English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

3 September, 2023

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

Practicable / practical / practically
The adjectives ‘practicable’ and ‘practical’ are an obvious source of confusion. A practicable way of doing something is possible in a particular situation.
The only practicable course of action is to sell the plot of land and settle the bank loan.
The word ‘practical’ relates to real situations and events rather than ideas or emotions.
Candidates should have training and practical experience in basic electronics.
The word ‘practical’ when applied to people means ‘sensible or businesslike.’
His father was a practical man who knew the importance of education.
When applied to things ‘practical’ means ‘efficient and workable.’
James has put forward practical suggestions for ending the land dispute.
‘Practically’ is an adverb, especially used in speech. It means ‘almost.’
He has read practically all the books in his library.
It is practically impossible to predict what will happen in the Presidential Election.
Practice / practise
‘Practice’ is a noun.
With a little more practice you should be able to pass the test.
‘Practice’ also means ‘the work of a doctor or lawyer, or the place where they work.’
Danny has a busy legal practice in Colombo.
‘Practise’ is a verb. It means ‘to do an activity, often regularly in order to improve your skills or to prepare for a test.’
Children practise their dance routine.
In American English ‘practice’ is used as the noun and the verb.
Pre –
The prefix ‘pre –’ means ‘before’ or ‘prior to.’ It is normally written without a hyphen, except before another ‘e.’
‘Prewar’ but ‘pre-empt’ or ‘pre-election’
Thelma attended a pre-arranged meeting yesterday.
Precede / proceed / proceeds
‘Precede’ means ‘to happen or exist before something or someone or to come before something else in a series.’
This is the type of cloud that precedes rain.
Lunch will be preceded by a short speech from the chairman.
The word ‘proceed’ means ‘to continue to do something that has already been planned or started.’
The Government is determined to proceed with the election.
In everyday English, people usually say ‘go ahead’ rather than ‘proceed.’
They decided to go ahead with the project.
The word ‘proceeds’ means ‘the money that is obtained from doing something or selling something.’
The proceeds of the concert will go to charity.
Precipitate / precipitous
The verb ‘precipitate’ means ‘to make something serious happen suddenly or more quickly than was expected.’
The riot was precipitated when four rebels were arrested.
The word ‘precipitate’ also means ‘moving with great haste.’
The soldiers made a precipitate retreat across the bridge.
The word ‘precipitous’ means ‘very sudden.’
There is a precipitous decline in stock prices.
The word ‘precipitous’ also means ‘extremely steep.’
They followed a precipitous path down the hillside.
Predicate / predict
As a noun ‘predicate’ means ‘the part of a sentence that makes a statement about the subject.’
If an action or event is predicated on a belief or situation, it is based on it or depends on it.
The company’s expansion was predicated on the assumption that sales would rise.
The word ‘predict’ means ‘to say that something will happen before it happens.’
Newspapers predicted that James would be re-elected as the president.
Preface / prefix
A preface is an introduction at the beginning of a book or speech.
A prefix is a group of letters that is added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning and make a new word.
Don’t misunderstand what I say.
He sat down and untied his shoe laces.
The verb ‘prefix’ is followed by the preposition ‘to.’
He prefixed a title to his name.
The verb ‘prefer’ is usually followed by the preposition ‘to.’
Sean preferred flying to travelling by train. ‘Prefer’ is one of the 50 words most often spelled wrongly by learners. Many learners make mistakes when using ‘prefer’ in the past tense. The past simple and past participle have ‘rr.’ Do not write ‘prefered,’ instead write ‘preferred.’