Monday, April 7, 2008

Confusing Words


You’re close to the target with your second example. Another pair of a similar kind is among and amongst (a third pair, again and against, has a similar origin but the sense of the words has since diverged).

In both cases, the form ending in -st actually contains the -s of the genitive ending (which we still have today, though usually written as ’s, of course). In Middle English, this was often added to words used as adverbs (as while became whiles, which often turned up in the compound adverbs somewhiles and otherwhiles). What seems to have happened is that a -t was later added in the south of England through confusion with the superlative ending -st (as in gentlest).

Both while and whilst are ancient, though while is older. There’s no difference in meaning between them. For reasons that aren’t clear, whilst has survived in British English but has died out in the US. However, in Britain it is considered to be a more formal and literary word than its counterpart. I have a small weakness for it, for which I’ve been gently teased in the past.


Fault is often associated with the idea of blame. You have done something wrong and you are responsible for this/you are to blame for this and it is your fault.Mistake is usually used in connection with apology. If you make a mistake because you've made the wrong decision, you accept that you have done something wrong and you apologise for it.

Error is often connected to the idea of something being incorrect. You can choose the wrong word in a sentence. You press the wrong key on the keyboard and your computer shows that this is wrong and the word error appears on the screen.

Fault is not so much used to talk about someone’s character, Helen. Instead we talk about electrical, mechanical or technical faults:

There was a fault in the wiring and I had no idea how to correct it.There was a delay in the broadcast of the programme and this was due to a technical fault.
A mechanical fault caused the train to come off the rails.

A fault then describes a weakness in something, primarily. But sometimes it is used to describe a weakness in someone’s character:

- She has her faults, but, on the whole, she’s a nice person.
- We all have our own faults, I suppose.

We also have the frequently used expression: It’s (not) my/your/his/etc fault. This is a more idiomatic way of saying: I am (not) to blame or I am (not) responsible (for this unfortunate situation).

- It’s not my fault he’s late. Don’t blame me.
- I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I forgot to pass on the message.
- If you don’t get enough sleep, it’s entirely your own fault.
- It was partly the teacher’s fault for giving them too much homework.


Anonymous said...

Dear teacher,

Could you please help me to explain the expression as follows?

promise SO to do something
OR: promise TO SO to do something.

Thanks a lot

meomatbu87 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nguyenhonganhtesol said...

You should consider the expressions you have asked me. Where are they from?

I just give you some ways to use with "promise"

to tell someone that you will certainly do something:
[+ to infinitive] He promised faithfully to call me every week.
[+ that] The government have promised that they'll reduce taxes.
[+ (that)] Promise me (that) you won't tell him.
I'll have a look for some while I'm at the shops but I'm not promising anything.
Can I have that book back when you've finished because I've promised it (= I have said I will give it) to Sara.
[+ two objects] Her parents promised her a new car if she passed her exams.
I've promised myself a long bath when I get through all this work.
[+ speech] "I'll come round and see you every day, " she promised.
"I won't do anything dangerous." "You promise?" "I promise."
"I won't have time to take you shopping this afternoon." "But you promised!"

Be Con Tinh Nghich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Be Con Tinh Nghich said...

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Anonymous said...

dear teacher!
what are the differnce between "affect and influence", "annoy and angry", "reduce and decrease".please, explain these words clearly.

Be Con Tinh Nghich said...

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