English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

7 August, 2022

This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.

Direct / directly
These two words tend to be interchangeable. Use ‘direct’ to mean ‘straight’ or ‘without any detours.’
I asked him to go direct to the police station.
Use ‘directly’ to mean ‘at once or immediately.’
Eric promised he would be there directly.
Discomfit / discomfort
‘Discomfit’ means ‘to make someone feel slightly uncomfortable, annoyed or embarrassed.’
I was discomfited by her silence.
‘Discomfort’ is a feeling of slight pain or of being physically uncomfortable.
If the exercise causes discomfort, stop immediately.
‘Discomfort’ also means ‘a feeling of embarrassment, shame or worry.’
To my discomfort, they started laughing at me.
Discreet / discrete
‘Discreet’ means ‘careful about what you say or do, so that you do not offend, upset or embarrass people or tell secrets’
Maya assured me that she would be discreet.
‘Discrete’ means ‘clearly separate.’
Certain changes in our lives happen in a series of discrete steps.
Disinterested / uninterested
‘Disinterested’ means ‘able to judge a situation fairly because you are not concerned with gaining any personal advantage from it.’
A lawyer should provide disinterested legal advice.
‘Uninterested’ means ‘not interested.’
Most women are uninterested in politics.
Dispersal / dispersion
‘Dispersal’ is the process of spreading things over a wide area or in different directions.
Most birds have a role in the dispersal of seeds.
‘Dispersion’ has the same meaning.
The widespread dispersion of the mob made it difficult for them to reassemble.
Disposal / disposition
‘Disposal’ means ‘getting rid of something.’
We should take measures for the safe disposal of radioactive waste.
‘Disposition’ is a particular type of character which makes someone likely to behave or react in a certain way.
Some films are not suitable for people of a nervous disposition.
Dissimulate / simulate
‘Dissimulate’ means ‘to hide your true feelings or intentions, especially by lying.’
Roger dissimulated his fear with a show of bravado.
‘Simulate’ means ‘to make or produce something that is not real but has the appearance or feeling of being real.’
Interviews can be simulated in the classroom.
Distinct / distinctive
‘Distinct’ means ‘clearly different or belonging to a different type.’
Sanskrit and English are two entirely distinct languages.
‘Distinctive’ means ‘having a special quality, character, or appearance that is different and easy to recognise.’
A rock band with a distinctive sound is in town.
Distrust / mistrust
‘Distrust’ is a feeling that you cannot trust someone.
Most people regard the police with suspicion and distrust.
‘Mistrust’ is the feeling that you cannot trust someone, especially because you think they may treat you unfairly or dishonestly.
Some people have a deep mistrust of the legal profession.
Doubt / doubtful
‘Doubt’ is a feeling of being not sure whether something is true or right.
The incident raises doubts about the safety of nuclear power.
‘Doubtful’ means ‘probably not true or not likely to happen.’
Prospects for a lasting peace in Lebanon remain doubtful.
Draft / draught
‘Draft’ is a piece of writing or a plan that is not yet in its finished form.
Alice has prepared a rough draft of her new novel.
‘Draught’ (pronounced draft) means ‘cold air that moves through a room and that you can feel’
A draughtsman is someone whose job is to draw all the parts of a new building or machine that is being planned.