Confused Words Exercise (136)

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.)

  • During her husband’s twenty-year absence, Penelope was troubled by _____ of suitors.

  • Because of social, economic, educational, and technological changes in American life, a high school _______ is not worth what it was a hundred years ago.

  • The Mayor of New York has dared to ______ the use of trans fats in the city’s restaurants.

  • Every rented hiding place maintained in London by Sherlock Holmes held a ______ of supplies and disguises.

  • It was a grievous thing to ________ our friend at such a young age.

Answers and Explanations

1. During her husband’s twenty-year absence, Penelope was troubled by hordes of suitors.

A horde is a large group. A hoard is an accumulation of something laid away for preservation. Used as a verb, hoard means to put things away for future use, usually with the sense of keeping them from others.

2. Because of social, economic, educational, and technological changes in American life, a high school diploma is not worth what it was a hundred years ago.

A diploma is an official document conferring some honor, privilege, or certification. High school graduates are said to earn a diploma. In the context of education, a degree is an academic rank beyond secondary school. A degree is conferred by a university or a college.

3. The Mayor of New York has dared to proscribe the use of trans fats in the city’s restaurants.

Both words are verbs. To proscribe means to forbid. To prescribe means to advise or order the use of something.

4. Every rented hiding place maintained in London by Sherlock Holmes held a cache of supplies and disguises.

Both cache and cachet derive from a French word meaning hidden. A cache is a hidden store of supplies. Cachet has more than one meaning. In modern usage, cachet can mean prestige, or attractive mystery. For example, the profession of archaeologist carries a certain cachet.

5. It was a grievous thing to lose our friend at such a young age.

Lose is a verb meaning "to part with." Loose is an adjective meaning "not tight." Writing loose for lose is a very common spelling error. In the estimation of people who know the difference, it evokes the same sort of disdainful disapproval as writing it’s for its.

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