Verbs Commonly Confused

It is sometimes claimed that the finer shades of meaning between certain similar words are gradually disappearing and that it is not worth while to acquire, by constant effort, the habit of distinguishing them. Careful writers, however, do not abandon useful distinctions so freely as this would imply.

Therefore, if you wish to write English correctly and effectively, you must take as your standard
the work of the best present-day writers and the correspondence of the best business concerns in the country.

The following Hst of words includes a number that reputable writers and business men still use with great care:
Advise. To offer an opinion to, by way of common counsel;
give suggestion or advice to concerning a course or act; counsel;
warn — as, to advise a friend to reform.
Inform. To tell (a person) that of which he had no knowledge
before; to impart information to. (i) To communicate news to;
to notify; to apprise; etc. (2) To communicate instruction to; etc.
Advise is most appropriately used in the sense of to counsel or to give suggestion concerning a course or an act. It is correct to use it in letters in the sense of to tell, but inform is better.

1. To have an effect upon; act upon; lay hold of; impress;
influence; change— as, “Worry ajed^ the mind.”

2. To act upon the emotions or sensibilities of; to touch; to move — as,
”The audience was deeply affected.”

Effect. To be the cause or producer of; bring about; especially to bring to an issue of full success; accomplish; achieve.
Effect, meaning to accomplish, must be carefully distinguished from affect, meaning to influence. The following sentences illustrate the correct use of the words:
1. Labor unions have effected two great reforms — higher wages and shorter hours.
2. Improper working conditions affect the health of working people.
3. Prices were greatly affected by an oversupply of commodities.
Calculate. To compute mathematically; ascertain by computation;
to find out beforehand the time or circumstances of; to reckon.
Intend. To set the mind on to accomplish; be intent upon;
have in view as a purpose to be effected ; plan; design.

Calculate should never be used in the sense of intend. It is correct to say, ‘I intend to apply for the position,” but not “I calculate to apply for the position.” To use calculate or reckon in the
sense of think, suppose, or believe is colloquial and therefore to be avoided.


These words mean substantially the same; namely, to cause inconvenience to; annoy.

Incommode is, however, considered the better form of the two, but inconvenience is usually better than either.
Discover. To get first sight or knowledge of, as something previously unknown or unperceived; find out; ascertain; espy; detect.

Invent. To find out as a new means, instrument, or method;contrive by ingenuity.
One discovers what already existed but was previously unknown, and invents some new means, instrument, or method — thus:
1. The explorer discovered a new river.
2. Many useful office machines have recently been invented.
Expect. To look forward to as certain or probable; feel assured of before the event; anticipate in thought.
Suspect. I. To imagine to exist; to have some though insufficient grounds for inferring; also, to have a vague notion of the existence of, without adequate proof; mistrust; surmise; often followed
by an object clause — as, ‘I suspect that he is deceiving me.”

2. To believe to be possibly guilty.

Guess. To judge, estimate, or conclude from slight indications or on mere probable grounds; anticipate or presume without sure knowledge or adequate evidence; hazard a supposition about; conjecture
— as, to guess a person’s age.
Do not use guess for expect, because the latter is used in speaking of future events looked forward to as probable or certain. When you have some though insufficient grounds for inferring a thing, use
suspect. Expect cannot be used in speaking of the past. Note the following examples:
1. We expect a shipment of new refrigerators from our factory within a week or two.
2. I suspect that he did not address the letter carefully.
3. Do not permit your customer to suspect that you are deceiving him.
4. We could not even guess whether prices would advance or fall.
Graduate. To admit to or take an academic degree at the end of a course of instruction, especially a college or university. The institution graduates the candidate at the end of a course of instruction.

The man is therefore graduated, and objection is often made to ”He graduated,” but this double meaning is frequent, and in this word well established.
The foregoing discussion is sufficient authority for the use of the expression “Mr. Hunt graduated,^’ as well as “Mr. Hunt was graduated.”

Implicate. To bring into intimate connection; affect; involve;
hence, to show or prove to be involved or concerned in — as, to
implicate in the plot by evidence.

Involve. I. To draw into entanglement literally or figuratively;
implicate; embroil — as, to involve a. nsLtion in wa,r. 2. To include
or necessitate as a part or adjunct; have as a result or logical consequence;
imply; comprise; etc.

While these words are similar in meaning, it should be remembered
that implicate is used in a bad sense — as, to implicate in a
crime, plot, conspiracy, etc. Involve does not imply any unfavorable
1. Evidence was submitted that implicated several wholesale dealers
in a plot to raise the price of clothing.
2. Mr. Drew was not involved in any controversies with his competitors.

Irritate, i. To excite ill temper or impatience in; make petulant;fret; exasperate — as, to be irritated by the prattle of children.
2. To excite physically; inflame or cause reaction in by stimulation — as, to irritate the skin by electricity or friction.
Aggravate, i. To add weight or intensity to; to make heavier, worse, or more burdensome; also, to make more heinous; increase the guilt of — as, ” Sickness aggravates the ills of poverty.”

2. Colloq.
To provoke greatly; exasperate; annoy — “He aggravated me beyond measure.”

3. To increase inflammation in; irritate — as, to aggravate a wound.

To rouse and roughen the temper of- irritate exceedingly; excite great anger in; enrage. 2. To make bitter or grievous; aggravate as in grievousness or malignancy; embitter; intensify; inflame.
Remember, therefore, that aggravate should not be used for irritate or exasperate, for to use it in the sense of to provoke greatly or to exasperate is colloquial.
1. Mr. Holt’s carelessness irritates his employer.
2. The attempt to bring colored laborers from the South aggravated the situation.
3. Tried by unfavorable circumstances, he became thoroughly exasperated.
Learn. To acquire knowledge of or skill in by observation, study or instruction; become informed about.
Teach. To impart knowledge or information to by means of lessons; give instruction to; guide by precept or example; train; educate; discipline; counsel — as, to train a child.
If you remember that to learn means to acquire knowledge, and to teach means to impart, you will have no difficulty in using these words correctly.
1. It is not difficult to learn how to use the mimeograph.
2. The company sent an agent to teach him how to drive the car.
Mend. To restore to a sound or serviceable condition, as something
broken, worn, or defaced; supply deficiencies or defects in;patch up; repair — as, to mend shoes.
Fix. To fasten, attach, or secure firmly or set or place permanently;make firm or secure.

Do not use fix in the sense of mend or repair.
1. Our vforkradji fixed the rod in the proper position.
2. The shoemaker mended the shoes.

Purpose. To have or place before oneself as a purpose or aim;
have a fixed determination to do or attain; resolve; intend; design.

Propose. To offer, as a plan or scheme, for acceptance or consideration;
present as a candidate; put forward — as, to propose a
topic or question for discussion.
1. The manager proposed a plan for the reorganization of the company.
2. A salesman sometimes purposes to improve his personality.


As I said, do not get overwhelmed with this grammar part. But if you are already confident about it, then be sure to read other articles in this series.

Rajesh Gurule