Vocabulary Quiz #10: Commonly Confused Words

By Mark Nichol

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.)

1. The roll-top desk was made by an exceptionally skilled ________.
a) artist
b) artisan

2. Drink, drank, (have) drunk are the ________ parts of the verb “to drink.”
a) principal
b) principle

3. Pliny the _______ died in the eruption of Vesuvius.
a) older
b) Elder

4. Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a _______.
a) dual
b) duel

5. I saw the detective ________ his fists, but he refrained from striking the suspect.
a) clinch
b) clench

Answers and Explanations

1. The roll-top desk was made by an exceptionally skilled artisan.
b) 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.”
a) principal

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.
b) Elder

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.
b) 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.
b) clench

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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1 Response to “Vocabulary Quiz #10: Commonly Confused Words”

  • venqax

    Horses *chomping* at the bit is not exactly common, but I have seen it in writing. That makes me think the mistake is saved only because horses and their mouths are no longer common points of conversation. Also relative to horses, this time of year reliably brings one-horse open slays to many songsheets. And ringing bells on boptails, bells and bonsails, and “bells and bons say ‘ring'”. Don’t know why horses popped to mind.

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