Contrasing Words – Continual and Continuous, and their friends.

People often confuse words. They say this when they mean that. Here are some often-confused pairs that we do not want you to confuse ever again.

CONTINUAL & CONTINUOUS. Use continuous when describing something that keeps going on, without stopping. Use continual when describing something that goes on frequently, but in fits and starts.

  • The ski boat has been in use continually [on and off] over the past week.
  • The skiers have been practicing continuously all morning and I haven't been in the boat even once!

CONVINCE & PERSUADE. Use convince when your meaning is to "win people over to your point of view." Use persuade when your argument gets them to change their minds or their actions.

  • Jokibell has convinced all of us [made us believe] that Texas is the only place to live, but we have not yet been persuaded [motivated] to move there.
  • I could probably be persuaded [swayed] to enter the Yellow Rose of Texshus Barbecue Contest if you could convince [make me believe] that my applewood-smoked squirrel ribs could win.

FARTHER & FURTHER. Confine your use of farther to references involving physical distances. Use further in all other situations.

  • How much farther do we have to go to reach Sandy's Flight Deck?
  • I need to discuss this further [more] before I condemn Sassafras to a lifetime diet of no fried chicken.
  • Aim for the red buoy that is farther [in distance] from the boat than the blue one.

FEWER & LESS. Use fewer when referring to a number of items or persons. Use less when referring to a single amount.

  • There was less space [a single amount] in the boat than I thought, but there were also fewer divers [a number of items] than advertised.

HISTORIC & HISTORICAL. Use historic to describe any event that marks a milestone. Use historical when that event–or any event you may be referring to–warrants mention in a history book.

  • I understand that Harrison's historical society [people interested in history] met yesterday in their new headquarters. What a historic [monumental] occasion that was! [Ed. note: In American form, NEVER use an before historic.]

LEND & LOAN. Use lend as a verb that means to "give on a temporary basis," and loan to describe whatever it is being given.

  • Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me [not loan me] your ears.
  • I got a low-interest loan from the bank today.

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