Shades of Meaning: Five Commonly Confused Word-Pairs

The need to say exactly what you mean in written and spoken communication seems obvious, but when it comes to some of the English language's most similar word-pairs ("big" and "large," and "sure" and "certain," for example), the subtleties are difficult even for grammarians to untangle.
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man covering his mouth
man covering his mouth

Vladimir Nabokov once said, "A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist."

The need to say exactly what you mean in written and spoken communication seems obvious, but when it comes to some of the English language's most similar word-pairs ("big" and "large," and "sure" and "certain," for example), the subtleties are difficult even for grammarians to untangle.

Most of the world's prominent grammarians have reached consensus for the appropriate uses of many often-confused word pairs. I explore the details of many of these grammatical errors in The Big Ten of Grammar and am sharing the grammarian's official verdict on the usage of five commonly confused word-pairs.

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