Loading....
Coupon Accepted Successfully!

 

Idiom & Usage

Idioms are figures of speech that convey messages which are peculiar to a language. If taken literally, the message would not have the same meaning as the speaker intended.

Accept/Except
 
Accept means to receive something that is offered or agree to something. Except means leave out or exclude something.
 
The European powers would have accepted Iran’s offer if it had included on-site and unrestricted inspections.
 
All the world’s industrial powers signed the treaty to reduce global warming except the United States.
 
 

Account for
 
When explaining something, the correct idiom is account for.
 
We had to account for all the missing money.
 
When receiving blame or credit, the correct idiom is account to:
 
You will have to account to the state for your crimes.
 
 

Adapted to/for/from
 
Adapted to means “naturally suited for.” Adapted for means “created to be suited for.” Adapted from means “changed to be suited for.”
 
The polar bear is adapted to the subzero temperatures.

For any “New Order” to be successful, it must be adapted for the continually changing world power structure.

Lucas’ latest release is adapted from the 1950 B-movie “Attack of the Amazons.”
 
 

Affect/Effect
 
Affect, usually a verb, means to influence something or the act upon something. Effect, usually a noun, means the result.
 
The anti-venom had the desired effect, and the boy fully recovered.
 
Here, effect is a noun meaning result.
 
The negotiators were not affected by the large, violent street protests.
 
Here, affected is a verb meaning to influence.
 
 

All ready vs. Already
 
All ready means “everything is ready.”
 
Already means “earlier.”
 
 

Alot vs. A lot
 
Alot is nonstandard; a lot is the correct form.
 
 

Among/Between
 
Between should be used when referring to two things, and among should be used when referring to more than two things.
 
The young lady must choose between two suitors.
 
The fault is spread evenly among the three defendants.
 
 

As/Like
 
A frequent mistake is to use like when as is needed. If you are connecting a clause to its subject, use as. If you merely need a preposition to introduce a noun, use like.
 
It appears as though the peace plan has failed.
(As is introducing the clause "the peace plan has failed.")
 
It looks like rain.
(Like is introducing the noun "rain.")
 
 

As to
 
This construction is usually imprecise or vacuous. In almost all cases, you should replace it with a more precise preposition or delete it.
 
(Poor)     The prosecuting attorney left little doubt as to the defendant’s motive for the murder.
 
(Better)  The prosecuting attorney left little doubt about the defendant’s motive for the murder.
 
(Poor)     The question as to whether it’s better to let the bill die in committee or be voted down on the floor of the house is purely political.
 
(Better)  The question whether it’s better to let the bill die in committee or be voted down on the floor of the house is purely political.
 
 

Being that vs. Since
 
Being that is nonstandard and should be replaced by since.
 
(Faulty)  Being that darkness was fast approaching, we had to abandon the search.
 
(Better)  Since darkness was fast approaching, we had to abandon the search.
 
 

Beside/Besides
 
Adding an s to beside completely changes its meaning: Beside means “next to.” Besides means “in addition.”
 
We sat beside (next to) the host.
 
Besides (in addition), money was not even an issue in the contract negotiations.
 
 

Center on vs. Center around
 
Center around is colloquial. It should not be used in formal writing.

(Faulty)  The dispute centers around the effects of undocumented workers.
 
(Correct) The dispute centers on the effects of undocumented workers.
 
 

Conform to (not with)
 
Stewart’s writing does not conform to standard literary conventions.
 
 

Consensus of opinion
 
Consensus of opinion is redundant: consensus means “general agreement.”
 
 

Correspond to/with
 
Correspond to means “in agreement with.”
The penalty does not correspond to the severity of the crime.
 
Correspond with means “to exchange letters.”
He corresponded with many of the top European leaders of his time.
 
 

Double negatives
 
(Faulty)  Scarcely nothing was learned during the seminar.
 
(Better)  Scarcely anything was learned during the seminar.
 
 

Doubt that vs. Doubt whether
 
Doubt whether is nonstandard.
 
(Faulty)  I doubt whether his new business will succeed.
 
(Correct) I doubt that his new business will succeed.
 
 

Farther/Further
 
Use farther when referring to distance, and use further when referring to degree.
 
They went no further (degree) than necking.
 
He threw the discs farther (distance) than the top seated competitor.
 
 

Fewer/Less
 
Use fewer when referring to a number of items. Use less when referring to a continuous quantity.
 
In the past, we had fewer options.
The impact was less than what was expected.
 
 

Identical with (not to)
 
This bid is identical with the one submitted by you.
 
 

In contrast to (not of)
 
In contrast to the conservative attitudes of her time, Mae West was quite provocative.
 
 

Independent of (not from)
 
The judiciary is independent of the other branches of government.
 
 

It's/Its
 
It's is a contraction of it is. Its is the possessive form of it. To check whether the apostrophe is needed, merely read the sentence replacing its or it's with it is. If the sentence reads well, then the apostrophe is needed; otherwise it's not.
 
It's [it is] too early to determine its [possession] cause.
 
 

Likely vs. Liable
 
Likely simply means something will probably occur. Liable means vulnerability to legal responsibility or to something unpleasant.
 
If we don’t pay the bill on time, we are liable to damage our credit with the company; and if we don’t pay it at all, we are liable to be sued.
 
A common mistake is use liable to mean likely:
 
(Faulty)  The top-rated team is liable to win the tournament.
(Correct) The top-rated team is likely to win the tournament.
 
 

Not only . . . but also
 
In this construction, but cannot be replaced with and.
 
(Faulty)  Peterson is not only the top salesman in the department and also the most proficient.
(Correct) Peterson is not only the top salesman in the department but also the most proficient.
 
 

On account of vs. Because
 
Because is always better than the circumlocution on account of.
 
(Poor)     On account of his poor behavior, he was expelled.
(Better)  Because he behaved poorly, he was expelled.
 
 

One another/Each other
 
Each other should be used when referring to two things, and one another should be used when referring to more than two things.
 
The members of the basketball team (more than two) congratulated one another on their victory.
 
The business partners (two) congratulated each other on their successful first year.
 
 

Plus vs. And
 
Do not use plus as a conjunction meaning and.
 
(Faulty) His contributions to this community are considerable, plus his character is beyond reproach.
 
(Correct) His contributions to this community are considerable, and his character is beyond reproach.
 
Note: Plus can be used to mean and as long as it is not being used as a conjunction.

 

(Acceptable) His generous financial contribution plus his donated time has made this project a success.

In this sentence, plus is being used as a preposition.

 

Note: The verb has is singular because an intervening prepositional phrase (plus his donated time) does not affect subject verb agreement.

 

 

Regard vs. Regards
 
Unless you are giving best wishes to someone, you should use regard.
 
(Faulty)  In regards to your letter, we would be interested in distributing your product.
(Correct) In regard to your letter, we would be interested in distributing your product.
 
 

Regardless vs. Irregardless
 
Regardless means “not withstanding.” Hence, the “ir” in irregardless is redundant. Regardless is the correct form.
 
 

Retroactive to (not from)
 
The correct idiom is retroactive to:
 
The tax increase is retroactive to February.
 
 

Speak to/with
 
To speak to someone is to tell them something.
 
We spoke to Jennings about the alleged embezzlement.
 
To speak with someone is to discuss something with them.

Steve spoke with his friend Dave for hours yesterday.
 
 

The reason is because
 
This structure is redundant. Equally common and doubly redundant is the structure the reason why is because.
 
(Poor)    The reason why I could not attend the party is because I had to work.
(Better)  I could not attend the party because I had to work.
 
 

Whether vs. As to whether
 
The circumlocution as to whether should be replaced by whether.
 
(Poor)   The United Nations has not decided as to whether to authorize a trade embargo.
(Better) The United Nations has not decided whether to authorize a trade embargo.
 
 

Whether vs. If
 
Whether introduces a choice; if introduces a condition. A common mistake is to use if to present a choice.
 
(Faulty)  He inquired if we had decided to keep the gift.
(Correct) He inquired whether we had decided to keep the gift.




Test Your Skills Now!
Take a Quiz now
Reviewer Name