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Grammar tips: a guide to tricky words

Grammar tips: a guide to tricky words

Grammar and punctuation can be fickle beasts – sometimes even leading to life or death situations (misplacing a comma can mean the difference between “Let’s eat Grandma” and “Let’s eat, Grandma!”). Luckily, Niche Media’s very own Professor Erica Stone is here to guide us through the linguistic labyrinth we call English. In our first grammar lesson, we get the facts straight on the difference between these sneakily similar or misused tricky words.

 

Compliment/complement

Old joke. When the bar nuts say, “Hey that’s a lovely shirt you’re wearing,” it’s because they’re complimentary – i.e. free (or saying something nice).

If a piece of furniture matches the wallpaper, it complements it.

 

Comprise/myriad

Words that stand alone and proud.

As in:

That bathroom suite comprises a bath, toilet and bidet (or B’Day for Béyonce fans); the accompanying drapery is not comprised of a pedestal mat, bath mat and towels.

No one has a myriad of ideas. They just have myriad ideas.

 

Continual/continuous

Is it really happening without ever stopping at all? ‘Continual’ is frequently the more appropriate choice.

 

It’s/its

It’s is a contraction of it is. When the use is possessive you need its.

As in:

That yeti? Its head was too big to fit through the cave entrance…

But it’s all right; another yeti did some DIY and saved the day.

 

License/licence

See practise/practice below.

As in:

If you drive under the influence, you may well end up with having your licence suspended. But luckily the pub is licensed, so you can drown your sorrows.

 

Practise/practice

One of those Americanisms that can trip people up. Practise is the verb, practice is the noun.

As in:

Mirabel practised her violin daily.

Her neighbours developed the practice of hiding in the soundproofed basement.

 

Your/you’re

And again. Your is possessive. You’re is a contraction of ‘you are’.

Examples:

“I don’t like the look of your face.”

“Really? Well, you’re going home in an ambulance…”

 

 

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