English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

6 August, 2023

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

Peaceable / peaceful

‘Peace’ is a situation in which there is no war or fighting.

India is at peace with its neighbouring countries.

Someone who is peaceable does not like fighting or arguing.

Rodney has always been a very peaceable person.

A peaceful time, place or situation is quiet and calm without any worry or excitement.

You will have a peaceful day without the children.

Pendant / pendent / pedant

A pendant is a hanging ornament.

The word ‘pendent’ is an adjective meaning ‘hanging or suspended.’

There is a pendent lamp in the reading room.

A pedant is someone who pays too much attention to rules or small unimportant details, especially someone who criticises other people in an extremely annoying way.

Peninsula / peninsular

A peninsula is a piece of land almost completely surrounded by water but joined to a large area of land. A large number of Tamils live in the Jaffna peninsula.

‘Peninsular’ is an adjective.


The word ‘people’ is used as the plural of ‘person.’ It refers to men, women and children. How many people were at the meeting?

‘People carrier’ is a large car with about eight seats used especially by people with families.

‘People skills’ means ‘the ability to deal with people well.’

A doctor needs people skills as well as technical knowledge.


‘Per’ is a Latin preposition used in phrases such as ‘per annum’ or ‘per cent.’ It is usually followed by another word in Latin. However, there are exceptions: Per day, per head, per person, per week.

‘Per capita’ does not mean ‘per head.’ It refers to a method of distributing property among a number of people or a payment made according to the number of people. However, its meaning ‘per head’ is now firmly entrenched in the language. The Botanical Garden attracts one million people per year.

The meal cost Rs 1,500 per head.

Perceptible / perceptive

Something that is perceptible can be noticed although it is very small.

There is a small but perceptible change in the voting pattern.

Someone who is perceptive notices things quickly, understands situations and people’s feelings quickly well.

A perceptive young man assumed duties as the manager of the company.


‘Perfect’ means ‘not having any mistake, faults or damage.’

Your English is perfect.

Yours is a perfect performance.

Good, you’re home. Perfect timing – dinner is ready.

When you answer someone who has criticised you, you can say, “Nobody is perfect.”

You should not expect perfection from anyone.

A perfectionist is someone who is not satisfied with anything unless it is completely perfect.

Most top athletes are perfectionists.


‘Periphrasis’ is a roundabout way of speaking or writing.

I made her the object of my most tender affection. (Periphrasis)

Say: I fell in love with her.

Permanent / permanence / permanency

‘Permanent’ means ‘continuing to exist for a long time or for all the time in the future.’ Sometime ago ministers had Permanent Secretaries. I gave up a permanent job to become a journalist.

‘Permanence’ and ‘permanency’ have the same meaning, but most people use ‘permanence.’

We have a desire for some sense of permanence.

Permissible / permissive

‘Permissible’ means ‘allowed by law or by the rules.’ This is the maximum permissible level of radiation.

‘Permissive’ means ‘not strict and allowing behaviour that many other people would disapprove.’

In a broader sense, it means ‘sexually or morally tolerant.’ Americans live in a permissive society.

A permissive society is a type society that has existed in most Europe, Australia and North America since the 1960s, in which there is a great amount of freedom of behaviour, especially sexual freedom.


‘Pernicious’ means ‘having a very harmful effect or influence’

The cuts in Government funding have had a pernicious effect on the health sector.


‘Perpetrate’ means ‘to commit a crime, or a violent or harmful act.’

Half of all violent crime is perpetrated by people who have been drinking alcohol.