The English language can be a tricky one. Statistics show that the average person knows around 40,000 words, but only uses about 20,000 in general, and sometimes, we use those words a little incorrectly. This can be due to a wide variety of reasons. Maybe you heard someone use the word wrong in the past and imitated them, never knowing you were both wrong all along, or perhaps you’re just going along with a popular trend, as some words are misused by literally millions of people on a very regular basis. Let’s look at some examples.
This mistake is becoming increasingly common, particularly in the United States. Does someone lay down or do they lie down? The answer is, always “lie.” We can “lay down” the law or “law down” an item, but we can’t physically lay down ourselves.
Some people have a problem with using the word “lie” in this instance because it’s identical to the verb meaning to tell an untruth, but it’s always important to remember that “lay” is not correct when talking about a person or animal assuming a resting position.
For All Intents And Purposes
The phrase “for all intents and purposes” is quite self-explanatory. We use it to essentially mean “in effect” or “virtually.” Unfortunately, many people get this phrase wrong, and it’s not uncommon to see it written down as “for all intensive purposes.”
This is what we call a ‘mondegreen,’ which is basically a word or phrase that is commonly misheard or misinterpreted, leading to many people making mistakes while using it. So, the next time you use this phrase, remember to avoid those “intensive” purposes.
Viable vs. Feasible
Another common one, viable, is often used when the word “feasible” would actually be much better suited to the sentence or situation. When we say that something is “viable,” we’re actually stating that it has the potential to survive. This comes from the French word “vie,” meaning “life,” as well as the Latin “vita,” which also means “life.”
If we want to say that something is simply possible, then “feasible” is the right word to use. So if you’re talking about a plan, a project, an idea, or a proposed course of action, feasible is always a better option than viable.
Less and Fewer
This is something that most people get taught in elementary school but quickly end up forgetting later in life. Fewer and less are not interchangeable words. They each have their own specific purposes, and it all comes down to what we call “countable” and “uncountable” nouns.
If something is countable, like people, apples, or cats, we have to use the word “fewer.” Meanwhile, if something is uncountable, like time or money or sugar, then we use “less” instead. It might be a little tricky at first, but once you understand this rule, it becomes easy to know which word to use.
Illusion and Allusion
Many people mistakenly write “illusion” when they mean “allusion,” or vice versa. So what’s the difference between these words? Well, the difference is quite a big one. An illusion is like a magic trick or something that misleads or confuses us. An allusion, meanwhile, is like a suggestion or reference.
We often see allusions in movies and books where the words or actions are “alluding” to something else. There’s only one letter of difference between these two words, but their definitions are worlds apart, so it’s essential to know the difference.