English usage | Sunday Observer

English usage

13 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.

Permit / allow
‘Permit’ means ‘to allow something to happen, especially by an official decision, rule or law.’
‘Permit’ is a formal word which is used especially about someone being officially allowed to do something. In everyday situations, people usually say, ‘allow someone to do something.’
‘Allow’ means ‘to let someone do or have something, or let something happen.’
Father said, “Allow her to go to the party.”
They do not allow students to chew gum in the classroom.

In English grammar a distinction is made between the speaker (First person: I or We), the addressed (Second person: You) and anyone or anything else (Third person: He, she or they). In English the verb changes only in the third person singular of the present tense:
He runs. / She runs. / It runs.

Personage / personality
‘Personage’ is a formal word meaning ‘a person, usually someone famous or important, as in royal personage.’
‘Personality’ means ‘someone’s character, especially the way they behave towards other people.’
Certain illnesses can lead to change in personality.
A ‘personality cult’ is a situation in which people are encouraged to admire and praise a famous person, especially a political leader.

Persona grata
‘Persona grata’ (Latin) means ‘an acceptable person, particularly a diplomat who is acceptable to the Government to which he is accredited.’
Ben is persona grata with the new revolutionary regime.

Personify / personification
‘Personify’ means ‘to have a lot of a particular quality or be a typical example of something.’
Carter personified the values of self-reliance and hard work.
‘Personification’ means ‘the representation of a thing or a quality as a person.’
Fortune smiles upon the brave.

Perspicacious / perspicuous
‘Perspicacious’ is a formal adjective meaning ‘good at judging and understanding people and situations.’
Susan’s perspicacious conduct of affairs was appreciated by all.
‘Perspicuous’ means ‘clear to the understanding or clearly expressed.’
Carol has given us a perspicuous description of the situation.
The noun from ‘perspicacious’ is ‘perspicacity’ and that from ‘perspicuous’ is ‘perspicuity.’

Perturb / disturb
‘Perturb’ means ‘to worry about something that has happened or will happen.’
Thelma didn’t seem perturbed by the noises outside.
‘Perturbation’ is a small change in the movement, quality or behaviour.
‘Disturb’ means ‘to interrupt someone so that they cannot continue what they are doing.’
The thieves fled when they were disturbed by neighbours.
If you disturb the peace, you behave in a noisy and unpleasant way in public.
‘Disturbing’ means ‘worrying or upsetting.’
There is a disturbing increase in the crime rate.

Phonograph / gramophone
A phonograph is the U.S. term for a gramophone, which has now been displaced by a record player.

Phrasal verb
This is a term applied to the formation of new verbs by adding adverbial particles to simple verbs. Phrasal verbs have enriched the English language. Here are two of them:

Phone in: to telephone the place where you work, especially in order to report something.
I’ll phone the report in very soon.
Peck at: to eat only a little bit of a meal because you are not interested in it or not hungry.
Anne pecked at her food in silence.

A phrase is a sequence of two or more words in a sentence arranged in a grammatical construction and acting as a unit in the sentence.
A phrase cannot stand alone since it does not have a verb, but must be seen in relation to the sentence as a whole.

Pick / choose
‘Pick’ is a more informal word that ‘choose’ and suggests a rather more casual selection.
Pick any book and read.
‘Choose’ usually implies a deliberate decision made after weighing a number of possibilities.
You should choose a suitable career after graduation.