Choose Your English (ii)

ambiguous / ambivalent 
Something ambiguous is unclear or vague, like the end of a short story that leaves you scratching your head; but if you are ambivalent about something, you can take it or leave it.

amicable / amiable
Amicable refers to a friendliness or goodwill between people or groups. Amiable refers to one person’s friendly disposition. A group might have an amicable meeting, because the people there are amiable.

amuse / bemuse
People often use the word bemuse when they mean amuse, but to amuse is to entertain, and to bemuse is to confuse. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit amuses Alice as he frolics, but then the Cheshire Cat bemuses her when he tells her to go two directions at once.

appraise / apprise
To appraise is to estimate the value of something, but remove the second “a,” and you have apprise, which means “to tell.” If you hire someone to appraise your house, you might have to apprise your family of the fact that you now owe the bank more than your house is worth.

assume / presume 
Assume and presume both mean to believe something before it happens, but when you assume you are not really sure. If someone bangs on your door in the middle of the night, you might assume it’s your mad neighbour. If your neighbour knocks on your door every night at 6:30, at 6:29 you can presume he or she is coming over in a minute.

See other: Choose Your English

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