English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

22 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.

Assure / ensure
‘Assure’ means ‘to tell someone that something will definitely happen or is definitely true so that they are less worried.’
Father assured us that everything would be all right.
‘Ensure’ means ‘to make it certain that something will happen.’
All the necessary steps have been taken to ensure the safety of children.
Aural / oral
‘Aural’ means ‘connected with the sense of hearing or with someone’s ability to understand a language.’
‘Oral’ means ‘spoken, not written, as in oral history.’
Authentic / genuine
‘Authentic’ means ‘done or made in the traditional or original way.’
‘Authentic’ is used particularly of documents and works of art, and implies that they are not false or copies.
The hotel serves authentic Indian food.
A genuine feeling or desire is one that you really feel, not one you pretend to feel in order to deceive people. ‘Genuine’ also means ‘real.’
Authoress / poetess / sculptress
These feminine designations are now falling into disuse. ‘Author, poet’ and ‘sculptor’ should be used for both sexes without discrimination.
Authoritarian / authoritative
‘Authoritarian’ means ‘favouring the principle of subjection to authority as opposed to that of individual freedom.’
There are authoritarian governments in some parts of the world.
‘Authoritative’ means ‘having due authority or the sanction or weight of authority.’
The President has issued an authoritative statement about the crisis.
Avenge / revenge
‘Avenge’ means ‘to do something to hurt or punish someone because they have harmed or offended you.’
Rex wanted to avenge his brother’s death.
‘Revenge’ means ‘to punish someone who has harmed you.’
He was determined to revenge the insult he had received.
Await / wait
‘Await’ is transitive followed by a direct object.
We are awaiting your instructions.
‘Wait’ is usually intransitive.
I waited for a train for more than one hour.
Awake / wake
‘Awake’ means ‘to wake up or to make someone wake up.’
The child awoke and began to cry.
‘Wake’ means ‘to stop sleeping.’
Susan usually wakes up early.
Award / reward
An award is something such as a prize or money given to someone to reward them for something they have done.
Meryl Streep won the best actress award.
A reward is something you receive because you have done something good or helpful.
A reward is offered for the return of the jewels.
Backward / backwards
‘Backward’ means ‘developing slowly and less successfully.’
Economists say Sri Lanka is a backward country.
‘Backwards’ means ‘towards the back, the beginning, or the past’
The soldier walked backwards away from the king.