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Connect to or connect with?

There is a difference between connect to and connect with.

CONNECT TO

Use connect to when you talk about a physical link between one object and another.

Make sure the printer is connected to your computer.
My Wi-Fi works but I’m not connected to the internet.

CONNECT WITH

Use connect with when you talk about a relationship, a non-physical link.

These are typical symptoms connected with appendicitis.
He immediately connected with his therapist.
She is extremely good at connecting with her audience.

This, of course, also applies to the noun connection.

A man is being heard by the police in connection with a burglary last night.

A speaker in front of his audience of students. The image illustrates the difference between connect to and connect with.
He is extremely good at connecting with his audience

Practice or practise?

Should you write practice or practise?

PRACTICE

In British and American English, practice is a noun with the following meanings:

1. custom, method, tradition, habit
–Practice is the process of doing something as opposed to theory

2. exercise, work-out
–Practice is the repeated exercise to acquire a skill

3. profession, work, career, occupation
–I was looking for a text-book on the practice of medicine

4. business, company, office, firm
–She works in a small legal practice

5. use, operation, application
–The nurse encouraged the practice of safe sex

In American English, practice is also a verb, corresponding to practise in British English.

PRACTISE

In British English, practise is a verb related to the nouns presented above.

Consequently, it can mean repeat, rehearse; do, work out; apply, carry out, perform; specialise in, work at.

As you see, American English has only the spelling practice for both the noun and the verb.

In British English, you can write To practise every day is good practice

A young girl is practising playing the flute in a living-room. The purpose of the image is to illustrate the difference between practice and practise.
To practise every day is good practice

Read more about the endings -ice and -ise here.

In and within

The words in and within often cause confusion. Some writers use the word within in places where it is inappropriate or wrong. I once saw an advert from a university that was inviting applications for the position of Professor within Economics. If you know that within often can be replaced by inside, it is clear that the ad looked slightly ridiculous.

In my job as copyeditor of scientific texts, I see within more often than I would like. Perhaps those who write within may think the word makes a text more scholarly. As you can see from the example above, within may look ludicrous.

IN

In is used about place or time:

He was in the kitchen.
My daughter lives in Italy.
This happened in late September.
See you in a minute. 
I haven’t felt this happy in years. 

WITHIN

Within often means inside a certain area, according to particular limits or rules, or during a certain period of time:

An angry voice was heard from within.
After she had left, I had a warm feeling within me.
Don’t place this medicine within the reach of children!
Delivery is free of charge within a thirty-kilometre limit.
From your hotel, the picturesque gardens are within easy reach.
I am not sure we can do this within budget.
Within minutes of arriving at the railway station, I heard a loud voice calling my name.
They had had three burglaries within six months.

A little girl is stretching to reach an apple hanging from a tree. The image illustrates the use of in and within.
Just within reach

IN AN HOUR OR WITHIN AN HOUR?

I’ll be back in an hour means that I ’ll be back in about one hour, perhaps fifty, sixty, or seventy minutes from now.

I’ll be back within an hour means that I’ll be back at any time before an hour has passed but in one hour at the latest.

I hope this has helped you understand the difference between in and within.

At the end, in the end and by the end

Can you distinguish between at the end, in the end and by the end?

AT THE END

At the end refers to a particular time or place. It is always followed by ’of’.

At the end of the show, the audience gave a standing ovation.
The bathroom is at the end of the corridor.

The image shows a gallery or mine passage in a mine and is intended to illustrate the use of the phrase at the end.
What’s at the end of the tunnel?

A specific phrase is at the end of the day, which means after all, when everything is considered, when all is said and done.

At the end of the day, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

IN THE END

In the end refers to an outcome or result.

We had a long discussion and in the end we decided to get rid of our old car.

BY THE END

By the end means before, no later than.

You will get my report by the end of this week.

There is also a difference between at the beginning and in the beginning. Read more here.

Adopt, adapt and adept

The similarity of these three words can be confusing. Adopt and adapt are verbs, while adept is an adjective or a noun.

ADOPT

Adopt means to take or acquire as your own. This can refer to adopting a child (which usually involves legal formalities) or adopting an animal as a pet. 

It didn’t take long before they regretted having adopted a Great Dane.

You can also adopt, for example, a certain lifestyle, a strategy or a habit.

She had adopted a vegetarian diet.

Adopt is also used to say that one language has borrowed a word from another language.

From Swedish, English has adopted the word smorgasbord, meaning a buffet of hot and cold dishes.

ADAPT

Adapt means to modify, to adjust or become adjusted to new conditions, to make something suitable for a new use.

The spare room had to be adapted into a small office.

The film was adapted from a Pulitzer-winning novel.

Our dog quickly adapted to the new environment.

The corresponding nouns are adoption and adaptation.

ADEPT

As an adjective, adept means skilled, talented, good at doing something difficult, and as a noun it refers to an expert, somebody who is skilled or talented.

To everybody’s surprise, Grandma turned out to be adept at using a computer.

We all considered him an adept at cooking.

A man in a kitchen preparing dinner. The image is meant to illustrate the word adept.
We all considered him an adept at cooking

In Swedish, adept means pupil, disciple or novice, beginner.  Thus, in spite of the word having the same Latin background as the English one, the Swedish word has the opposite meaning.

The difference between isolated and insulated

Isolated and insulated both come from Latin insula, island.

The Latin word insulatus, made into an island, became isolato in Italian and both insulated and isolated in English.

The two English words have different meanings:

ISOLATED

Isolated means separated or set apart from others. You can be in a remote place without contact with anybody. Even with a lot of people around you at a party, you can feel isolated when you feel as if nobody notices you or makes contact with you.

You can also isolate something, identify,  for example, a problem, in order to deal with it.

And scientists can isolate a virus from an infected host.

INSULATED

Insulated is used to indicate that something is covered or wrapped in a material that protects from loss of heat, an electric shock, etc.

Without being isolated, children that grow up with overprotective parents may be insulated against and unprepared for the harsh realities of life.

Insulated electrical cables sticking out of a wall. The image is used to illustrate a post about the difference between insulated and isolated
Insulated cables

If or whether?

If and whether are sometimes interchangeable but they 
have different uses.

You can use both if and whether in indirect questions:

She asked if I wanted tea or coffee.
She asked whether I wanted tea or coffee.

Whether is used in more formal contexts.

This is the main difference between if and whether:

IF

Use if where a condition is involved:

If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we’ll play golf.
I’d be grateful if you could pick me up at the railway station.

WHETHER

Use whether in reference to alternatives or a choice:

We discussed whether we should walk or take a taxi.

Use whether before an infinitive:

I’ve been wondering whether to let him use the car again.

Use whether after a preposition:

They talked about whether it was a mistake.

A lone woman is sitting on a grassy beach by a large lake.
She debated with herself whether to take a swim or go for a walk

To understand the difference between if and whether, look at these two examples:

1. Let me know if you got his letter.

If you got his letter, tell me so, but only if you got it. You don’t have to tell me if you did not get his letter.

2. Let me know whether you got his letter.

No matter whether you got his letter or not, please tell me.

What’s the difference between different and various?

In my job as copyeditor I notice that writers tend to overuse different when they should write various instead.

Different, as you know, means that something is not the same as something else. One thing is different from another thing, or two or more things are different, not alike.

A young man and a middle-aged man wearing different models of sunglasses. The image illustrates the difference between different and various.
They have different models of sunglasses

Various implies that there is a variety among things; there are several different variants of something. Various is used before a plural noun about things that are of the same type but not all of exactly the same kind.

A display of various models and colours of sunglasses. The image illustrates the difference between different and various.
Various models and colours of sunglasses

Usually, the preposition from comes after different: Her latest novel is very different from anything she has written before. However, some writers prefer than after different. I would use than only with the comparative form: These two are more different than those.  Different than is common in US English. Sometimes I also see different to, which seems to be more common in British English, but you should avoid using different to in writing.

I recommend that you write different when you want to emphasise that there really is a difference. And write from instead of than or to! Write various to indicate that there are several types that are different from each other, that there is a variety of things.

Re: re

Re: (with a colon) means regarding, on the subject of. Often we can find it in the subject line of an email.

Re: Your enquiry for USB cables

With the same meaning, re can be used in informal language:

We need to have a meeting re the latest sales report.

You can read more about regarding here.

In many words the prefix re means again:

Two years later he remarried.
The votes had to be recounted.
After the installation you have to restart your computer.
All components are reusable.

Since re here means again, you must avoid writing He remarried again or The votes had to be recounted again (that would mean that he married at least three times or that the votes were counted three times). You can read more about unnecessary words here.

Re can also mean a change in the position or state of something:

relocate = locate in a new place
rearrange = arrange in a different way

The image shows a room with bookshelves. There are many book on the floor, on a desk and on a step-ladder. The purpose is to illustrate the verb rearrange in a post about the prefix re..
He decided it was time to rearrange his book collection

Some words with re have two versions, one with a hyphen and one without, and there is a difference in meaning.

recollectrememberre-collectcollect again
recoverget back health, ability,
possession, etc.
re-covercover again
reformchange or improve somethingre-formcreate again
represssubdue, not allow feelings,
etc., to be expressed
re-pressmake a new copy of a recording
resentdislike or be annoyed at
someone or something
re-sentas in 'He re-sent the parcel'
reservearrange for something to be
kept for your future use
re-serveserve again

Use a hyphen if re means again and if omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.

You can read more about using a hyphen here and about the difference between a hyphen and a dash here.

Are you pulling my leg? Some more English idioms

In  the previous blog post we looked at some English idioms. Here are a few more.

A ballpark number
A very inexact number, a rough estimate.

A bed of roses
A comfortable, happy, trouble-free position or situation.

A piece of cake
Something that is easy to do.

Back to square one
Having to start from the beginning again because your previous attempt failed.

Bark up the wrong tree
Do something in a wrong way, take a wrong approach, make the wrong choice.

Break a leg
This idiom is used to wish someone good luck. It is said that actors are superstitious and that they do not want people to say ’good luck’ to them, because then the opposite might happen. The idiom probably comes from the German Hals- und Beinbruch (break your neck and legs).

Bring home the bacon
Earn money for one’s family.

Call it a day
Decide to stop doing something, especially when you are tired or bored.

Cry wolf
Warn that there is a problem when there is none. If you do that too often, people will not believe you when there really is a problem.

Cut corners
Disregard the right procedure in order to save time or money, so that the result is bad quality or even illegal.

Cut to the chase
Get to the point without wasting time. The idiom is said to have come from the film world. Films often ended with a dramatic chase scene. Some screenwriters created unnecessary scenes that bored the audience. When a director said ’Cut to the chase’, it meant ’Skip the uninteresting stuff and go straight to the final scene’.

Face the music
Accept responsibility or unpleasant consequences of what you have done.

Hit the sack/Hit the hay
Go to bed.

Hold your horses
Slow down, be patient.

In the red
When you are in the red, you are in debt, you lose money. Accountants used red ink when recording business losses. The opposite expression in the black of course means ‘be solvent, have enough money’.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings
Don’t be too sure that you know what the outcome will be. The idiom refers to opera. When the soprano (and in the old days sopranos used to be pretty voluminous) has sung her final aria, we know that the whole thing is over.

Like a bull in a china shop
This idiom is used about people who rush into a situation without thinking and clumsily destroy things in their way. It is also used figuratively about a person who is insensitive to other people’s feelings and says or does things that hurt them.

On the ball
Be alert and able to react quickly, be competent.

Pull someone’s leg
Make somebody believe something that is not true.

Put the cat among the pigeons
Say or do something that worries people or makes them angry.

Red tape
Rules or routines that are complicated and lead to delays or obstructions; bureaucracy.

Smell a rat
Suspect that something is wrong.

Spill the beans
Unintentionally reveal a secret.

Straight from the horse’s mouth
Information directly from a reliable source, from someone who has personal knowledge.

Take a back seat
Become less active or involved.

A woman is sitting in the back seat of a car. The image illustrates the idiom 'take a back seat' meaning 'become less active or involved'.
Taking a back seat

The elephant in the room
A problem or controversial issue that everybody in a group is aware of but nobody wants to talk about because it would be uncomfortable or embarrassing.

Through thick and thin
If you stay with someone through thick and thin, you do so for a long time even if there are difficulties.

Under the weather
Feeling a bit ill or sad.

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