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Common Mistakes and Confusions In English Usage II

Updated on June 14, 2012
Mistakes! | Source

I did a hub recently about Common Mistakes and Confusions In English Usage and since then, I keep encountering more common mistakes in English usage. So here is part II of what, I believe, will be a series with quite a few more parts.

Complement / Compliment
This is another common mistake which I think is due to carelessness rather than ignorance. Complement means the other half of a whole or that which makes something complete as in the battalion has its full complement of officers. Compliment, on the other hand, is something you get for a job well done.

Examples on the use of complement and compliment:

  • She is full of compliments for him and as he feels that they complement each other, he asks her for her hand in marriage.
  • The boss complimented him for his ingenuity and remarked that he complemented their team.
  • Compliments were plentiful at the start of the race but at the end of the day, it is the team whose members complemented each other well that won the race.

Enquiry / Inquiry
Both enquiry and inquiry will feature something that is unknown, or a question or a probe of some sort. But an enquiry will typically be of a simple nature, something that would be easy to answer and perhaps can be answered in a single sentence. An inquiry, on the other hand, would probably be something a little more involved. It might take days, weeks or even months to complete, and would require many resources.

Additional examples of the use of enquiry and inquiry:

  • A cursory enquiry by the news reporter over what was considered to be an insignificant discrepancy eventually led to a full blown inquiry.
  • If you do not know how to get to the conference, you can make an enquiry at the counter.
  • Mr Gatti was asked to convene a formal inquiry about the missing cash.

Complain / Complaint
I can’t believe that I didn’t learn this at school. I was probably thinking of something a little more interesting than the fact that complain is a verb and complaint is a noun. Come to think of it, I was probably thinking of filing a complaint with the school authorities and not keep complaining about the bad food at the school tuckshop.

More examples on the use of complain and complaint:

  • Her complaints were falling on deaf ears so she decided to stop complaining and take action.
  • All she would do is complain, complain and complain, and when she has finished complaining, she’d complain some more.
  • He may have been a little hasty with his complaints in the past, but I think that this time, his complaint is justified.

Intent / Intend
This is another pair in which the difference between them is that one is a noun and the other is a verb. Intend is the verb so you intend to make sure that you do not make any grammatical errors. On the other hand, you can also have the intent not to make any grammatical errors.

Additional examples of the use of intent and intend:

  • He never intended to cause harm but unfortunately, the practical joke got out of hand and the business was burned to the ground.
  • The intent of a doctor must first be not to do any harm.
  • She intended to make peace but her intent was misconstrued and things got even worse.

Disinterest / Uninterest
Actually, I have always used disinterest and uninterest interchangeably, without knowing that the two words have different meaning. Uninterest means a lack of interest, while disinterest would mean a lack of bias.

Some examples on the use of disinterest and uninterest:

  • He is interested in the matter, and actually has an interest in the outcome, but as a judge, he has to exercise his judgement with complete disinterest.
  • She told him that she had to be fair to her other suitors and treat him with disinterest, but he took it to mean that she was uninterested in him.
  • He regards the subject of music and the arts with complete uninterest and says that he would rather be at the dentist having his teeth pulled than at an opera performance.


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    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      Docmo - I'm glad to say that I know the difference between principle and principal even before writing this hub. Thanks! :)

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      This is a great hub on one of my pet peeves. I get a lot of e-mails where these common mistakes are made. You have a nice way of illustrating the differences using everyday examples. The recent one I came across is principle/principal! voted up and useful!

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      parrster - Since you have no complaint, then I definitely am not complaining. Your intent in writing your comment is clear and I compliment your interest. :)

      Hello, hello, - Thanks! :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thanmk you for doing such a brilliant job writing this hub. I have learned a lot from it.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      An enquiry will show that I intended to compliment you on this hub, but my complement of disinterest got in the way of my intent and led to rather high levels of uninterest. Don’t complain though, because I have no complaint at the serious inquiry required in creating this hub :)

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      GusTheRedneck - I never heard of Frank and Ernest. I googled them and they turned out to be pretty funny guys. I don't understand some of the jokes but they were probably topical in nature.

      Iontach - Don't worry about it. When I started writing this hub, I found that there are some I didn't know as well. :)

    • Iontach profile image

      Iontach 7 years ago

      Uhhh ohhhh - Complement / Compliment, I didn't know the difference between these...feel silly now. I've noticed that non English speaker get very confused with phrases as phrases really don't make any sense when you think about it.

      I like this random Hub!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      Hi wandererh - Sometimes the misuse of words can be useful. There is a comic strip extant (Frank and Ernest) in which its creator constantly misuses a word for its humorous effect, an effect that affects the reader, sometimes discreetly(depending on who is watching the reader at the moment), but non-discretely in that the comic strips are printed in newspapers and broadcast on the Internet, too.

      Gus :-)))

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 7 years ago from Singapore

      chinemeremz - You are lucky! I wish someone would go through all my hubs and tell me all my grammar mistakes as I'm too lazy to do it myself. :)

      richtwf - I learnt something myself, or maybe it's learned. Gotta figure that out in the next hub. :)

      onceuponatime66 - It was my pleasure bringing it to you - I needed a refresher myself. :)

    • onceuponatime66 profile image

      Jackie Paulson 7 years ago from USA IL

      It is nice to know the refresher on the grammar and all that. Thanks for telling us as I am older and needed to hear it.

    • richtwf profile image

      richtwf 7 years ago

      An excellent hub my friend and a great refresher for me!

      Cheers and God bless you.

    • chinemeremz profile image

      chinemeremz 7 years ago

      This is one good info which I think will go a long way in how we write and communicate in English.

      I made a similar mistake on one of my hubs where I mistakenly used "loosing" in place of "losing" and thanks to the ingenuity of another hubber who corrected me and made me go back and check my dictionary.

      Thanks for sharing voted up!