Monday, 4 April 2016

Confusing and Not So Confusing Words: All right or alright?

Are you all right or alright?
In this post, I’d like to talk about common usage errors. In English, whether it is American or British, there some words, even constructions that call for our attention, in the written mode.
Some terms are pairs of words that are quite different in meaning yet similar in spelling to be confused. Take, for instance, the pair principal, principle or the terms alright which denotes some nonstandard usages. Also there are informal constructions such as being as instead of the term because, which are not acceptable in formal writing.
Today I found myself explaining the terms “advice, advise” to one of my students. We came up with the different ways you can use them. Probably, you have noticed that there is a change in spelling, which sets the first difference, being the first one a noun and the second one a verb. In the first case it means a suggestion or opinion you give to someone in a particular situation. You might say “Follow your doctor’s advice” or “Take my advice. Just don’t go”. As for the second entry, one of the meanings is to tell someone what you think they should do: “They advise that the passport should be carried with you all the time”, or give some help or information: “We’ve hired an expert to advise on new technology.”
Now, if we keep on analyzing language usage, we can find more pairs. Check out the following “altogether, all together”.  Again you can notice that they are spelled differently. Needless to say the meaning is not the same. Altogether means ‘in total’ or (in British English) ‘completely’: “They’ve invited twenty people altogether to the farewell party” or “I am not altogether happy about my decision”. On the other hand, all together means ‘all in one place’ or ‘at the same time’: “Let’s sing ‘Happy Birthday’. All together now!”
“Beside or Besides?”  Well, beside means “next to”, at the side: “In the literature class, he sits beside me.” What about besides, then? Well, as a preposition, it means ‘in addition to’: “There are some other issues to solve besides the tight budget”. As an adverb, besides is used to give reason: “Susan is not coming to the party on Saturday. She has a lot of work to do. Besides, she doesn’t like parties.”
Last, but not least, “Are you all right? or “Are you alright?” In both cases, it means acceptable or in good manner, but some may consider the second term too informal and it shouldn’t be used in formal writing, obviously.


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