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Much like lay and lie, we have another transitive-intransitive verb situation on our hands. Darn it. I lost you with more grammar language again. Strike that! I meant cat riding a skateboard! Puppies snowboarding! Donkeys driving speedboats! Back with me? Okay, let’s dive in.
We’re working with two different words here: raise and rise. Both mean to move upward, of course, but the difference is whether the subject is moving or the subject is moving an object.
“Raise” is the transitive verb (stay with me!). It requires an object. For example, she raises her head; we raised a glass.
“Rise” is the intransitive verb (You’ve come this far. Hang on!). It doesn’t require an object. For example, the sun rises in the morning; I rose out of my bed.
You can see from my examples that “raised” is the past tense of “raise” and “rose” is the past tense of “rise.”
Of course, you have to keep a look out for “razed” as well, but that is a whole other story. We’ll leave that destruction to another day.
There are some words that people use as synonyms when they really aren’t. Yep, this is me calling you out again, language lazy friends. Or perhaps that’s too strong. Maybe it’s not laziness so much as ignorance. Grammar naiveté. So often these are subtleties never taught, after all. So how are you to pick them up on your own? That’s what I’m here for, folks.
“Disinterested” and “uninterested” are another example of words that are treated as synonyms but actually have different meanings.
To be “disinterested” means to be impartial. A disinterested person wouldn’t have a stake in the outcome. To be “uninterested” means that you simply don’t care. This is a subtle difference, but one worth noting.
For example, a disinterested referee would call the game fairly. An uninterested referee might not be paying much attention.
Have you been using these words correctly?
A welcomed question came my way last week. Or was it a welcome question? You see where I’m going here. The word “welcome” can be one that you overthink since it has so many forms. It can be an interjection (“Welcome, friend!”), a verb (“He welcomed them into his home”), or an adjective (“a most welcome language tip”).
Remember that only verbs have to worry about tense. Even if something was welcome last week or last year, if you’re using the word “welcome” as an adjective, you never need to add on that “d” or any other conjugated form. The same thing goes for interjections, of course, but I’m not convinced that’s one that you’d be confused by. (“Welcomed!” “Welcoming!”—Yep, it sounds weird no matter how you do it).
Great question, grammar-concerned friend. Does anyone have any others?
He was Henry the eighth, he was. Henry the eighth, he was, he was.
Did you know that the origin of this tricky idiom goes back to a single member of English royalty? Henry VIII is the one for whom you can blame this phrase. Its first recorded use appears to be a 1539 proclamation of parliament. And yes, it was written “for all intents and purposes,” not “intensive purposes.” As you know, it means “for all practical reasons” or simply “in effect.”
If you were first introduced to this phrase in spoken English rather than written English, I can understand the confusion, but be sure not to sound silly if you use the expression yourself. For all intents and purposes, “intents and purposes” is the way to go.
Oh, I know, you’re confident on this one. Just listen to that pronunciation!
Starting off with refreshers, we know that a tasty post-meal treat is a “dessert” (s x 2). We know that cacti grow in “deserts” (s x 1).
When you use the “just deserts”/”just desserts” expression, it is pronounced the same way you say “desserts.” It’s clearly not talking about a sandy, dry locale. There’s probably some etymological backstory about a poisoned soufflé or something, right? Yeah, that guy got his “just desserts,” someone once said, and it stuck, right? Someone like Shakespeare? Something from Titus Andronicus? If you think about it hard enough, it almost makes sense, doesn’t it?
When writers show readers the world around their characters, this is when a story can come alive. It’s the difference between dialogue existing on a black movie screen and an exchange that stirs your readers’ imaginations.
Sometimes, you might realize description would enhance a scene, but you aren’t quite sure how to turn a sentence from simple into masterful. There are three common weaknesses I stumble upon again and again in my editing work, so I wanted to pass on some possible solutions that may help.
Who’s on first? Whose shoes are those? Who’s that girl? Whose cupcake is that? Can I have it?
Wait, before I get distracted by my sweet tooth, let’s dive into the differences between “who’s” and “whose” today. Logic doesn’t always apply easily to grammar. This one—like “its” and “it’s”—is another exception to the rule that possessives have the apostrophe “s.”
“Whose” is the possessive form.
Yes, it’s true. Every time you’ve assumed “who’s” was possessive, you’ve been wrong. Hopefully, those were just emails to your friends, not your boss’s boss’s boss. My fingers are crossed for you.
We’ve talked “who” vs. “whom,” but this simpler distinction is sometimes equally as confused. Or perhaps it’s less confused and just typed quickly without thinking about it. Either way, it’s time to pause and get it right, don’t you think?
If you have an artist who’s also a foodie, who has a day job driving the forklift at a big box store, do you know what vocabulary you should be using in all instances? Hey, everyone needs a day job—most of us anyway—so it could happen.
This spelling distinction doesn’t come up often, but when it does, there’s often confusion.
“Palate” is the word used when describing your sense of taste or simply the roof of your mouth.
A “palette” is a selection of colors or the flat board an artist mixes her paints upon.
Here’s a thought: when Destiny’s Child sang, “All the honeys that making money, throw your hands up at me,” were they annoyed that “honeys” and “money” didn’t make an exact rhyme? Were they right to say “money” and not “moneys” or “monies”? Did they miss an opportunity for poetic perfection? Am I over-analyzing things again?
Hold that thought, early-Beyonce fans. Do you know the difference between “money” and “moneys” and “monies”?
The good news here—for all of us—is that Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle were absolutely right in their use of “money.” This is an example of a mass noun, which often refers to an uncountable abstract. We’re talking about the idea of cash or capital, not a specific amount of dollars or cents. There’s a plurality that’s understood in “money,” which is what often confuses people about the uses of “moneys” or “money.”