Watch Your (Native) Tongue!

A person's language use can indicate his level of education and sophistication. Try some of these "problem" words.

One of the primary goals of education is an educated citizenry.
Ideally, anyone who has completed high school should be able to communicate his ideas coherently in both oral and written expression without too much
difficulty. Frankly, most people haven’t studied grammar and word usage since
they were in elementary school. Yet nothing exposes a person’s educational
level as easily as her manipulation of the language. Certain words and
expressions continually stymie even some of the most erudite native English
speakers. Marketers rely on adults’ sensitivity to this issue to sell expensive
public speaking programs and vocabulary tapes. Nevertheless, mastery of these
usage rules need not be either difficult or expensive. Below is a primer for
some of the most widespread errors in diction. The correct answers appear below.   

1. We feel (bad, badly) that we can’t accept your invitation.

2.  We (could of, could’ve) responded earlier.

3. Between you and (I, me) I had no intention of going to that party.

4. (Their, There, They’re) food is insipid, and (their,
there, they’re) not that hospitable.

5. (Who, Whom) did you speak with when you declined the

6. Do you think that we need to discuss this (farther,

7. How will this (affect, effect) our relationship as

8. We do see them (continually, continuously) because they live next door.

9. We should have (gone, went) to the movies.


1.  bad  The adjective follows a linking verb (feel).  Otherwise, use of badly
     indicates that the sense of touch is inoperable.

2.  could’ve The alternative is substandard English. 
     It’s NEVER “could of, would of or should of.”

3. me  The preposition (between) requires an objective pronoun. (always!)

4.  Their-indicates ownership, while “they’re” means they are.

5. Whom-  The first word in the sentence, is NOT the subject.  It’s the object of the preposition (with).

6.  Further-means more, while farther indicates distance that can be either literal or figurative.

7. affect- is usually a verb; effect is usually a noun. 

8.  continually means intermittent, while continuously means non-stop.

9. gone- The perfect tenses require the past participle.

Now, does that clear some problems?  Just a little attention to detail can make a
big difference in the impression someone makes in writing or speaking.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Laura I. Maniglia October 22, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Thank you to those who have submitted suggestions for further (not farther) discussion on this topic. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement.
Betty-Lou Griffin October 23, 2012 at 03:37 AM
There is so much misuse of 's (in plurals, and substitution of it's/is) and incorrect use of I/me that I'm afraid they will become accepted as alternate forms, because everyone who knows the difference will be gone! Teach the young, and teach them well! Worst of all is listening to politicians speak about "nucular (nuclear) capabilities".
James Bond October 23, 2012 at 09:47 PM
How about the signs all over the state that say "go slow", they should read go slowly. Wonder how much that would cost to fix?
R Eleveld October 23, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Love these word plays. They are fun and informative. The 'there, their' always makes me stop for a second to make sure I have it right, not right.
Laura I. Maniglia October 24, 2012 at 10:38 AM
I will act upon these suggestions in future submissions. I appreciate the feedback!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »