Words that look or sound alike

Words that look or sound alike

(1)       Affect/effect.

 Affect is a verb,

Effect can be a verb or a noun.

As verbs, affect and effect have very different meanings. To affect is to influence, to “have an effect on, make a difference to”

Example:      temperature affects the viscosity of syrup.

To effect is to “cause to happen, bring about” (to effect a change).

Incident­ally, affect has another meaning: to “pretend to have or feel” e.g. he affected a British accent when he returned home after a one-year stay in London.

(2)       Beauty contest/beautiful contest.

The usual expression is beauty contest, where the noun beauty is a modifier (in this example a noun functioning as an adjective).

 A beautiful contest is rare – what with contestants jealous of one another and back-stabbing or bad-mouthing or sabotaging one another!

(3)       Bent/bended.

Both are forms of the past tense and the past participle of the verb bend.

The form bent may be used as the past tense (he bent the ruler),

As the past participle (he has bent the ruler), as the past participle used predicatively as an adjective (the ruler is bent), and as the past participle used attributively as an adjective (the bent ruler).

He went down on bended knees and proposed to her.

[If he had gone down on his bent knees, she would likely have been shocked to suddenly find out that her boyfriend had deformed legs!]

(4)       Beside/besides.

Beside: – a preposition meaning “at the side of, next to”

Besides: – an adverb meaning “in addition to, apart from”.

(5)       Compliment/complement.

A compliment is “a polite expression of praise or admiration”

Complement is an addition made to something to “enhance or improve it”.

Note that complement is something purportedly to make something else complete, and that both the italicised words contain two “e’s”.

(6)       Damage/damages,

I have encountered a report of a storm causing damages to houses. The word should be damage, meaning “unwelcome and detrimental effects” – not damages, which is a legal term meaning “a sum of money claimed or awarded in compensation for a loss or injury”.

(7)       Dependent/dependant.

The former is an adjective: – the old man is dependent on his son to support him.

The latter is a noun: – the woman cited her three underage children as her dependants.

(8)       Desert/dessert.

 Both, as nouns, are pronounced /dazert/ and /dizert/.

A desert is a region so arid that it supports only sparse vegetation or not at all.

A dessert is a sweet course served at the end of a meal.

(9)       Drunk/drunken, sunk/sunken.

Sunk, the past participle of sink is used in the active voice: – the ship has/had sunk

 Or in the passive voice: – the ship was sunk by a torpedo.

When used attributively, the form sunken is used: – the sunken ship – not the sunk ship.

The same consideration holds for drunk/drunken;

hence the sailor is drunk, and the drunken sailor.

(10)  Economic/economical/economics, historic/historical.

Historical pertains to history (Baron Münchhausen, he of the fantastic adventures, was a historical person).

Historic means “famous or significant in history” : – Malacca is a historic city.

Economic pertains to economy: – the government’s economic policy.

Economical means “giving good value for money, prudent in the use of funds or resources”: – he is looking for an economical car.

Economics is also used as an adjective – specifically a modifier noun – as in an economics book: – a book on economics.

(11)  Fabled/fabulous.

Fabled means “mythical or imaginary”: – the fabled land of the Amazons.

Fabulous means “extraordinary”: – he bequeathed his fabulous wealth to various charities.

(12)  Factual/factional/factitious.

Factual means “based on or concerned with facts” (a factual account of the accident).

Factious means “relating or inclined to dissension: (a factious association is one whose members are split into factions).

Factitious means “false, artificial or contrived” (a factitious account of a monk’s journey to the West).

(13)  Fictional/fictitious.

Fictional means “pertaining to literature, especially novels, describing imaginary events and people” (fictional heroes seem to have been made larger than life).

Fictitious means “not real or true; imaginary or invented” (he gave a fictitious report of the club’s activities for the year).

(14)  Reference/referendum/referral.

Reference means “a source of information in a book or article”; also “a letter from a previous employer testifying to someone’s ability or reliability” (the new maid came with impeccable references).

Referendum means “the principle or practice of referring political issues to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection (The issue of teaching science and mathematics in English was never put to a referendum).

Referral means “the action of someone or something for consultation or review, especially the directing of a patient by a general practitioner to a specialist”.

(15)  Renowned/reknown.

Renown means “fame”, and renowned means “famed, famous”.

There is no such word as reknown!

(16)  Valueless/priceless.

Value and price mean almost the same thing.

However, valueless means “of no value”,

while priceless means “beyond price”.

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