To be proficient in a language, you must know its basic vocabulary, its common idioms and everyday expressions. To write well, your choice of words is important. There are many English words that are frequently confused and misused.
A NUMBER OF / THE NUMBER OF
A number of: referring to many; the number of: referring to a numerical figure.
e.g. A number of demonstrators turned up.
e.g. The number of attendees was impressive.
SOME TIME / SOMETIME / SOMETIMES
Some time: a period of time; sometime: approximately (adverb), former or occasional (adjective); sometimes: now and then (adverb).
e.g. We have been waiting for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't—that’s our relationship.
JUDICIAL / JUDICIOUS
Judicial: relating to a judge or a court of law; judicious: having good judgment or being wise.
e.g. As an assistant to the judge, every day he has to go through many judicial documents.
e.g. Your judicious decision not to retire will have long-term impact on your finance.
FAMILIAR TO / FAMILIAR WITH
Familiar to: being known to; familiar with: being knowledgeable about.
e.g. This Bible story is familiar to many Christians.
e.g. Are you familiar with this Bible story? I am sure you must have read it before.
COULD / MIGHT
Could denotes potentiality; might suggests possibility.
e.g. Don't play with the knife; you might accidentally hurt yourself.
EXHAUSTING / EXHAUSTIVE
Exhausting means making one very tired; exhaustive means very thorough, covering a lot.
e.g. To remove all the books from this room is exhausting work.
e.g. This is an exhaustive inquiry, covering every aspect of what happened.
ANXIOUS / EAGER
Anxious means worried; eager means impatiently desirous.
e.g. He was anxious about his future.
e.g. The children are eager to open their Christmas presents.
IN REGARD TO / AS REGARDS
Both mean with reference to.
e.g. As regards your performance, I think you did a good job (no “to”).
ITS / IT’S
Its is the possessive of the pronoun “it”; It’s is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.”
e.g. It’s a fact that the earth is round.
e.g. The company has lost its control over the market in Asia.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau