affect (verb): influence
The number of callers affects the on-hold time.
effect (verb): bring about, cause
To effect a change, they voted for the other candidate.
effect (noun): result
The special effects were amazing.
The effect of too little water is a withered plant.
infer: surmise, arrive at a conclusion
I inferred there was a fire because of the smoke.
imply: to suggest indirectly
Giving her his phone number implied that Jim wanted Liz to call him.
all: acceptable in all cases except with a personal pronoun
All the cattle enjoyed the sunshine.
all of: use only with a personal pronoun
All of you were included.
You should have already started that report.
all ready: completely ready
The students were all ready for summer vacation.
among: three or more items considered collectively
It is difficult to choose among the many computers in the store.
between: two or more items considered individually
It is difficult to choose between a Sony, Toshiba, or Dell.
amount: used with collective or mass nouns
Equipping a football team costs a large amount of money.
number: used with countable nouns
They bought a large number of hats for the band.
assure: set a person’s mind at rest
We assured them that the prom would still take place.
ensure: make certain
We tested the Christmas lights to ensure the trees would be seen at night.
insure: protect with insurance
In Massachusetts, the car must be insured before you can get a license plate.
because: show a cause & effect relationship
The project was completed early because of no delays.
since: from then until now
We had no delays since last week.
can: know how to, be able to
The car can go in reverse.
may: have permission to, be possible to
You may begin the test now.
might: be possible to (but less certain than “may”)
She might finish the report on time.
A baker’s dozen comprises 13 items.
compose: create by joining
A baker’s dozen is composed of 13 items.
constitute: make up, form
Thirteen donuts constitute a baker’s dozen.
discrete: individually distinct, not continuous
This procedure is comprised of seven discrete steps.
discreet: prudent, showing good judgment
Be discreet when you bring the present; it’s a surprise.
farther: physical distance
Do not wander farther than the sound of my voice.
further: in addition, to a greater degree
Tuition is expensive. The price of books is a further expense.
flammable, inflammable: capable of igniting easily
Do not light a match near a flammable liquid.
Gasoline is inflammable.
nonflammable: not easily ignitable
Asbestos is nonflammable.
if: in the event that
Tell me if the test is on Wednesday.
when: at what time (don’t use “if and when”)
Let us know when Alexandra calls you.
whether: with alternatives, used instead of “if”
Ask whether she called Mandy before or after dinner.
either / or: a positive indication of two or more possibilities that can happen
Grace would have to choose either the new dress or the new pair of shoes.
neither / nor: a negative indication that two or more possibilities did not, would not, or will not happen
He was neither tall nor dark nor handsome.
Do not mix them together:
WRONG: It’s neither this or that.
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