Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

9 January, 2022

Some English words appear to be similar, but they have different meanings. Here are some of them:
Pidgin / pigeon
Pidgin is a language that is a mixture of two other languages, which people use to talk to each other as they do not speak each other’s languages well.
Pidgin English is mixed with the words or grammar of another language.
The pigeon is a fat grey and white bird with short legs.
She heard the sound of pigeons cooing.
Pirate / buccaneer
A pirate is someone who sails on the seas, attacking other boats and stealing things from them.
A buccaneer is someone who attacks ships at sea and steals from them.
‘Pirate’ and ‘buccaneer’ are synonyms.
Pitiful / piteous
Someone who is pitiful looks or sounds so bad and unfortunate that you feel very sorry for them.
The Afghan refugees were a pitiful sight.
The word ‘piteous’ has the same meaning.
‘Pitiful’ and ‘piteous’ are synonyms.
Plaintiff / plaintive
A plaintiff is someone who brings a legal action against another person in a court of law.
A plaintive sound is high, like someone crying and sounds sad.
Susan heard the plaintive cry of a seagull.
Plebiscite / referendum
A plebiscite is a system by which everyone in a country votes on an important decision that affects the whole country.
In a referendum people vote in order to make a decision about a particular subject, rather than voting for a person.
Politic / politics
The word ‘politic’ means ‘sensible and likely to gain you an advantage.’
It would not be politic to ignore the reporters.
‘Politics’ means ‘ideas and activities relating to gaining and using power in a country.’
Politics has always interested Zanita.
Populist / populariser
The word ‘populist’ means ‘relating to or representing ordinary people, rather than rich or highly educated people.’
A populariser is someone who makes causes attractive and acceptable to the public.
Positive / positively
If you are positive about things, you are hopeful and confident and think about what is good in a situation rather than what is bad.
You have to be more positive about your work.
‘Positively’ is used to emphasize that something is true, especially when it seems surprising.
Some holiday destinations are positively dangerous.
Possible / plausible
If something is possible, it can be done or achieved.
It is possible to get tickets for the show.
The word ‘plausible’ means ‘reasonable and likely to be true or successful’
Your story certainly sounds plausible.
Potable / portable
Potable water is safe to drink.
‘Portable’ means ‘able to be carried or moved easily.’
Radha bought a portable radio.
Practical / practicable
‘Practical’ means ‘relating to real situations and events rather than ideas or emotions.’
Mary has no practical experience in journalism.
A practicable way of doing something is possible in a particular situation.
The only practicable course of action is to sell the old house.
Practically / virtually
‘Practically’ means ‘almost.’
The professor has read practically all of Shakespeare’s plays.
‘Virtually’ means ‘practically.’
Virtually all the students come to school by bus.
‘Practically’ and ‘virtually’ are synonyms.
Practice / practise
‘Practice’ is the noun and ‘practise’ is the verb.
With a little more practice you will be able to pass the test.
Some people do not practise what they preach.
Pragmatic / practical
‘Pragmatic’ means ‘dealing with problems in a sensible practical way instead of strictly following a set of ideas.’
The director took a more pragmatic approach to management problems than his predecessor.
‘Practical’ means ‘relating to real situations and events rather than ideas and emotions.’