This week’s offering? Frequently misused words!
imply / infer: imply means to throw out a hint or suggestion and infer means to take that hint or suggestion:
Am I to infer from your comments that you’re implying that I’m gaining weight?
fewer / less: If you have a countable noun, use fewer; if you have a noncountable noun, use less:
This aisle is for ten items or fewer.
We got less snow this winter than we did last year.
breath / breathe: breath is a noun; breathe is a verb:
Take a deep breath and count to ten, then tell me what happened.
Until the ban on smoking took effect, it was difficult to breathe in the bar.
elicit / illicit: Elicit is always a verb that means to draw out. Illicit is always an adjective that means unlawful:
The comment was meant to elicit an uproar against the management.
The mob boss was involved in racketeering, prostitituion, and other illicit activities.
(I always remember this one as “e – elicit – excite; i – illicit – illegal”)
it’s / its: It’s is a contraction that means “it is” “or “it has.” Its (no appostrophe) is possessive:
It’s been while, but I think I can still ice skate. (it has)
Please bring the book; it’s on the second shelf on the left. (it is)
The cat, having finished its dinner of leftover turkey and a little cream, promptly found a warm spot and fell asleep.
I’ll take suggestions if anyone has any words that always trip them up….