Hi again, Friday Follies followers! As promised, here is Part Two featuring Perplexing Pairs of words. Can you figure out when to use which?
Breath (rhymes with “death”) is a noun, as in He couldn’t catch his breath.
Breathe (rhymes with “seethe” – the “th” sound of “then”) is the verb, as in He couldn’t breathe under water (since he’s not a fish).
Swath (rhymes with “moth”) is a noun meaning piece or area, as in They bought a large swath of land.
Swathe (rhymes with either “bathe” or the “froth” part of “frothed”) is a verb meaning to wrap or enfold, as in She swathed the baby in blankets to keep him warm.
Rein (rhymes with “rain”) can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it means the strap you hold to keep a horse under control; usually used in the plural, as in She held the reins tightly as it was her first time on a horse. As a verb, it’s usually used with “in” as: He had to rein in his horse to slow him down. Rein is also often used metaphorically, as in He gave his employees free rein on the project: they could do whatever they liked at their own pace.
Reign (rhymes with “rain”) can also be a noun or a verb. As a noun it means a rule, as in Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has been very long. As a verb: She has reigned for over 60 years. Note that it is never correct to say “free reign.” The phrase is “free rein” as described in the paragraph above.
Phase/faze – this pair has been previously described but bears repeating. So the lazy Grammar Cop will do a nifty copy/paste for you here: The word phase is usually a noun meaning a stage, such as a stage of existence or readiness, as in: phases of the moon. It can also be a verb as in: The 10-inch pizza size was phased out since no one was ordering it. But when you want to express the notion of deterrence, you must use the verb, faze. So: The extra-large pizza didn’t faze him; i.e., he wasn’t scared off by it.
Choose (rhymes with “booze”) is a verb used in the present tense as in: I cannot choose between the blue top or the red.
Chose (rhymes with “doze”) is the same verb as “choose” but it is the past tense of it, as in: I chose the blue top when I awoke.
Loose (rhymes with “goose”) is an adjective meaning “not tight” as in: The bolt was loose and had to be tightened. Also: loose change in one’s pocket. Loose is NEVER a verb. (The verb is actually “to loosen,” as in She loosened the bolt.)
Lose (rhymes with “booze”) is the verb, as in: I didn’t want to lose my keys and be locked out. I would lose my mind! (Note: the Grammar Cop nearly loses her mind every time she sees this wrong in Internet comments.)
And last but not least:
Ordinance (note this word has three syllables: or-di-nance) is a noun meaning a decree or rule, as in There was a municipal ordinance that said “no littering.”
Ordnance (note this word has only two syllables: ord-nance) is a noun meaning military equipment or weaponry, as in The platoon was running low on ordnance; hopefully the enemy wouldn’t show up anytime soon!
Whew! (Or as my stickler friend John would say, phew!) This is a lot to take in, I know. But study hard, people, as the Grammar Cop will grill you next week!
Okay, not really. But now you know you can always turn to Friday Follies #94 to help set you straight!