Special Report

Words People Get Wrong All the Time

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32. Flounder and Founder

To flounder means to struggle whereas to founder means to sink. Of course, flounder is also a fish, and they’re pretty good swimmers, so that might help you remember the distinction between the two. However, founder can also mean someone who builds something up, which is almost the opposite of to sink.

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33. Forbear and Forebear

Forbear is a verb meaning to refrain from something. Forebear is a noun meaning ancestor. You wouldn’t be reading this if your forebears had decided to forbear.

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34. Gaff and Gaffe

A gaff is a hook for handling fish, while a gaffe is a social misstep or faux pas.

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35. Immanent and Imminent

Immanent means inherent and is more likely to be encountered in a discussion about philosophy or theology than in everyday conversation. Imminent means impending or about to happen.

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36. Learn and Teach

People sometimes confuse learn and teach, as New York Yankees great Yogi Berra did when he said, “Bill Dickey is learning me his experience.” In standard English, Dickey was teaching and Berra was learning.

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