English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

5 March, 2023

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

-ist / -alist
Some words end in ‘–ist’ or ‘–alist’. For example, ‘educationist’ and ‘educationalist’ are both acceptable. They mean ‘someone who knows a lot about the ways of teaching and learning.’ Unless there is a sound etymological reason for using ‘-alist,’ the shorter form should be used. Use ‘horticulturist’ rather than ‘horticulturalist’ and ‘agriculturist’ than ‘agriculturalist.’ In some cases, however, the longer version is firmly established, for example, ‘conversationalist’ instead of ‘conversationist.’
Its / it’s
‘Its’ is the possessive pronoun and like ‘yours, hers’ and ‘theirs,’ and does not take an apostrophe before the ‘s’.
The dog wags its tail.
‘It’s’ is the abbreviated form of ‘it is’ or ‘it has.’ The apostrophe is necessary to indicate the missing letters.
It’s cold outside but it’s stopped raining.
‘-ize’ / ‘-ise’
For some verbs of Greek and Latin origin the French suffix ‘-ise’ is preferred by people to ‘ize.’ So we write ‘realise’ than ‘realise.’
However, many grammarians prefer to use ‘ize.’ The words that do not have Greek origins retain the ‘s.’ The following words have retained the ‘-ise’: advertise, surprise, chastise, supervise, revise and televise.
Jargon / commercialese / journalese
‘Jargon’ means ‘words and expressions used in a particular profession or by a particular group of people, which are difficult for other people to understand. There are many technical, scientific, journalistic, legal and medical jargons.
‘Commercialese’ means jargons used in commerce.
‘Journalese’ means jargons used in journalism.
Here is a commercial jargon: “We are in receipt of yours of the 14th instant in respect of which we beg to inform you that we are expediting the matter as urgently as possible.”
Judgment / judgement
‘Judgment’ or ‘judgement’ is an opinion that you form, especially after thinking carefully about something.
I am unable to make a judgment about what the outcome will be.
Some grammarians consider ‘judgement’ as the preferred form in line with other words containing a mute ‘e’ such as ‘abridgement’ and ‘acknowledgement.’
Judicial / judicious
‘Judicial’ means ‘relating to the law, judges or their decisions.’
‘Judicious’ means ‘done in a sensible and careful way.’
You have a judicious choice in this matter.
Junction / juncture
A junction is a place where one road joins another.
A juncture is a particular point in an activity or period of time.
The talks are at a critical juncture.
Jurist / juror
A jurist is someone who has a very detailed knowledge of law.
A juror is a member of a jury.
As an adverb ‘just’ means ‘exactly’
Mary looks just like her mother.
‘Just’ also means ‘a short time ago.’
Thelma has just been out shopping.
In speech we say ‘just a moment’ to ask someone to wait for a short time.
Just a minute, I’ll see if I can find the book you want.
As an adjective ‘just’ means ‘morally right and fair’
We were fighting a just war.
Juvenile / puerile
‘Juvenile’ is an adjective meaning ‘relating to young people who are not yet adults.’
There are juvenile courts in many countries.
‘Puerile’ means ‘silly and stupid.’
His puerile jokes irritate me.
Catch up / ketchup
‘Catch up’ is a phrasal verb meaning ‘to improve and reach the same standard as other people in your class.’
If you miss a many lectures, it is very difficult to catch up.
‘Ketchup’ is a thick cold red sauce made from tomatoes.
Can I have a bottle of tomato ketchup?
In American English it is written ‘catsup.’
Kneel / kneeled / knelt
‘Kneel’ and ‘kneel down’ mean ‘to be in or move into a position where your body is resting on your knees.’
‘Knelt’ is the past tense and past participle of ‘kneel,’
Malkanthi knelt down and patted the dog.
In American English ‘kneeled’ is the past tense of ‘kneel.’