Friday Follies #94 – Making Grammar Great Again, One Hyphen at a Time

Hi again, Friday Follies followers! As promised, here is Part Two featuring Perplexing Pairs of words. Can you figure out when to use which?

  • breath/breathe
  • swath/swathe
  • rein/reign
  • phase/faze
  • choose/chose
  • loose/lose
  • ordinance/ordnance



Breath (rhymes with “death”) is a noun, as in He couldn’t catch his breath.
Breathe (rhymes with “seethe” – the “th” sound of “then”) is the verb, as in He couldn’t breathe under water (since he’s not a fish).

Swath (rhymes with “moth”) is a noun meaning piece or area, as in They bought a large swath of land.
Swathe (rhymes with either “bathe” or the “froth” part of “frothed”) is a verb meaning to wrap or enfold, as in She swathed the baby in blankets to keep him warm.

Rein (rhymes with “rain”) can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it means the strap you hold to keep a horse under control; usually used in the plural, as in She held the reins tightly as it was her first time on a horse. As a verb, it’s usually used with “in” as: He had to rein in his horse to slow him down. Rein is also often used metaphorically, as in He gave his employees free rein on the project: they could do whatever they liked at their own pace.
Reign (rhymes with “rain”) can also be a noun or a verb. As a noun it means a rule, as in Queen Elizabeth II’s reign has been very long. As a verb: She has reigned for over 60 years. Note that it is never correct to say “free reign.” The phrase is “free rein” as described in the paragraph above.

Phase/faze – this pair has been previously described but bears repeating. So the lazy Grammar Cop will do a nifty copy/paste for you here: The word phase is usually a noun meaning a stage, such as a stage of existence or readiness, as in: phases of the moon. It can also be a verb as in: The 10-inch pizza size was phased out since no one was ordering it. But when you want to express the notion of deterrence, you must use the verb, faze. So: The extra-large pizza didn’t faze him; i.e., he wasn’t scared off by it. 

Choose (rhymes with “booze”) is a verb used in the present tense as in: I cannot choose between the blue top or the red. 
Chose (rhymes with “doze”) is the same verb as “choose” but it is the past tense of it, as in: I chose the blue top when I awoke. 

Loose (rhymes with “goose”) is an adjective meaning “not tight” as in: The bolt was loose and had to be tightened. Also: loose change in one’s pocket. Loose is NEVER a verb. (The verb is actually “to loosen,” as in She loosened the bolt.)
Lose (rhymes with “booze”) is the verb, as in: I didn’t want to lose my keys and be locked out. I would lose my mind! (Note: the Grammar Cop nearly loses her mind every time she sees this wrong in Internet comments.)

And last but not least:

Ordinance (note this word has three syllables: or-di-nance) is a noun meaning a decree or rule, as in There was a municipal ordinance that said “no littering.”
Ordnance (note this word has only two syllables: ord-nance) is a noun meaning military equipment or weaponry, as in The platoon was running low on ordnance; hopefully the enemy wouldn’t show up anytime soon!

Whew! (Or as my stickler friend John would say, phew!) This is a lot to take in, I know. But study hard, people, as the Grammar Cop will grill you next week!

Okay, not really. But now you know you can always turn to Friday Follies #94 to help set you straight!


7 thoughts on “Friday Follies #94 – Making Grammar Great Again, One Hyphen at a Time

  1. The first phase of the trial began. Despite being unable to breathe properly after being swathed in a large leather sack, he managed to loosen the buckle on the strap holding the sack closed. With a breath of relief, he emerged from the sack and leapt upon the nearest horse. Grasping the reins, he spurred the horse forward into a furious pace. He covered a huge swath of terrain and managed to lose his pursuers in short order. The castle was in sight. Unfazed by the chase and flying arrows aimed at him from the top of the castle, he galloped into the ordnance tower, grabbing a sword and shield. He chose to face his enemies in close combat. “Choose your weapon!” he cried to the crowd, waving his sword in the air. A giant of a man stepped forward and proceeded to taunt him. The giant fell quickly after his kneecaps were broken. And so began the reign of Gnomish King Henri. His first ordinance was to get rid of those damn trials.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG! You- you used *everything*! And CORRECTLY! You deserve a medal, my child. You deserve to reign alongside King Henri! Yes! (BTW, did you appreciate the extra-large bunch o’ words I gave you to work with? 😊😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I will studiously look over these pairs while eating my pears!

    P.S.- To magickmermaid: Looking forward to the next chapter of your breathless tale!


    Liked by 1 person

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