Confused Words Exercise (107)

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.)

  • The roll-top desk was made by an exceptionally skilled ________.

  • Drink, drank, (have) drunk are the ________ parts of the verb "to drink."

  • Pliny the _______ died in the eruption of Vesuvius.

  • Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a _______.

  • I saw the detective ________ his fists, but he refrained from striking the suspect.

Answers and Explanations

1. The roll-top desk was made by an exceptionally skilled artisan.

An artisan is a worker in a skilled trade. An artist practices a creative art such as painting, sculpting, or writing.

2. Drink, drank, (have) drunk are the principal parts of the verb "to drink."

As an adjective, principal means "first in order of importance." Principle is a noun that means "a fundamental truth," or "a rule or a belief that governs one’s behavior."

3. Pliny the Elder died in the eruption of Vesuvius.

As an adjective, elder is sometimes interchangeable with older, as in "Jane is Sally’s elder sister." Capitalized, Elder is used to distinguish between two family members of different generations, as in Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger.

4. Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

Used historically, a duel is a ritualized killing contest between two men armed with deadly weapons. Dual is an adjective meaning "consisting of two parts."

5. I saw the detective clench his fists, but he refrained from striking the suspect.

When speaking of ones’ fingers, clench means to make a fist. One can also clench other body parts. To clench one’s teeth is to press them closely together. Clinch means to embrace or grapple at close quarters.

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