Watch Your Native Tongue-Continued

I receive the most comments when I provide information on misused or confused words. So, I’m responding to specific questions that appeared in comments from an earlier blog.  I invite you to submit more requests, because preserving our native tongue is a worthy cause. By the way, the abbreviation e.g. comes from the Latin exempli gratia and means “for example.”


1)     Alot/ alright are not words in the English language, but a lot and all right are.


2)     which/that—If the information provided is essential to the meaning of the sentence, use          

THAT in the phrase or clause. If it’s additional, parenthetical information, use WHICH  in the phrase or clause along with a comma

e.g. The car that Lou bought is the newest model.  If we remove that clause, we don’t know which car the speaker means.

Lou’s car, which has a red leather interior, is the newest model. That clause provides additional information but doesn’t affect the essential meaning of the sentence.


3) It’s/its—It’s ALWAYS means it is. Its ALWAYS shows ownership. Its’ is NEVER a word.

e.g. It’s good to know that the house has retained its value.


4) There/their/they’re- These homophones have distinctly different uses. There usually indicates location. Their is a possessive pronoun.  They’re is the contraction for they are. The easiest way to remember the distinction between the first two is there(NB underlined portion location—there-here) it; their(NB underlined portion is the word for someone who inherits possessions).


5)Fewer/less—When speaking about quantity, use the first word; otherwise, use the second word. 

e.g. If you have fewer than ten items, you can use the express lane. (Yes, I know most stores have this wrong!) I would like less cheese on my pizza, please.


6) Pronunciation clue—nuclear= new/clear    realtor= real-tor


I’m saving the more extensive discussion of the differences between adjectives and adverbs for another entry.


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