Word Form

It is sometimes difficult to choose one word over the other when they look very similar while differing by a few letters and belong to the same part of speech. It is important to remember that such words may have different meanings. For example, "discriminating" and "discriminatory" are both adjectives and look quite similar, but "discriminating" may be considered positive, whereas "discriminatory" is negative because it expresses prejudice.

Study the following:

  1. Mary and John are very discriminatory (adjective) about what restaurants they go to. (incorrect)
  2. Mary and John are very discriminating (adjective) about what restaurants they go to. (correct)

Mary and John are not prejudiced against restaurants. They are able to judge their good quality.

  1. John is boring (adjective) by the game. (incorrect)
  2. John is bored (adjective) by the game. (correct)

John is not a boring guy but is funny because his jokes make people laugh. However, he is bored because the game is not interesting.

  1. Students acquisition (noun) a new language at the university. (incorrect)
  2. Students acquire (verb) a new language at the university. (correct)

It is incorrect to use the noun "acquisition" instead of the verb "acquire."


Correct the following:

  1. Alma feels confusing when she listens to long lectures.
  2. Gregorio is concerning about global warming.
  3. The senators attacked each others' characteristic during their political campaigns.
  4. Yesterday it was hot; today it is cold. The weather has been various.
  5. This class is comparative to the class you are taking at city college.


Some examples are adapted with modifications from:

Bruce, S., & Rafoth, B. A. (2009). ESL Writers: A guide for writing center tutors. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.