Confused Words Exercise (368)

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 fourteen-year-old is being _____ as an adult for the murder of his math teacher.

  • There were no more than twenty-five _____ in the audience.

  • To the landlord’s dismay, the renter _____ to repaint the living room in five different colors.

  • The interim government instituted special requirements to ____ an uninterrupted supply of food and water.

  • There is only so much a jury can ____ from circumstantial evidence.

Answers and Explanations

1. The fourteen-year-old is being prosecuted as an adult for the murder of his math teacher.

Both words derive from a Latin word that means "to pursue, to follow, to seek out." Persecute means to pursue with the intention to hurt or oppress. Prosecute is a legal term that means to pursue a legal action against.

2. There were no more than twenty-five people in the audience.

The usual plural of person in modern usage is people. The plural persons does occur, but usually in a legal context, as in, "Police are seeking a person or persons unknown."

3. To the landlord’s dismay, the renter presumed to repaint the living room in five different colors.

Sometimes the verbs assume and presume are interchangeable, but in this context the word presume has the connotation of taking a liberty, doing something without permission.

4. The interim government instituted special requirements to ensure an uninterrupted supply of food and water.

Both words have similar meanings, but ensure is used in a general sense to mean "guarantee" or "make safe against risks," whereas insure is used only in the context of a paid indemnity.

5. There is only so much a jury can infer from circumstantial evidence.

The word infer means to draw a conclusion from information by means of reasoning. The word imply means to ascribe a meaning to something without stating any evidence.

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