Confusing Words Clarified: Group F; Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs, Synonyms, Polysemes, etc. +

(lists of "F" sections that are organized into what for some people are confusing groups of words)

Contraction Reaction

I hope I do not live to see
The death of the apostrophe.
For readers all will suffer fits
In disentangling its from it’s,
And they may also rave and rant,
Unable to tell cant from can’t;
Not to mention how they feel
When they mix up well and we’ll.
—Majorie Loper

If you have any problems understanding the pronunciation symbols, go to this Pronunciation Chart for clarifications.

few, phew
few (FYOO) (adjective)
Relating to a small amount or of a small number of something: Chris read not many, but just a few pages of the book before falling asleep.
phew (FYOO) (exclamation)
An expression of relief, fatigue, surprise, or disgust: Nancy exclaimed, "Phew! I thought we were going to miss this train!"

Phew! It's hot in here.

Phew! What's that odor?

Craig muttered, "Phew! Even though I had only a few pages to read to finish the book, it seemed to take me forever."

fewer, less, less
fewer (FYOO uhr) (adjective)
As a comparison, referring to a smaller number of people or things which can be counted, usually combined with the word "than": There were fewer people in the audience than Jesse had expected.

There are fewer fish in the stream this year than last year.

less (LES) (pronoun)
A smaller number or amount: Haley is trying to save more money, and spend less.
less (LES) (adjective)
1. Descriptive of a slighter amount of material in bulk, usually used with "than" in comparisons: There is less sugar in the coffee than yesterday.
2. A reference to abstract situations: It is obvious that there is less honor in business dealings these days; especially, with some banks.
3. Pertaining to matters involving degree and value of a smaller amount or quantity: There is much less purchasing power than in the past because there is less money available for people to use.

Although too many writers and speakers use these words incorrectly, everyone should realize that fewer should refer only to countable numbers or things or to units capable of being counted; as in "The less money there is available, the fewer hamburgers and potato drinks people can buy."

Few means not many; little means not much. Fewer means smaller in number; less means smaller in amount, as in "People have fewer legs than a centipede, but a centipede has less intelligence."

Possibly "a doubtful proposition" according to Willard Espy.

—The last two paragraphs were compiled from
Say It My Way by Willard R. Espy;
Doubleday & Company, Inc; Garden City, New York; 1980; page 192.

If you are still not convinced, then consider the following: Although colloquial English is often different, standard written English uses fewer with things that can be counted and less with things that cannot be counted; for example, fewer people, but less money. It is unacceptable to write less students or less players.

Also, don't write fewer than six weeks because the expression "six weeks" refers to a single period of time, and not a collection of six individual objects; therefore, the required wording is less than six weeks.

—Compiled from information located in
Mind the Gaffe by R.L. Trask; Penguin Books;
New York; 2001; page 126.

In times of economic restraint, there are fewer people investing less of their hard-earned wages when they go out for a coffee. George always asks for less sugar in his coffee than usual so he will gain fewer pounds.

fiancé, fiancée, finance, finance
fiancé (fee" ahn SAY, fee AHN say) (noun)
A man who is engaged to be married: The young lady said, "Let me introduce you to my fiancé."
fiancée (fee" ahn SAY, fee AHN say) (noun)
A woman who is engaged to be married: Bryan introduced his fiancée to his relatives.
finance (fuh NANS, FIGH nans") (noun)
The way in which money is used and handled: Chad will be taking a university course on personal finance so he can become a specialist in personal investments.
finance (fuh NANS, FIGH nans") (verb)
To buy something by borrowing funds that will be paid back over a period of time: Greta had to take on a loan so she could finance the purchase of a new car.

My fiancé, who works in the finance sector of the economy, introduced me to his family as his fiancée.

fibber, fiber
fibber (FIB uhr) (noun)
Someone who tells insignificant or childish lies or who makes an untrue statement about something minor or unimportant: Luis admitted that he was a fibber when he said he enjoyed the movie.
fiber (FIGH buhr) (noun)
1. Plant material that cannot be digested but which helps people to digest other food: It's important that people get enough fiber in their diets.
2. A thin thread of natural or artificial material that can be used to make cloth, paper, etc.: This organic fiber will allow the fabric to breathe and the daily gazette can be made from both cotton and wood fiber.

Fred was not a fibber when he told Leann that a diet high in fiber would be good for her. In fact, he wrote out the information on a piece of paper that was made of natural fiber.

fiddling, fiddling, piddling
fiddling (FID ling) (verb)
To move or to handle something with the hands or fingers in a nervous way: Willa was nervously fiddling with her pen as she was waiting for the test to start.
fiddling (FID ling) (adjective)
Concerning folk music, country music, etc., played on a violin: My friend, Norman, recently won first place in a fiddling competition.
piddling (PID ling) (adjective)
Descriptive of something inconsequential or petty: Eugene was unhappy about the piddling amount of money he was receiving for all the work he did last month.

Greta was fiddling around in the attic when she discovered the fiddle her uncle used to play.

She had fond memories of the fiddling concerts in the kitchen when she was growing up in Newfoundland; but now, many people think that kitchen concerts are of piddling consideration.

fiend, friend
fiend (FEEND) (noun)
1. An evil spirit, a demon, a devil, or a very evil or cruel person: From what Jane had read in the newspaper he seemed to be a murderous fiend.
2. Someone who is deeply dedicated to and involved with something; such as, a sport: I think Eliza is a real athletic fiend because she spends just about all of her time on the sports field.
friend (FREND) (noun)
A person whom you like and enjoy being with: Susan has always been a good friend of Abby by supporting her whenever she needs it.

In the small business, the people knew they had a friend in the senator who supported the tax relief that they needed if they were to survive the bad economic times.

The police said the fiend who was preying on youth in the park often met them by pretending to be their friend. In fact, the fiend was a fiend for skateboarding.

filing, filling
filing (FIGHL ing) (noun)
1. A small piece that is removed when something is smoothed or rubbed with a with a rough surfaced tool: When the iron chair was worked on, it was easy to see the results of the filing on the ground.
2. The act of giving an official form or document to someone in authority in order to begin a legal process: The filing for the income tax return was taken care of by the tax consultant.
3.The job, activity, or storing of documents in an organized and safe place: The secretary at the school does all the computer work and filing for the principal.
filling (FIL ing) (noun)
1. Material that is placed inside something to occupy empty space: Lara wanted to have a gold filling when she went to the dentist.
2.A food mixture that is put inside something to complete a recipe: The pie needs more apple filling or the crust will be more significant than the fruit.

After the dentist put a filling in Mike's tooth, she wrote up the report and gave it to the clerk for filing.

The clerk said he would complete the filing the following day because he was late filing his income tax forms, explaining that he had difficulty filling in the questionnaire.

fill, fill, nil
fill (FIL) (noun)
All that anyone wants or needs: When Steve had eaten and drunk his fill, he had all that he wanted.
fill (FIL) (verb)
1. To satiate, as with food and beverages: They had a tendency to fill up on sandwiches and soft drinks before going to football games.
2. To provide the things that are asked for in something; such as, an order: Victor went to the drugstore to fill his prescriptions.
nil (NIL) (noun)
Nothing; none at all, zero: The chances of them getting an increase in their salaries are nil.

When you fill in the questionnaire, be sure to mark as nil the question about the number of cats in your household. That should fill the appetite of the statisticians for trivia.

final, finale, finally, finely
final (FIGHN'l) (adjective)
Referring to the completion or end of something: Bianca was extremely glad when she passed the final exam.
finale (FIGHN'l ee) (noun)
The conclusion or last part; the end: Dale sang a magnificent song for the finale.
finally (fuh NAH lee) (adverb)
Pertaining to how the outcome or the result took place: After looking for an hour, Nelda finally found her keys.
finely (FIGHN lee) (adverb)
1. Referring to how something is produced with much care, usually into very small particles: The nuts for the cupcakes should be finely chopped.
2. Superior in quality: Ruth and Allen enjoyed the finely performed recital by the students at the music hall.

Selma and her friends attended a finely executed dance recital at the end of which the dancers performed, as their final number, the grand finale from a famous ballet before it was finally time for the curtain to come down.

find, fined
find (FIGHND) (verb)
1. To discover something or someone without planning or trying to: Susan was happy that she was able to find the money that she dropped on the sidewalk.
2. To get or to discover something or someone that a person is looking for: Sometimes it can take days to find a key that has been lost.
fined (FIGHND) (verb)
To require someone to pay a specified sum of money as a punishment: Jason was fined $100 for speeding within the city limits.

The prosecutor was determined to find the man guilty of speeding and the judge fined the man and suspended his driving license for two months.

fineness, finesse
fineness (FIGHN uhs) (noun)
1. Something which is superior in quality: Matilda had never before felt such fineness as this piece of silk fabric.
2. The proportion of pure gold or silver in an alloy: There is a high fineness of gold in this ring.
finesse (fi NES) (noun)
1. Skill, adroitness: Nelda handled the interview with the senator with finesse and cleverness.
2. Subtlety or tact in maneuvering; craftiness: Todd showed much shrewdness and finesse in dealing with the company executive.

The fineness of Leila's training was amply demonstrated by the finesse with which she managed the job interview after which she was offered a high-paying position in the law firm.

finish, Finnish
finish (FIN ish) (noun)
1. The last part of something: The competition had a very close or tight finish.
2. The final coating on a surface or the appearance produced by such a coating: The final finish on the table made it look like new!
Finnish (FIN ish) (adjective)
Of or relating to Finland, its people, or its language: The Finnish people are said to be very friendly.

Is it possible to have a Scandinavian ending or a Finish finish at the winter sports this year?

fir, fur
fir (FUR) (noun)
An evergreen tree having flat needles and erect cones: Jason plans to buy a fir for his Christmas tree.
fur (FUR) (noun)
The thick coat of soft hair covering the body of an animal; such as, a cat, a rabbit, a fox, a beaver, etc.: The fur of Haley's tabby will often crackle with electricity when she pets it during the winter.

When the fir is covered with fluffy snow, it looks like it is wearing a coat of white fur.

first lady, first lady
first lady (FURST LAY dee) (noun) or First Lady when it refers to the U.S. President's wife.
1. The wife or hostess of the chief executive of a country, state, or city: The U.S. President and the First Lady went to the reception together.
2. The foremost woman of a specified profession or art: Ladonna has the reputation of being the first lady of theater and dance in England.
first lady (FURST LAY dee) (noun)
The wife to whom someone was married before any subsequent wives: When a head of state who had wedded a fourth time was asked if his wife were the first lady, he responded by saying, "No, she's my fourth lady".

Ms. Brown was the first lady of the violin and often gave concerts hosted by the first lady of her government and attended by the First Lady, wife of the President of the United States.

fiscal, physical
fiscal (FIS kuhl) (adjective)
Of or relating to money and especially to the money a government, business, or organization earns, spends, and owes: Greg asked, "William, what is the fiscal situation now of the firm that you own?"
physical (FIZ i k'l) (adjective)
Relating to the body of a person instead of the mind: Dr. Snow is interested in a person's physical health, not his mental health.

Because of the fiscal restraints at this budget time, investment in programs for the physical well-being of people may not happen.

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