Did you know that ‘utilize’ DOES NOT mean ‘use’? And that to say something is ‘comprised of’ something is INCORRECT? Grammar Guru tackles six different word pairs that are similar but different! Brush up on these vocab words and phrases below and watch the accompanying video tutorial!
Joyful vs. Joyous
These words are quite similar, and can almost be used interchangeably. They both mean “causing or filled with happiness and delight.” Joyful is a slightly more common way to describe a person’s feelings of joy, while joyous is more commonly used to describe events and places.
EXAMPLE: What a joyful little baby you have!
EXAMPLE: The party was a joyous celebration.
Adventuresome vs. Adventurous
Adventurous is an adjective used to describe something or someone ready to accept challenges or adventures, usually with excitement. Adventuresome is a similar adjective but is usually attached to more intense notions or risk-seeking. If something or someone is adventuresome, they typically seek out excitement, are drawn to challenges, and take risks.
EXAMPLE: At just three, Ella is an adventurous eater.
EXAMPLE: My adventuresome son often scares me on the ski slopes.
Use vs. Utilize
Please — and I cannot stress this enough — refrain from using utilize when you mean use. This is one of those rampant errors that we make because we think it sounds sophisticated. Utilize has a very clear meaning, and it’s NOT interchangeable with use! Let’s start by looking at the definitions of each of these words in their verb forms.
Use means to consume something from a supply or take something to achieve a result. You know what use means; we use it all the time. Utilize suggests a new, profitable, or practical use for something. It means to use something in a way that is beyond its intended purpose.
EXAMPLE: We utilize old wine bottles to create centerpiece vases.
EXAMPLE: We use our hands to make pottery.
So only use utilize when you are indicating a “creative” use of something. If you’re looking for other smart-sounding ways to say use, think before saying utilize!
Entitled vs. Titled
I’ve definitely made this mistake. If you are talking about what something is named — like a book, TV show, or piece of art — do not use the word entitled, only titled.
INCORRECT: Her new book is entitled The Great Believers.
CORRECT: Her new book is titled The Great Believers.
As an adjective, entitled means “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of special treatment and privileges” (Oxford English Dictionary). It can also be a verb that means to give someone the legal right to something. So, stick to title for names of things.
Comprise vs. Composed
Oof. This is a tricky one. Comprise means “include,” “contain” or “to be composed of.” But comprise is often misused for compose (which means “to make up”). How many times have you heard someone say something like “the board is comprised of five CEOs”? That’s actually incorrect. It should be composed of — not comprised of.
INCORRECT: The tasting menu is comprised of eight courses.
CORRECT: The tasting menu is composed of eight courses.
Furthermore, when you’re using comprise make sure the whole thing comes first and the pieces come after.
INCORRECT: Eight courses comprise the tasting menu.
CORRECT: The tasting menu comprises eight courses.
Think about it like this: you’d never say “the b&b includes of six cute rooms,” so don’t say “the b&b is comprised of six cute rooms” — It MUST be “the b&b comprises six cute rooms” OR “The b&b is composed of six cute rooms.”
Addicting vs. Addictive
If you find yourself saying, “these cookies are so addicting” … it’s time to break the habit. You can keep eating the cookies, of course, but the word addicting is rampantly used when you really mean addictive. Addictive means “causing physiological dependence.” Addicting is a verb, not an adjective, and it’s not commonly used.
EXAMPLE: Nicotine is an addictive drug.
EXAMPLE: Overmedication is addicting people to drugs.
We are getting smarter every day, y’all! Don’t forget to email your grammar topics to [email protected]. See you next month!
For more grammar, spelling, and word usage tips, explore our Grammar Guru archives HERE!