English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

12 June, 2022

This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.
Can / may
‘Can’ indicates a possibility and ‘may’ is used in a permissive sense.
I can go to office by bus. (The bus will enable me to go to office.)
You may go to the party. (I give you permission to go to the party)
Colloquially, ‘can’ is used in a permissive sense.
Can I meet you tomorrow?
Cannot / can not
‘Cannot’ is the usual negative form.
She cannot come to office today.
When ‘not’ is stressed, the two words can be used separately.
The use of a standard dictionary can not only promote understanding but also provide instruction.
Canvas / canvass
‘Canvas’ is a strong cloth used to make bags, tents, and shoes. It also means a painting done with oil paints.
‘Canvass’ means ‘to try to get information or support for a political party by going from place to place and talking to people.’
Political parties will have to canvass for votes before the election.
Carat / caret
‘Carat’ is a measurement that shows how pure gold is.
Anoma bought a 22-carat gold chain.
‘Caret’ is the mark used in writing and printing to show where something is to be added.
Carcase / carcass
Both words mean the dead body of an animal. Though both forms are acceptable, ‘carcass’ is to be preferred.
Cast / caste
‘Cast’ means ‘all the people who act in a play or film.’
‘Caste’ means ‘one of the fixed and unchangeable social classes into which people are born in India.’
Category / class
A category is a classificatory division in any particular field of knowledge.
The domestic cat belongs to the category of flesh-eating mammals.
‘Class’ refers to a number of persons or things regarded as forming a group.
As her knowledge of English was poor, she had to join the class for beginners.
Cause / reason
A cause is a person, event, or thing that makes something happen.
What was the cause of the accident?
‘Reason’ is the explanation for something that has happened or that someone has done.
The reason I bought this camera was that it was cheap.
Cavalcade / procession
A cavalcade is a line of people on horses or in cars or carriages moving along as part of a ceremony.
A procession is a line of people or vehicles moving slowly as part of a ceremony.
The funeral procession will proceed to the cemetery.
Censer / censor / censure
A censer is a container in which incense is burned.
A censor is someone whose job is to examine books, films, or newspapers and remove anything considered to be offensive, usually harmful or politically dangerous.
Censure is the act of expressing strong disapproval and criticism as in a vote of censure.
Centenary / centenarian / centurion
A centenary is the day or year exactly 100 years after a particular event.
A concert will be held to mark the centenary of the school.
A centenarian is someone who is 100 years old or older.
A centurion was an army officer of ancient Rome, who was in charge of about 100 soldiers.