Biannual and Biennial

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BIANNUAL means “twice a year,” or two times within a 365-day period. The prefix “bi-” means “two” and “annual” means “year.” If your HVAC company has a biannual maintenance plan, they’ll come out two times a year and check your heating and cooling system. Thus, you’ll receive that service twice within a calendar year. Likewise, […]

Immigrate and Emigrate

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Many people don’t know that IMMIGRATE is not the only word to describe the movement of a person between two countries. There is another word, EMIGRATE, that also describes the movement of a person between two countries. Yet they are not interchangeable, despite the fact that they sound very similar and they both discuss the […]

Buses or Busses?

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BUSES is the preferred plural of the word “bus” in modern English. It’s counterpart, “busses” is considered a secondary spelling, and has been such for at least a century. The word “bus” arose in the 1800s as an abbreviation of the word “omnibus” (“for all” in Latin). It was spelled both “bus’ and “buss” for […]

Discreet and Discrete

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DISCREET: an adjective, meaning “cautious, reserved, modest, or prudent, often in speech and behavior.” For instance, a “discreet” person is one who knows when not to speak about sensitive subjects.For instance, “The girl was discreet when she ate the cookies her grandmother gave her so her mother wouldn’t find out.” DISCRETE: an adjective, meaning “distinct, […]

Broke and Broken

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The use of the word “broke” as an adjective to describe something damaged or not working is very common. But it is incorrect! The reason has to do with how the word “broke” functions in different ways in a sentence. Let’s take a look. BROKE: in verb form, is the past tense of “break.” (I […]


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AWHILE is an adverb, meaning “briefly” or “for a time.” A WHILE is a noun phrase comprised of two words: “a” (the article) and “while” (the noun). The phrase means “a period of time.” For example, “The kids played awhile in the backyard.”For example “He ran for a while before he needed to take a […]


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FARTHER and FURTHER both mean “at a greater distance,” and they often are used interchangeably in this sense — but they are not quite the same. Let’s take a look: FARTHER typically refers to physical length or distance. It is the comparative form of the word “far” when referring to distance. FURTHER typically refers to […]


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WHO’S: a contraction of “who is” OR “who has.” WHOSE: a possessive of “who,” (i.e., to whom does this belong?) The apostrophe in WHO’S is the main difficulty for people. Most of the time, an apostrophe -s indicates possession, but in this particular case, it is merely functioning as a contraction. “Whose” is similar to […]


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PASSED is the past tense and past participle of the verb “to “pass.” It means to move on or ahead; proceed. It can function as both a transitive and intransitive verb. For example, “The car passed me in the left lane.”“I unknowingly passed by her in the crowd.” PAST has a several meanings, such as […]


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BESIDE and BESIDES often get confused. Both are prepositions, but they are used differently. Besides can also be used as an adverb, but beside cannot. Let’s take a look: BESIDE: a preposition used to determine the spatial relationship between two objects. It means “at the side of” or “next to.” For instance, “He sat beside […]

Uninterested and Disinterested

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Is there a difference? Uninterested and disinterested both sound similar because of their prefixes. UN- and DIS- have negative connotations, so it is not unusual to think that uninterested and disinterested are versions of “not interested.” Yet uninterested and disinterested have distinct definitions. Let’s take a look: UNINTERESTED: someone who has no interest in something; unenthusiastic, […]