Choice of Correct Words

  1. Lastly—at last        

Do not confuse lastly and at last. Use ‘lastly’ when you are talking about several things in order and you want to show that you have reached the final thing on the list:

And lastly I would like to congratulate Dipesh for winning an award.

Use at last when you want to show that something has happened after a long time or after a lot of waiting:

She tried repeatedly until at last she succeeded.

When at last the rescuers found them, two people had already died.


  1. Last month—the last month

Last month is the month just before this one. If I am speaking in September, last month was August. ‘The’ makes a big difference.

I bought this house last month.

The last month is the period of thirty days up to the moment of speaking. On September 12th 2014, the last month is the period from August 13th to September 12th.

I have been ill for the last month. I feel terrible.

  1. Lawful—legitimate

Legal is the ordinary word for actions allowed by the law, and the general word for things connected with the law.

Lawful suggests that the law has moral or religious force:

Why don’t you value your lawful king?

Legitimate means ‘accepted by law, custom or common belief’:

He claimed that bombing the town was a legitimate act of war.

  1. Lead—guide

To lead is to show the way and explain things:

You lead and we will follow.

To guide is to go with someone somewhere who needs help, in order to show the way and explain things.

He guided the tourists round the castle.


  1. Lean—Slim

When describing people with very little fat on their bodies, thin is the most usual word. Many careful writers think slim is desirable. The word ‘slim’ is often used to describe women who have controlled their weight by diet or exercise:

Sonakshi has a beautifully slim figure.

She is slim.

Lean is usually used to describe a man who is thin and muscular.

At 50, my father is lean and fit and still very attractive.

  1. Like—as

If you play football or any games like a professional, you play as well as a professional.

He plays cricket like a professional.

If you play cricket as a professional, you are a professional.

He plays cricket as a professional.

  1. Loose—lose

The word ‘loose’ means ‘free, large, the opposite of tight.’ The word ‘lose’ means to not be able to find someone or something.

Wrong:         Anju doesn’t want to loose her purse.

Right:            Anju doesn’t want to lose her purse.

Right:            Subhash is wearing a loose sweater. Maybe, he borrowed the sweater from his friend who is fatter than him.

  1. Made of—made from

We usually say that something is made of a particular material.

Most things seem to be made of plastic these days.

All our furniture is made of wood.

When a material is changed into a completely different form to make something, we often use make from.

Paper is made from wood. When we talk about the process of manufacture, we can also use out of.

Tuleshwor made all the window-frames out of oak; it took a long time.

  1. Majority—plurality                                                  

          The term ‘majority’ means at least one more than half. The word ‘plurality’ means the highest number within a greater number. For example, if 100 members of a club vote in an election which has three candidates, one of them must receive at least 51 votes to have a majority. If none of the candidates receives 51 votes, none has a majority. In such a situation, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes is said to have a ‘plurality’. Thus, if A receives 46 votes, B receives 42, and C receives 12, A has received the plurality.

Wrong:         Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai was elected by the majority of the Nepalese voters. (This sentence is wrong because Dr Bhattarai did not receive at least 51 per cent of the popular vote.)

Right:            Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai was elected by a plurality vote.

  1. Meddle—interfere

When you meddle in a situation, you try to influence people or change things that are not your responsibility or you know little about.

Why do you always meddle in my private business?

When you interfere, you try to control or become involved in a situation, in a way that is annoying.

You should not interfere in other people’s business.


  1. Much money—a lot of money

Although we use the word ‘much’ with uncountable nouns like sugar, water, ghee, etc, we do not use say much money. But in interrogative sentences, much can collocate with money.

How much money do you have at the moment?

Wrong          I have much money.

Right             I have a lot of money. (Because it is a statement.)


  1. Murder—slay

When someone is murdered, they are murdered intentionally and illegally. 

They killed him. (He was simply stabbed or shot dead without torture.)

When someone is slain, they are killed in a very violent way. The word ‘slay’ is rare in modern English.

Many soldiers were slain in battle. (Soldiers were killed very cruelly.)

  1. Nail-cutter—nail clippers

A cutter is generally understood to be a tool for cutting something. So, many learners make compound words on their own, for example a nail-cutter. But this word does not exist in any English dictionaries.

The correct word for trimming the nails of the fingers is nail clippers or nail scissors.

Stop biting your nails. Buy nail clippers and trim it.

  1. Notorious—famous

Famous is like well-known but is a stronger word and means ‘known over a wide area’.

Ranjan is a well-known/famous athlete.

Notorious means famous for something bad. (Infamous is rather literary.)

Amrit was notorious for his evil deeds.
Amar Bahadur Sherma (ELT)

Mr Sherma is HOD of English at Euro School, Online English Teacher and Content Writer at MiDas Education, English Textbook Writer at KEDC and Editor-in-Chief of Writers' Diary.

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