Common Errors – Page 2

Five Common Usage Mistakes to Avoid – Page 2 of 4

#1) Between vs. Among

There’s a simple version here that the SAT loves to ask about, and a more complicated reality. The simplification: Between gets used for two people or items, while among is for three or more. Put that in your pocket for the SATs. More accurate: regardless of the number of items in the sentence, use between when the items are distinct from one another (“She travelled between Rome, Athens, and Tunisia for her work”) and use among when the items that follow are imprecise, and act like a group (“He was among the protesters arrested”)

#2) Lose vs. Loose

This one is simply a phonetic mistake. People often use “loose” to mean the opposite of “to win” or “to obtain.” The mistake comes from the “oo” sound in lose. Maybe it helps to remember that lose has lost an O.

#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) Collective Nouns 

Here’s another Usual Suspect from the SATs. If you have a noun that looks like a singular noun, but it means a group of something – or a plural – (like team, jury, committee, group, band, or class), do you use a singular verb or a plural? If you are taking the SATs, always, always treat singular group nouns as singular nouns. So you would say “The committee is voting this afternoon,” and not “The committee are voting this afternoon.” The real rule is more complex. You wouldn’t say “The Red Sox is arriving in Baltimore,” for instance. So, in the less-common cases when you are considering the group as a collection of individuals (“The Rolling Stones are getting old” or “The jury are arguing in front of the judge”) they can take a plural verb. But the default is still to treat collective nouns as singular nouns. 


Write two sentences that use “farther” correctly

Write two sentences that use “further” correctly

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”

Write three sentences that correctly use collective nouns as singular nouns, and at least one of them has to use a noun not found in the examples above.

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