English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

14 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.

Drunk / drunken
‘Drunk’ is an adjective usually placed after the verb.
Bob was drunk when he returned home.
In modern English ‘drunk’ is used before the noun.
The city was full of drunk soldiers.
‘Drunken’ can be used only before a noun.
Sam was a drunken bully.
Tom got into a drunken brawl.
‘Dry’ means to make something dry, or to become dry.
Mary hung the washing on the line to dry.
A dryer or drier is a machine that dries things, especially clothes. ‘Dryer’ is preferable than ‘drier.’
‘A dry run’ is an event that is a practice for a more important event.
All the political parties seem to treat the local elections as a dry run.
Due to
‘Due to’ means ‘because of something’
The teacher has been absent from work due to illness.
‘Due to’ is mostly used in formal or official contexts. In everyday English, people usually use ‘because of.’
We cancelled the picnic because of the weather.
When ‘each’ is the subject of a sentence, either as a pronoun or as an adjective accompanying a noun, it takes a singular verb.
Each child receives the same food.
When used as a pronoun with an antecedent it can be either singular or plural. If the antecedent is plural, ‘each’ is plural.
The soldiers each have a meal in the canteen.
Each other / one another
The usage now appears to have discarded the rule that ‘each other’ should be used when only two people are involved; ‘one another’ being reserved for three or more people.
The six prisoners were told to help each other with their work.
Earthen / earthy / earthly
‘Earthen’ as an adjective can be used only before a noun.
In villages people keep water in earthen pots.
‘Earthy’ means ‘tasting, smelling or looking like earth or soil.’
Some people like earthy colours.
‘Earthly’ means ‘no reason or use at all.’
I see no earthly reason why we should have another general election.
Easy / easily
‘Easily’ is the normal form of the adverb. However, ‘easy’ as an adverb is found in only a few phrases like ‘to go easy’ and ‘take it easy.’
Eatable / edible
‘Edible’ refers to anything which may normally be eaten.
There are many edible plants in his garden.
‘Eatable’ is used of something which is agreeable to the taste.
The food was barely eatable.
Economic / economical
‘Economic’ means ‘pertaining to economics or reasonably profitable, offering an adequate return’
‘Economical’ means ‘pertaining to economics or reasonably profitable.’
We should find economical ways of budgeting household expenses.
Educational / educative / educationalist
‘Educational’ means ‘relating to education.’
The government should pay attention to the educational development of children.
Something that is educative teaches you something.
The educative process needs to begin early in a child’s life.
An educationalist or educationist is a person who has a special knowledge of the principles and methods of teaching.
Effeminate / feminine
The word ‘effeminate’ describes a man who behaves or looks similar to a woman.
Bill has got a very effeminate manner.
‘Feminine’ means ‘acting or having qualities which are traditionally considered to be suitable to a woman.’
Emma’s clothes are always very feminine.