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WOC 511 Using the Right Word

Teacher Tips and Answers


WOC 511

Page 511


Using the Right Word

511.1 a, an

A is used before words that begin with a consonant sound; an is used before words that begin with a vowel sound.

a heap, a historian, a cat, an idol, an elephant, an honor

511.2 accept, except

The verb accept means “to receive”; the preposition except means “other than.”

Azad graciously accepted the trophy. (verb)

All the team members except Zach were there. (preposition)

511.3 affect, effect

Affect is always a verb; it means “to influence.” Effect can be a verb, but it is most often used as a noun that means “the result.”

How does climate change affect us?

What are the effects of climate change?

511.4 allowed, aloud

The verb allowed means “permitted” or “let happen”; aloud is an adverb that means “in a normal voice.”

We weren’t allowed to read aloud in study hall.

511.5 allusion, illusion

An allusion is a brief reference or mention of a famous person, place, thing, or idea. An illusion is a false impression or idea.

Mrs. Dexter made an allusion to the Flat Earth Society.

She believes the 1969 moon landing was a staged illusion.

511.6 a lot

A lot is not one word, but two; it is a general descriptive phrase (meaning “plenty”) that should be avoided in formal writing.

511.7 already, all ready

Already is an adverb that tells when. All ready is a phrase meaning “completely ready.”

Aunt Zoe is all ready to purchase an all-electric car.

She’s already planning how to spend the gas money she will save.

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Page 512

512.1 altogether, all together

Altogether is an adverb meaning “completely.” All together is used to describe people or things that are gathered in one place at one time.

The snow finally stopped altogether.

Dad was happy to have his children all together for Friday night supper.

512.2 among, between

Among is used when speaking of more than two persons or things. Between is used when speaking of only two.

The three friends talked among themselves as they tried to pick a favorite between Marvel and DC.

512.3 amount, number

The noun number is used for persons or things you can actually count. The noun amount is used for things you cannot count but can measure according to their whole effect.

In most classes, the number of A’s and B’s received is directly proportional to the amount of effort put forth by students.

512.4 annual, biannual, semiannual, biennial, perennial

An annual event happens once every year.

A biannual (or semiannual) event happens twice a year.

A biennial event happens every two years.

A perennial event happens year after year.

School Daze

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Page 513

513.1 ant, aunt

Aunt is a relative. Ant is an insect.

My favorite aunt is an entomologist, a scientist who studies ants and other insects.

513.2 ascent, assent

Ascent is the act of rising or moving upward; assent is agreement.

The ascent of Everest looked treacherous.

Two climbers assented to remain at base camp.

513.3 bare, bear

The adjective bare means “naked.” A bear is a large animal with shaggy hair.

The old bear rug was warm beneath our bare feet.

The verb bear means “to put up with” or “to carry.”

Angelo could not bear another evening of reality TV.

513.4 base, bass

Base is the foundation or the lower part of something, and bass (pronounced the same way) is a deep sound or tone.

At the base of the cliff, we heard our instructor’s calm bass voice.

Bass (rhyming with mass) is a fish.

We came back to camp with a bass and a walleye to clean.

513.5 beat, beet

The verb beat means “to strike or to defeat”; a beet is a root vegetable.

Emil beat the eggs while Jackie chopped up beet greens.

513.6 berth, birth

Berth is a space or compartment. Birth means “bearing young.”

From our berth on the train, we saw prairie life. A buffalo had just given birth to an albino calf.

513.7 beside, besides

Beside means “by the side of.” Besides means “in addition to.”

Besides a flashlight, Kedar keeps his cell phone beside his bed.

513.8 billed, build

Billed means either “to be given a bill” or “to have a beak.” The verb build means “to construct.”

Long-billed hummingbirds drink nectar and build tiny nests.

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Page 514

514.1 board, bored

Board can mean “a piece of wood” or “a group that runs an organization.” Bored means “weary or tired of something.”

We installed a pine-board floor.

The board members were bored by the long speech.

514.2 brake, break

A brake is a device used to stop a vehicle. Break means “to split, crack, or destroy.”

I hope my brakes never break.

514.3 bring, take

Use bring when the action is moving toward the speaker; use take when the action is moving away from the speaker.

Take this blue blanket back to the store; bring me a pink one.

514.4 by, buy, bye

By is a preposition meaning “near or past.” Buy is a verb meaning “to purchase.”

The friends waited by the food cart but did not buy anything.

A bye is an automatic advancement to the next tournament round.

Our soccer team received a bye because of our winning record.

Bye is also short for “good-bye.”

514.5 can, may

Can means “able to” while may means “permitted to.”

Can I eat this pizza?” means “Do you think I’m able to eat it?”

May I eat this pizza?” means “Do I have your permission to eat it?”

514.6 cannon, canon

A cannon is a big gun; a canon is a rule or law.

514.7 canvas, canvass

Canvas is a heavy cloth; canvass means “to go out and ask people for votes or opinions.”

514.8 capital, capitol

Capital can be a noun referring to a city or to money, or it can be an adjective meaning “excellent or important.” Capitol refers to a building.

The capital of Wisconsin is Madison. Its capitol is an impressive domed building.

Refurbishing the old theater is a capital (excellent) idea. Do we have capital (money) for the project?

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Page 515

515.1 cell, sell

Cell means “a small room” or “a small unit of life that makes up all plants and animals.” Sell is a verb meaning “to give up for a price.”

515.2 cent, sent, scent

Cent is a coin; sent is the past tense of the verb “send”; scent is an odor or a smell.

The scent of fresh flowers sent Alex into a sneezing fit.

Pennies now cost nearly two cents each to manufacture.

515.3 chord, cord

A chord is the sound of three or more musical tones played at the same time. A cord is a string or rope.

The band struck a chord just as the mayor pulled the cord to unveil the new memorial statue.

515.4 chose, choose

Chose (chōz) is the past tense of the verb choose (chooz).

Selena chose to discontinue her current cell-phone plan and will choose a new plan instead.

515.5 coarse, course

Coarse means “rough or crude.” Course means “a path or direction taken” or “a class or series of studies.”

The coarse terrain was littered with boulders.

Our geography course has a unit about natural resources.

515.6 complement, compliment

Complement means “to complete or go with.” A compliment is an expression of admiration or praise.

To say that the flavors in this meal complement each other is a compliment to the chef.

515.7 counsel, council

When used as a noun, counsel means “advice”; when used as a verb, counsel means “to advise.” Council refers to a group that advises.

The student council wants our school to “go green,” but they need counsel about how to get started.

515.8 creak, creek

A creak is a squeaking sound; a creek is a stream.

Grandma used lard to silence the awful creak in the door hinge.

Oak Creek rose to flood stage after the spring rains.

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Page 516

516.1 cymbal, symbol

A cymbal is a plate-like metal instrument. A symbol is one thing that represents another thing or idea.

Trumpets blared, cymbals clashed, and the colorful flag, a symbol of our country, waved above us.

516.2 dear, deer

Dear means “loved or valued” and is also used as an interjection. Deer are woodland animals.

“Oh, dear. They’re serving venison (deer meat) tonight,” whispered my vegan friend.

516.3 desert, dessert

A desert is a barren wilderness. Dessert is a food served at the end of a meal.

On our desert hike, we ate prickly pear fruit for dessert.

(The verb desert means “to abandon”; the noun desert, pronounced like the verb, means “a deserved reward or punishment.”)

516.4 die, dye

Die (dying) means “to stop living.” Dye (dyeing) is used to change the color of something.

516.5 faint, feign, feint

Faint means “to be feeble, without strength.” Feign is a verb that means “to pretend or make up.” Feint is a noun that means “pretending in order to divert attention.”

Tobias felt faint in the dentist chair but feigned being brave.

The bird’s injury was a feint to keep us from finding her nest.

516.6 farther, further

The adjective farther is used for a physical distance, and the adjective further is used to mean “additional.”

Nests on the farther shore were abandoned. Further research would reveal why.

516.7 fewer, less

Fewer refers to the number of units; less refers to bulk quantity.

Less rain means we will harvest fewer ears of corn.

516.8 fir, fur

Fir refers to a type of evergreen tree; fur is animal hair.

516.9 flair, flare

Flair means “a natural talent”; flare means “to light up quickly or burst out.”

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Page 517

517.1 for, fore, four

For is a preposition; it is also a conjunction meaning “because.” Fore means “in front,” and four is the number.

A suite of practices for saving the planet have come to the fore—sustainable living.

The four hikers needed a compass, for they were lost.

517.2 good, well

Good is an adjective; well is nearly always an adverb.

Damita looked good in the trials and ran well in the afternoon meet.

(The adjective good modifies Damita; and the adverb well modifies ran.)

When used in writing about health, well is an adjective.

Yesterday she wasn’t feeling well.

517.3 hare, hair

Hair is the growth covering the heads and bodies of animals and human beings; hare refers to a rabbit-like animal.

517.4 heal, heel

Heal means “to mend or restore to health.” Heel is the back part of a human foot.

The arrow pierced Achilles’ heel, and the wound would not heal.

517.5 hear, here

You hear with your ears. Here is the opposite of there and means “nearby.”

517.6 heard, herd

Heard is the past tense of the verb “hear”; herd is a group of animals.

The dog heard the shepherd’s whistle and moved to flank the herd.

School Daze

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Page 518

518.1 heir, air

Heir is a person who inherits something; air is the gas we breathe.

Will the next generation be heir to dangerously polluted air?

518.2 hole, whole

A hole is a cavity or hollow place. Whole means “entire or complete.”

The hole in the ozone layer is a serious problem requiring the attention of the whole world.

518.3 immigrate, emigrate

Immigrate means “to come into a new country or area.” Emigrate means “to go out of one country to live in another.”

Hser, a refugee from Myanmar, will emigrate from Thailand in 2025. He and his family hope to immigrate to the United States.

518.4 imply, infer

Imply means “to suggest indirectly”; infer means “to draw a conclusion from facts.”

The salesman did imply that the cream really moisturizes the skin. Having tried it, I infer that he exaggerated.

518.5 it’s, its

It’s is the contraction of “it is.” Its is the possessive form of “it.”

It’s an interesting idea—a robot repairing its own malfunction.

518.6 knew, new

Knew is the past tense of the verb “know.” New means “recent or modern.”

Melony knew she could not afford new shoes.

518.7 know, no

Know means “to understand.” No means “the opposite of yes.”

I know that going “carbon neutral” may help; but, no, I don’t think it’s the complete solution to our problem.

518.8 lay, lie

Lay means “to place.” (Lay is a transitive verb; that means it needs a direct object to complete its meaning.) Lie means “to recline.” (Lie is an intransitive verb and needs no other word to complete its meaning.)

Our dog will lay the newspaper at your feet, wait for her treat, and then go lie on the couch.

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Page 519

519.1 lead, led

Lead (lēd) is a verb meaning “to guide.” The past tense of the verb is led. Lead (lĕd) is also a noun referring to the metal.

Mr. Thielen has led the campaign to get lead out of pipes in the city.

519.2 learn, teach

Learn means “to get information”; teach means “to give information.”

What I learn today, I will teach tomorrow.

519.3 leave, let

Leave means “to go away or to allow something to remain behind.” Let means “to permit.”

The principal let the students leave school early.

519.4 like, as

Like is a preposition meaning “similar to”; as is a conjunction meaning “to the same degree” or “while.” Like usually introduces a phrase; as usually introduces a clause.

As the music played, the children marched like toy soldiers.

519.5 loose, lose, loss

Loose (lüs) means “free or untied”; lose (lüz) means “to misplace or fail to win”; loss means “something lost.”

Loose-fitting clothes are comfy.

Last week’s loss was awful; now it looks like we will lose again.

519.6 made, maid

Made is the past tense of “make,” which means “to create.” A maid is a female servant; it also describes an unmarried girl.

The maid asked if our beds needed to be made.

519.7 mail, male

Mail refers to letters or packages handled by the postal service. Male refers to the masculine gender.

519.8 main, mane

Main is an adjective that means “principal or most important.” Mane is a noun and refers to the long hair growing on the head or neck of an animal like a horse or a lion.

519.9 meat, meet

Meat is food or flesh; meet means “to come upon or encounter.”

The committee will meet today.

They will decide what kind of meat to serve at the banquet.

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Page 520

520.1 metal, meddle, medal, mettle

Metal is an element like iron or gold. Meddle means “to interfere or take interest in.” Medal is an award. Mettle, a noun, refers to quality of character.

Isaac Newton did meddle in alchemy, a medieval science that tried to turn base metals into gold.

The soldier’s bravery proved her mettle and earned her the Congressional Medal of Honor.

520.2 miner, minor

A miner digs in the ground for valuable ore. A minor is a person who is not legally an adult. A minor problem is one of no great importance.

Selling alcohol to minors is a major offense, not a minor one.

520.3 moral, morale

Moral relates to what is right or wrong. Morale refers to a person’s attitude or mental condition.

It is often unpopular to make the moral choice.

The town’s morale was low in the aftermath of the storm.

520.4 morning, mourning

Morning refers to the first part of the day before noon; mourning means “showing sorrow.”

Don’t waste time mourning lost opportunities. Instead, get up each morning and look for new ones.

520.5 oar, or, ore

An oar is a paddle used in rowing or steering a boat. Or is a conjunction indicating choice. Ore refers to a mineral made up of several different kinds of material, as in iron ore.

520.6 pain, pane

Pain is the feeling of being hurt. Pane is a section or part of something, as in a framed section of glass in a window or door.

Abdul is in great pain from the glass that fell from the window pane.

520.7 pair, pare, pear

A pair is a couple (two); pare is a verb meaning “to peel”; pear is the fruit.

Amara took the pair of pears into the kitchen so she could pare them without making a mess.

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Page 521

521.1 past, passed

Passed is always a verb. Past can be used as a noun, as an adjective, or as a preposition.

I passed the science test! (verb)

The past is interesting to historians. (noun)

Studying past events can help solve present problems. (adjective)

521.2 peace, piece

Peace means “harmony or freedom from war.” Piece is a part or fragment of something.

Peace gave way to the children arguing over a piece of cake.

521.3 personal, personnel

Personal means “private.” Personnel are people working at a job.

521.4 plain, plane

Plain means “an area of land that is flat or level”; it also means “clearly seen or clearly understood” or “not fancy.”

The plain truth is that we ought to preserve our nation’s plains.

The adjective plane means “flat, level, and even,” the noun means “a tool for smoothing wood,” and the verb means “to make smooth.”

Wally will plane the rough pine floor and then paint it.

521.5 pore, pour, poor

A pore is a tiny opening. Pour means “to cause a constant flow or stream.” Poor means “needy.”

We saw many poor children.

Pour the milk, Maggie.

Plants transpire and humans perspire though their pores.

521.6 principal, principle

As an adjective, principal means “primary.” As a noun, it can mean “a school administrator” or “a sum of money.” Principle means “idea or doctrine.”

On weeknights my principal activity is studying.

Our principal values the students’ opinions.

The amount of money borrowed is called the principal of the loan.

Principles of honesty and hard work will help you in life.

521.7 quiet, quit, quite

Quiet is the opposite of “noisy.” Quit means “to stop.” Quite means “completely or entirely.”

The assembly grew quiet as the speaker urged, “We can’t quit now. We’re quite close to solving this problem.”

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Page 522

522.1 raise, rays, raze

Raise is a verb meaning “to lift or elevate.” Rays are thin lines or beams, as in rays of sunlight. Raze is a verb that means “to tear down completely.”

To raise the bar means “to reach for a higher standard.”

A laser focuses rays of electromagnetic radiation.

We’d rather renovate the old theater than raze it.

522.2 red, read

Red is a color; read (rĕd) is the past tense of the verb read (rēd), which means “to understand written words and symbols.”

522.3 right, write, rite

Right means “correct or proper”; it also means “anything to which a person has a legal claim,” as in the right to vote. Write means “to record in print.” Rite is a ritual or ceremonial act.

Don’t argue. Mom is always right.

Authors sometimes write about rites of passage.

522.4 scene, seen

Scene can mean “the location of a happening,” “a part of a movie,” or “a sight or spectacle.” Seen is a form of the verb “see.”

Luke has seen the movie and described some hilarious scenes.

522.5 seam, seem

Seam is a line formed by connecting two pieces of material. Seem means “to appear to exist.”

Margarete seems tired, and no wonder, after sewing seam after seam all day.

522.6 sew, so, sow

Sew is a verb meaning “to stitch”; so is a conjunction meaning “in order that.” The verb sow means “to plant.”

Hannah likes to sew her own clothes so she can express herself.

522.7 sight, cite, site

Sight means “the ability to see” or “something that is seen.” Cite means “to quote or refer to.” A site is a location or position, as in “job site.”

522.8 sit, set

Sit means “to put the body in a seated position.” Set means “to place.”

Just sit down, Dad. I’ll set the table.

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Page 523

523.1 sole, soul

Sole means “only one”; sole also refers to the bottom surface of a foot or shoe. Soul refers to the spiritual part of a person.

The monk’s sole purpose was caring for the dying.

“The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.” —an Indian chief

523.2 some, sum

Some means “an unknown number or part.” Sum means “an amount.”

Some students excel at math.

A few coins—a meager sum—lay in his palm.

523.3 stationary, stationery

Stationary means “not movable”; stationery is the paper and envelopes used to write letters.

523.4 steal, steel

Steal means “to take something without permission”; steel is a metal.

Early iron makers would steal recipes for producing steel.

523.5 than, then

Than is used in a comparison; then tells when.

And then he said that being a true friend was more important than being cool.

523.6 their, there, they’re

Their is a possessive pronoun. There is an adverb that tells where. They’re is the contraction for “they are.”

Our laptops are over there. They’re the very latest and their best feature is the ultraslim screen.

523.7 threw, through

Threw is the past tense of “throw.” Through means “passing from one side of something to the other.”

The ball sliced through the strike zone.

Through his long career in baseball, Nolan Ryan threw mostly fastballs.

523.8 to, too, two

To is a preposition that means “in the direction of.” (To also forms an infinitive.) Too is an adverb meaning “also,” “excessively,” or “very.” Two is the number.

Grandparents who are not too familiar with computers are invited to the technology fair to learn about the school’s IT department.

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Page 524

524.1 vain, vane, vein

Vain means “worthless” or “conceited.” A vane is a flat piece of material that shows the direction of the wind. A vein is a blood vessel or a mineral deposit.

The prospector made a final vain attempt to unearth a vein of silver.

Our weather vane kept spinning in the wild storm.

524.2 vary, very

Vary is a verb that means “to change.”

The weather can vary from snow to sleet to sunshine in a single day.

Very is an adjective that means “in the fullest sense” or “complete.”

Garon’s story was the very opposite of what we expected.

Very is also an adverb that means “extremely.”

The story was very chilling.

524.3 waist, waste

Waist is the part of the body just above the hips. The verb waste means “to wear away, decay” or “to use carelessly”; the noun waste refers to material that is unused or useless.

Please don’t waste the water, and put all recyclable waste in the right bins.

524.4 wait, weight

Wait means “to stay somewhere expecting something.” Weight is the measure of heaviness.

524.5 ware, wear, where

Ware means “a product that is sold”; wear means “to have on or to carry on one’s body”; where asks the question “in what place or in what situation?”

Where can we buy that software?

Wear my coat if you’re cold.

524.6 way, weigh

Way means “path or route.” Weigh means “to measure weight.”

Come this way to the scale so the nurse can weigh you.

524.7 weather, whether

Weather refers to the condition of the atmosphere. Whether refers to a possibility.

The weather will determine whether the rocket is launched.

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Page 525

525.1 week, weak

A week is a period of seven days; weak means “not strong.”

525.2 which, witch

Which is a pronoun used to refer to or point out something. A witch is a woman believed to have supernatural powers.

Which of the witches in The Wizard of Oz would you like to play?

525.3 who, which, that

Who is used to refer to people. Which refers to animals and nonliving things but never to people. That can refer to people, animals, or things.

The storm drains that dump untreated wastewater into our lake, which is already polluted, are a problem. Our mayor, who is an environmentalist, has a solution.

525.4 who, whom

Who is used as the subject in a sentence; whom is used as the object of a preposition or as a direct object.

Who ordered this pizza?

The pizza was ordered by whom?

Note: To test for who/whom, arrange the parts of the clause in a subject-verb-object order. (Who works as the subject, whom as the object.)

525.5 who’s, whose

Who’s is the contraction for “who is.” Whose is a possessive pronoun, one that shows ownership.

Who’s the first person in history whose writing made him or her a billionaire?

525.6 wood, would

Wood is the material that trees are made of; would is a form of the verb “will.”

Many earth-conscious consumers would not buy products made of wood from old-growth forests.

525.7 your, you’re

Your is a possessive pronoun, one that shows ownership. You’re is the contraction for “you are.”

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