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Confusing English Words Decoded

Ever wondered whether to compliment or complement when your mother makes an exceptionally tasty dish? Worry not – you are not alone. The English language is full of confusing words, which we often use interchangeably. However, each word has its own distinct role and meaning. Proper understanding and knowledge are required in order to judge which word fits where.

Here is a list of few words that have, and continue to, confuse people.

Probably – Possibly: This is ‘probably’ the most common mistake people make. These two words are so close, yet distinct, in their meaning that people do not even realize that these words are strictly not interchangeable. Probably means that there is a fair chance of something happening. Like, ‘It will probably rain tomorrow.’ Here, you are not definite whether it might rain or not, but you still have your guesses. ‘Possibly’ suggests that maybe the said action might occur, like ‘my sister will possibly reach home before me.’

Farther – Further: The difference between the two words is just a vowel, yet the two words denote completely different meanings. Farther is a measurable geographical distance, like ‘Walk no farther than that corner to reach my home.’ Further is metaphoric in nature. Like, ‘If you argue any further, you stand a chance to lose your job.’ An easy tip to distinguish between these two words is to remember farther has ‘far’, which denotes distance. Hence, you use ‘farther’ when you are talking about distance!

Lie – Lay: ‘My head is spinning, I want to lay down for a while.’ Can you spot the mistake in that sentence? The mistake is so subtle that it is possible many people will overlook it. The word ‘lay’ is used wrongly in the sentence. The correct word would be ‘lie’. Lay is always in reference to an object: lay the carpet or lay down the tablecloth. Lie does not need an object, it is an action. So you always ‘lie’ down on the bed, sofa or wherever you like, but you can never ‘lay’ down yourself.

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