Confusing word pairs are everywhere.
I’ve been writing about them for years, and I had thought I had the topic well covered.
Apparently I don’t. Here are nine more pairs to pay attention to:
1. Can vs. may
Use “can” when referring to the ability to do something.
Example: “I don’t think your brother can make you unconscious just by looking at you.”
Use “may” when asking for permission to do something or when referring to the possibility of something.
Example: “You may not throw knives at each other.”
Example: “Your excessive use of exclamation points may annoy readers.”
2. Continual vs. continuous
“Continual” means to recur at regular and frequent intervals.
Example: “Because she was new to the copy desk, Amy checked the style guide continually.”
“Continuous” means to go on without pause or interruption.
Example: “The continuous flow of alcohol made last night’s happy hour quite entertaining.”