Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

23 January, 2022

Some English words appear to be similar, but they have different meanings. Here are some of them:
Principal / principle
A principal is someone who is in charge of a school.
A principle is a moral rule or belief about what is right and wrong that influences how you behave. Schools try to teach children a set of principles.
Prise / prize
‘Prise’ means ‘to move or lift something by pushing it away from something else’.
Anoma tried to prise the lid off. A prize is something that is given to someone who is successful in a competition, race, or game of chance.
The first prize has gone to William.
Prodigal / generous
A prodigal son or daughter is someone who leaves their family and home without the approval of their family, but who is sorry later and returns. Someone who is generous is willing to give money in order to help people.
Most fathers are very generous to their children.
Program / programme
‘Programme’ is the traditional British spelling; ‘program’ in the United States. What is programmed for this evening?
‘Program’ is a set of instructions given to a computer to make it perform an operation, as in a word processing program.
Prostrate / recumbent
‘Prostrate’ means ‘to lie on your front with your face towards the ground, especially as an act of religious worship or as a sign of your willingness to obey someone’
‘Recumbent’ means ‘lying down on your back or side.’
Prophecy / prophesy
‘Prophecy’ is the noun and ‘prophesy’ is the verb.
Propitious / auspicious
‘Propitious’ means ‘good and likely to bring good results, as in a propitious moment.’ ‘Auspicious’ means ‘showing that something is likely to be successful as in auspicious beginning.’
‘Propitious’ and ‘auspicious’ are synonyms.
Proposal / proposition
A proposal is a plan or suggestion which is made formally to an official person or group. The minister has put forward a proposal to reduce the cost of living. A proposition is a statement that consists of a carefully considered opinion or judgment.
Protagonist / antagonist
A protagonist is the most important character in a play, film or story. Antagonist is your opponent in a competition, battle or quarrel.
Provincial / parochial
‘Provincial’ means ‘relating to or coming from a province, as in provincial election’ ‘Parochial’ means ‘only interested in things that affect your local area.’
Local newspapers tend to be very parochial when it comes to news reporting.
Purposely / purposefully
‘Purposely’ means ‘deliberately.’ A clause in the contract had been left purposely vague. ‘Purposefully’ means ‘having a clear aim or purpose.’ She walked purposefully to her desk.
Quantitative / qualitative
‘Quantitative’ refers to measurable quantities and proportions. ‘Qualitative’ refers to quality of characteristics, properties and attributes.
Queue / line
A ‘queue’ in British English is a ‘line’ in American English.
Quietness / quietude
‘Quietness’ is the state of being quiet, calm and peaceful.
We were enjoying the quietness of the forest.
‘Quietude’ is calmness, peace and quiet. ‘Quietness’ and ‘quietude’ are synonyms.
Quite / rather
‘Quite’ means ‘completely, totally, entirely or absolutely.’
I think the film is quite good.
‘Rather’ means ‘fairly or to some extent.’ She was limping rather badly.
Quorum / quota
A quorum is an agreed number of people required to be present before a meeting can be held. A quota is a proportion, limit, or an agreed number or amount.
Racism / racialism
‘Racism’ means ‘discriminatory attitudes and beliefs.’ ‘Racialism’ means ‘abuse directed at another race.’ Nowadays, ‘racism’ and ‘racialism’ are treated as synonyms.
Rain / reign
‘Rain’ means ‘water that falls in small drops from clouds in the sky.’ The rain has stopped at last. ‘Reign’ is the period when someone is king, queen or emperor, as in the reign of King James.
Raise / raze
‘Raise’ means ‘to move or lift something to a higher position, place or level.’ William raised his hat and smiled at her.
‘Raze’ means ‘to completely destroy a town or building.’
In 1162 Milan was razed to the ground by imperial troops.
Rapt / wrapped
‘Rapt’ means ‘engrossed and absorbed.’ We listened to the teacher with rapt attention.
‘Wrapped’ means ‘enveloped, enfolded or blanketed.’
Ravenous / ravishing
‘Ravenous’ means ‘very hungry.’ Charles has a ravenous appetite. ‘Ravishing’ means ‘very beautiful.’
Radha looked ravishing.