Grammar Rules: How to Sound Smarter

Think you know how to talk real good? Test yourself: These grammar rules will surprise even the experts.

By Paul Silverman and Sarah Wharton from Reader's Digest Magazine


You might say: exuberant
You might mean: exorbitant
Why: While both mean “extreme,” the terms are often confused in relation to money. Exuberant refers to unrestrained enthusiasm or flamboyance; exorbitant means “exceeding an appropriate amount.” Another way to look at it: Exuberant use of a credit card leads to an exorbitant bill down the road.

You might say: come
You might mean: go
Why: Come refers to movement toward the speaker (Henri says, “Come to Paris!”); go denotes the opposite (After you’ve stayed two months, Henri says, “You should go”). But idiomatic use sometimes clouds this rule, as “I’ll come over” is more comprehensible than “I’ll go over.”

You might say: jealous
You might mean: envious
Why: Great grammarian Bryan Garner reminds us that “jealousy connotes feelings of resentment toward another, particularly in matters relating to an intimate relationship,” while “envy refers to covetousness of another’s advantages, possessions, or abilities.” So your ex is jealous of your new boyfriend but envious of your ability to use these two terms correctly.

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