

    • wandererh profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lim 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      WildIris - Thanks! I got another pair. :)

      richtwf - I know for a fact that this hub helped at least one person improve their English, namely me. :)

      Seeker7 - Yep, we really need to watch the rules of grammar, spelling and usage, and sometimes, in the name of great content, we would purposely break those exact same rules. But generally, good English always equals good content. :)

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Great Hub. I think as writers we can be so busy watching content that we forget about grammar, spelling, usage. It's good for us all to be refreshed about the English language.

    • wandererh profile imageAUTHOR

      David Lim 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hey Twilight Lawns, no, you are not being arrogant. I'm the one being arrogant to think that I can masquerade as a "teacher" of English. But since I appear to be getting away with it, I shall continue. :)

      And you really flatter me by coming to this hub and even rating it useful. I shall do my best in the next hubs as I'm starting to get to the more difficult words and hope I don't make too many mistakes. :)

    • richtwf profile image


      7 years ago

      A useful hub and thanks again for the reminder. I am sure it will also serve to assist many others.

      Cheers my friend for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't know if you have "a lot" listed in your other Hubs about English usage, but many write these two words as one word--alot. English usage is tricky even for those who speak and write English as their native language. Thumbs up!

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 

      7 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      My friend, I am always glad when I get the message that "wandererh has published a new hub".

      I am being arrogant when I say that I have yet to find anything that has taught me anything new, but I was a teacher of Englsih and that shouldn't have been the case. However, you make your explanations and examples so easy to understand, and it is refreshing to know that someone (You) cares enough about the language to try and help those who use it badly.

      I have marked it useful, because it really is.


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