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

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

English can be very confusing; for example, a house burns up as it burns down, a form is being filled in as it is being filled out, and an alarm goes off by going on. How about when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible?

As you examine the groups of words in this unit, you will find many examples of confusions; sometimes, just one or two letters in a word can change its meaning completely. There are also times when two different words get confused because their meanings apply to things that are very similar.

Efforts have been made to help you grasp the meanings of various words that may be confusing so you can utilize them with greater accuracy in your communication.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome by writing to: E-mail Contact (just click it for an e-mail form) or by typing, [email protected], as the address in your e-mail heading.

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

serge, surge, surge
serge (SURJ) (noun)
A sturdy fabric that is woven with a diagonal stripe in it: "My mother made me a serge skirt to go with my new coat."
surge (SURJ) (verb)
1. To rise and fall in a sudden and excessive manner: "After the storm, we were afraid that the waves would surge against the shore, causing flooding."
  2. To move like advancing waves: "We could see the fans surge forward to see the movie star."
surge (SURJ) (noun)
1. Characterized by an unexpected and sudden fluctuation or rise and fall: "There was an unexpected surge in the electrical power last night."
2. A sudden spontaneous or planned increase in an activity: "President Barack Obama is set to formally authorize the dispatch of additional U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan, the beginning stage of a military surge that will likely add many more military personnel over the next year or more, doubling the U.S. occupation forces."

There seems to be a sudden fashion surge for blue serge suits this year.

sever, severe
sever (SEV uhr) (verb)
To cut, to separate or to divide: "After an argument, my brother decided to sever all communication with his former boss."
severe (suh VEER) (adjective)
1. Strict, stern, or rigorous in judgment: "He was his own most severe critic when talking about his new book."
2. Maintaining a scrupulous standard for behavior: "I thought that her expectations of the children’s behavior were severe considering their ages."
3. Harsh, difficult, causing discomfort: "A winter in Northern Canada can be severe if anyone is not prepared for it."
4. Requiring great effort: "The war is a severe test of his leadership ability."

She thought it was a rather severe decision on the part of her great aunt to sever all connections with her former colleagues when she retired.

sew, so, sow, sow
sew (SOH) (verb)
To make, repair, or to fasten by stitching, as with a needle and thread or a sewing machine: "Her mother is planning to sew another dress and to sew on some new buttons, too."
so (SOH) (adverb)
1. To a degree that is suggested or stated: "She had never felt so happy."

"Her mother told her that she shouldn't eat so fast."

2. In the same way: "He was always a hard worker and so was his mother."
sow (SOW) (verb)
1. To scatter (seed) over the ground for growing: "Every year in the spring, we sow corn."
2. To cause fear, doubt, etc. that can affect a large number of people: "Threats of war can sow fear in the region."
sow (SOU) (noun)
An adult female hog or even adult females of several other animals; such as, the bear: "The sow just gave birth to eight piglets who are now busy nursing."

So, a crow can scatter wheat seeds, but can a sow sow corn or can she even sew a dress? See how easy it is to confuse these words?

Remarked the tailor feeling low, "Business is bad, or just sew, sew."

sewage, sewerage
sewage (SOO ij) (noun)
The refuse, liquid, and solid waste, carried off in sewers or drains: "It's important that municipalities make sure that the sewage is properly carried away from homes and other buildings in the systems of pipes which have been set up for that purpose."
sewerage (SOO uhr ij) (noun)
Either the removal of sewage or the system of removal: "The city official explained that sewerage refers to the removal of waste materials by means of the sewer system."

The new sewerage system was designed to remove the sewage more efficiently than the previous sewerage system.

sewer, sewer, soar, sower, suer
sewer (SOO uhr) (noun)
1. An underground conduit or pipe the purpose of which is to carry off drainage and excrement: "My street was dug up all summer long because the city was installing new sewer pipes in my neighborhood."
2. Formerly, in England, an attendant who supervised the serving of meals and the seating of guests: "The Medieval romance described the sewer who was attached to the household and was in charge of making sure the food was properly prepared."
sewer (SOH uhr) (noun)
1. An individual who uses a needle and thread or a machine that is equipped to fasten material together with stitches: "The new immigrant to the city was hired as a sewer in the local coat factory."
2. Someone who makes, mends, or fastens material with a needle and thread: "Her mother was known as a talented and a practical sewer because she could do so many things with her needles and various threads."
soar (SOHR) (verb)
1. To fly or hover in the air, typically at a great height: "I watched my kite soar out of sight above the trees."
2. To glide or to fly without an engine and not lose altitude: "The pilot was able to soar over the plains in the glider which he had built."
3. To rise to a majestic or exalted professional or public level: "With the help of his secretary, his career began to soar in the company."
4. To increase very quickly in amount or price: "Housing costs started to soar to greater amounts then suddenly dropped causing what has been termed to be a housing bubble."
sower (SOH uhr) (noun)
1. An individual who casts or scatters seed to grow a crop: "For a job during the spring vacation, my cousin worked on a farm as a sower, scattering seeds for the summer wheat."
2. Anyone who is responsible for introducing something into a special or selected environment: "The scientist was the sower of a new breed of wheat in the farm region."
3. A person who tries to cause fear, doubt, etc. which will affect many people: "The leader of the opposition was a deliberate sower of discord among the voters in the recent elections."
suer (SOO uhr) (noun)
An individual who uses a legal process to get a court of law to force another person, company, or organization to make a financial payment or to take certain actions: "The judge asked that the suer stand up and explain his case."

Someone told me that he saw a hand reaching up from a manhole in the street and it was showing a threaded needle.

It's the only time he had ever seen a sewer coming out of a sewer.

The suer in the court action involved a sower who worked in the wrong field as a young farmer and who had hoped to use part of his farm area as a place to soar his glider. Unfortunately, there was also a sewer pipe crossing the field that hampered his objectives.

Later, the young farmer approached a neighbor who was well known as a clever sewer to make a wind sock for his gliding enterprise.

sext, sexting, sexted; sexting; text, texting, texted
sext, sexting, sexted (SEKST, SEKST ing, SEKST'd) (verbs)
1. A portmanteau (combination) of sex and texting which is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones: "The mother of a twelve-year old girl was caught sexting a nude photo of herself to her boy friend."
2. Sending sexually explicit text messages via electronic means between individuals which may include pictures: "Both parents of the boy and girl were very upset when they found out that their children had sexted to each other."

"In other parts of the country, teens have been arrested for sexting on the internet."

sexting (SEKST ing) (noun)
The slang term for the use of a cell phone or other similar electronic device to distribute pictures or video of sexually explicit images: "Sexting also refers to text messages of an obviously sexual-content."

Come on people, don't you know that your sexted messages on the internet can be seen by other people?

Every time you sext images and messages, you have actually sexted them for the world to see.

text, texting, texted (TEKST, TEKST ing, TEKST'd) (verbs)
To use an electronic device to send a message: "Her friend texted her when she arrived in town."

"A six-month trial of mobile calling, texting, and other data services were made available to their customers."

Hey, friend, I've been texting you for several days and you haven't texted me back. Would you please text me soon so I'll know that you are all right.

sextant, sexton
sextant (SEK stuhnt) (noun)
A navigational instrument incorporating a telescope and an angular scale that is used to work out latitude and longitude of astronomical objects as viewed through the telescope and its angular distance above the horizon is read off the scale: "The captains on the old whaling fleets used a sextant to set the courses for their ships."
sexton (SEK stuhn) (noun)
An employee or officer of a church who is responsible for the care and upkeep of church property and sometimes for ringing bells and digging graves: "One of his friends has a part time job as the sexton at the local church."

The sexton at their church had an interesting career before working at the church. He was previously working on a tall ship and used a sextant to guide the vessel during its voyages.

shall, will
shall (SHAL) (verb)
1. This element is now mostly restricted to two situations, for interrogative sentences requesting permission or agreement: "Shall we go for a walk now?"

"Shall I open the present now?"

2. Shall is used in legal documents, in which it indicates a duty or responsibility: "This tenant shall obtain the landlord's permission before he makes any changes to the property."
will (WIL) (verb)
With minor exceptions, will has become the universal word to express futurity; regardless, of whether the subject is in the first, second, or third person: "My friend and I will be arriving in town early this evening and he will be driving the car."

Grammar rules formerly had the following formats which now are generally no longer utilized!

Simple Futurity

First person: I shall (s); we shall (pl)
Second person: you will (s); you will (pl)
Third person: he, she, it will (s); they will (pl)
Determination, Promise, or Command

First person: I will (s); we will (pl)
Second person: you shall (s); you shall (pl)
Third person: he, she, it shall (s); they shall (pl)

"The artificial distinction between shall and will to designate futurity has neither a basis in historical grammar nor the sound sanction of universal usage."

-Norman Lewis, Better English; 1961; page 270.
shear, shears, sheer
shear (SHIR) (verb)
To cut, trim, or to clip something (hair, wool, bushes, etc.) from something: "Today is the day he will shear the sheep."

"Tomorrow he will shear the lawn and the bushes."

shears (SHIR) (noun)
A cutting instrument similar to scissors but typically larger and heavier that is usually referred to in the plural: "He bought a new pair of shears so he could trim the hedge."
sheer (SHIR) (adjective)
1. Something that is thin and almost transparent: "Her light summer coat was made of the sheer cotton that she bought at the store."
2. Straight up and down, perpendicular: "They decided they could not climb the sheer cliff today, but they are determined to try it tomorrow."
  3. To act with focused determination: "She won the scholarship through her sheer determination to excel in all her examinations."

It takes sheer concentration to learn to shear sheep so the sheerer doesn't nick them.

sheath, sheathe
sheath (SHEETH) (noun)
1. A cover or case for something: "In her craft class, she made a leather sheath for her cousin’s hunting knife."
2. Any of a variety of coverings or supporting structures: "The woman's umbrella has a protective sheath which she uses when she puts it back into her shoulder bag."
sheathe (SHEETH) (verb)
1. To cover something with a protective layer: "The builders will sheathe the walls of the house with plastic to make it windproof before putting up the brick siding."
2. To put something; such as, a sword, into a into a protective case or covering: "The swordsman was about to sheathe his sword."

The roofers were using a plastic sheath material to sheathe the hole in the roof until after the heavy rains.

shelf, shelve
shelf (SHELF) (noun)
1. Something which is fastened to a wall for the storage of books or other items: "The handy man will put a shelf in the closet for my shoe boxes."
2. A ledge of rocks usually partially submerged in water: "The waterfowl stood on the shelf in the bay while they were hunting for small fish."
3. A flat area of rock, sand, ground, etc.; especially underwater: "The swimmers had to be careful of the shelf of sand covered rock and shallow water when they were diving off shore."
shelve (SHELV) (verb)
1. To place something on a flat surface structure that is fastened to a wall: "Once the shelf is installed, I will shelve all of my books in alphabetical order."
2. To put aside or to remove from active work or service: "I had to shelve my idea of sailing around the world because I lost my job."

"When she was called to the office, the engineer thought her boss was going to shelve her."

His after school job was to shelve the architect's drawings on the wide shelf that was made especially for the large pieces of paper.

shoe, shoo
shoe (SHOO) (noun)
1. An item, typically constructed of leather, that is designed to be worn on and to protect each foot of a person: "I took my left shoe in to the repair shop to replace the worn heel."
2. A metal rim that is designed to protect the foot of a horse or similar animal: "The blacksmith made a new shoe for the mule while the farmer waited."
3. A part of the brake system used to slow the motion of something: "The auto mechanic told my friend that she needed a new brake shoe for each of the back wheels, if she wanted to use her car safely."
shoo (SHOO) (verb)
To tell (an animal or person) to leave: "When the woman saw the strange cat in her yard, she yelled, Shoo! Get out of here! and it ran through the bushes."

"We tried to help the woman, but her response was to shoo us away."

She lost her left shoe while she was running across the yard trying to shoo the goose out of the garden.

shone, shown
shone (SHOHN) (verb)
1. To have taken a fancy or liking to something: "The man has shone an interest in water color painting since he retired from teaching."
2. To be fair or brilliant; for example, the weather: "The sun has shone most of today which everyone has enjoyed after three days of heavy rain."
shown (SHOHN) (verb)
1. To have caused or permitted someone or something to be seen: "The mother has shown her fancy embroidery at the local craft fair."
2. To have pointed out or exhibited: "The real estate agent has shown the neighbor's house to three couples who are interested in buying it."

His reaction was that the sun finally had shone on the day that he sold his car. He figured that he had shown it to at least a dozen people before someone finally decided to buy it.

shot, shot, shot
shot (SHAHT) (noun)
1. An act of having fired a gun or some other weapon: "The hunter fired a shot at the deer with his rifle, but fortunately for the animal, he missed it."
2. Someone who shoots a weapon; such as, a bow and arrow, a gun, etc.: "The woman is a better shot with the handgun than her brother."
3. A critical or insulting remark: "He took a shot at his opponent more than once during the debate."

"As his parting shot, the senator said that the other candidate simply didn't have any idea what the needs of his state are."

4. An attempt to do something successfully: "The football team lost the game, but there is no denying that the players gave it their best shot."
5. An informal expression referring to a photograph: "The mother got a good snap shot of the children while they were making their snowman."

"You can be sure that the police will make more than one mug shot of the person who is accused of robbing the bank."

6. An act of putting something; such as, medicine or vaccine, into the body with a needle: "The man decided to go get his flu shot this winter."
shot (SHAHT) (verb)
1. Having discharged or fired a weapon; such as, a gun or a bow with an arrow: "Are you sure that when you shot your gun at the target you actually hit it?"

"She shot an arrow at an apple on the fence and hit it right in the center."

2. Gone, moved, or passed quickly and suddenly in a particular direction or to a particular place: "The musical album shot straight to the top of the charts."
shot (SHAHT) (adjective)
In a bad condition or situation: "This job is so stressful that his nerves are shot to pieces."

"After sliding off the icy road into the ditch, her car was so shot that it won't pay to fix it!"

"The family had to stop and rest because they were simply too shot to drive any more that evening."

His nerves are shot because while he was trying to learn to shoot a cross bow, it turned out to be a lousy shot.

In fact, his friend took a shot of the man trying to get a good shot at the target and twittered it to all of their friends. He gave it his best shot and so having shot a bull's eye once, he retired from the sport.

shudder, shudder, shutter, shutter
shudder (SHUHD uhr) (verb)
To tremble or to shiver in a convulsive manner: "It was so cold that she started to shudder and could not stop until she went inside to get warm."
shudder (SHUHD uhr) (noun)
The act of trembling or shivering in an uncontrollable manner: "The man felt a shudder go up his spine when he thought of what could have happened if he had missed his plane."
shutter (SHUHT uhr) (noun)
1. A moveable cover that can be closed over the outside of a window or a door: "He decided to paint the shutter on the porch a bright green."
2. Part of a camera that opens and shuts to allow light to expose the film: "The shutter on her camera got stuck and so she had to get it repaired."
shutter (SHUHT uhr) (verb)
To move the hinged parallel slats of a cover in a door or over windows to admit air and light or for keeping rain from pouring against the windows: "He wanted to shutter the windows before the rain started."

"She wanted to shutter the windows to keep the house cooler by diminishing the glare of the sun during the summer heat."

I shudder to think what damage might have happened if the shutter on the window had not been closed.

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