Posted by: Idioma Extra | June 17, 2010

Thursday’s Tidbit


Definite vs. Definitive and Other Confusing Words

From www.bbc.co.uk

 

Definite and Definitive

Definite = certain, clear, precise, unlikely to be changed
Definitive
= something that provides a firm conclusion that cannot be challenged

  • In 1993 he wrote a definitive work on the behavior of stem cells.
  • Barry and Susan have now got a definite date for their wedding.

Satisfactory and Satisfying

One of them describes something that gives you a feeling of fulfillment. The other describes something that is good enough to be acceptable. But which is which…?

  • The doctor said he was making satisfactory progress but it seemed very slow to me.
  • There’s nothing more satisfying than concluding an agreement after five days of talks.

Satisfactory = something that is good enough to be acceptable
Satisfying = something that gives you a feeling of fulfillment

Dessert and Desert

One is the sweet food that is served at the end of a meal. The other is an area of land where nothing grows and there is very little water. But which is which…?

  • For dessert I had chocolate cake with whipped cream and then a bowl of cherries.
  • The hot desert sand cut into our faces and we had to close our eyes.

Desert = area of land where nothing grows and there is very little water
Dessert = sweet food served at the end of a meal

Alternate and Alternative

One describes something that you can choose to have or do instead of something else. The other describes an activity that is off then on, then off then on again. But which is which…?

  • We could see our father only on alternate weekends. Unfortunately not every weekend.
  • There is no alternative to a prison sentence for such a serious crime.

Alternate = used to describe an activity that is off then on, then off then on again
Alternative = something that you can choose to have or do instead of something else

Principle and Principal

One of them describes a general rule or set of beliefs that you try to adhere to. The other means first in order of importance or the person in charge of a school. But which is which…?

  • He was a man of very few principles who later came to regret the path his life had taken.
  • His principal interest in life was to look after the welfare of others.

Principle = general rule or set of beliefs that you try to adhere to
Principal = first in order of importance or the person in charge of a school

Test Yourself!

Complete the sentences with the correct word.

1. After dinner, we had amazing apple pie for ____________.
2. Don’s mother was happy when Don’s grade improved from failing to ______________.
3. A good _____________ to live by is “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
4. If we can’t go to the beach this weekend, what’s our _____________?

Answers from the Last Tidbit

1. Before the guests arrive, I plan to SET several bowls of chips around the room.
2. Florence forgot that she had SET her keys on the seat of her car.
3. Ahmed complained that several dirty coffee cups had been SITTING on the counter all week.
4. As each board member arrived, Herb SEATED him or her in one of the plush chairs around the conference table.


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