Choose Your English (xi)

respectfully / respectively
Doing something respectfully means full of respect and admiration. But respectively means “in the order given”.

simple / simplistic
Simple is not quite the same as simplistic. Being simplistic means trying to explain something complicated as being simpler than it is; that is, oversimplifying. Something that is simple is uncomplicated.

stationary / stationery
When you are stationary, you are not moving respectively to anything else; when you write a letter to someone you use stationery.

tortuous / torturous
Tortuous describes something like the long and winding road; whereas torturous describes something pertaining to torture.

unexceptionable / unexceptional
When something is unexceptionable, it is without exception or objections; when something is unexceptional, it is simply plain and ordinary.

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Choose Your English (x)

loath / loathe
Loath means to be unwilling or reluctant about something. Loathe, on the other hand, means to strongly dislike someone or something or find it disgusting.

luxuriant / luxurious 
Luxuriant means lush growth; thick and rich. Whereas luxurious means self-indulgent, comfort, elegance, or enjoyment in the extreme.

persecute / prosecute
Persecute means to pursue for the purpose of harming; whereas a prosecution only refers to the pursuit of legal action before a court.

quotation / quote
To quote is to transcribe what someone said or wrote, crediting that person. A quotation is the transcription of what someone said or wrote, crediting that person.

regretfully / regrettably
Regrettably is used when something is a bummer, but it is not necessarily your fault. Regretfully is when you are full of regret, like if you decided to stay home and your friends saw your crush at the dance.

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Choose Your English (ix)

homograph / homophone
A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word but has a different sound and a different meaning. A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning.

imply / infer
Imply and infer are opposites, like a throw and a catch. To imply is to hint at something, but to infer is to make an educated guess. The speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring.

incredible / incredulous
Incredible describes something you can’t believe because it’s so right, like an incredible double rainbow. Incredulous describes how you feel when you can’t believe something because it’s so wrong, like when someone tells you leprechauns left two pots of gold.

indict / indite
If you’re using indite to talk about people being formally accused of lawbreaking, you’re using the wrong word: it’s indict – a homophone of indite by the way. Indite on the other hand, an uncommon word, means to craft something, such as writing a sonnet or composing a musical score.

inflammable / inflammatory
Inflammable refers to something that is easy to set on fire; something flammable. Inflammatory is also related to fire, although figuratively, and makes use of intensifier in-. Used literally, inflammatory describes something that is inflamed, that is, red, swollen, and hot. Used figuratively however, inflammatory describes something that incites anger or violence. It inflames people’s emotions or responses.

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Choose Your English (viii)

extant / extent
They sounds similar and both have an ‘ex’, but extant means “still here,” and extent refers to “the range of something.” People get them mixed up to a certain extent.

fortunate / fortuitous
Both words have a positive connotation, however fortunate means lucky, whereas fortuitous means something positive that happened by chance or accident.

gibe / jibe
To gibe is to sneer or heckle, but to jibe is to agree. Funnily enough, to make it a little harder, jibe is also an alternate spelling of gibe – but not the other way around.

grisly / gristly / grizzly
Grisly means relating to horror or disgust, gristly means related to gristle or cartilage, and a grizzly (or Ursus arctos horribilis) is a brown bear from the Ursidae family. Ironically, a grizzly can be quite grisly, but not gristly.

historic / historical
Something historic has a great importance to human history. Something historical is simply related to the past. Something historical is always historic, but certainly not necessarily the other way around.

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Choose Your English (vii)

envelop / envelope
To envelop is to surround something completely. But an envelope is a piece of paper you put your love note in and lick to seal. With envelop, the accent is on the second syllable, while with envelope, the accent is on the first.

epigram / epigraph
An epigram is a little poem or clever statement, but an epigraph is a specific kind of epigram: a witty statement that’s inscribed somewhere, such as on a building or at the beginning of a chapter or book.

epitaph / epithet
An epitaph is written on a tombstone. An epithet is a nickname or a description of someone. However, they could be combined e.g. “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” ― Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche.

especially / specially
The words especially and specially, have just a hair’s breadth of difference between them. Both can be used to mean “particularly.”

exalt / exult
To exalt, means to glorify or elevate something, but to exult is to rejoice. Exalt your status in the world. Exult when you get the last two tickets to see your favourite band.

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Choose Your English (vi)

elusive / illusive
An elusive fairy is one you cannot catch, but an illusive one was never really there at all. It was just an illusion!

emigrate / immigrate / migrate
Emigrate means to leave one’s country to live in another. Immigrate is to come into another country to live permanently. Migrate is to move, like birds in the winter.

eminent / imminent
Eminent describes anyone who is well known for a justified reason. But imminent refers to something about to happen, like the next big thing’s imminent rise to the top. These two words sound the same to some, but they are unrelated.

empathy / sympathy
Empathy is heartbreaking — you experience other people’s pain and joy. Sympathy is easier because you just have to feel sorry for someone. Send a sympathy card if someone’s cat died; feel empathy if your cat died, too.

endemic / epidemic
Endemic and epidemic are both words that diseases love, but something endemic is found in a certain place and is ongoing, and epidemic describes a disease that’s widespread.

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Choose Your English (v)

demur / demure
To demur is to show reluctance or to hesitate, like not quite getting in the car when someone opens the door, but demure is always an adjective describing a modest, reserved, or shy person, and sounds like the mew of a tiny kitten.

disassemble / dissemble
Disassemble is to take something apart, like an old car motor, but dissemble is sneaky — it means to hide your true self, like the guy who said he was a mechanic but had never actually seen a motor, much less put one back together.

discreet / discrete
Discreet means on the down low, under the radar, careful, but discrete means individual or detached. They come from the same ultimate source, the Latin discrētus, for separated or distinct, but discreet has taken its own advice and quietly gone its separate way.

disinterested / uninterested
If you’re disinterested, you’re unbiased; you’re out of the loop. But if you’re uninterested, you don’t give a hoot; you’re bored. These two words have been duking it out, but the battle may be over for uninterested. Heavyweight disinterested has featherweight uninterested on the ropes.

economic / economical
Economic is all about how money works, but something economical is a good deal. You might take an economic studiesclass to understand the ebb and flow of cash in the world, but if you buy a used textbook for it, you’re being economical.

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Choose Your English (iv)

connote / denote
Do not let the rhyme fool you — to connote is to imply a meaning or condition, and to denote is to define exactly. Connote is like giving a hint, but to denote is to refer to something outright.

conscious / conscience
Both words have to do with the mind, but it’s more important to be conscious, or awake, than conscience, or aware of right and wrong. Remain conscious while listening to your friend’s moral dilemma so you can use your conscience to give good advice.

contemptible / contemptuous
Something contemptible is worthy of scorn, like the contemptible person who denies there are no facts to be known about morality; but contemptuous is full of it, like the contemptuous look you give that guy as he speeds away in his gas guzzler.

continual / continuous
The words continual and continuous are like twins: they both come from continue, but they get mad if you get them confused. Continual means start and stop, while continuous means never-ending.

council / counsel
A council is meeting for discussion or advice, but to counsel is a verb meaning to give advice. They sound exactly the same, but the language council met and decided to counsel you on how to keep them straight.

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