This current post is the second in my latest series of articles about commonly confused and/or misused words. The previous article covered words/terms beginning with the letters “a” to “c”; this one covers the letters “d” through “f”.
decision (make or take)
“make a decision” is the traditional phrase that was (and still is) used.
“take a decision” has become common in popular usage and is generally accepted.
They both mean “to decide about something”.
I believe that he has made a wise career decision.
The review committee is expected to take a decision later today.
Use “decision making” NOT “decision taking”
“defective” refers to something lacking in quality.
“deficient” refers to something lacking in quantity.
The transformer was found to be defective and had to be replaced.
The study showed that 70% of subjects tested had deficient iron levels.
In British English, dependent means reliant on. A dependant is a person that relies upon another person. In American English, you can use dependent for both.
“different” implies uniqueness and/or separateness.
“various” implies number and diversity.
Each of the three proposals offered a different approach to the project.
After the meeting, various attendees signed the petition.
“disinterested” means unbiased or impartial.
“uninterested” means not interested, or unconcerned, or indifferent.
The panel of judges was asked to provide a disinterested opinion on the matter.
My boss seems to be uninterested in any of the plans proposed so far.
“each” should be treated as singular and used with a singular verb.
Each of them is now free to choose sides on his/her own.
Each municipality administers its own road maintenance program.
“economic” relates to the economy or economic system.
“economical” refers to a person who is thrifty and tends to avoid waste.
Things have improved since the economic crisis eight years ago.
He is economical about all things, including his choice of a small hybrid car.
“effective” refers to producing a good or desired result.
“effective” can also be used to indicate that something is “in effect” or “in force”.
“efficient” refers to the skillful use of time, effort, energy, and/or money to produce desired results.
Despite her inexperience, the new president proved to be highly effective in her job.
That new law will become effective on January 1st of next year.
Pressure to reduce carbon emissions has forced manufacturers to produce more efficient engines.
emigrate, immigrate, migrate
“emigrate” means to leave one country or region and move to another.
“immigrate” means to enter and settle in a new country or region.
“migrate” means to move from one place to another. (people or animals)
A large number of Irish people emigrated to Canada during the potato famine.
Last year, this country accepted more than 150,000 immigrants from African countries.
Hunters tend to migrate from one forest area to another in search of migrating herds.
fewer, lesser, less
“fewer” always refers to a number of things that can be counted.
“lesser” or “less” usually refer to quantity, amount or size.
“Less” can also refer to number, when it can be thought of as an amount.
They sold fewer cars this year than last.
He chose that option because it was the lesser of two evils.
Your workload is expected to be less from now on.
When searched, she had less than $200 in her purse.
figuratively, literally, virtually
“figuratively” means “not really” or “not literally”; in an abstract sense.
“literally” means “really” or “actually”; in actual fact.
“virtually” means “almost entirely” or “for all practical purposes”.
Figuratively speaking, he was over the moon about it.
It was determined that they were literally minutes away from death when found.
As far as we could tell, it was virtually a dead heat as they crossed the line.
“financial” refers to money matters or transactions in general.
“fiscal” refers to public finances derived from tax revenues.
The company’s financial performance was better this year than last.
The central bank has recommended the adoption of a policy of fiscal restraint.
“flaunt” means to “display boastfully”.
“flout” means to “treat with contempt and disregard”.
She made a point to flaunt her new engagement ring to everyone she encountered.
He has a tendency to flout the highway traffic laws.
“flounder” means to struggle awkwardly, without making progress.
“founder” as a noun refers to a person who founded an institution.
“founder” as a verb; refers to: a ship filling with water, or a building collapse, or a horse falling down lame.
After six months, the business was already seriously floundering.
His father was the founder of that college.
After the collision, the ship quickly foundered.
As soon as they depressed the plunger the building foundered.
Right after crossing the finish line the horse foundered and then buckled to the ground.
“forego” means to “go before” or “precede”.
“forgo” is an accepted variant spelling of “forego”.
By the last week of the campaign her election was a foregone conclusion.
Members were not willing to forego/forgo their dining room privileges that evening.
“former” refers to the first mentioned in a series.
“latter” refers to the last mentioned in a series.
Of the two on the list, I tend to favor the former. (For more than two, use “first-mentioned”).
Of the two mentioned, I prefer the latter. (For more than two use “last-named”).