English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

30 July, 2022

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

Defective / deficient
‘Defective’ means ‘not made properly or not working properly.’
Some shops are selling defective products.
‘Deficient’ means ‘not containing or having enough of something.’
People who are dieting can become iron deficient.
Defensible / defensive
A defensible opinion, idea or action seems reasonable and you can easily support it.
We need a morally defensible prison system.
‘Defensive’ means ‘used or intended to protect someone or something against attack.’
The rockets are a purely defensive measure against nuclear attacks.
Definite / definitive
‘Definite’ means ‘clearly known, seen or stated.’
Sandra said she was unable to give me a definite answer.
A definitive book or description is considered to be the best and cannot be improved.
They signed a definitive agreement to buy oil from Iraq.
Deism / theism
Deism is the belief in a God who made the world but he has no influence on human lives.
Theism is the belief in the existence of God or gods.
Delusion / illusion
Delusion is a false belief about yourself or the situation you are in.
Bob is under the delusion that Sam is going to cheat him.
An illusion is an idea or opinion that is wrong, especially about yourself.
Some people suffer from the illusion that they cannot solve their problems.
Demi- / semi-
Both prefixes, which are Latin in origin, mean ‘half.’
A demigod is someone who is so important and powerful that they are treated like a god.
It is very difficult to deal with semi-literate people.
Dependant / dependent
A dependant is someone, especially a child, who depends on you for food, clothes and money.
A dependent needs someone or something in order to exist, be successful or healthy.
Our economy is heavily dependent on foreign remittances.
Depositary / depository
A depositary is a person to whom something is given in trust.
A depository is place where something can be safely kept.
Deprecate / depreciate
‘Deprecate’ means ‘to strongly disapprove of or criticise something.
‘Depreciate’ means ‘to decrease in value or price.’
All vehicles depreciate in value over the years.
Derisive / derisory
‘Derisive’ means ‘showing that you think someone or something is stupid or silly.’
His speech was greeted with derisive laughter.
An amount of money that is derisory is so small that it is not worth considering seriously.
The railway trade unions have described the pay offer as derisory.
Dialogue / duologue
A dialogue is a conversation between two or more people.
Students were asked to read simple dialogues.
A duologue is a conversation between two people only, especially as part of a dramatic performance.
Different from / different to
‘Different from’ is the established usage.
My two daughters are very different from each other.
In spoken British English ‘different from’ and ‘different to’ are both common. In writing, however, ‘different from’ is the correct form.
Differentiate / distinguish
‘Differentiate’ means ‘to recognise or express the difference between things or people.’
It is important to differentiate between fact and fiction.
‘Distinguish’ means ‘to recognize and understand the difference between two or more things or people.’
The lawyer argued that his client could not distinguish between right and wrong.
A dilemma is a situation in which it is very difficult to decide what to do because all the choices seem equally good or equally bad.
Emma is in a dilemma about the job offer.
‘Dilemma’ is not a synonym for ‘problem’ or ‘difficulty.’ Use ‘dilemma’ only when there is a choice between equally undesirable alternatives.
Diminish / minimise
‘Diminish’ means ‘to become or make something become smaller or less.’
The drug will diminish blood flow to the brain.
‘Minimise’ means ‘to reduce something that is difficult, dangerous or unpleasant to the smallest possible amount or degree.’
Every effort will be taken to minimize civilian casualties.