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Are you weak in English? Help with homonyms

By Jagruti Sharma
August 09, 2007 10:32 IST
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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, rediff.com 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." 

Twice a week for the next ten weeks, we'll provide the most common homonyms in the English language. We'll go in alphabetical order. Today, let's look at the letters 'A' and 'B'.


a lot

many, as in: A lot of people are doing business online today.

much, as in: Some people worry a lot about their health.

alot

Wait a minute, there is no such word as alot! It should be two words: a lot, if you mean many or much, or allot, if you mean distribute.

allot

give out or distribute, as in: We will allot the prizes by date of contest entry.


a while

a period of time, as in: I haven't seen her in a while.

awhile

for a short time, as in: Let's stay awhile and talk.


accede

(1) give in to, as in: We accede to your demands.

(2) take a position of authority, as in: When did the King accede to the throne?

exceed

to go past a stated amount, as in: It is illegal to exceed the speed limit.


accent

(1) way of speaking characteristic of a particular region or group, as in I speak with a U. S. American accent.

(2) emphasize one part of something, as in: Accent your good points.

ascent

upward movement, as in: We watched the ascent of the balloon as long as we could.

assent

to agree, as in: I doubt he will assent to the arrangement.


accept

to agree to take, as in: I accept the terms of your offer.

except

excluding, as in: I knew all the answers on the test, except the last one.


access

permission to go in or to approach, as in: No one has access to my private files but me.

accessible

capable of being approached, as in: The back door is accessible from this path.

assess

evaluate, as in: When the flood waters go down, we can assess the damage.

assessable

capable of being evaluated, as in: After the zoning law is changed our property will be assessable.

excess

more than enough, as in: We gave our excess fruit to our neighbors.


ad

short for advertisement, as in: I placed an ad in the paper.

add

to join or to combine, as in: Please add my site to your bookmark list.


adapt

to change to fit, as in: Newcomers quickly adapt to the culture of the Internet.

adept

expert, as in: She was adept at using graphics to illustrate complex ideas.

adopt

to take as one's own, as in: Would it be better to make our own rules, or adopt theirs?


addenda

something added, as in: That problem is covered in the addenda to the software manual.

agenda

list of things to do, as in: What is the agenda for the meeting tomorrow?


addition

something added, as in: We toured the addition to the hospital yesterday.

edition

published version, as in: Read the latest edition of the Tax Tips and Tactics newsletter.


adherence

firm attachment, as in: She demonstrates a strict adherence to the rules.

adherents

advocates or supporters, as in: Many people in that country are adherents of the concept of free speech.


adverse

hostile, as in : The adverse weather conditions forced them to turn back.

averse

reluctant, as in: I am not averse to hearing your suggestions.


advice

guidance or counsel, as in: Your sound advice saved me from a terrible mistake.

advise

to counsel, recommend, or inform, as in: I advise you to validate the code on your Web page before you release it to the general public.


affect

to act upon or influence, as in: Strong emotions can affect your health.

effect

(1, a noun) immediate or direct result, as in: What effect does that medicine have on you?

(2, a verb) accomplish, as in: He braided the bedsheets to effect an escape.


aggravate

to make worse, as in: Lying to cover up a crime will aggravate the offense.

aggregate

to collect together or total, as in: Charges for a corporate Web site can aggregate into tens of thousands of dollars.


aid

help, as in: He rushed to the aid of the victim with no thought for his own safety.

aide

assistant or helper, as in: The Governor's aide will hold a press conference this afternoon.


ail

to cause trouble or discomfort to, as in: What ails you?

ale

an alcoholic beverage, stronger than beer, as in: My friend and I will have two pints of ale, bartender.

allot

give out or distribute, as in: We will allot the prizes by date of contest entry.

alot

Wait a minute, there is no such word as alot!

a lot

many, as in: A lot of people are doing business online today.

much, as in: Some people worry a lot about their health.


allowed

permitted, as in: No one under 17 allowed.

aloud

audibly, as in: He read the book aloud.


allusion

indirect or casual mention, as in: No one made any allusion to the scandal while she was in the room.

illusion

presentation of a false or misleading idea, as in: The magician gave the illusion of sawing the woman in half.

delusion

mistaken belief while in a confused state of mind, as in: He was under the delusion that he could fly.

elusion

evasion or clever escape, as in: The embezzlers celebrated their elusion of the police a little too soon.


alot

Wait a minute, there is no such word as alot! It should be two words: a lot, if you mean many or much, or allot, if you mean distribute.


altar

worship table, as in: The priest approached the altar.

alter

change, as in: Nothing you can say will alter my plans.


alternate

occuring by turns or every other, as in: She works on alternate weekends.

alternative

providing or expressing a choice, as in: An alternative to designing your own Web site is hiring a professional.


amend

modify or revise, as in: It's time to amend our by-laws.

emend

alter or correct in the text of a written work, as in: The publishers hurried to emend the book before the next edition.


among

in the midst of three or more, as in: The four older children decided among themselves to surprise Mother and Father with breakfast in bed.

between

in the midst of two, as in: The two younger ones decided between themselves to clean the kitchen.


ante-

prefix meaning before, as in: The abbreviation A.M. stands for ante meridiem, meaning before noon.

anti-

prefix meaning against, as in: The anti-American protesters marched in the capital city.


antecedence

act of going before in time, as in: The antecedence of parents to their own children is a fact of life.

antecedents

individuals who have gone before, as in: His antecedents left him a fortune, but he wasted most of it.


any one

whichever unit, as in: You can have any one of these prizes.

anyone

any person whatever, as in: Anyone having information about the whereabouts of the suspect, please come forward.


any way

by a choice of methods, as in: I will succeed any way I can.

anyway

in any case or nevertheless, as in: I didn't like her anyway.


apportion

divide up and distribute by shares, as in: I want to apportion the money among all the children.

portion

a limited amount of something, as in: He didn't eat his portion of dessert.

proportion

ratio of one thing to another, as in: The proportion of women to men using the Internet is increasing.


appraise

judge the value of, as in: A professional takes many factors into account in order to appraise your house correctly.

apprise

to inform or notify, as in: Please apprise me of any sudden turn of events.


arc

a curved line, as in: A rainbow is an arc.

ark

a large, flat-bottomed boat, as in: They loaded the grain on the ark and floated it down the river.


are

form of to be, as in: What are you doing tonight?

hour

sixty minutes, as in: It seemed like I waited an hour, but it was only twenty minutes.

our

belonging to us, as in: Please visit our Web site and see our new book reviews.


area

region, as in: What area of the country are you from?

aria

an elaborate song for one voice, as in: When the soprano finished the aria, the audience clapped.


arrears

unpaid debts, as in: We cannot extend you any credit because your account is already in arrears.

arraign

call into court, as in: The suspect will be arraigned next week.

arrange

put into order, as in: It is very important how you arrange the information on your Web site.


assay

chemical analysis, as in: The assay office will test your ore to see how much gold it contains.

essay

a short composition expressing the author's opinions, as in: Students applying for a scholarship often have to write an essay.


assistance

help, as in: Any assistance you can give me will be welcome.

assistants

helpers, as in: The teacher's two assistants handed out the tests.


assure

declare positively, as in: I assure you that I will be finished by next Tuesday.

ensure

make sure, as in: Order today to ensure delivery by Monday.

insure

cover by insurance, as in: This company will insure the data on my hard disk as well as the computer itself.


at present

right now, as in: I am designing small-business Web sites at present.

presently

in a little while or shortly, as in: Mr. Gates will be down to see you presently.


ate

past tense of eat, as in: We ate in that new restaurant last week.

eight

the number after seven, as in: Breakfast will be at eight in the morning.


attendance

being present, as in: Part of your grade is based on attendance.

attendants

workers, as in: The flight attendants will be serving dinner now.


autobiography

one's own life story, as in: I am writing my autobiography.

bibliography

list of books about a subject, as in: Please include a bibliography with your research report.

biography

a person's life story, as in: She is writing a biography of Marie Sklodowska Curie, the chemist and physicist who with her husband discovered radium in 1898.

bail

security given for release from jail, as in: The bail was set at $100,000.00

bale

a large bundle, as in: The hay was collected together and compressed into a bale.


bare

exposed to view, as in: The bare branches of the trees made lacy patterns against the winter sky.

bear

(1) carry or transport, as in: I bear a gift for you.

(2) tolerate, stand or endure, as in: I can't bear to hear another word.

(3) a large mammal, as in: At the zoo we saw a bear.


base

the bottom part which supports that above it, as in: We camped overnight at the base of the mountain.

bass

deep or low in sound, as in: You sing the high notes, and I'll sing the bass.


bases

(1) plural of base, as in: The Army is closing down its bases in that country.

(2) plural of basis, as in: The bases of all his theories were flawed.

basis

fundamental principal, as in: Your accusation has no basis in fact.


bazaar

marketplace, as in: The charity held a fund-raising bazaar.

bizarre

very odd, as in: Her outfit was too bizarre for the workplace.


beat

(1) strike repeatedly, as in: Percussion bands beat their drums at an unbelievable tempo.

(2) defeat, as in: Your team will never beat the champions.

beet

root vegetable, as in: The common red beet can be cooked and eaten.


berry

small, pulpy fruit with many seeds, as in: I love berry pie.

bury

put in the ground and cover, as in: If we bury the treasure no one will find it.


berth

a resting place, as in: When we go on the train, which berth do you want, upper or lower?

birth

being born, as in: The birth of our first child was a happy occasion.


beside

by the side of, as in: Sit down beside the fire and get warm.

besides

moreover or else, as in: I'm not hungry; besides, I'm allergic to nuts.


among

in the midst of three or more, as in: The four older children decided among themselves to surprise Mother and Father with breakfast in bed.

between

in the midst of two, as in: The two younger ones decided between themselves to clean the kitchen.


autobiography

one's own life story, as in: I am writing my autobiography.

bibliography

list of books about a subject, as in: Please include a bibliography with your research report.

biography

a person's life story, as in: She is writing a biography of Marie Sklodowska Curie, the chemist and physicist who with her husband discovered radium in 1898.


billed

sent a statement of money owed, as in: Would you like to pay cash now or be billed?

build

construct or assemble, as in: You can build good credit by paying bills on time.


blew

sent forth a current of air, as in: The wind blew across the desert.

blue

a color, as in: The editor marked corrections with a blue pencil.


bloc

group with a shared purpose, as in: The measure was opposed by the farm bloc.

block

(1) a chunk, as in: He is going to carve an animal from that block of wood.

(2) hinder, as in: The police lined up their cars to block the bankrobbers' escape.


board

(1) piece of wood, as in : The diver hit his head on the board.

(2) council, as in: I'll make your suggestion to the board of trustees.

bored

tired of the monotony, as in: After ten speeches, I got bored because every speaker said the same thing.


boarder

a lodger who receives meals regularly at a fixed price, as in: To earn extra money, we took in a boarder.

border

boundary, as in: Be sure to have your passport when you cross the border.


bolder

more daring, as in: If you want to be noticed, perhaps you need to be a little bolder.

boulder

a large rock, as in: The road was blocked by a boulder.


born

brought into existence, as in: A new nation was born from the ashes of the old one.

borne

(1) carried, as in: All their belongings were borne on their shoulders.

(2) tolerated, as in: Any more outbursts like that simply will not be borne.


boy

male child, as in: Is your new baby a boy or a girl?

buoy

a floating marker in the water, as in: When they saw the buoy, they knew they were entering the channel.


brake

device that helps you stop, as in: When the driver saw the cow in the road, he hit the brake.

break

rupture, fracture, or crack, as in: Don't play ball in the house, because you'll break something.


bread

food made of grain, as in: I love to eat homemade soup and fresh bread.

bred

past tense of breed, as in: Some dogs are bred for strength, some for intelligence.


breadth

width or broadness, as in: The breadth of his knowledge of world history surprised everyone.

breath

respiration, as in: Hold your breath while I take the X-ray.

breathe

inhale and exhale, as in: Breathe in that fresh air!


bridal

having to do with a marriage ceremony, as in: The bridal bouquet was made of daisies and wildflowers.

bridle

(1) having to do with horseback riding, as in: The bridle path was crowded this morning with weekend riders.

(2) restrain or control, as in: I wish I could learn to bridle my tongue.


broach

introduce, as in: While the boss was in a good mood, I decided to broach the subject of a raise.

brooch

ornamental pin, as in: She wore a beautiful diamond brooch.


bouillon

clear soup with a strong flavor, as in: For the first course I'll have beef bouillon.

bullion

precious metals, formed into bars, as in: The coach was loaded with hundreds of bars of gold bullion.


buy

purchase, as in: More and more customers are willing to buy goods from an online storefront.

by

through the action of, as in: This Web page designed by P. Sato Design.

bye

short form of goodbye, as in: Bye for now.


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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 englishbloopers@rediffmail.com -- 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.

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Jagruti Sharma