Usage

This section gives you lots of advice, helping you to avoid making some of the most common mistakes of usage. Do you worry about the correct use of hopefully, for example, or wonder what the difference is between affect and effect or flaunt and flout? Are you uncertain about whether to say different from or different than or if you should say ‘a historic event’ or ‘an historic event’? And if you’ve ever been puzzled about cactuses versus cacti, go to Plurals of foreign words.

Explore the links below to find clear and straightforward guidance on these topics and many more. You can find more help with the correct use of English in Grammar tips.

Compare with or compare to

"Compare With" Or "Compare To"?

Which one is correct: 'compare' to or 'compare with'? The answer is not as straightforward as you might expect, but our guide will clear it up.

Complement or compliment

"Complement" Or "Compliment"?

Not sure whether to pay someone a ‘complement’ or pay them a ‘compliment’? Read our guide to find out when it is right to use each of these words.

Continual or continuous

"Continual" Or "Continuous"?

Continual vs continuous: they’re not quite the same, and we’ve got tips for when to use which.

Could of or could have

"Could Of" Or "Could Have"?

‘Could of’ or ‘could have’? Only one is correct in standard English – make sure you know which!

Denote or connote

"Denote" Or "Connote"?

Denote and connote are broadly similar words, but are used in quite different ways…

Diffuse or defuse

"Diffuse" Or "Defuse"?

Diffuse and defuse sound similar but have different meanings: here’s how to sort them out.

Discreet or discrete

"Discreet" Or "Discrete"?

‘Discrete’ and ‘discreet’ have very different uses in modern English: here’s how to get them right.

Disinterested or uninterested

"Disinterested" Or "Uninterested"?

The earliest use of ‘disinterested’ might surprise you if you’re inclined to pedantry…

Elicit or illicit

"Elicit" Or "Illicit"?

Elicit or illicit? These words sound very similar but have quite different uses – make sure you know which word you want before you write it down.

Enquire or inquire

"Enquire" or "inquire"?

‘Enquire’ and ‘inquire’ are both common verbs – but are they interchangeable, or does the difference in spelling change how you should use them?

Ensure or insure

"Ensure" Or "Insure"?

‘Ensure’ and ‘insure’ are different words, but there’s considerable overlap between their meanings and uses. Make sure you get them right with our simple tips.

Especially or specially

"Especially" Or "Specially"?

Do especially and specially mean the same thing? Well, sometimes. Here are all the details about which word to choose in different contexts.

Farther or further

"Farther" Or "Further"?

Farther and further are very similar words – both in spelling and in meaning – but there is an important distinction between them. Find out what it is…

Flair or flare

"Flair" or "flare"?

Do you have a ‘flair’ for English or a ‘flare’ for English? With our quick guide, you’ll soon know which of these two homophones to use.

Flaunt or flout

"Flaunt" Or "Flout"?

Flaunt or flout? Flout or flaunt? You can find out the difference with our useful tips : flaunt your knowledge and don’t flout the rules.

Grizzly or grisly

"Grizzly" Or "Grisly"?

Grisly and grizzly sound similar and are often confused – but one is kinda adorable and the other really isn’t. Make sure you know which is which.

He she or they

"He," "She," Or "They"?

What should you write if you are unsure about a gender or just want to leave it open: should it be just ‘he’, ‘he or she’, or ‘they’? We’ve got the answers.

Historic or historical

"Historic" Or "Historical"?

Is there a difference between something that is ‘historic’ and something that is ‘historical’? And should it be ‘an historic event’ or ‘a historic event’?

Hoard or horde

"Hoard" Or "Horde"?

Hoard and horde sound the same, and one is often confused with the other – but they have distinct meanings and uses that you’ll treasure once you know.

Thankfully

How To Use "Thankfully"

Thankfully, the answers you’ve been hunting for about whether or not ‘thankfully’ can be used as a sentence adverb are all available on this page!