Adjective often confused
Don’t Say: I was angry to hear of her death.
Say: I was sorry to hear of her death.
Sorry is the opposite of glad. Angry means annoyed or enraged: He was angry when a boy hit him in the face.
Don’t Say: You should keep your hands clear.
Say: You should keep your hands clean.
Clean is the opposite of dirty. Clear means transparent or unclouded: clear water, a clear sky.
Sick or Ill.
Don’t Say: He’s been sick for over a year.
Say: He’s been ill for over a year.
To be ill means to be in bad health. To be sick means to vomit We sometimes use sick idiomatically to mean feeling ill. The smell made me sick.
Note: We can also use sick before certain nouns: The sick room, a sick note, sick leave. We use the plural noun the sick to mean ill people: Angela worked with the sick on the streets of Birmingham.
Beautiful for Handsome or Good-looking.
Don’t Say: He’s grown into a beautiful young man.
Say: He’s grown into a handsome young man.
We usually say that a man is handsome or good looking, and that a woman is beautiful, lovely, good looking or pretty.
High for Tall.
Don’t Say: My elder brother is six feet high.
Say: My elder brother is six feet tall.
We generally use tall with people, and it’s the opposite of short. Use high when referring to trees, buildings, or mountains, and it’s the opposite of low.
Small, Big for Young, Old.
Don’t Say: I’m two years smaller than you. She’s three years bigger than me.
Say: I’m two years younger than you. She’s three years older than me.
If reference is to age, say young or old. Small and big usually refer to size: He is big (or small) for his age.
Note: Great refers to the importance of a person or thing: Napoleon was a great man, Homer’s Iliad is a great book. Use great with words like distance, height, length, depth: There is a great distance between the earth and the moon. Informally, use great to mean something nice or good: We watched a great concert last night.
Last for Latest.
Don’t Say: What’s the last news from the Palace?
Say: What’s the latest news from the Palace?
Latest is the last up to the present. Last is the final one: Z is the last letter of the alphabet.
Don’t Say: Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens are both excellent writers, but I prefer the last.
Say: Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens are both excellent writers, but I prefer the latter.
The latter means the second of two people or things which have been mentioned. The last refers to a series of more than two.
Latter for Later.
Don’t Say: She got to school latter than I did.
Say: She got to school later than I did.
Later refers to time. Latter refers to order and means the second of two things just mentioned: Alexandria and Cairo are large cities The latter has a population of over a million. The opposite of latter is former.
This for That.
Don’t Say: Look at this dog across the street!
Say: Look at that dog across the street!
This is used to indicate something physically close to the speaker. In the case of abstract things we use this for things which are most immediately present. This is a lovely song! I’ll help you do it this time. When we talk about more than one thing we use this for the closer or more immediate and that for the further away or more remote in time If we’re only talking about one thing we usually use that: What’s that noise? That’s a nice coat! Don’t do that!
Less for Fewer.
Don’t Say: They have less books than I have.
Say: They have fewer books than I have.
Less denotes amount, quantity, value, or degree, fewer denotes number. We may have less water, less food, (ess money, less education, but fewer books, fewer letters, fewer friends.
Note: We say less than (five, six, etc.) pounds because the pounds are considered as a sum of money and not as a number of coins.
Some for Any.
Don’t Say: Louis has got any milk.
Say: Louis has got some milk.
Don’t Say: There aren’t some books on the shelf.
Say: There aren’t any books on the shelf.
We usually use some for affirmative phrases: She’s got some chicken, and any in negative and interrogative phrases: Ian hasn’t bought any food today. Have you bought any food? We sometimes use some in questions: Would you like some soup?
One for A (n)
Don’t Say: Adam found one ring in the street.
Say: Adam found a ring in the street
Don’t use the numeral one instead of the indefinite article a or an Use one only where the number is emphatic: He gave me one book instead of two.
A for An.
Don’t Say: A animal, a orange, a hour.
Say: An animal, an orange, an hour.
Use an instead of a before a vowel or a silent h (as in hour, heir, honest). Before a long u or a syllable having the sound of you, we use a (not an); a union, a European (but an uncle).
Farther and Further.
Don’t Say: Turn the page for farther instructions.
Say: Turn the page for further instructions.
Note: Use further to mean both greater distance and more of something. We only use farther for distances: I live a bit farther away than you. Don’t use it to mean more. We use further for both meanings in modern English.
Wounded and Injured or Hurt.
Don’t Say: Jack was wounded in a car accident.
Say: Jack was injured in a car accident.
People are injured or hurt as a result of an accident or a fight, but people are wounded in wars and battles.
Interesting and Interested.
Don’t Say: I’ve read an interested story.
Say: I’ve read an interesting story.
Don’t Say: Are you interesting in your work?
Say: Are you interested in your work?
Interesting refers to the thing which arouses interest, while interested refers to the person who takes an interest in the thing.
Older (oldest) and Elder (eldest).
Don’t Say: This girl is elder than that one. This girl is the eldest of all
Say: This girl is older than that one. This girl is the oldest of all.
(b) Elder, Eldest.
Don’t Say: My older brother is called John. My oldest brother is not here.
Say: My elder brother is called John. My eldest brother is not here.
Older and oldest are applied to both people and things, while elder and eldest are applied to people only, and most frequently to related people.
Note: Elder can’t be followed by than: Jane is older (not elder) than her sister.
His and Her.
Don’t Say: John visits her aunt every Sunday.
Say: John visits his aunt every Sunday,
Don’t Say: Ann visits his uncle every Sunday.
Say: Ann visits her uncle every Sunday.
In English, possessive adjectives (and pronouns) agree with the person who possesses, and not with the person or thing possessed.
When the possessor is masculine, use his, and when the possessor is feminine, use her.
Each and Every.
Don’t Say: She gave an apple to every of the children.
Say: She gave an apple to each of the children.
Don’t Say: Each child had an apple.
Say: Every child had an apple.
Use each for one of two or more things, taken one by one. Never use every for two, but always for more than two things, taken as a group. Each is more individual and specific, but every is the more emphatic word.
Note: Each and every are always singular: Each (or every) one of the twenty boys has a book.
Little and A little.
Don’t Say: He took a little exercise and wasn’t very fit.
Say: He took little exercise and wasn’t very fit.
(b) A little.
Don’t Say: She took little exercise and felt much better.
Say: She took a little exercise and felt much better.
Little means not much and emphasises the smallness of the amount. It’s distinguished from a little which means at least some.
Few and A Few.
Don’t Say: Although the question was easy, a few boys were able to answer it.
Say: Although the question was easy, few boys were able to answer it.
(b) A few
Don’t Say: Although the question was difficult, few boys were able to answer it.
Say: Although the question was difficult, a few boys were able to answer it.
Few means not many and emphasises the smallness of the number it is distinguished from a few, which means at least some.
Many and Much.
Don’t Say: My brother hasn’t much books.
Say: My brother hasn’t many books.
Don’t Say: Is there many dust in the room?
Say: Is there much dust in the room?
Use many with plural nouns: many books or many boys. Use much with uncountable nouns: much water or much bread.
Note: In affirmative sentences many and much are generally replaced by a lot (of), a great deal (of), plenty (of), a good deal (of), a good many (of), a great number (of), a large quantity (of), etc.