English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

12 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.


‘Knitted’ is the past tense and past participle of ‘knit’ meaning ‘to make clothing out of wool using two knitting needles.’

‘Knit’ is the past tense and past participle when you join people, things or ideas more closely together.

We live in a closely knit community.

You knit your brows to show you are worried or thinking hard by moving your eye brows together.

You can buy knitted clothing at a knit shop.


In informal English we use this word to mean ‘to be too eager to obey or be polite to someone in authority.’

The Opposition will not kowtow to the Government.

‘Kowtow’ is derived from Mandarin Chinese.

-l / -ll

When a verb ends in an ‘l’ preceded by a single vowel the ‘l’ is doubled:

Channel: channelled

Tunnel: tunnelling

Revel: revelling

An exception is ‘parallel: paralleled

The ‘l’ remains single when preceded by two vowels or a vowel and a consonant:

Reveal: revealing, revealed

Curl: curling, curled

Boil: boiling, boiled

As a general rule, we use double ‘ll’ if preceded by a single vowel:

Enthrall but instill

Recall but extol

An exception is ‘appal’

In nouns and adjectives the ‘l’ is doubled when followed by -er, -ed or -y:




Before -ish, -ist, -ism or -ment we use single ‘l’:





Compound words often drop the second ‘l’:




Laden / loaded

‘Laden’ means ‘heavily' loaded with something or containing a lot of something.’

The tables were laden with books.

‘Laden’ also means ‘having a lot of a particular quality.’

Anoma was laden with doubts about her future.

‘Loaded’ means ‘containing bullets or film.’

The thief had a loaded pistol.

The truck was loaded with bananas.

A loaded word or statement has more than one meaning.

You deserve it!

A loaded question is intended to affect your opinions and make you answer in a particular way.

Lady / woman

‘Lady’ is a polite term.

The young lady at the reception gave me this number.

The word ‘lady’ often sounds old-fashioned, especially when it refers to a young woman. In everyday English, people usually say ‘woman.’

The word ‘ladies’ is used to address a group of women.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?

‘A lady of leisure’ is a woman who does not work and has a lot of free time. It is used humorously.

Addressing a woman directly as ‘lady’ sounds rude. Therefore, use ‘Miss’ or ‘Ma’am.’

Lama / llama

A lama is a bhikkhu in Tibet or Mongolia.

A llama is a South American mammal.

Last / latest

‘Last’ means ‘most recent or nearest to the present time’

Did you watch the film last night?

‘Last’ also means ‘remaining after all others have gone.’

I was the last person to leave the show.

If you are on your last legs, you are very tired or you are likely to die soon.

‘Latest’ means ‘the most recent or the newest.’

What’s the latest gossip?

‘At the latest’ means ‘no later than the time mentioned.’

She should be back by 10 o’clock at the latest.

Late / the late

‘Late’ means ‘arriving, happening or done after the time.’

Sorry I’m late – I overslept.

‘Of late’ means ‘recently.’

Birth rates have gone down of late.

Care must be taken when using ‘the late.’

The late principal was a disciplinarian.

This can mean either that he has moved to another school or that he has died. If it is intended to mean the former, it would be better to say, ‘previously.’