33. Errors in Word Choice

Word-choice errors involve the incorrect use of one word in place of another. These two words may be related forms (other and another, for example), or they may be completely different (do and make, for example).
Descriptions of some of the most common word choice errors are given below.

A) Wrong Choice of Make or Do

The verb to do is often used in place of to make, and to make in place of to do. In its basic sense, to make means to produce, to create, to construct, while to do means to perform, to act, to accomplish. These verbs are also used in a number of set expressions:

Common Expressions with Make
make advancesmake an offer
make an attemptmake a plan
make a comparisonmake a point
make a contributionmake a prediction
make a decisionmake a profit
make a distinctionmake a promise
make a forecastmake a sound/noise
make an investmentmake a suggestion
make a law

be made of (= be composed of)
make up (= compose)

To make is also used in this pattern: make + someone + adjective (The gift made her happy).

Common Expressions with Do
do an assignmentdo a job (errand, chore)
do business withdo research
do one’s dutydo one’s work
do someone a favor

The auxiliary verb do is used rather than repeat main verbs (My computer doesn’t operate as fast as theirs does).

Anytime you see the verb make or do underlined in the Written Expression section, suspect a word- choice error.

Sample Item

Cement is done (A) from varying (B) amounts (C) of limestone, clay, and (D) gypsum.

(A) done
(B) varying
(C) amounts
(D) and

The best answer is (A). The verb done is incorrect in this sentence. The correct word choice is made.

Small town newspapers (A) often urge (B) readers to make business (C) with local (D) merchant.

(A) newspapers
(B) urge
(C) make business
(D) local

The best answer is (C). The phrase should read do business.

B) Wrong Choice of Like or Alike and Like or As

The word alike is incorrectly used in place of like, or like is used in place of alike.
These words are used correctly in the following patterns:

Like A, . . .Like birds, mammals are warm-blooded.
A, like B, . . .Birds, like mammals, are warm-blooded.
A is like . . .Birds are like mammals in that they are both warm-blooded.
A and B are alike . . .Birds and mammals are alike in that they are both warm-blooded.

Whenever you see the words alike or like underlined, you should suspect a word-choice error.

The word like is also sometimes confused with the word as. When like is used in a comparison, it is followed by a noun or pronoun. When as is used in a comparison, it is followed by a clause containing a subject and a verb.

I did my experiment just as Paul did.
My results were much like Paul’s.

The word as is also used before nouns when it means in place of or in the role of. This is particularly common after certain verbs: serve, function, and use, among others.

The Vice-President served as President when the President was sick.

Sample Item

Alike (A) their close (B) relative the frogs (C), toads are (D) amphibians.

(A) Alike
(B) close
(C) the frogs
(D) are

The correct answer is (A). Choice (A) doesn’t follow the pattern Like A, B . . .

Asters, as (A) most (B) perennial plants, bloom (C) once a year (D).

(A) as
(B) most
(C) bloom
(D) a year

The best answer is (A). The word like should be used in place of the word as before a noun phrase (most perennial plants).

C) Wrong Choice of So, Such, Too, and As

The words so, such, and too are used in the following patterns:

so + adjective + that clause
These boxes are so heavy that we can’t lift them.

(So is also used with many . . . that and much . . . that.)
There were so many people in the auditorium that we could barely get in the front door.

such + adjective + noun phrase + that clause
It was such a pretty view that he took a photograph.

too + adjective + infinitive
It’s too cold to go swimming today.

Notice that so and such are both followed by that clauses, but too is followed by an infinitive.

The words as and so are also sometimes confused:

*Jane did so well as I did on the economics exam. (INCORRECT)
*The coffee was as hot that I couldn’t drink it. (INCORRECT)

In the first sentence, the word as should be used in place of so; in the second, so should be used in place of as.
Also look for so much or too much used in place of so or too.

Sample Item

The (A) sun is so (B) bright to look at (C) directly (D).

(A) The
(B) so
(C) look at
(D) directly

The correct answer is (B). The correct pattern is too + adjective + infinitive.

In much (A) of Alaska, the growing (B) season is as (C) short that crops (D) can’t be raised.

(A) In much
(B) growing
(C) as
(D) crops

The best answer is (C). The correct pattern is so+ adjective+ that clause.

The giant squid is so (A) an elusive animal that at one time (B) it was believed (C) to be purely (D) mythical.

(A) so
(B) at one time
(C) believed
(D) purely

The best answer is (A). Before an adjective+ noun+ that clause, the word such should be used.

The mineral (A) grains in basalt are so much (B) small that they (C) cannot be seen (D) with the unaided eye.

(A) mineral
(B) so much
(C) they
(D) be seen

The best answer is (B). The phrase should read so small rather than so much small.

D) Wrong Choice of Another or Other

Use of Another and Other

Used as an adjectiveanother + singular noun
(Have another sandwich.)
other + plural noun
(I wonder if there is life on other planets.)
determiner + other + noun (There may be life on some other planets.)
Used as a pronounanother
(Thanks. I’ll have another.)
determiner + other
(“I have one book.”
“I have the other.”)

Another means “one more, an additional one.” It can be used as an adjective before a singular nouns or alone as a pronoun.

He needs another piece of paper.
I have one class in that building, and another in the building across the quadrangle.

Other is used as an adjective before a plural noun. It is also used as an adjective before a singular noun when preceded by a determiner such as the, some, any, one, or no. It can also be used alone as a pronoun when preceded by a determiner.

There are other matters I’d like to discuss with you.
One of the books was a novel; the other was a collection of essays.
There’s no other place I’d rather visit

Sample Item

Willa Cather is known (A) for My Antonia and another (B) novels of the (C) American frontier (D).

(A) is known
(B) another
(C) of the
(D) frontier

The correct answer is (B). Before a plural noun, other must be used.

An (A) understudy is an actor who can (B) substitute for other (C) actor in case of (D) an emergency.

(A) An
(B) who can
(C) other
(D) in case of

The best answer is (C). Other is used incorrectly in place of another before a singular noun.

E) Wrong Choice of Because or Because Of; and Similar Expressions or Although; During or When/While

Certain expressions, such as because, are adverb clause markers and are used only before clauses. Other expressions, such as because of, are prepositions and are used before noun phrases or pronouns.

Adverb Clause Marker
(Used with Clauses)
(Used with Noun Phrases)
becausebecause of
whenin spite of

Sample Item

Because migration (A) to the suburbs, the population (B) of many (C) large American cities declined (D) between 1950 and 1960.

(A) Because migration
(B) population
(C) many
(D) declined

The correct answer is (A). Before a noun phrase (migration), the preposition because of must be used.

Despite (A) most people consider (B) the tomato a vegetable, botanists classify (C) it as a fruit (D).

(A) Despite
(B) consider
(C) classify
(D) as a fruit

The best answer is (A). Before a full clause (most people consider the tomato a vegetable), the adverb marker although must be used.

F) Wrong Choice of Much or Many and Similar Expressions

Certain expressions can only be used in phrases with plural nouns; others can be used in expressions only with non-count nouns.

Used with Plural NounsUsed with Non-count Nouns
few, a fewlittle, a little
fewer, the fewestless, the least

Sample Item

Pearls are found (A) in much (B) colors, including (C) cream, blue (D), lavender, and black.

(A) found
(B) much
(C) including
(D) blue

The correct answer is (B). Many must be used with a plural noun (colors).

Even during (A) economic (B) booms, there is a small number (C) of unemployment (D).

(A) during
(B) economic
(C) number
(D) unemployment

The best answer is (C). The word amount must be used to refer to a non-count noun such as unemployment.

G) Other Word-Form Problems

Other pairs of words are sometimes confused in Written Expression, including those listed below. All of the sentences with asterisks (*) are examples of errors and are INCORRECT.

noUsed as an adjective before nouns; means “not any.” Also used in the expression no longer.
notUsed to make all other words negatives.
*Not gasoline was left in the tank.
*This is no the station I usually listen to.
*I not longer listen to that station.
mostUsed in superlative adjective phrases; also used to mean “the majority.”
almostUsed as an adverb to mean “nearly.”
*This is the almost interesting chapter in the book.
*I’ve read almost of the chapters in the book.
*I’ve solved most all of the problems in the book.
twiceUsed as an adjective to mean “two times.”
doubleUsed as an adjective to mean “make twice as large.”
*Henry has double as much money as he did before his made a profit.
*Henry twice his money.
earliestUsed as a superlative adjective to mean “most distant in time.”
soonestUsed as a superlative adverb to mean “most promptly.”
*These are the soonest examples of the artist’s works.
(You will probably not see earliest used incorrectly in place of soonest.)
percentUsed after a number.
percentageNot used after a number.
*Fifty percentage of the people voted in favor of the initiative.
*The percent of people who approve of the initiative has been steadily growing.
afterUsed as a preposition before a noun or as an adverb clause marker before a clause.
afterwardsUsed as an adverb, means “after that.”
*We’ll go to dinner afterwards the play.
*We’ll go to dinner afterwards the play is over.
*First the performer played the guitar and after she played the flute.
agoUsed to talk about a time earlier than the present.
beforeUsed to talk about a time earlier than some other point in time.
*Harold won a gold medal in the Olympics last year, and four years ago that, he won a silver medal.
(You will probably not see before used incorrectly in place of ago.)
tellUsed with an object; also used in certain set expressions: tell a story, tell the truth, tell a secret.
sayUsed without an object.
*Mr. Hunter said us that he’d had a good trip.
*Joe said a wonderful story.
*Mr. Hunter told that he’d had a good trip
everMeans “at any time.” Used with not to mean “never.”
Also used in some set expressions such as ever since and hardly ever.
neverMeans “at no time.” Not used with a negative word.
*He hardly never goes to that club.
(You will probably not see ever used incorrectly in place of never.)
aliveUsed after a verb.
liveUsed before a noun.
*Sue likes to have alive plants in her apartment.
*Although she forgot to water it for a week, the plant was still live.
aroundUsed as a preposition to mean “in a circular path.”
roundUsed as an adjective to mean “circular in shape.”
*The new office building will be around glass tower.
(You will probably not see round used incorrectly in place of around.)
ageUsed as a noun, often in these patterns:
at the age of twenty-one
twenty-one years of age
oldUsed as an adjective, often in this pattern:
twenty-one years old
*Harriet will be thirty years age next week.
*Operators of motor vehicles must be thirty years of old in this state.
nearUsed as an adjective; means “close to.”
nearlyUsed as an adverb; means “almost.”
*Lynn is looking for an apartment nearly the Medical Center.
*The two-bedroom apartment she looked at cost near a thousand dollars a month.
someUsed as a determiner before a noun to mean “an indefinite amount.”
somewhatUsed as an adverb to mean “slightly.”
* This bicycle is some more expensive than the one I looked at yesterday.
(You will probably not see somewhat used incorrectly in place of some.)

Note: The distinctions between words such as desert and dessert, stationary and stationery, capital and capitol, which are really spelling problems, are NOT tested on TOEFL.

Exercise 33.1

Exercise 33.2

Exercise 33.3

Exercise 33.4

Exercise 33.5

Exercise 33.6

Exercise 33.7

Exercise 33.8

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