The English language is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? That is not to say that it is always simple. In fact, even native speakers make mistakes now and then. Even professional writers have their Waterloo.
The good thing is that as long as we are open to correction and learning, we can only become better. Today’s grammar post is all about words that are often used interchangeably, often incorrectly. We already took a look at some word pairs that give people problems some time last year. Remember ingenuous and ingenious?
This time around, let us take a look at other word pairs. You might discover a thing or two!
Disinterested and Uninterested
These two words are often considered to be synonyms, but they are not. Here are their definitions, courtesy of Merriam-Webster.
DISINTERESTED: free from selfish motive or interest : unbiased (a disinterested decision)
UNINTERESTED: not interested : not having the mind or feelings engaged (the teacher decided to make a career change after having to teach yet another class of uninterested teens)
See the difference? The first one is all about being impartial, while the second refers to not caring about something.
It is good to delve a little deeper, however, and look at popular usage paired with the history of the words. Merriam-Webster gives a clear idea of how these two words may be interchanged, especially if you know what you are doing. I think that is the license that the great writers have!
In any case, if you are simply referring to an unbiased state, go for “disinterested”.
Farther and Further
I cannot count the number of times I have heard or seen these two words used interchangeably. My more outspoken friends have even called out people for doing so. Not that I am saying it’s correct to use one in lieu of the other, but calling out people on Facebook (or some other public venue) can result in a complicated mess. I agree with pointing out mistakes constructively, but I think it should be done tastefully. In any case, I digress.
“Farther” and “further” are very similar. However, the former refers to physical or measurable distance. The latter refers to metaphorical or abstract concepts. Take a look at the two examples below.
My feet are killing me. I cannot walk any farther.
I don’t want to argue. Let’s not discuss this any further.
Simple, isn’t it?
Envy and Jealousy
It’s the month of love, so I suppose that a short discussion of these two words is appropriate. The difference is slight. We use “envy” to refer to the feeling we experience when we long for what others possess or experience. You may have envy of someone else’s success. “Jealousy”, on the other hand, has a little more negative connotation, and is often used in relationships (though not exclusively). It is also used for situations wherein a person fears competition strongly, as in “jealous rivalries in the corporate scene”.
Image via Amanda
Envy = I want what you have
Jealousy = I don’t want you to have it