You are here: Rediff Home » India » Get Ahead » Careers » Education
Search: The Web
  Discuss this Article   |      Email this Article   |      Print this Article

English bloopers: A guide for everyone
Jagruti Sharma
Get news updates:What's this?
September 07, 2007

For most of us, English is still a challenge. With all its irregularities, exceptions and rules, English is a very difficult language to master.

With that in mind, presents our English Bloopers series. Here, we publish written and spoken mistakes spotted and sent to us by observant Get Ahead readers. It's a great way to review the basics, clarify a few issues and share a laugh or two! 

Jagruti Sharma
, director of Words Infocom Limited, sent a tremendous list of homonyms that tend to trip up non-native speakers of English. Homonyms are words that sound the same when pronounced, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

Example: 'Loose' and 'lose'

Many people make this mistake. They inevitably interchange the words 'loose' and 'lose' while writing. 'Lose' means to 'suffer a loss or defeat'. Thus, you would write:

~ 'I don't want to lose you," and not 'I don't want to loose you.'

'Loose', on the other hand, means 'not firm' or 'not fitting.' In this context, you would write,

~ "My shirt is loose," not "My shirt is lose." 

Today, we conclude our series on homonyms:


used a small nail with broad, flat head, as in: He tacked the message up on the corkboard.


diplomacy, as in: This difficult situation must be handled with tact and sensitivity.


last part, as in: The veterinarian examined the dog from head to tail.


story, as in: I loved hearing my mother tell me the tale about how she came to the US


(1) a plant used as forage or a cover crop, as in: We'll need another bag of tare seed.

(2) deduction from the gross weight to allow for the weight of the container, as in: The tare weight of the vehicle is 2,000 lbs.


rip, as in: The letter made me so angry I wanted to tear it into little pieces.


drop of fluid from the eye, as in: The police used tear gas to subdue the bank robbers.


layer or row of a vertical arrangement, as in: We sat in the top tier of seats in the stadium.


past tense of teach, as in: The experience taught him to always read the fine print.


stretched tight, as in: The rope was pulled taut between the two poles.


a group working together in a united action, as in: Our team project is almost completed.


be full, as in: The lakes in that region teem with all kinds of fish.


one who holds the right to occupy a place, as in: The previous tenant of this apartment was a doctor.


a rule or part of a body of doctrine, as in: The sanctity of marriage is an important tenet of her faith.


a conjunction in sentences involving comparison, as in: Our product is no more expensive than theirs.


at that time or in that case, as in: If you agree that my skills and experience are what you need to do this job, then let's draw up the contract.


belonging to them, as in: In my opinion, their Web site is attractive, but takes too long to load.


in that place, as in: Set the box there on the counter.


contraction of they are, as in: She said they're coming for dinner next Monday night.


belong to them, used when no noun follows, as in: There can be no doubt the money is theirs.


contraction of there is, as in: The evidence is clear, so there's no use denying it.


not leaving anything out, as in: The police conducted a thorough search of the apartment looking for clues.


past tense of throw, as in: The news threw the whole office into a panic.


from the beginning of to the end of, as in: I walked through the store on my lunch hour, but I didn't find what I wanted.


pangs or struggles, as in: Please forgive us; we're in the throes of remodeling our store.


puts, hurls, or flings, as in: The news of the merger throws a new light on his recent departure.


toward, as in: I am going to the store.


in addition or very much, as in: You are too kind.


the number after one, as in: The two candidates for the job are evenly matched.


twisting, as in: The cabin is reached by a tortuous mountain road.


full of torture, as in: I can't come in to work today; I have a torturous toothache.


followed traces of or the path of, as in: They tracked the mistake back to the accounting department.


region, as in: Our tract of homes was originally called Sycamore Hills and contained 42 houses but no sycamore trees.


path or remnants of passage, as in: Her journey through life left a trail of broken promises.


time of testing or judging, as in: We offer a free one-month trial period so you can see what benefits our service will bring you.


second to the last, as in: Y is the penultimate letter of the alphabet.


the very last, as in: The ultimate cost of the project will be over one million dollars.


cancel or reverse what has been done, as in: Thank you for pointing out my mistake so I can undo it.


beyond what is appropriate, as in: The court voided the contract, ruling that the attorney exerted undue influence on his client.


not influenced by personal motives, as in: To mediate this argument, we need a disinterested person.


unconcerned, as in: I knew she was sick because she was uninterested in food.


relating to a city or city life, as in: She is a specialist in urban planning.


refined and sophisticated, as in: Years in the foreign diplomatic service gave him urbane manners.


ineffective, as in: We worked all night in a vain attempt to meet the deadline.


(1) blood vessel, as in: They had a hard time finding a vein to draw blood.

(2) mineral deposit, as in: A vein of silver was found in the mine.

(3) mood or tendency, as in: Her stories are written in a humorous vein.


valley, as in: I wonder if the city of Sunnyvale, California, is really a sunny vale?


covering or curtain, as in: She wore a heavy veil to conceal her puffy, red eyes.


truthfulness, as in: We're asking you what happened, because you have a reputation for veracity.


eagerness or great hunger, as in: She loves mystery books so much that she reads them with voracity.


badness, defect or fault, as in: He was a lover of vice rather than a lover of virtue.


tool having two jaws that are tightened by a screw mechanism, as in: My headache made me feel like my head was being squeezed in a vise.


to cry loudly, expressing sorrow, as in: The baby started to wail when Mother left the room.


to hit or beat, as in: In times past, a teacher might threaten to whale an unruly student.

"I'm a dutch-speaking Belgian user of this site, but I always thought that a whale was a rather big fish with a particular appetite for Jonah's ...With kind regards, Stefan Van pellicom"


that part of a human body between the ribs and the hips, as in: She wore a red belt around her waist.


act of squandering, as in: For the sake of our budget, we must cut down on waste in this office.


period of expectation, as in: Dinner took a long time, but it was well worth the wait.


heaviness, as in: It feels good to sit down and take the weight off my feet.


to give up something you are entitled to, as in: We will waive the application fee if you sign up now.


to signal by bending your hand up and down, as in: We will wave our hands when the coast is clear.

(Thanks to word-lover Chris Maddox, who gets letters from her bank saying they will wave the fee)


voluntary relinquishment of a right, as in: The university gave him a waiver for the payment of tuition.


go back and forth on a decision, as in: We must decide today--there's no more time to waver.


have a desire for, as in: Children want to be loved and cared for.


customary practice or habit, as in: It was his wont to stay late at the office.


contraction meaning will not, as in: The boss called, saying he won't be in until ten.


article of merchandise, as in: I saw all the new software at Spring Internet World.


clothes, as in: She was prepared for the weather in her stylish red rainwear.


course of action or manner, as in: There must be a better way to learn this lesson.


measure the heaviness of, as in: It's a good idea to use the same scale each time you weigh yourself.


having little strength, as in: She felt weak because she hadn't eaten all day.


period of seven days, as in: Let's have lunch a week from today.


climate, as in: San Diego, California, is famous for nice weather.


conjunction before the first of two choices, as in: I can't decide whether I want to sell the property or keep it.


what one, as in: Which Web browser do you use?


woman claiming to have magical powers, as in: The witch gave them herbs.


a high-pitched sound, as in: Just about every parent cringes when they hear, "I'm bored" in that whine that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.


wine is the naturally fermented juice of fresh fruit or berries, as in: Even for wine experts, a common problem is the impoverished language we have for describing tastes and smells.

A large part of the wine taster's skill comes from being able to develop some sort of classification system and then to associate words/categories with smells--olfaction researcher Professor Tim Jacob of Cardiff University

Thanks to word-lover Rabiatul Kamit for suggesting this word pair, May 2002

who ever

who as a pronoun and ever as an adverb, as in: Who ever comes to this deserted place?


anyone who, as in: Whoever wants this book can have it.


plant of the Ilex genus, as in: We have a hedge of holly bushes on our property.


sacred or pure, as in: The people refused to build there because they considered it holy ground.


completely or entirely, as in: The company is wholly owned by one family.


contraction of who is or who has, as in: Who's been eating my porridge?


belonging to who, as in: I'm not sure whose shoes are these?


single person or thing, as in: The store is locatedon a one-way street.


past tense of win, as in: Who won the basketball game?


lumber, as in: The book said wood floors look nice and last a long time.


auxiliary verb used to express a condition, futurity, preference, intention, longing, probability, a request, habitual action, or uncertainty, as in: I would go with you if I could.


knock or tap sharply, as in: Rap on the door again; I'm sure someone's home.


to put a cover around something, as in: Be sure to wrap the baby warmly in this cold weather.


to try to vomit, as in: The awful smell made me retch.


a pitiful or despised person, as in: I'd like to get my hands on the wretch who robbed the blind old man.


correct or accurate, as in: Careful writers strive to use the right word.


customary and solemn ritual or ceremony, as in: The rite of baptism is taken very seriously in many faiths.


someone who makes or repairs a thing, as in: My grandfather was a shipwright and my grandson is a playwright.


to put letters of the alphabet, numbers, and/or punctuation marks on a surface to be read, as in: When I write my goals on paper I am more likely to achieve them than if they remain only as thoughts in my head.


unthinking routine, as in: Foreign languages used to be taught by the rote method.


past tense of to write, as in: I wrote to the company last week but I haven't received any answer yet.


female sheep, as in: The ewe was bleating and looking for her lamb.


evergreen tree of the taxus genus, as in: The finest bows are made of yew wood.


the one or ones being spoken to, as in: I guarantee that you will be satisfied or your money will be cheerfully refunded.


crosspiece holding two things together, as in: The pair of oxen pulling the plow had an ancient wooden yoke around their necks.


yellow part of an egg, as in: For good health, the egg yolk should be fully cooked before you eat it.


contraction meaning you are, as in: Are you glad you're going to the party?


belonging to you, as in: I welcome your comments on this page.


MORE English bloopers

If you'd like to share common bloopers you come across when people speak/ write in English, do mail your list, along with their correct alternatives to -- we'll highlight them right here as a helpful guide to those trying to improve their English. Also, make sure you include your FULL NAME, AGE, OCCUPATION and the CITY you are based in.

 Email this Article      Print this Article
© 2007 India Limited. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer | Feedback