English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

14 May, 2023

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

Melted / molten

‘Melted’ is the past tense and past participle of ‘melt.’ ‘Molten’ which is an alternative form is now used as an adjective applied to substances which are considered hard to melt. We say ‘melted butter’ but ‘molten metal or lead.’

You can melt butter in a saucepan.

‘Melt’ or ‘melt away’ is used when something gradually disappears.

Opposition to the government has melted away.

‘Melt’ also means ‘to become less angry and begin to feel more gentle and sympathetic.’

My heart melted when I saw her crying.

A crowd of people melts away when they gradually leave.

Gold is melted down to make jewellery.

When someone speaks to you in a melting voice, it makes you feel pity or love for them.

A ‘melting pot’ is a place where people from different races, countries or social classes come to live together.

The United States has always been a melting pot.

If an idea is in the melting pot, it is likely to change.

Mendacity / mendicity

‘Mendacity’ is the quality of not being truthful. ‘Mendicity’ is the practice or condition of being a beggar.

Mental / mentality

‘Mental’ means ‘relating to the health or state of someone’s mind.’

Stress has an effect on your mental health.

If you make a mental note of something, you try to remember it.

If you get a mental block, you will have difficulty in remembering something or understanding something.

‘Mental age’ is the measure of someone’s ability to think or understand something.

‘Mental arithmetic’ is the act of adding numbers together or multiplying in your mind without writing them down.

A mental hospital is a place where people with mental illnesses are treated.

‘Mentality’ is a particular attitude or way of thinking.

We cannot understand the mentality of some people who protest against every piece of legislation.

Metaphor / metamorphosis

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it cannot literally refer in order to suggest a resemblance. However, we accept such literary conventions because when properly used they enrich the language.

Churchill proved to be a tower of strength during the war.

‘Metamorphosis’ is a process in which something changes completely into something very different.

Beetles undergo complete metamorphosis in their life cycle.


‘Meticulous’ means ‘solicitous or finical about minute details.’

Some people keep meticulous accounts of their income and expenditure.

The Cabinet spokesman was meticulous in his use of words.

‘Meticulously’ is the adverb.

The assassination of Lumumba was meticulously planned and executed.

Meter / metre

A meter is a machine that measures and shows the amount of something you have used or the amount of money that you must pay.

All our water is metered now.

A thermometer is an instrument for measuring heat.

‘Metre’ is the basic unit for measuring length in the metric system. It also means the arrangement of sounds in poetry into patterns of strong and weak beats.

‘Metric’ is an adjective meaning ‘using or connected with the metric system of weights and measures.’

Middle East / Far East

The Middle East is the area that includes Iran and Egypt and the countries which are between them.

The Far East means the countries in the East of Asia, such as China, Japan and Korea.

Mileage / milage

‘Mileage’ is the number of miles a vehicle has travelled since it was made.

Always check the mileage before you buy a secondhand car.

Some authorities say that the ‘e’ in ‘mileage’ is unnecessary since it does not affect the pronunciation. They say ‘milage’ is the correct form. However, most dictionaries prefer ‘mileage’ to ‘milage.’