- Books, Literature, and Writing
Common Mistakes And Confusions In English Usage VII
Did you know that rhythm is the longest word in the English language without a vowel? You don’t? Well, now you do. This is now the seventh hub in a series that started with Common Mistakes And Confusions In English Usage and I’m still going strong. But I’m starting to get to the more confusing words, or at least they are more confusing for me, so I hope you will bear with me if an error or two creeps in.
I’m going to start giving credit to those of you who have suggested words that I have used. I have run through the previous hubs and have given credit where credit is due. So, if I have missed you out, let me know and you will get an apology along with a credit.
Bizarre / Bazaar
I came across this pair when read the following message on a game board, “I must say that this is the most bazaar bazaar I have been to.” The poster had obviously confused bizarre and bazaar. While both the words are pronounced in about the same way, they are very different in meaning. Bizarre means strange or unconventional while bazaar is simply an open air shopping mall, probably having stalls that sell bizarre items.
Examples of how bizarre and bazaar can be used:
- First, your mother paid me a compliment. And then she baked me a cake. And just now, she invited me to go to the bazaar with her. It’s kinda nice really, in a bizarre sort of way.
- In a bizarre turn of events, the bazaar manager decided to quit his post and offer it to his accuser.
Breadth / Breathe / Breath
This is another commonly confused set of words. The first word, breadth, is not related to the other two words. It is the linear measurement of an object such as the length and breadth of a room. The second and third words are related. Breathe is a verb and it means the act of taking air into one’s lungs while breath is a noun and is the air taken into the lungs.
Examples on breadth, breathe and breath:
- All you need to do is to pull, breathe, kick and then take another breath, and you will have swum the breadth of the pool before you know it.
- The perimeter of a rectangle is the sum of its length and breadth multiplied by two.
- You breathe in, hold your breath for 15 seconds, and breathe out.
Altogether / All together
This is a pair which I have problems with myself. Altogether is an adverb which generally means completely such as we are an altogether awesome team. All together would mean everyone or everything together such as it is rare that we can get everyone all together.
One way to figure out which one is right is to try substituting in together. If the sentence makes sense, then all together is right. If not, then altogether is right. For example, in the previous examples, we are a together awesome team would make no sense while it is rare that we can get everyone together would make sense.
More examples on the use of altogether and all together so that we can all together understand how they are used once and for all:
- All together now, at the count of three, we shall jump off this building and soar into the air.
- Taking into account the lawyer fees, the delivery charge and the handling charge, the total fee is $800.01 altogether.
- Taking into account the lawyer fees, the delivery charge and the handling charge all together, the fee is $800.01.
Maybe / May be
Since maybe and may be are spelled exactly the same except for the space, many people make the mistake of thinking that these two are interchangeable. They are not. Maybe takes on the meaning of possibly or perhaps as in maybe she is a famous actress. May be can be taken to mean something like could be such as she may be a famous actress. If in doubt, simply substitute in perhaps and if the sentence makes sense, then it should be maybe. If the sentence does not make sense, then it should be may be.
More examples on the use of maybe and may be as you may be anxious to make sure you understood the difference:
- Maybe he is crazy or he may be just ahead of his time.
- She may be down with the flu but she had no intention of staying at home and letting her rivals take all the credit.
- Maybe, just maybe, the rope is strong enough to hold the two of you and you may be able to finish the course without getting wet.
This pair has been kindly suggested by: astigpinoy16
Except / Accept
This is a pair that is a source of confusion even for native speakers due probably to their similarity in pronunciation. Except has the general meaning of excluding or other than such as everybody has a degree except me. Accept would mean something like receive such as I accept your present.
Examples on how except and accept can be used in the accepted way:
- He graciously accepted the nomination, and except for a brief period of queasiness, enjoyed the rest of the evening.
- He asked for her hand in marriage and she accepted, but she was worried that, except for her brother, her family might not be so accepting.
- Except for the pearl necklace, all of our goods were accepted by our customer for shipment.