Usage mistakes make you sound dumb. Avoid them. What is Usage?
Double Negatives Follow along on text page 616. To make a sentence negative, all you need is one negative word. If you use two, that is a double negative, which is not correct usage. Example: I have not never been there. Example: I have not ever been there. Example: I have never been there. We will work together on Exercise 1
More Double Negative Issues Follow along on text pages 617-618. Do not use two negative words in the same clause. Sometimes, “but” can be used to mean “only.” Do not use this in combination with a negative word. Example: There were not but two of us. Example: There were but two of us. Because barely, hardly, and scarcely are negative words, they cannot be used in combination with other negatives. Example: I haven’t barely started eating. Example: I haven’t started eating. Example: I have barely started eating. We will work together on Exercise 3.
A vs. An A is the indefinite article that is meant to precede all words beginning with consonant sounds, while an is the indefinite article that should precede all words that begin with vowel sounds. This is pretty straightforward, except when it comes to silent letters and different letter sounds. Examples: A hug; An honor Examples: A university; An undergarment.
Accept vs. Except Follow along on textbook pages 620-627. The word accept is a verb meaning “to receive.” Example: I accept your apology. The word except can be used as a verb or a preposition. As a verb, it means “to leave out.” Example: Because you are kind, I except you from the group punishment. As a preposition, except means “but” or “excluding.” Example: Everyone except you is punished.
Adapt vs. Adopt Adapt is a verb that means “to change.” Adopt is a verb that means “to take as one’s own.” These should not be confused with each other. Incorrect: We adopted our game plan because they beat us last time. Correct: We adapted our game plan because they beat us last time. Incorrect: We adapted our game plan from their playbook. Correct: We adopted our game plan from their playbook.
Affect vs. Effect Affect is a verb that means “to influence.” Example: Athletes’ choices often dramatically affect American youth. Effect can be used as a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means “to accomplish.” Example: You should use your influence to effect social change. As a noun, effect means “the result of some action.” Example: The melting of the polar icecaps is an effect of carbon emissions.
Ain’t Ain’t was originally a contraction of “am not.” It is no longer allowed and should not be used when you actually mean “isn’t” or “aren’t.” Incorrect: They ain’t upset. Correct: They aren’t upset.
A lot A lot is two words, not one. It is the article a combined with the noun lot, meaning “bunch.” You should never combine these into one word. Incorrect: I do alot for my family. Correct: I do a lot for my family.
All Ready vs. Already All ready is the combination of an indefinite pronoun and an adjective meant to indicate that some quantity of something is completely prepared. Already is an adverb that indicates that something should have taken place by a certain time. Incorrect: The feast is already. Correct: The feast is all ready. Incorrect: The feast is all ready prepared. Correct: The feast is already prepared.
Alright is not all right Alright is not a real word. It doesn’t matter how many times you have seen it used and in how many places. What you are looking for is all right. Incorrect: The kids will be alright without us for a few days. Correct: The kids will be all right without us for a few days.
All together vs. Altogether All together is a combination of an indefinite pronoun and an adjective to indicate everyone in a group. Altogether is an adverb that is synonymous with “completely.” Incorrect: The pie is all together ruined. Correct: The pie is altogether ruined. Incorrect: We accomplished this altogether. Correct: We accomplished this all together.
Among vs. Between Among is a preposition used to discuss a group instead of individuals. Example: The crowd noise created confusion among the members of the opposing team. Between is a preposition used to refer to two things or individuals at a time, even if they are part of a larger group. Example: The crowd noise created confusion between the center and quarterback.
Amount vs. Number Amount should be used to refer to nouns or pronouns that cannot be counted, while number should be used to refer to nouns or pronouns that can be counted. Incorrect: A great number of rain fell on New York this weekend. Correct: A great amount of rain fell on New York this weekend. Incorrect: A great amount of people had their umbrellas with them this weekend. Correct: A great number of people had their umbrellas with them this weekend.
Anywhere, etc. Anywhere, everywhere, nowhere, and somewhere are adverbs that should never end with s. They are always singular. Incorrect: I can’t take you anywheres. Correct: I can’t take you anywhere.
At and Where The word at is a preposition meaning something like “in the direction of.” Where is an interrogative or relative pronoun also indicating direction. These two words should never be used together, as to do so would be redundant. Incorrect: Where are you at? Correct: Where are you? Correct: I am at the zoo.
A while vs. Awhile A while is a combination of article and noun meant to indicate a period of time. Awhile is an adverb meant to tell how much of a time frame has elapsed or is being referred to. Incorrect: My essay is a while overdue. Correct: My essay is awhile overdue. Incorrect: Let me think about this for awhile. Let me think about this for a while.
Bad vs. Badly Bad is an adjective used to describe nouns and pronouns. Badly is an adverb used to describe adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Incorrect: She is a badly girl. Correct: She is a bad girl. Incorrect: He shot the ball bad. Correct: He shot the ball badly.
Because + Reason = Frustration and Anger TThis is without question my biggest pet peeve: there is NEVER a reason to say the reason is because. Ever. It is redundant and stupid. Instead, say the reason is that. IIncorrect: The reason he left is because he was tired. CCorrect: The reason he left is that he was tired.
Being as and being that are stupid Neither being as nor being that should ever be used in formal writing. Instead, you should use either because or since. Incorrect: Being as I got here before you, I should have my choice of drink. Correct: Since I got here before you, I should have my choice of drink. Incorrect: Being that you are annoying, I am going to go home. Correct: Because you are annoying, I am going to go home.
Beside vs. Besides Beside is a preposition meaning “by the side of” someone or something. Example: Samantha is standing beside the pool. Besides may be used as a preposition or as an adverb. As a preposition, it means “in addition to” or “aside from.” Example: Besides being practical, he is also friendly. As an adverb, besides means “moreover” or “anyway.” Example: Besides, I don’t have any money.
Bring vs. Take Bring means “to come carrying something,” while take means “to go carrying something.” They are not interchangeable! Incorrect: Bring that hat in my closet to my aunt’s house. Correct: Take that hat in my closet to my aunt’s house. Incorrect: Take that hat in my aunt’s house to me. Correct: Bring that hat in my aunt’s house to me.
Borrow, lend, and loan Borrow is a verb indicating taking something for a limited time. Lend is a verb indicating giving something away for a limited time. Loan is a noun indicating the thing exchanged in the lending process. Example: I need to borrow money from you. Will you lend me some? Example: I was unable to pay back the loan in full.
Can vs. May Can indicates the ability to do something. May indicates permission to do something. Incorrect: Can I use the bathroom? Correct: May I use the bathroom? Incorrect: Even though Spud Webb is short, he may dunk a basketball. Correct: Even though Spud Webb is short, he can dunk a basketball.
Different from vs. different than While both different from and different than are grammatically acceptable phrases, different from is preferred and should thus be used as often as possible. Incorrect: My socks’ colors are different than each other. Correct: My socks’ colors are different from each other.
Discover vs. Invent To discover something means that you are the first to see or learn about something that already exists. To invent something means that you are the first to do or make something that did not previously exist. These words are not interchangeable and should not be treated as such. Incorrect: Galileo Galilei discovered the telescope. Correct: Galileo Galilei invented the telescope. Incorrect: Scientists recently invented many medicinal uses for marijuana. Correct: Scientists recently discovered many medicinal uses for marijuana.
Doesn’t and Don’t Doesn’t is the contraction of “does not,” while don’t is the contraction of “do not.” Doesn’t should therefore be used with singular subjects, while don’t should be used with plural subjects. Incorrect: Jamie don’t like you. Correct: Jamie doesn’t like you. Incorrect: Jamie’s friends doesn’t like you. Correct: Jamie’s friends don’t like you.
Done Done must always be used with a helping verb that is some version of have. You cannot use this by itself. Incorrect: Yeah, I done that before. Correct: Yeah, I have done that before.
Due to Due to means the same thing as “caused by.” You can only use it in a sentence when you can substitute one for the other. Incorrect: Due to his absence, he failed. Correct: Because of his absence, he failed. Correct: His failure was due to his absence.
Emigrate vs. Immigrate Emigrate indicates that one has left a certain country to live elsewhere. Immigrate indicates that one has come to a certain country to live there. Incorrect: Albert Einstein immigrated from Germany. Correct: Albert Einstein emigrated from Germany. Incorrect: Albert Einstein emigrated to America. Correct: Albert Einstein immigrated to America.
Et cetera (etc.) The phrase et cetera is a Latin phrase meaning “and other things.” It is abbreviated etc. It should never be preceded by a conjunction, including and especially and, since this would be redundant. Incorrect: I own cars, houses, parks, and etc. Correct: I own cars, houses, parks, etc.
Farther vs. Further Farther should be used in order to describe physical distances. Further should be used to describe degree or time. Incorrect: I drove further than I ever had. Correct: I drove farther than I ever had. Incorrect: We need to delve farther into the problem to find a solution. Correct: We need to delve further into the problem to find a solution.
Fewer vs. Less Fewer is used in reference to plural words to describe how many of a particular item there are. Less is used in reference to singular words to describe how much of a particular item is being discussed. Incorrect: I had fewer of the pizza than you. Correct: I had less of the pizza than you. Incorrect: I had less slices of the pizza than you. Correct: I had fewer slices of the pizza than you.
Gone vs. Went Gone is only used with a helping verb that is some form of “have.” Went is the past tense of “go” and is never used with a helping verb. Incorrect: I gone there before. Correct: I have gone there before. Correct: I went there before.
Good vs. Well Good is an adjective and should thus only be used to modify nouns and pronouns. Well is an adverb and should thus only be used to modify adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Incorrect: He plays good when he chooses to focus. Correct: He plays well when he chooses to focus. Incorrect: He is well at basketball. Correct: He is good at basketball.
Had and hadn’t ought Follow along on textbook pages 704-705. Ought is basically synonymous with should. Ought should never be used in combination with had or hadn’t in a verb phrase. Incorrect: He had ought to find a more productive hobby. Correct: He ought to find a more productive hobby. Incorrect: She hadn’t ought to distract me when I am trying to study. Correct: She ought not to distract me when I am trying to study.
Hanged vs. Hung Hanged is a word that is used only to refer to death by hanging. Hung is used in all other instances in question. Incorrect: They hung the criminal at dusk. Correct: They hanged the criminal at dusk. Incorrect: Last night, I hanged my photographs on the wall. Correct: Last night, I hung my photographs on the wall.
In vs. Into In is a preposition or adverb that should really be used only synonymously with “inside.” Into is a preposition that should indicate movement from outside to inside. Incorrect: Meet me into the gym. Correct: Meet me in the gym. Incorrect: Follow me in the car. Correct: Follow me into the car.
Just Just can be used as an adverb meaning “no more than.” It should be placed directly before the word it modifies. Incorrect: I just wanted five dollars. Correct: I wanted just five dollars.
Kind of, sort of Kind of and sort of are informal and should not be used to replace “rather” or “somewhat.” Incorrect: She is kind of upset. Correct: She is rather upset.
Lay vs. Lie Lay means “to put” or “to place” and usually has a direct object. It is usually transitive, passing action from a subject to a receiver. Lie means “to rest” or “to recline” and never has a direct object. The action is intransitive, as the doer of the action is also the receiver. Example: Lay the brush on the dresser. Example: Lie in the bushes over there.
Lay and Lie Principal Parts The principal parts of a verb are its main conjugations. In the English language, these are the present tense, the present participle (used to indicate ongoing action), the past tense, and the past participle (used to indicate completed action). The principal parts of lay are lay, is laying, laid, has laid. The principal parts of lie are lie, is lying, lay, has lain. As you can see, the past tense of lie is lay, which can obviously cause some confusion.
Learn vs. Teach Learn means “to receive knowledge.” Teach means “to give knowledge.” They should not be used interchangeably. Incorrect: He learned me how to ski. Correct: He taught me how to ski. Correct: I learned how to ski from him.
Leave vs. Let Leave is a verb that means something like “to go away.” Let is a verb that means “to permit.” Incorrect: Leave me be! Correct: Let me be! Incorrect: Let the auditorium and meet him in the classroom. Correct: Leave the auditorium and meet him in the classroom.
Like vs. As, As If, and As Though Like is a preposition used to introduce prepositional phrases. As, as if, and as though are subordinating conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses. In formal writing, these should not be used interchangeably. Incorrect: You look like you have seen a ghost. Correct: You look as if you have seen a ghost. Incorrect: The child drove as a professional. Correct: The child drove like a professional.
Loose vs. Lose Loose is an adjective that means free or not fitting tightly. Lose is a verb that can be used to indicate a failure to win or the process of no longer having something. Incorrect: There is no way that we can loose to them. Correct: There is no way that we can lose to them. Incorrect: There is no way that my jersey is too lose. Correct: There is no way that my jersey is too loose.
Of Of is a preposition that is to be used independent of other prepositions such as inside, outside, and off. You basically never want to say something is inside of something else. Incorrect: I will meet you outside of the store. Correct: I will meet you outside the store. Could of is not real. Avoid it. What you mean is could have. Use that instead. Incorrect: I could of gone, but chose not to. Correct: I could have gone, but chose not to. The same is true for should of, would of, might of, etc.
Only You must place the word only directly before the word that you intend it to modify; otherwise, the sentence becomes unclear. Example: Only I want the candy. Example: I want only the candy. Example: I want the only candy.
Passed vs. Past Passed and past are homonyms, but that is really all they have in common. Passed is the past tense of “pass.” Past is a noun, preposition, adjective, or adverb meant to indicate a time frame. Incorrect: I past you on the road today. Correct: I passed you on the road today. Incorrect: That relationship is in the passed. Correct: That relationship is in the past.
Precede vs. Proceed Precede is a verb that means “to go or come before.” Proceed is either a verb that means “to continue” or a noun that equates to a result. Incorrect: Intelligence proceeds desirable results. Correct: Intelligence precedes desirable results. Incorrect: Precede from your front door to the bank. Correct: Proceed from your front door to the bank.
Respectfully vs. Respectively Respectfully is an adverb that means “with respect.” Respectively is an adverb that means that things correspond to a certain named order. Incorrect: I walked into the room respectively. Correct: I walked into the room respectfully. Incorrect: My cousin and I dated Sarah and Jenna, respectfully. Correct: My cousin and I dated Sarah and Jenna, respectively.
Raise vs. Rise Raise means “to move something up” and usually has a direct object. Rise means “to go in an upward direction” and never has a direct object. Example: Raise your glasses in salute. Example: Rise from your grave, corpse. The principal parts of raise are raise, is raising, raised, has raised. The principal parts of rise are rise, is rising, rose, has risen.
Seen Seen can only be used as a verb if it has a helping verb before it; it can never be used as a verb by itself. Incorrect: I seen him before. Correct: I have seen him before.
Set vs. Sit Set means “to put or place” and usually has a direct object. Sit means “to rest in an upright, seated position” and almost never has a direct object. Example: Set the brush on the dresser. Example: Sit on the couch. The principal parts of set are set, is setting, set, has set. The principal parts of sit are sit, is sitting, sat, has sat.
So Using so by itself makes it a coordinating conjunction. You should not use it by itself when you intend to say “so that.” Incorrect: He reminded me so I could show up early. Correct: He reminded me so that I could show up early. Incorrect: He reminded me, so that I showed up early. Correct: He reminded me, so I showed up early.
Some vs. Somewhat Some is either an indefinite pronoun or adjective referring to an amount. Somewhat is an adverb referring to the same idea. They are not to be used interchangeably, as they have different parts of speech. Incorrect: Somewhat of the men died in battle. Correct: Some of the men died in battle. Incorrect: My shooting has improved some. Correct: My shooting has improved somewhat.
Than vs. Then Do not use these interchangeably. Than is a conjunction that is often used in a comparative way. Then is an adverb to indicate when an event happened. Incorrect: He is a better point guard then I am. Correct: He is a better point guard than I am. Incorrect: If he wins the starting job, than I will switch schools. Correct: If he wins the starting job, then I will switch schools.
That, which, and who Which is a relative or interrogative pronoun that refers only to inanimate objects. Who is a relative or interrogative pronoun that refers only to a person or people. That is a relative or demonstrative pronoun that can be used to refer to either people or things. If essential information is being presented, it is always better to use that than it is to use which. Incorrect: There is the man which stole my coat! Correct: There is the man who stole my coat! Correct: There is the man that stole my coat! Incorrect: There is the coat who had been stolen! Correct: There is the coat which had been stolen! Correct: There is the coat that had been stolen!
That there, this here Life is not a bad hip hop song. Please never say this here or that there. It sounds ridiculous and is redundant. Simply use this or that instead. Incorrect: This here is my house. Correct: This is my house. Incorrect: That there is my car. Correct: That is my car.
Their, there, they’re Their is a possessive pronoun that will always modify a noun. There is an adverb or an expletive; it has to do with location or existence. They’re is a contraction that replaces the pronoun and linking verb “they are.” Example: That is their hat. Example: There is her hat. Example: They’re looking for the hat.
To, too, two To is a preposition that begins a prepositional phrase or an infinitive. Too is an adverb that can modify adjectives and adverbs; it can also be used to mean “also.” Two is a number. Example: I like to play basketball. Example: I am too old to play much anymore. Example: I have played two times in the past year.
When and where Do not use when or where in sentences where something is being defined or identified, no matter how tempted you might be to do so. Just rephrase and move on. Incorrect: An assist is when a pass leads directly to a basket. Correct: An assist is a pass that leads directly to a basket. Incorrect: A touchdown is where a player possesses the ball in the end zone of the opposing team. Correct: A touchdown is being in possession of the ball in the end zone of the opposing team. We will work together on Exercise 10.