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December 18, 2015

Diction is the choice of words. In English, there are many confusing pairs of words. Some words have similar meanings, but cannot be used interchangeably, that is, a choice must be made according to the situation. The following are some popular pairs of confusable words.



  • Lie/Lay


Lie cannot take an object. Lie tells what a person or thing does for himself or by itself. The principal forms of lie are


     Lie (simple present tense form)


  • John lies on his bed for a few minutes after lunch every day.


     Lay (simple past tense form)


Sunita lay on the sofa all yesterday afternoon.


Lain (past participle form)


  • The watch had lain unnoticed for several days before I found it yesterday.


       Lying (present participle form)


  • A man was lying injured on the street after the accident


Lay must have an object. ‘Lay’ tells what a person or thing does for someone or something else. The principal forms of lay are


lay (simple present tense form)

  • You should lay the tiles in the hall very evenly.




     laid (simple past tense form)



  • This hen laid two eggs



     laid (past participle form)


  • That hen has laid six eggs this week.



     laying (present participle)


  • The workers are laying the carpet now in the hall.




  • Hanged/Hung


Hanged and hung are both correct past participle forms of the verb hang. But hanged refers to executions (capital punishment) of persons.


  • The murderer was hanged to death.


Hung refers to things


  • The picture was hung over the fireplace.


Advice                                    (Noun) The teacher gave advice to the students.

Advise                                     (Verb) The doctor advised me to take nutritious food.



Adapt                                       (make suitable) Novels are adapted for the stage.

Adopt                                       (take a child as one’s own)   He adopted a son.



Allusion                                               (Suggestion) The allusion that I am stingy is a mistake.

Illusion                                     (false notion) I do not have illusions about his ability.



Amiable                                   (pleasant and good-tempered) Radha is quite an amiable person.

Amicable                                  The dispute is not serious; an amicable settlement is possible.



Apposite                                              (Relevant) His speech was apposite to the occasion.

Opposite                                             (contrary) Heavy is the opposite of light.



Beside                                                 (by the side of, close) His mother sat beside him.

Besides                                                (in addition to) Is anyone else coming besides you?



Childish                                    (silly) I don’t like his childish behaviour.

Childlike                                    (innocent) Gandhiji always put on a childlike smile on his lips.



Continual                                  (very frequent) He had continual arguments with his wife

Continuous                               (going on without a break) There was continuous rain yesterday



Historic                                     (famous or important in history) Our freedom struggle is historic as leaders made great sacrifices.

Historical                                  (pertaining to history) Our professor does historical research.



Verbal                                       (relating to speech) Man alone can do verbal communication.

Verbose                                   (wordy) Many writers use a verbose style in their works.



Prophecy                                  (Prediction turned out) Noun: His prophecy about an earthquake proved false.

Prophesy                                             (to predict) Verb: He prophesied the end of the earth.