English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

8 May, 2022

This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.
Apology / apologia
An apology is something you say or write to show that you are sorry for doing something wrong.
Your behaviour at the party was outrageous and we demand an apology.
An apologia is a statement in which you defend an idea that your believe in.
Apposition / opposition
An apposition is an arrangement in grammar in which one simple sentence contains two or more noun phrases that are used in the same way and describe the same thing. In the sentence, “The defendant, a woman of 30, denies kicking the policeman,” the two phrases “the defendant” and “a woman of 30” are in apposition.
‘Opposition’ means ‘a strong disagreement with, or protest against something such as a plan, law or system.’
Appraise / apprise
‘Appraise’ means ‘to officially judge how successful, effective, or valuable someone or something is.’
A dealer came to appraise the furniture.
‘Apprise’ means ‘to inform or tell someone about something.’
I write to apprise you of the latest situation in Sri Lanka.
Good writers tend to avoid the word ‘apprise.’
Apprehend / comprehend
If a criminal is apprehended, he is arrested by the police.
‘Comprehend’ means ‘to understand something that is complicated or difficult.’
Even scientists do not comprehend the phenomenon.
Apt / liable
Apt to do something’ means ‘having a natural tendency to do something.’
Some of the teachers are apt to arrive late on Mondays.
‘Be liable to do something’ means ‘to be likely to do or say something or to behave in a particular way.’
My car is liable to overheat on long trips.
Arab / Arabian / Arabic
‘Arab’ means ‘belonging or pertaining to the Arabs, as in Arab world.’
‘Arabian’ means ‘belonging or pertaining to Arabia, as in Arabian Desert.’
‘Arabic’ refers to the language, as in Arabic numerals.
Arbiter / arbitrator
An arbiter is someone whose opinions have a lot of influence on what other people do.
An arbitrator is someone who judges how an argument between two opposing sides should be settled.
A committee has been set up to arbitrate between the management and unions.
Arbitrate / mediate
‘Arbitrate’ means ‘to decide a dispute as an arbitrator.’
To mediate means to act as an intermediary between parties involved in a dispute.
Aren’t I
Despite its illogical appearance, this is the recognised coloquial interrogative form of ‘I am,’
Around / round
‘Around’ is used to say that something is placed or arranged so that it surrounds something else.
The winner held up his trophy, with many of the spectators crowded around.
In many contexts, ‘round’ and ‘around’ have the same meaning in British English. However, American speakers do not use ‘round’ in this way.
The price was something round Rs 3,000. (British English)
The price was something around Rs 3,000. (American English)
Arouse / rouse
‘Arouse’ means ‘make you become interested or expect something.’
Nadia’s behaviour was arousing the interest of her neighbours.
‘Rouse’ means ‘to wake someone up with difficulty because they are sleeping deeply.’
Artist / artiste
An artist is someone who practises the fine arts such as painting or sculpture.
An artiste is someone who performs in public such as a singer or dancer.
Assume / presume
‘Assume’ means ‘to think that something is true, although you have no proof of it.’
We can safely assume that the cost of living will go up once again.
‘Presume’ means ‘to think that you can be sure of something because it is likely, although there is no proof.’
I presume we’ll be there by 6 p.m.
Assurance / insurance
‘Assurance’ is a term used by insurance companies when dealing with life policies as opposed to insurance of property. However, ordinary people use ‘insurance’ on all occasions.