- Books, Literature, and Writing
Common Mistakes And Confusions In English Usage VI
In Singapore, many Singaporeans can speak proper English. But we also speak a local form of English which we call Singlish. It is English with the sentence structure of Chinese, and it incorporates words from Malay, Mandarin, various Chinese dialects, and even lingo from the armed forces.
With English being the dominant language in many parts of the world where it is not indigenous, and with the influence of the Internet, it will be interesting to see how the English language adapts and changes in the coming decades. But for now, here is another 5 sets of commonly confused words in the English language:
Pressure / Pressurize
This is another commonly confused pair. Pressure can be used as a noun, such as when you place something or someone under pressure. Pressure can also be used as a verb, such as when you pressure a person. Pressurize, on the other hand, has a purely physical meaning. You cannot pressurize somebody as the force applied is not physical but you can pressurize the cabin of an aircraft.
To complicate things a little, the use of pressurize when the force applied is not physical seems to have a small following in British English. Do take note that there is a difference in spelling between British and American English. The British would pressurise you but the Americans would only put pressure on you and leave the pressurizing to their pressure cookers.
More examples on pressure and pressurize to put more pressure on you:
- Nobody enjoys being pressured by hard sell tactics at a sales presentation.
- The theory behind a pressure cooker is that when food is pressurized, the boiling point of water is raised, so the food can be cooked at a higher temperature and be cooked faster.
- The pilot of the Boeing 747 fainted not because he was under pressure, but because the cockpit was not pressurized.
A lot / Alot / Allot
I think this should be an easy one. “A lot” means, as you all know, plenty. And alot means nothing at all as it is actually not a word although some people may actually use it in place of a lot. Allot would generally have the meaning of assign or distribute.
Further examples on a lot, alot and allot:
- A lot of people choose to use alot instead of a lot, not knowing that alot is not even a word.
- There are a lot of resources to allot, but we have a lot of time on our hands and a lot of people to help.
- She clowns around a lot, but when she is allotted work, she is as serious about it as the rest of us.
Although / Though
The two words in this pair mean the same thing, and they are interchangeable but there are certain exceptions. As far as I know, you can substitute though for although in all cases but you cannot do so for although when though is used for some cases such as at the end of a sentence. Note that in the examples below, you cannot substitute although for though. There are also times though, when although should be used for greater emphasis.
Examples on the use of although and though:
- Although it was the best thing for her, she couldn’t help but feel a lingering sadness at the parting of the ways.
- Excited though he was at the first puff of a cigarette, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread at the warning on the front of the pack of cigarettes.
- He was scared out of his wits during the ride, but he was the first in line when there was a chance at a second ride though.
Alive / Live / Life
This is yet another set of words that is easily confused. Alive would mean having life or lively such as this is a lively bunch. Life would generally mean the condition that distinguishes a dead object from something having life such as life is not worth living if you are not with me. Live is a verb meaning the condition of having life such as you should get out there and live your life.
Just to confuse things and to refresh your memory, the plural of life is not lifes but lives. And while live as a verb means the condition of having life, it can also be used as an adjective such as live animals or a live wire. And if that is not confusing enough, live as a verb is pronounced like how you would pronounce give while live as an adjective would be pronounced like hive.
More examples on the use of alive, live and life to confuse you further:
- Many lives can be saved if you would just stop being such a live wire and live your life the way that you are supposed to.
- While the conditions that you find yourself in right now might not be what you would call the good life, be thankful that you are alive, and where there is life, there is hope.
- When he was alive, he made it a point to live a life worthy of a saint.
Against / Again
Against and again is another commonly confused pair in which the meanings are quite different. Against generally means opposing or in conflict with as in the referee is always against me. Again would mean repeating or repeatedly as in the dog’s at it again.
More examples on against and again:
- Why are you doing this again when you know that you are up against the full might of the corporation, against which you will ultimately fail?
- The team was practically camped in their opponent’s half and they tried again and again to score, but against all odds, the opposing team managed to stave off all their attacks.
- She leaned against the wall as she felt faint, and he reminded her again that she really must go and see her doctor.