Are you good at grammar? Even though we’re grammar nerds, we’ve still found ourselves googling “stationery vs. stationary” on the sly. Here are twelve words that many people get wrong…
1. Farther vs. Further
Farther refers to a physical distance.
Further refers to a metaphorical distance.
Example: That psychic lives farther away from me. But she can see further into the future.
2. Everyday vs. Every Day
Everyday describes a thing that is ordinary or normal.
Every day means “all of the days.”
Example: These are my everyday pants. I wear them every day.
3. Who’s vs. Whose
Who’s is a contraction that means “who is.”
Whose is a pronoun that shows possession.
Example: Who’s coming to your party tonight? Whose punch bowl did you borrow?
4. Stationary vs. Stationery
Stationary means fixed or standing still.
Stationery refers to paper goods, like notecards or letters.
Example: My weird neighbor writes her stationery while riding a stationary bicycle.
5. Affect vs. Effect
Affect is a verb that means to change something.
Effect is a noun that means the change that came as a result of something.
Example: Do you want to positively affect the world? Politeness can have a profound effect.
6. i.e. vs. e.g.
Use i.e. when you’re defining something.
Use e.g. when you’re giving an example.
Example: Yesterday my boyfriend finally acted his age, i.e., like a baby. I should have known because of his hobbies, e.g., comic books, toys and the ability to cry at the drop of a hat.
7. Lay vs. Lie
Lay means to set something down.
Lie means to rest your body.
Example: Why don’t you lay your toys on the floor and go lie down for a nap?
8. Complement vs. Compliment
A complement is a thing that completes something else.
A compliment is an expression of praise.
Example: You and your husband are such wonderful complements. I love how he always compliments you.
9. Accept vs. Except
Accept means to include or receive.
Except means to exclude.
Example: That restaurant accepts every credit card except the one in my wallet.
10. Disburse vs. Disperse
Disburse means to hand out or distribute.
Disperse means to scatter or spread in all directions.
Example: How shall I disburse the money from your bank accounts? Wait—why did that question make everyone disperse?
11. Everyone vs. Every One
Everyone is a pronoun that refers to a group of humans.
Every one refers to the individual humans within a group.
Example: Hi, everyone! I love every one of you.
BONUS WORD: Literally
We can’t pinpoint the exact moment when “literally” took over the modern lexicon, but it’s now everywhere. And it’s almost always incorrect. When used properly, the word literally means exactly as described. So, after biting into a hot slice of pizza, you could say that you are “literally in pain,” but not that your mouth is “literally on fire.” (Unless it was really, actually on fire. With flames.) Many times, people say literally when what they mean is figuratively or metaphorically. One friend, describing her recent breakup, said she was “literally beside herself.” This statement could not literally be true.
How many of these did you know? Do you have any grammar pet peeves?
(Albert Einstein photo by Yousuf Karsh; graphic design by Rachel Ball)