Nouns often confused
Appetite for Desire, etc.
Don’t say: I’ve no appetite at all to study.
Say: I’ve no desire at all to study.
Appetite is generally used with food. For study, work, or play we use such words as desire, disposition, and inclination.
Organ for Instrument.
Don’t say: What other organ can you play?
Say: What other instrument can you play?
The organ is a particular musical instrument used in some churches to accompany the singing of hymns. Don’t use organ to denote any other musical instrument.
Place for Room.
Don’t say: Is there place for me on the bus?
Say: Is there room for me on the bus?
Don’t use place in the sense of room, which means here unoccupied space.
Ground for Floor.
Don’t say: When I entered the room, I saw a book on the ground.
Say: When I entered the room, I saw a book on the floor.
The floor is the part of the room on which we walk. The ground is outside the house.
Air for Wind.
Don’t say: The strong air blew her hat away.
Say: The strong wind blew her hat away.
Air is what we breathe, and wind is what makes the leaves of the trees move.
Cost for Price.
Don’t say: What’s the cost of this watch?
Say: What’s the price of this watch?
Price is the amount of money paid by the customer. Cost is the amount paid by the shopkeeper. We can say How much does it cost?
Note: Value is the usefulness or importance of something. The value of milk as a food, the value of education Face value is the amount printed on a piece of-paper-money or on a postage stamp.
Woman for Wife.
Don’t use: The man took his woman with him.
Say: The man took his wife with him.
In English, these two words are carefully distinguished: wife is the woman in a marriage. Both husbands and wives can be referred to as partners.
Men for People.
Don’t say: All the streets were full of men.
Say: All the streets were full of people.
Use people and not men when the reference is to human beings in general.
Individual for Person/People.
Don’t say: There were five individuals in the shop.
Say: There were five people in the shop.
Use individual with a single person as opposed to the group; The individual must act for the good of the community.
Dress for Suit.
Don’t say: My elder brother has a new dress.
Say: My elder brother has a new suit.
Only girls and women wear dresses; anyone can wear suits (a jacket with trousers or a skirt). Clothes is a general word: John (or Mary) is wearing new clothes.
Note: We say a man in full evening dress, or morning dress for traditional, formal clothes.
Play for Game.
Don’t say: They had a nice play of football.
Say: They had a nice game of football.
Avoid using play in the sense game. Play means amusement: He is fond of play.
Theatre for Play.
Don’t say: Sarah is going to see a theatre tonight.
Say: Sarah is going to see a play tonight.
A theatre is a building in which plays are acted, not the play itself.
Poetry for Poem.
Don’t say: I have a poetry to learn by heart.
Say: I have a poem to learn by heart.
Poetry is the form of literature dealing with poems. A poem is one piece of poetry.
Finger for Toe.
Don’t say: I hurt a finger of my right foot.
Say: I hurt a toe of my right foot.
Fingers are on the hand, and toes are on the foot.
Foot for Leg.
Don’t say: I hurt my foot – if the injury is anywhere above the ankle.
Say: I hurt my leg.
Leg is the part of the body from the hip down to the ankle, and foot is the part below the ankle. (Hand must also be carefully distinguished from arm.)
Note: The leg of a chair, a table, a bed; the foot of a hill, a wall, a ladder, a page.
Travel for Journey.
Don’t say: Our travel to Wales was lovely.
Say: Our journey to Wales was lovely.
Travel is a verb, used to describe any type of movement from one place to another. Journey is the noun but we also use (take a) trip for having a short journey: We took a trip to the seaside last Sunday. We also use travelling as a noun: Jim lows travelling We use a possessive pronoun with travels as an idiom: Jenny is off on her travels again.
Note: We use the noun travel
(1) in a general sense: She loves travel.
(2) in the plural: He has written a book about his travels.
Stranger for Guest.
Don’t say: They had some strangers last night.
Say: They had some guests last night.
A guest is usually a friend who comes to our house tor a visit, while a stranger is a person unknown to us.
Note: A foreigner is a person from another country and speaking a foreign language.
Customer and Client.
Don’t say: That grocer has plenty of clients.
Say: That grocer has plenty of customers.
Don’t say: That lawyer has plenty of customers.
Say: That lawyer has plenty of client.
A person can be a customer at a shop, but a client of a lawyer, a bank, etc.
Shade or Shadow.
Don’t say: I like to sit in the shadow.
Say: I like to sit in the shade.
Don’t say: The dog saw his shade in the water.
Say: The dog saw his shadow in the water.
Shade is a place sheltered from the sun. Shadow is a shade of a distinct for as of a tree, a man, a dog, etc.
Centre and Middle.
Don’t say: Stand in the middle of the circle.
Say: Stand in the centre of the circle.
Don’t say: He was in the centre of the street.
Say: He was in the middle of the street.
Centre is the point that is equidistant from the edge of a circle. Middle is the area equidistant from two sides: middle of the road, middle of the room, middle of the page, etc.
Scene and Scenery.
Don’t say: The TV crew arrived at the scenery.
Say: The TV crew arrived at the scene.
Don’t say: The scene in Cyprus is beautiful
Say: The scenery in Cyprus is beautiful.
A scene refers to one particular place, while scenery refers to the general appearance of the country. We don’t use scenery in the plural.
Cause of and Reason for.
(a) Cause of.
Don’t say: What’s the reason for a sandstorm?
Say: What’s the cause of a sandstorm?
(b) Reason for.
Don’t say: You have a good cause of coming.
Say: You have a good reason for coming.
A cause is that which produces a result. A reason is that which explains or justifies a result.
Habit and Custom.
Don’t say: Telling lies is a very bad custom.
Say: Telling lies is a very bad habit.
Don’t say: The Chinese have strange habits.
Say: The Chinese have strange customs.
A habit belongs to the individual, but a custom belongs to a society or country.
Story and History.
Don’t say: She told me an interesting history.
Say: She told me an interesting story.
Don’t say: We study the story of the Romans.
Say: We study the history of the Romans.
A story is an account of events which may or may not be true. History is a systematic record of past events.
House and Home.
Don’t say: You should go to your house now.
Say: You should go home now.
Take care not to say my house, his house, or your house when you should say home. A house is any building used for dwelling in, and home is the particular house in which someone is living.
Note: Home may also denote one’s own country When an Englishman abroad says: I’m going home this summer he means going to England.