Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

20 June, 2021

Some words in English appear to be similar but they have different meanings. Here is a selection of such words.
Consecutive / successive
‘Consecutive’ means ‘following without an interval or break’ while ‘successive’ means ‘following in order but without emphasis on the intervals.’
It had rained for four consecutive days. Successive governments have tried to deal with the use of polythene.
Consensus / consensus of opinion
A consensus is a widespread agreement or general opinion. ‘Consensus of opinion’ is a common mistake.
There is a consensus among teachers that children should have a broad understanding of the world.
Consequent / consequential
‘Consequent’ means ‘following as an effect or direct result.’ The word ‘Consequential’ means ‘following as a result, but usually indirectly.’
When there is a rise in inflation there is a consequent fall in demand.
The company faced a redundancy of employees and a consequential loss of earnings.
Consequently / subsequently
‘Consequently’ means ‘following as a direct result.’ ‘Subsequently’ means ‘occurring after.’
Most computer users have not received any formal keyboard training. Consequently, their keyboard skills are inefficient.
The novel was subsequently translated into 15 languages.
Conservative / conservative
‘Conservative’, with a capital C, denotes a member or supporter of the Conservative Party in Britain. The word ‘conservative,’ with a simple c, means ‘opposed to change.’
Emma has a very conservative attitude to education.
Consist of / consist in
‘Consist of’ means ‘comprises, formed of or made up of.’ ‘Consist in’ means ‘to have its existence in.’
The committee consisted of three retired Supreme Court judges. Amanda’s entire life seemed to consist in those three daily visits to the church.
Happiness does not consist in how many possessions you own.
Constraint / restraint
A ‘constraint’ is something that prevents you from pursuing some action. The word ‘restraint’ means ‘self-control.’
There have been financial and political constraints on development.The government urged the protesters to exercise restraint.
Consul / consulate / embassy / legation
A ‘consul’ is a government official sent to live in a foreign city to help people from his own country who are staying there. A consulate is the building in which a consul lives and works. An embassy is a group of officials who represent their government in a foreign country, or the building they work in. A legation is a group of government officials who work in a foreign country and represent their own government in that country. It also means the building where they work in.
Consultant / specialist
Patients are usually referred to a specialist. A consultant is a specialist consulted by doctors on behalf of their patients. However, the term ‘consultant’ is now freely applied to all medical specialists.
‘Contemporary’ means ‘living at the same time, belonging to the same period, or existing in the present time.’ ‘Contemporary’ also means ‘modern.’
William Shakespeare was much admired by his contemporaries.
Sam is interested in contemporary art.
Contemptuous / contemptible
‘Contemptuous’ means ‘scornful, arrogant, sneering or insulting.’ Thelma was always contemptuous of her husband’s plans to make money.
‘Contemptible’ means ‘deserving of contempt.’ They were portrayed as contemptible cowards.
Continual / continuous
‘Continual’ means ‘continuing for a long time without stopping.’ ‘Continuous’ means ‘uninterrupted.’
We had continual rain for three days. There is a continuous flow of information about the Covid 19 virus.
‘Contrary’ means ‘completely different and opposed to each other.’ The Opposition says the government’s actions are contrary to the public interest.
‘Contrary’ also means ‘someone who is contrary deliberately and does different things from other people.’
I remember that Mary was always a contrary child.