Common Errors – Page 2

Five Common Usage Mistakes to Avoid – Page 2 of 4

#1) Use vs. Utilize

Many, many people try to ramp up their diction by using utilize to make themselves sound smarter than using a simple, boring verb like use. This is ridiculous. Just say use, and you won’t sound pretentious. (NB – In some uncommon cases, utilize is not synonymous with use and is the better verb: since utilize means “to put to good use,” a person who cannot utilize a cell phone isn’t downloading amazing ringtones or using its GPS system – he only knows how to make phone calls. He uses his phone, but doesn’t utilize it).

#2) Recurring vs. Reoccurring

I notice a lot of people use reoccur when they mean recur. Here’s the difference: When something takes place for a second time, it reoccurs, but when something appears chronically, it recurs. If you have recurring nightmares, then you frequently have bad dreams when you fall asleep. A reoccurring nightmare is like a ‘repeat’ – it is a nightmare that has happened once before, following the exact same script. And in books, themes and symbols recur, they don’t reoccur.

#3) Farther vs. Further

Farther is a measure of distance – I can throw the ball farther than a four-year-old can. Further measures degree. If I throw the ball for five straight hours, and the four-year-old quits after one, I am throwing the ball further into the night. A smoother example might be: “I hope to continue further in my education so I can travel farther from home.”

#4) Raise vs. Rise

When acting as verbs, here is the difference: Raise is a transitive verb, which means that it must take a direct object. One can raise one’s hand, raise an argument or raise the roof, but one cannot simply raise. Rise, on the other hand, is intransitive, meaning it cannot take a direct object. The sun rises. Hopes rise. Bread rises in the oven. Even easier: Raise means “to elevate something” while rise means “to elevate”. When you raise your hands in class, I can see them rise.

#5) Myself

Keep your ears open for this one and be astonished at how often you hear it. Pronouns can be problematic. For instance, should it be, “He loaned the book to Sarah and I” or “He loaned the book to Sarah and me”? People who don’t want to bother learning the rule tend to say “to Sarah and myself”, and I suspect that they actually think that it sounds smarter or more British. It doesn’t. It sounds lazy. Learn your pronouns. And even if you don’t, NEVER use “myself” in a sentence that does not also have the pronoun “I” in it elsewhere (The same goes for all pronouns that end in -self or –selves, not just for “I”). “I myself fixed the clock” is OK. “Craig and myself fixed the clock together” is not.

If you want to know when to say “and I” or “and me,” (etc) think about how the sentence would sound without the other person. You wouldn’t say He lent the book to I, you would say He lent the book to me. So, the correct phrase is: He lent the book to Sarah and me.



Write two sentences that use “farther” correctly


Write two sentences that use “further” correctly


Write a sentence that correctly uses “myself”


Give a new example that shows the difference between “recur” and “reoccur”


Other than the ones already on the sheet, give three common phrases or situation where you would use the verb “to raise” 


Now give three common phrases or situations that use “to rise”

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