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Frequently confused words | Worked example

David works through a frequently confused words question from the Praxis Core Writing test.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] In ancient times, metallic toothpicks were used and ostentatiously displayed by privileged classes and were the principle means of caring for one's teeth. All right, so we're looking at an error ID question. Which one of these underlines displays a flaw, or is there no error at all? Let's look. Item number one. Answer A, metallic, is this being used correctly as an adjective to describe toothpicks? Answer, yes. Metallic is a word that is being used as an adjective, that's fine. Were used, this is the passive voice, not something that Praxis test on, but it is in the past tense, were used. Does this make sense in the context of the sentence? Well, we are talking about ancient times, so that fits the time context. Does it match with other verbs in the sentence used in the same time period? Yes. Ostentatiously displayed, past tense, were, past tense. This is fine. Okay, privileged classes, what about this? Well, privileged is a verb being used as an adjective. It's being used to describe classes. On the Praxis writing test, if you see a modifier underlined, it's usually testing whether or not you're using an adverb instead of an adjective. But this, we're using an adjective to describe a noun, privileged to describe classes, so we're good. Which leaves us with principle. And your eyes might have glazed right over this. I mean, principle means, sure, you know, the main form. However, this is a typo. What we're lookin' at here is a frequently confused word. That is the kind of error that this is. So this spelling of principle, P-R-I-N-C-I-P-L-E, means more like a belief or a rule. And it's also a noun, and really what we want is an adjective to describe means, meaning like method. So the word we want is principal, which means like primary or main. So this is our answer, principle. So we can say in fact there was an error, so we're gonna cross off no error. And my advice to you on frequently confused word questions is to be very careful. We have a great big list of frequently confused words that you can checkout. That's part of the same lesson as this video. But there's no real way around this, other than to check your spelling and to be aware of the most commonly confused words in English.