Free Grammar Help

Free Grammar HelpWordsMisused Words


Below is a list of words that are commonly misspelled or otherwise abused. Some of them appear on other grammar pages on this site. Use the Question form to submit more.


Common Mistake

fare or fair

fare (noun) is something you pay to ride a bus, or something you eat.

fare (verb) is to get along. How did you fare at the examination?

fair (noun) is a place where things are sold or on display, or where you have rides and other amusements.

fair (adjective) is when things are balanced and equitable, such as a fair deal.

feat or feet

A feat is an great accomplishment. "Congratulations, on climbing Mount Everest. That was quite a feat!"

Feet are what you walk on. "I froze my feet while climbing Mount Everest."

first of all

Actually, this can be used but I prefer the shorter "first." The common mistake associated with the word is to follow it by the erroneous "second of all" and even by the egregiously horrible "third of all." Think about it. Something can come first before all (first of all) but not second of all because it's really "second of all but one" and finally "third of all but the first two." Why not forty seventh of all but the first forty six?

firstly vs first

I prefer "first" to "firstly." But other grammarians don't care. So take your pick, but be consistent.

"First, he told me how to write; second, he told me what to write."

"Firstly, he told me how to write; secondly, he told me what to write."

further or farther

Farther relates to distance. I drove 1000 miles today; I cannot drive any farther.

Further relates to concepts. I developed some good ideas in my thesis, but my professor says I must go further.

garnishee, garnish

I got my comeuppance researching this one. Oxford says both can be used as a verb which means to legally seize money. For years I have been embarassing myself by stating that I would welcome having my salary 'garnished' because it would then have some extra decoration. In actual fact, with or without the extra 'ee' it's something to be avoided.

grisly or grizzly

grisly means "causing horror or disgust"; grizzly is a type of bear native to the Pacific Northwest. If you get eaten by a grizzly bear, it may be a grisly death.

honour, honor

It's just like 'colour'; Brit vs. Yank. My degree, however, granted by Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, Canada, states "Honors English," when it should state "Honours English."