Word Choice

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
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In this video we are going to be tackling word choice errors, also known as diction errors. You will see quite a few of these on the test, and like idiom questions there is no hard and fast rules you can study to make sure you are picking the right words. But there are a lot of pairs of commonly confused words that you'll see again and again on the test, and these you can study to pick up more of these word choice errors.

And we're gonna go through a few of them in this video. Now the test often likes to make sure that you are not relying too much on your ear and actually know the difference between some commonly confused words, or between words that sound alike, or phrases that sound alike. Some of which are nouns, and some of which are verbs. So here's a few examples.

So allude, and elude. Now elude spelled this way with a a, is a verb, it means to refer to something. So the picture alluded to the War of 1812. Elude is also a verb, and it means to deceive, to get away from. So, the robber eluded the cops who were hot on his trail. Coarse, coarse, means something that's rough, like sandpaper.

That's a noun. And course is also a noun but it refers to a path, to a root, so a running course for example. Now precede spelled this way, precede, means something that comes before. And proceed. That is a verb, a verb that means to come before.

Now, proceed is also a verb and it means to go forward. So, I proceeded down the course set for the race. Okay, so also, important to notice, phrases such as,would of, and, could of, are never correct. The only reason that they sound correct is because they sound like the contractions, would've, and could've.

This also applies to things like should've. O-F is never correct, it should be would have or could have. But it's not always an issue of words that sound alike. There are other pairs of words that do similar things that the test will also quiz you on, such as between and among. So if something is between something, so I am a little kid between my two older siblings.

I am between them, here I am sitting in the middle. If I'm among a group of siblings, like I've got ten of them, I'm just kinda hanging out in the middle. Fewer versus less. Okay so, fewer we use when we are talking about things that we can count. So, I have fewer classes than my friend, Sue, who takes eight, and I only take four.

If we use less, we're talking about things that are not countable, so there's less water in the Atlantic Ocean than the Pacific Ocean. Farther and further are also commonly confused. Farther refers to distance and further refers to and more vague things. So I ran farther than my brother, but I have gotten further in my studies of philosophy than my sister.

And if and whether, these are two words that a lot of students confuse. So whether is when we have choices. So I don't know whether I am going to the dance, or whether I'm going to the roller skating rink on Friday night. If has to do with hypothetical. So if it rains then the dance will be cancelled cuz it's outdoors, I don't know.

So hypotheticals for if and whether is when we are dealing with choices. All right, so let's talk about a few more. Lay verses lie. Okay, so lay is referring to other objects. So, if we lay a book on the table. Or, lay the pillows on the bed.

Lie is when we're talking about ourselves ourselves or an object lying down itself, or maybe an animal or something that can actually lie down, so I lay the books on your bed, I lied down on the bed, or the dog lied down on the bed. Raise and rise, these are similar. Raise is when you are referring to other things. So I raised the platform up on the stage.

Rise has to do with yourself or when an object rises itself. So I will rise to stardom when I stand on that platform that I raised on the stage. Set versus sit also similar. So, we set a table. We set things on a table. But we sit down ourselves at the table.

So let's take a look at another example here, this one in a sentence. Noxious fumes from nearby factories have affected or effected, many families. Living along the river. Okay, so affect, this is a really common one for the test, so pay attention to it. Affect with an a is a verb that means to change something. And effect can be two things, it can be a noun, like a result, like cause and effect or it could also be a verb to bring about a change.

Now this may sound a lot like effect with an a but it's different. So we can say if people are effected by something we're talking about a, affected. People are affected, has effected many families so that's our answer here. Effected is when something brings about a change itself. So the law effected a revolution in how people thought about conservation. All right here is another common one for the test, complemented with an E or complimented with an I.

So, compliment with an I means praise, so I complimented her pretty dress. Complement with an e means to match well with, to go with something. So if his skill set or his partner's skill set is complementing Mike's skill set, it would be complement with an e. Here's another one. She did not care about the principals or principles of a just society.

So you may heard the phrase, the principal is your pal, this is how we spell,principal, like the principal of a high school. Principal with a P A L, means first or most important, so that's why that Principal at your school. He's the most important, or she's the most important, and she's also your pal, sometimes.

Principles with a P-L-E-S means ideals, or rules, or guidelines. So in this case, she's not caring about those ideals, or rules, or guidelines of a just society. All right. Let's take a look at a test example that gives us a couple more. A couple more commonly confused words, word choices errors.

As an eligible young woman, she could have enjoyed the lively social life of Charleston's planter society with its balls and dinner parties that would have lead eventually to a good marriage and an elegant home of her own. So remember what I said about would have and would of. Would of is never correct. It only sounds right because it sounds like that contraction would of.

So let's get rid of that right away. And now we're deciding between lead and led. Now lead is confusing because there's two ways to pronounce it. When you pronounce it like lead, that means the verb. So to be to lead a battle. To lead a charge into battle, or to lead a class, or lead a team to victory.

But we can also pronounce it lead. And lead is the metal, like the lead that is in your pencil. And so that's why it sounds okay here to say would have lead eventually to a good marriage because it sounds like that, but it's actually not correct. We are looking for the past tense of lead, which is led. It would have led to a good marriage.

That's a little confusing, because lead here is the present and led is the past. And we need past tense in this sentence, but because there's also that alternate pronunciation and alternate meaning of lead, which is pronounced lead, that makes it tricky. So we need would have led, l-e-d, that past tense. Our answer here would be C.

So I hope you have enjoyed these commonly confused words and make sure that you are on the lookout for word-choice errors on the test.

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