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RocketReader newsletter - Vocabulary Unleashed - More Tricky Words Explained


The Tricky Words Explained

The previous issues on vocabulary were well received by our readers, we have decided to write about more commonly misunderstood words.

Accurate knowledge of words ensures your communication efforts are clear and targeted. As you know, effective communication skills greatly improve your chances of success in education and the work force.

Let's now look at some more tricky words.

Adverse and averse

If something is adverse, it is contrary to or unfavourable. When someone is averse to something he or she dislikes it.

Example: The recent documentary Supersize Me, showed the adverse effects of eating too much fast food. After watching the documentary, many people are now averse to a fast food diet.

Allusion and illusion

young magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat

An allusion is an indirect reference to something, while an illusion is something which creates a false impression.

Example: While the employer did not say it, she alluded to her subordinate's lack of reliability.

The magician's trick was merely an illusion.


Appraise and apprise

To appraise something is to evaluate its value or quality. In contrast, to apprise is to inform.

Example: Sarah decided to have an antique ring which her grandmother had given to her appraised. She was pleasantly surprised when the antique dealer apprised her of its true value - it was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Biannual and biennial

Biannually means twice a year. Biennial means to last two years or occur every two years.

Example: Chuck visited his parents biannually - at Thanksgiving and Easter time. The Adelaide Festival of Arts is held biennially.

Continuous and Continual

Continuous is used to describe that which is joined together in space or time without interruption, whereas continual has a broader use and can be used to denote without interruption, unceasing or persistent.

Example: On the weekend, my neighbour held another rowdy party, making a continuous racket from midnight until 4 am in the morning. Having had continual disputes with him over his noise levels in the past year, I finally had enough and moved out.

Disinterested and uninterested

To be disinterested is to be impartial or to have a lack of interest or concern, while to be uninterested is to be not personally concerned or not interested.

Example: Her account of the accident was accepted because she was at disinterested observer.

The policeman was uninterested in hearing the motorist's excuses to justify his speeding.

Elicit and illicit

no bicycling, skateboarding, rollerskateing sign

To elicit something is to bring or draw it out. When something is illicit, it is unlawful.

Example: The release of the latest Harry Potter novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, elicited an enthusiastic, worldwide response from devoted readers. Tight security surrounding the book launch prevented the illicit circulation of the book before its release date.

Emigrate and immigrate

To emigrate from a place is to leave it for another place and to immigrate is to enter another place.

Example: Seva emigrated from Russia. He is now a United States immigrant.



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Ensure and insure

To ensure is to make sure or to make safe, whereas to insure is most commonly used to mean to make an arrangement for the payment of money in the event of loss or injury.

Example: The heiress kept her jewels in a deposit box at the bank to ensure their safety. Most people insure their house against loss.

Exalt and exult

To exalt someone is to raise them up or glorify them, usually through praise. On the other hand, to exult is to rejoice or triumph over.

Example: He was exalted as an extraordinary leader of his time, who brought many positive changes to his country. The choir exulted in song.

Include and comprise

The difference between include and comprise is that include is used to describe items which make up part of a whole, while comprise is used to denote that you are describing an exhaustive list of items.

Example: The States of America include Georgia, Kansas, Hawaii and South Carolina. The United States of America is comprised of 50 States.

losing a ring

Loose and lose

When something is loose, it is not tight-fitting. To lose on the other hand is to fail to win or to fail to keep possession of something.

Example: George, who was dieting, was delighted to discover that his jeans were loose. She was upset due to losing the final.

It's and its

It's refers to "it is", while its means "belonging to it".

Example: It's such a beautiful day today. The dog wagged its tail eagerly as it waited for its food to be served.

Their, there and they're

Their means "belonging to them". There refers to a place. They're refers to "they are."

Example: Their house was large. The apple tree is over there by the gate. They're going to the movies tonight.

Your and you're

Your means "belonging to you," while you're is "you are."

Example: Your jumper is at the drycleaners. You're early today.

Test your knowledge!

Take our quiz to find out whether you know how to use the words discussed above.

  1. Given the recent spate of crime in their neighbourhood, the mother is [adverse/averse] to letting her children play in the park unsupervised.
  2. If something occurs twice a year, it occurs [biannually/biennially].
  3. Stealing is an [elicit/illicit] activity.
  4. Always [ensure/insure] you are punctual to a job interview or your prospective employer may not have a good impression of you.
  5. The family [exalted/exulted] at their big lottery win.
  6. Win or [lose/loose], the most important thing is to have fun when you play sport!
  7. [It's/Its] such a great event, you should come.
  8. [Their/There/They're] aunt, who recently moved to New York City, says that [their/there/they're] are some pretty exciting things to do in the Big Apple.

A Good Starting Point!

Knowing these words well is an excellent starting point. Build on those words by learning other words and your vocabulary will improve. Remember, building a good vocabulary is a sound investment.




Click here to view the answers (opens in a new window)


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