Common Mistakes

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Indeterminate/Indeterminable

Indeterminate means “vague” or “unclear.” Indeterminable means “unable to find out or decide.” Both adjectives have similar roots, but the difference is in the suffix -able.

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Have or Had plus Ought

The expressions have ought, has ought, and had ought are nonstandard. To correct it, simply remove the have, has, or had. Incorrect: You had ought to have been there. Correct: You ought to have been there.

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Have after Could, Would, Should, or Will

Could of does not exist. Neither do should of, will of, or would of as verbs. Write could have, should have, will have, or would have. If you want to emphasize the pronunciation, write it as a verb contraction: could’ve, should’ve, will’ve, or would’ve.

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Irritate/Aggravate

Aggravate mean “to make worse.” The root is grave, in the sense of “serious.” Remember this root when spelling the word. Irritate means “to exasperate” or “to inflame.” Incorrect: His teasing aggravated me. Correct: His teasing irritated me. Incorrect: That meal irritated my condition. Correct: That meal aggravated my condition.

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