Confused Words Exercise (142)

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.)

  • My accident proved _______ because it led to a meeting with an agent who agreed to market my book.

  • Afterwards, Mr. Swinford told Mary that he hadn’t intended to ______ her part in the success of the project.

  • You can be sure that any stock he is selling is sure to be _______ .

  • Anyone can see that his garden is better kept _______ yours.

  • As the principal tapped the microphone in preparation for his announcement, we waited with _______ breath to hear the name of the winner.

Answers and Explanations

1. My accident proved fortuitous because it led to a meeting with an agent who agreed to market my book.

Fortunate means lucky: "The buried miners were fortunate; they were rescued." Fortuitous also means lucky, but carries the additional sense that the luck is related to an accidental or coincidental occurrence.

2. Afterwards, Mr. Swinford told Mary that he hadn’t intended to deprecate her part in the success of the project.

Depreciate means to make something worse. Deprecate means to express a low opinion of something.

3. You can be sure that any stock he is selling is sure to be fictitious .

Both fictitious and fictional mean "imaginary, not true." Fictional, however, is usually used in the context of literature. Fictitious applies more to something false or fabricated in a nonliterary context.

4. Anyone can see that his garden is better kept than yours.

Then has to do with time: "First I played with the dog, and then I took a shower." Than is used in a comparison.

5. As the principal tapped the microphone in preparation for his announcement, we waited with bated breath to hear the name of the winner.

Baited is used in the context of luring prey. A fishhook is baited. A trap is baited. Bated is from an old verb to bate, meaning "to subdue" or "to restrain." Modern English still uses the related word abate, but the only common use of bated is in the phrase "bated breath."

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