Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

16 January, 2022

Some English words appear to be similar, but they have different meanings. Here are some of them:
Precede / Proceed
‘Precede’ means ‘to happen or exist before something or someone, or to come before something else in a series.’
Lunch will be preceded by a short speech from the chairman.
‘Proceed’ means ‘to continue to do something that has already been planned or started.’
The Government is determined to proceed with the election.
Precipitate / precipitous
‘Precipitate’ means ‘to make something serious happen suddenly or quickly than was expected’
The riot was precipitated when three black men were arrested.
‘Precipitous’ means ‘very sudden.’
There is a precipitous decline in stock prices.
Precis / resume
A précis is a statement which gives the main ideas of a piece of writing or speech.
The chairman wants a précis of the report.
A resume is a short account of something such as an article or speech which gives the main points but no details.
In American English, a resume is a short written account of your education and your previous jobs that you send to an employer when you are looking for a new job. This is similar to a CV (curriculum vitae) in British English.
Prediction / predilection
A prediction is a statement about what you think is going to happen, or the act of making this statement.
The data can be used to make useful economic predictions.
If you have a predilection for something, especially something unusual, you like it very much.
Emma has a predilection for gossip.
Pre-empt / prevent
‘Pre-empt’ means ‘to make what someone has planned to do or say unnecessary or ineffective by saying or doing something first.’
The deal between the government and trade unions pre-empted a strike by postal employees.
‘Prevent’ means ‘to stop something from happening, or stop someone from doing something.’
Traffic rules are designed to prevent accidents.
Premier / premiere
‘Premier’ means ‘Prime Minister.’
‘Premiere’ means ‘the first public performance of a film, play, or piece of music.’
Premise / premises
A premise is a statement or idea that you accept as true and use as a base for developing other ideas.
The idea that there is life on other planets is the central premise of the novel.
‘Premises’ means ‘the buildings and land that a shop, restaurant or company uses’
Schools can earn extra income by renting out their premises.
Prescribe / proscribe
‘Prescribe’ means ‘to say what medicine or treatment a sick person should have’
The doctor prescribed a drug for his stomach pain.
‘Proscribe’ means ‘to officially say that something is not allowed to exist’
The LTTE has been proscribed by the government.
Presumptuous / presumptive
‘Presumptuous’ means ‘doing something that you have no right to do and that seems rude’
Would it be presumptuous of me to ask why you are so arrogant?
‘Presumptive’ means ‘based on a reasonable belief about what is likely to be true’
The case was considerably weakened by the presumptive evidence that the dead body had not been found.
Pretence / pretext
‘Pretence’ is a way of behaving which is intended to make people believe something that is not true’
How long are you going to keep up the pretence of being ill?
‘Pretext’ is a false reason given for an action, in order to hide the real reason.
Bob called at her house on the pretext of asking for a book.
Prevaricate / procrastinate
‘Prevaricate’ means ‘to try to hide the truth by not answering questions directly’
‘I’m not sure of the date,” the witness prevaricated.
‘Procrastinate’ means ‘to delay doing something that you ought to do, usually because you do not want to do it’
Students often procrastinate when it comes to essay writing.
Preventive / preventative
Both words mean ‘to prevent something from happening or recurring.’ In the medical sense, ‘preventative’ is used as a noun.
Vitamin C is an effective preventative against the common cold.