This is the second in a series of three articles about confusing word pairs. To read the first article, which contains even more commonly confused words, click here. To read the third article, click here.
1. CONTINUOUS vs. CONTINUAL
The word continuous means unbroken, so that something that occurs continuously occurs with no breaks. The word continually describes something that occurs repeatedly over a period of time.
~At the end of the semester my phone rings continually, as students try to exercise some sort of damage control over the disaster that they fear their grades are likely to be.
~It rained continuously for the first three days of our vacation.
2. SENSUOUS vs. SENSUAL
The word sensual refers to a preoccupation with gratifying the senses or appetite. The word sensuous refers merely to those objects that can be perceived by the senses.
~Sheri Huttner was famous on Themestream for her sensual nature, and for the poetry that she wrote in celebration of it.
~The sensuous quality of a poem's language is hard to recognize if the poem is not read out loud.
3. LOSE vs. LOOSE
People who get these two words right sometimes have trouble with chose and choose, and vice versa.
The word lose is pronounced looze , whereas loose is pronounced loose.
~If you let your dog run loose, you could lose him.
4. CHOSE vs. CHOOSE
The word choose is pronounced chooze, whereas chose is pronounced choze.
~They told me I had to choose a major, so I chose English.
5. EMIGRATE vs. IMMIGRATE
He who emigrates also immigrates. As he leaves his country of origin, he emigrates from his homeland, in order to immigrate to another country. Leaving his old country, he is an emigrant, but arriving in his new country, he is an immigrant.
6. PRINCIPAL vs. PRINCIPLE
A principle is a basic or fundamental idea. The word principle is always used as a noun.
~Would you violate your principles for money?
The word principal can be either a noun or an adjective. As a noun, it refers to a person who is the chief or main operator or most important person in a hierarchy, like the principal of a school. Just remember that the principal is your "pal." (That's a mnemonic device, by the way.)
As an adjective, it indicates that the noun it modifies is the most important thing in its class.
~She was the principal actress in the troupe.
Another Mnemonic Device: Remember that the "A" in principal can stand for "adjective."
7. ALTAR vs. ALTER
The word altar refers to the sacred shrine or place of worship. The word alter means to change.
~The bride and groom exchanged vows before the altar.
~They promised never to alter their love for each other.
Mnemonic Device: Remember that they must go to the altAr first in order to promise not to alter their feelings for each other. Since "A" is the first letter in the alphabet, use it to remember that the altar comes first in the marriage--alteration usually comes after they have been married awhile.