This is a guide to help learners to communicate easily in both speech and writing through a better understanding of the English language.
Sometime / sometimes
‘Sometime’ is an adverb meaning ‘at a time in the future or in the past, although you do not know exactly when.’
I’ll take a vacation sometime next month.
Our house was built sometime around 1960.
As an adjective, ‘sometime’ means ‘former.’
Mr Basnayake, the sometime chairman of our group, will address the meeting now.
‘Sometimes’ means ‘on some occasion but not all.’
Sometimes I stay late in the office.
‘Sort’ means ‘a group or class of people or things that have similar qualities or features.’
What sort of shampoo do you use?
The noun ‘sort’ is much more common in spoken English than in written English. This is because it is used in a lot of common spoken phrases such as the following:
I sort of like her, but I don’t know why.
Brenda likes all sorts of food, but she is not fussy.
I’ll do nothing of the sort.
Specialism / specialist / specialty
Specialism is the practice of limiting your interests or activities to particular subjects.
A specialist is someone who knows a lot about a particular subject, or is very skilled at it.
I am not a specialist in modern history.
‘Specialty’ is a kind of food that is always very good in a particular restaurant.
Specially / especially
‘Specially’ means ‘for one particular purpose, and only for that purpose.’
Susan had this dress made specially for her sister’s wedding.
‘Especially’ is used to emphasize that something that is more important or happens more with one particular thing than with others.
Crime is growing at a rapid rate, especially in the Southern Province.
A species is a group of animals or plants which are all similar and can breed together to produce young animals or plants of the same kind as them.
Endangered species may no longer exist.
‘Spin’ means ‘to make cotton or wool into thread by twisting it.’
The wool is spun into thread and then woven.
If your head spins, you feel as if you might faint because you are shocked, excited or drunk.
You can spin a story that is not true in order to deceive others.
A spin doctor is someone whose job is to give information to the public in a way that gives the best possible advantage to a politician or organisation.
Spirited / spiritless
‘Spirited’ means ‘having energy and determination’
Roger is young and spirited.
‘Spiritless’ means ‘having no energy or determination.’
It also means ‘not cheerful.’
Spiritual / spirituous
‘Spiritual’ means ‘connected with your spirit rather than with your body or mind.’
Most people do not have spiritual values.
‘Spirituous’ means ‘containing alcohol.’
If a group of people splits, it divides into two or more groups, because one group strongly disagrees with the other.
A split infinitive is a phrase in which you put an adverb or other word between ‘to’ and an infinitive, as in ‘to easily win.’ Some people think this is incorrect English.
‘Split personality’ is a condition in which someone has two very different ways of behaviour.
A split second is an extremely short period of time.
I just turned round for a split second and she vanished.
A splitting headache is a very bad headache.
Sprain / strain
‘Sprain’ means ‘to damage a joint in your body by suddenly twisting it.’
Eva fell down the steps and sprained her ankle.
‘Strain’ means ‘to injure a muscle or part of your body by making it work too hard.’
Sprint / spurt
‘Sprint’ means ‘to run very fast for a short distance.’
Susan sprinted up the steps. ‘Spurt’ means ‘a sudden pouring out of liquid or flame.’
The fire sent up spurts of flame.