Most of us know the rule about putting “a” before words that start with consonants and “an” in front of words that start with vowels but as it turns out, it’s actually more complicated than that. For example, here's a question from a student: I'm wondering if it is actually...
Bi- is a prefix that means twice or two; semi- is a prefix meaning half. Do you receive a paycheck on the fifteenth and thirtieth of each month? Would you say you are paid bi-monthly or semimonthly?If a magazine is published every two weeks, it is a biweekly or a bimonthly issue? Well, the...
A proper noun is a distinct (not general) name for a distinct person, place, or thing. When writing in English, proper nouns are capitalized all the time, no matter where you happen to see them in a sentence. Because they supply nouns with a distinct name, they will often...
Writers confront many potential issues when they start writing out a thought. It can feel deceptively easy to begin a sentence, but many variables can complicate things. One of the most persistent complications is starting a line of thought with a conjunction, like but, so, and, or, or yet. Many...
One frequent error that writers make involves homophones, or different words that sound the same when spoken. Anyone who has ever had to choose the correct option between poor, pour, and pore can surely relate. Another homophone quandary involves the words callous and callus. History of Both Words Choosing the wrong word...
Sometimes apart vs. a part can be confusing, especially to non-native speakers of English. Let's break this down.  Apart is more commonly used as an adverb. It indicates a separation between things. A part on the other hand means "a section of a whole," or in a theatre setting, "the role of an...
The English language contains many homophones that can be confusing for both native and non-native speakers. While speakers typically move right past homophones, many writers are left unsure of which word to use. One example of a confusing set of homophones is "passed" and "past." Although these words sound...
One of our readers was confused by the use of enamored by rather than enamored of (British enamoured). As they explained, the only usage of "enamored" that sounds correct to them is the phrase "enamored of," which can be found in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Me thought I was enamoured of an Asse." By or...
Awhile is an adverb. It means “for a period of time.” A while is a noun phrase. It means “a period of time.” In 2001, American band Staind released a song called “It’s Been Awhile” as a single from their album Break the Cycle. Even today, it's still one of the band's...
Wether is a word that often slips past spell check. This is thanks to the fact that it's easily confused with two homonyms, whether and weather. It's easy to miss the single letter that separates these words as you're typing along! And unless you happen to be a farmer, you probably didn't know...