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English Vocabulary

Words causing confusion

Less and fewer

Less refers to a quantity that cannot be counted. Fewer refers to a number that can be counted.

  • I am eating less butter.
  • We caught fewer fish.
  • There were fewer children in the class than expected.
  • We did less work today than yesterday.
  • The use of seat belts in cars has led to fewer fatalities.

Lie and lay

The verbs lie and lay are often confused.

To lie means to rest. Examples are:

  • I lie on the bed. (simple present)
  • I am lying on the bed. (present progressive)
  • I was lying on the bed. (past progressive)
  • I lay on the bed. (simple past)
  • I have lain on the bed. (present perfect)

To lie also means to not tell the truth. Examples are:

  • I lie. (simple present)
  • I am lying. (present progressive)
  • I was lying. (past progressive)
  • I lied. (simple past)
  • I have lied. (present perfect)

To lay means to put something down. Examples are:

  • I lay the book on the table. (simple present)
  • I am laying the book on the table. (present progressive)
  • I laid the book on the table. (past progressive)
  • I was laying the book on the table. (simple past)
  • I have laid the book on the table. (present perfect)

More examples are given below.

  • Alice says she has already laid the table.
  • The book was laid on the chest of drawers.
  • While lying in bed, I had an idea.
  • I would like to lie in the sun this morning.

Kind and kinds

The word kind is singular. It should be used with this or that to modify a singular noun. The word kinds is plural. It should be used with these or those to modify plural nouns.

  • I like these kinds of apples. (NOT these kind of apples.)
  • That kind of coffee is not sold here. (NOT that kind of coffees)
  • Those are the kinds of days I like. (NOT Those are the kind of days )
  • This class of animal is rare.

Note that the same rule applies to other words sort, type and class.

  • Do you prefer this sort of meat pie? (NOT this sort of meat pies?)
  • These types of cars are very fast. (NOT These type of cars )
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