7 Simple Words That You Are Using Incorrectly

Odds are that you use these phrases every day

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Recently, I wrote an article covering seven words that are prone to grammatically incorrect usage. As a non-native speaker of English, it felt refreshing to recount some instances when the sheer brilliance of the language had left me utterly dumbfounded. Over time, readers poured in with their brushes with malapropism, creating a steadfast reservoir of deceitful words. Owing to their warm and insightful messages, I compiled more of these wordy tripwires that all of us should be wary of. Here are seven more common words that you are probably using incorrectly.


Further(adv): to a greater degree or extent

Usually, we deploy ‘further’ interchangeably with its kinsman, ‘farther’. When talking about distance people substitute one for the other, holding no distinction between ‘farther away’ and ‘further away’. However, we got to be mindful of the subtle difference between these two. Merriam Webster contests that ‘further’ is used when referring to figurative distance whereas ‘farther’ is better suited for physical separation. Hence, we are further away from racial equality while Mars is farther away from Venus. Only a letter distinguishing this nuance, it’s very easy to mistake these two.


Nauseous(adj) : causing nausea or disgust

Oftentimes, we use ‘nauseous’ as a synonym for ‘disgusted’. People would describe how certain words or actions made them ‘nauseous’. However, language purists object to this usage, reinforcing the razor-thin difference between ‘nauseous’ and ‘nauseated’. While ‘nauseated’ is the apt choice to describe feeling pukish, ‘nauseous’ actually refers to the object that elicits such a feeling. Therefore, if one is nauseated at the sight of meat, meat is nauseous for them. Because the words are used exchangeably in common parlance, you are unlikely to get into major trouble for the mix-up. At the same time, it only helps to be aware of this subtle linguistic nuance.


Regretful(adj): full of regret; feeling regret

Regretful is frequently confused with regrettable in everyday speech. Mistakenly, a lot of us use ‘regretful’ to describe unfortunate situations. From ‘regretful’ earthquakes to ‘regretful’ demise, the discrepancy is prevalent across the board. But, it turns out ‘regretful’ is reserved for describing personal feelings of regret, and ‘regrettable’ is the adjective cut out for disastrous situations. For example, we are regretful of the regrettable loss of life in Palestine. As just a syllable is all that separates two different semantic fields, it’s advisable to be cognizant of this distinction.


Slander(n): A false spoken statement about someone that damages their reputation

With the advent of Twitter as a vehicle of stringent political criticism, ‘slander’ has become a word that is often thrown around. As governments all over the globe try to curtail this so-called, ‘slander’, it is important to be mindful of the correct terminology. Linguists would warn against confusing ‘slander’ with ‘libel’, which is the word reserved for written statements causing defamation. Contrastingly, ‘slander’ usually applies exclusively to spoken remarks. In that light, objectionable tweets may be classified as libel, not slander. In fact, many countries have separate laws for these two different mechanisms of causing injury, making it important to know the difference between the two.


Anticipate(v): to give advanced thought or action

More often than not, anticipate is treated as a synonym of ‘estimate’, something which is not entirely true. Though both the words have to do with predicting an event, they have slightly divergent connotations in regards to the prediction. ‘Anticipate’ implies that a certain level of precaution has been observed concerning the prediction whereas ‘estimate’ signifies measuring the scale of the event. At the outset, the distinction may seem inconsequential but it may translate into a significant disparity in the real world. For example, the gap between our anticipation and estimation of such a widescale pandemic culminated in more than three million skeletons.


Ultimate(adj): last in a progression or series

Ultimate is unusually prone to miscommunication because its colloquial use is very different from its actual meaning. By analogously using with ‘grand’ we often neglect its implications around finality. If unaware of this incongruity, you can land yourself in hilariously awkward circumstances. Imagine posting an Instagram story about the ultimate joy you felt in your life; you would be instantly flooded by messages ranging from confused to panicked. Therefore, out of love for our friends, let us steer clear of muddling this one.


Travesty(n): a debased, distorted, or grossly inferior imitation

‘Travesty’ is erroneously used as an equivalent of ‘tragedy’, but the two words have remarkable differences. ‘Tragedy’ refers to a horrific event that evokes pathos while ‘travesty’ is an absurd event that generates disapproval or irony. So, ‘travesty’ of truth would imply a bad imitation of honesty when ‘tragedy’ of truth would mean the calamitous weight of reality. Owing to the large variance, it is worthwhile to be clear of the distinction. Knowing the difference between these two will save you from garnering ridicule with your grammarista friends.

These words have been compiled thanks to the years of incorrect usage by myself and other English speakers like me. Language remains an ever beguiling frontier for all of us and we got only each other to guide ourselves. Please do chime in with any phrases whose improper use landed you in soup. Let us keep the conversation going around these sneaky little words lurking across the depths of semantic oceans.

More by Shourya Agarwal

A bewildered star gazer thrusting from distortion to discovery.

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