Sometimes it is not even a spelling difference that causes a word to change meaning. Take, by way of example, the confusion created by “everyday” and its look-alike cousin “every day.” The difference between every day and everyday is not so much what is there but rather what is not there: the space! Such seeming insignificance conceals an important difference that is all too often made by both native and non-native students. As it is, it is hard to know who is bothered more by this pair: the students making the mistake or the English teachers who have to correct it!
Fortunately, we are pleased to report that, despite its reputation for being one of the most confusing parts of English grammar, this is something you can clear up on your own in no time. After all, one word or two, though they are pronounced the same way (although with a small pause between the two words in every day), they do mean quite different things and every appear in different parts of the sentence!
What Does Everyday Mean?
Everyday (one word) is an adjective that means “routine, common, ordinary.” As an adjective, it appears before the noun it describes (in much the same way as the adjective “fast” comes before the noun “man” in the sentence “the fast man was hard to catch.”)
What Does Every Day Mean?
Every day (two words), meanwhile, is a combination of the adjective “every” and the noun “day“ and as a result has the same meaning as “each day.” Thus it usually appears at the end of a sentence to add emphasis. For example, “we study English every day” tells us not only who studies (we) but how often (every [each] day).
Every Day versus Everyday
Finally, to keep it straight, consider our example sentence: “it is an everyday occurrence that it occurs every day.” You can translate this as “it is a common occurrence that occurs each day” and if you do you will be well on your way to using them correctly (especially if you practice every day)!
Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.
As many native and non-native speakers alike can attest, the letter “e” lies at the heart of many commonly confused words in English. Worse still, as the single most common letter in the language, there is no shortage of examples available to prove this! Fortunately for you, we here at ESL Directory have what it takes to help you keep things straight. Consider the following examples:
Elicit / Illicit
Elicit and illicit are often confused for one another but, in truth, it does not take much to tell them apart. Along with the obvious spelling differences come differences in part of speech, meaning, and even pronunciation. Elicit, with the e, is a verb meaning “to draw out” and that “e” at the front is pronounced the same way as the “e” in “egg.” By contrast, illicit is an adjective used to describe illegal and forbidden things whose first syllable sounds exactly like it looks – “ill” as in sickness. To help remember the difference, try this memory trick: “The educated executives elicited a lot of questions about their illegal immigration.”
Eminent / Imminent
Unlike elicit and illicit, eminent and imminent do sound the same (the first syllable of both is pronounced the same way as the first syllable in emergency) and both are adjectives but from here they go their separate ways. That is because eminent means “prominent, famous” while imminent means “soon to occur” or “about to happen.” A handy way to remember this is to remember this key phrase: “The arrival of the eminent scientist was imminent.”*
* Added bonus to help you remember: all of the words that begin with vowels in this sentence (arrival, eminent, imminent) are in order.
Envelop / Envelope
This pair is a great example of how much of a problem “e” can be! After all, not only to envelop and envelope both begin with the that troublemaking letter but it is only that letter which differentiates them. Unfortunately, in this case a single letter changes everything. While envelop is a verb meaning “to surround,” envelope is the name (noun) given to containers for letters and bills. While they should be pretty easy to tell apart, to say them correctly try to make the last part of envelop rhyme with “hop” and the last part of envelope rhyme with “hope.”
Is that not “e”nough of that? Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.
To say that English is simply confusing may be a lesson in understatement but, rest assured, ours is not the first generation to struggle with its complexities. Fortunately for you, as you begin to make history of your own, we’re here to help you clear up some other common mistakes in English:
While both “choose” and “chose” are verbs, they are both pronounced and used quite differently. Choose, which rhymes with bruise, is a present tense verb that means to select. For example, we could say “they choose to study hard every night in order to improve their English.” Chose, by contrast, rhymes with nose, and is the past tense form of choose. Having lost the extra o, it is used only to describe completed actions as in the sentence “he chose not to come to work yesterday.”
“Loose,” “lose,” and “loss” are similarly confusing but far easier to sort out. Loose is an adjective that rhymes with juice and used to describe things that are free from captivity or not tight. It works in both the sentences “the dog got loose because the door was open” and “his pants were loose because he lost weight.” By contrast, lose, which rhymes with shoes, is a verb meaning to misplace or be defeated. In this way it works in both of the sentences “I always lose my umbrella” and “they lose every soccer game.” Loss is tied to this second meaning of lose. That is because it is a noun with used to identify the defeat – the thing – itself. It rhymes with “moss” and is used in sentences like “the home team suffered a terrible loss in the quarter-final match.” As you can see, because it is “a terrible loss” loss must be a thing because it is counted by “a” and modified by “terrible”. Were it a verb, like lose, we would say “they lose terribly each time they play.”
Fortunately for you, with these helpful tips, you can “choose not to lose” any day! Learn more about how to learn English.