English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

27 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.

There are only a few words in which the ending ‘- ess’ as a feminine designation is not considered derogatory, e.g. actress and baroness. However, the word ‘poet’ should be used for either sex, or else ‘woman poet’ if it is necessary to make a distinction. ‘Poetess’ is an old-fashioned word for a female poet.
Poetic / poetical
‘Poetic’ or ‘poetical’ means ‘relating to poetry or typical of poetry.’
There are poetic expressions in English. He is quite familiar with Wordsworth’s poetical works.
‘Poetic’ suggests the charm or qualities characteristic of poetry.
‘Poetic justice’ is a situation in which someone suffers and you think they deserve it because they did something bad.
After the way Susan treated David, it is only poetic justice that he left her.
‘Poetic licence’ is the freedom that poets and other artistes have to change facts or ignore grammar rules because what they are making is poetry or art.
Poetry / poet laureate
‘Poetry’ means ‘poetry in general or the art of writing them.’
Agnes loves to read religious poetry.
A poet laureate is someone who is chosen by a king, queen or president to write poems on important national occasions.
Point of view
The phrase ‘point of view’ has suffered from excess of popularity and is often used as a rather clumsy roundabout way of saying something.
Do not use ‘point of view’ where ‘view’ or ‘views’ alone would be sufficient.
Brian asked me for my views on his latest novel.
Politics / political
‘Politics’ means ‘ideas and activities relating to gaining and using power in a country.’
You should have a good understanding of politics.
‘Political’ means ‘relating to the Government, politics and public affairs in a country.’
I am not a member of any political party.
A ‘political football’ is a difficult problem which opposing politicians argue about. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution has become a political football.
‘Political asylum’ is the right to stay in another country if you cannot live safely in your own country.
No country should grant political asylum to corrupt politicians.
‘Political correctness’ is the language, behaviour and attitude that are carefully chosen so that they do not offend or insult anyone.
The term is used when you think someone is too careful in what they say or how they behave.
‘Political economy’ is the study of the way nations organise the production and use of wealth.
‘Political geography’ is the study of the way the earth’s surface is divided up into different countries, rather than the way it is marked by rivers or mountains.
A ‘political prisoner’ is someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticised the Government of their own country.
‘Political science’ is the study of politics and Government.
Portion / part
A ‘portion’ is a part of something that is large, especially a part that is different from the other parts.
The main character’s childhood takes up a good portion of the film.
A ‘portion’ is also an amount of food for one person, especially when served in a restaurant.
A ‘part’ is a piece of something such as an object, area, event or a period of time.
In parts of Canada, French is the first language.
Possessive case
The possessive case, also called the genitive case, is used to show ownership, origin, connection, authorship, association and duration. This is John’s camera.
We listened to the President’s speech.
Have you studied Shakespeare’s plays?
Post –
This is a prefix meaning ‘later than or after something.’
The post-war years are the years after a particular war.
Sometimes it is used without a hyphen.
Postscript (PS) is a message written at the end of a letter after you have signed it.
Potent / potential
‘Potent’ means ‘having a very powerful effect or influence on your body or mind.’
Advertising is a potent force to attract customers.
‘Potential’ means ‘likely to develop into a particular type of person or thing in the future.’
Think of the potential risk before taking drugs.