In English, there are many pairs of words that sound similar, leaving people confused about which one to use. But they can mean very different things.
There’s a quiz on our Facebook Page with examples of six of these.
How did you do? If you’re not sure why you got the answer wrong, or if you guessed, here are the explanations.
1. I hate going shopping – I’m completely disinterested/ uninterested in clothes.
If you are uninterested in something, you are not interested in it, perhaps because you find it boring. Disinterested means unbiased – juries, umpires and relationship therapists, for example, have to be disinterested parties.
2. There are three crucial things on my shopping list, ie/ eg cake, coffee and chocolate
Answer: ie. Eg means for example (easy to remember as they both start with e). ie comes from the Latin “id est” which means “that is”. Use it to define what you are saying. In this case, there are three crucial things on this list and this is what they are.
3. Are you inferring/ implying I’m lying?
Answer: implying. Infer means to deduce, imply means to hint. So you can imply that someone is lying, or they can infer from what you have said that you think you are being sparing with the truth.
4. It’s been raining continually/ continuously for a month.
Answer: continually. Continually means all the time, but on and off. So you might find yourself arguing continually with your mother in law, but it won’t be absolutely not stop. Continuously means all the time without breaks. I remember when I worked in a big office, a continuous fire alarm meant “get out, now”, while a continual one, where it kept going on and off, meant they were testing it out.
5.They’re a great team as they have complementary/ complimentary skills.
Answer: complementary. If something is complementary, it goes well with something else. Think of this as meaning “to complete”. Complimentary means free (complimentary mints after dinner) or saying something nice to someone “they were very complimentary about the workshop”).
6. He’ll make a good spy as he is very discrete/ discreet.
Answer: discreet. Discreet means secretive, private, while discrete means separate or distinct. A good way to remember this is that Crete is an island that is separate from mainland Greece.
How did you do? Look out for further quizzes soon.