“I feel impelled to tell you”; frequently confused words

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On a recent family holiday, my sister totally confused us all. She was adamant that we’d been using the word compel wrongly and that we actually needed to use impel. I completely forgot about it until I just read it in an Enid Blyton book with my daughter, “he felt impelled to go and look at it” where she had used it in exactly the same way that I would have used compelled. Turns out, after a bit of research, that my big sister was right.

So then I realised that I do this with a lot of words. All the time. I’m one of those people that comes out with a word I like the sound of but actually means the exact opposite of what I want to say (I look them up afterwards just to make sure). I don’t know if people don’t notice or if they’re just too kind to correct me…

Some of the confusions that I’ve seen in recent blog posts don’t seem to be too tricky (inspiring vs. inspirational, seem to be interchangeable), cost-effective vs. cost-efficient is really just about usage in language, with cost-effective being more common. Others are just more complicated, or is that complex? (Reading the blog posts on complex vs. complicated systems really did my head in. Why do these sorts of things trickle out of my brain much quicker than the entire words to some random 80s pop tune?) My real problem though, is that I can never hone in on – wait, is that home on in? – the difference between lay, laid, lie and lain. That’s my absolute downfall.

But maybe there’s a little hope. Whilst I couldn’t tell you the difference between some of these words, I do sometimes use them correctly (I got 100% in the quiz here but couldn’t tell you why). Maybe it’s just like those 80s songs after all; the words might just come to you naturally. And some, as I feel impelled to tell you, you might just be using incorrectly. Ha.


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