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More misused words

Published: 
Sunday, July 7, 2013

There is a rule, unknown to many, that regulates the use of three pairs of words that may be used before countable and uncountable nouns. 

 

 

1. Countable and uncountable nouns
These three pairs are:
• few and less—“few” is used before countable nouns, “less” before uncountable nouns 
• many and much—“many” is used before countable nouns, “much” before uncountable nouns.
• number of and amount of—“number of” is used before countable nouns, “amount of” before uncountable nouns.

Before countable nouns:
• Many sandwiches, years, jokes
• Number of drivers, pens, cards
• Few or fewer cars, books, clocks 

Before uncountable nouns: 
• Less pollution, bread, land
• Much persuasion, ceremony, sugar
• Amount of traffic, love, sunlight

Practice: Please fill in the blank spaces in the following sentences with the appropriate words: few/fewer or less, much /many, number of/amount of:
1. There are……………bicycles on the roads now than in times past.
2. Drivers would like to spend………..time commuting on our roads.
3. Too …………arguing can cause disharmony among friends.
4. Some poultry farms produce …………eggs.
5. A large…………………… snow fell during January in parts of Canada.
6. I was told to limit the …………………invitees to the seminar.

Answers: 1. fewer. 2. less. 3. much. 4. many. 5. amount of. 6. number of.

 

 

2. Each other and one another
The twins argued with one another. (incorrect)
The twins argued with each other (correct). 
“Each other” is used to refer to two people.
• The class of 40 girls talked to each other. (incorrect)
• The class of 40 girls talked to one another. (correct). 
“One another” is used to refer to more than two people. 

 

 

3. That and because
The reason I arrived late is because I overslept (incorrect).
The reason I arrived late is that I overslept (correct) 
That I overslept is my reason.    
Or: I arrived late because I overslept. (correct)
If you start a sentence promising the reason that something has happened, you have to give the reason, beginning with the word “that.”
• That I overslept is my reason for arriving late.
If you are uncomfortable promising the reason, avoid beginning the sentence with “the reason why.”
• Just say: I arrived late because I overslept.  

 

 

4. Redundancy 
I want each and every one of you to carry a chair downstairs. (incorrect)  
“Each” is the same as “every,” so it is redundant to use both in this way. Choose one—say either “I want each of you to carry a chair” or “I want every one of you to carry a chair.”
More redundant expressions to avoid:
• reverse back or back back 
• so therefore; very unique; also too; too besides
• centre around (incorrect) centre on or in (correct)
• repeat again 
• circle around 
• more better
• utmost best

 

 

5. Malapropisms
Malapropisms are often, but not always, spoken mistakes. They are words which resemble the correct word, but are not the correct word. They are  not appropriate in that sentence, for example:
• I had a likeness for travelling abroad (incorrect) 
• I had a liking for travelling abroad. (correct)
• He lay prostate on the floor (incorrect) 
• He lay prostrate on the floor. (correct)
• Her husband is ill with a prostate problem. (correct)
• The fishermen said that affluence had leaked from the hotel into the sea water. (incorrect)
• The fishermen said that effluence had leaked from the hotel into the sea water. (correct)
• Full the bucket with water. (incorrect) 
• Fill the bucket with water. (correct) 
Fill is a verb; full is an adjective: “a full bucket.” The bucket is full of water.

 

 

6. Homonyms
Homonyms: One of the major problems with spelling is writing words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  
Such words are called homo (GK same) nyms (names) = Homonyms. 
Here are a few examples:
• bear, bare, bier
• compliment, complement
• counsel, council
• hear, here
• hair, hare 
• it’s, its
• lightening, lightning
• led, lead  
• peace, piece
• persecuted, prosecuted
• principal, principle 
• lose, loose
• plain, plane
• rein, reign
• sore, saw
• site, sight
•  stare, stair
• stationary, stationery
• to, two, too
• waist, waste
• your, you’re
• weather, whether

 

 

7. Correct sentences
Hoping to hear from you soon. (incorrect) 
This is not a sentence.
I hope (or we hope) to hear from you soon. (correct) 
This is a sentence.

 

 

8. Double negatives
He has not made no payments towards the rent. (incorrect) 
Two negatives make a positive—in maths as in English.      
He has made no payments. Or:  He has not made any payments. (correct) 
Use one negative only. 

 

 

This exercise goes to show how much care one should take in expressing oneself. I seriously advise re-reading very carefully whatever one writes, proof-reading it, in fact, with a critical eye for proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and, not sending it until one is satisfied that it is the best that one can do.