Tricky Rules

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Says/Said

The word says is strictly present tense. It should not be used to take the place of the word said which is past tense. Incorrect: Before that, he says to me, “Keep still.” (Past tense needed; use said) Correct: Before that, he said to me, “Keep still.”

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Loath/Loathe

Loath is an adjective meaning “unwilling.” It ends with a hard th and rhymes with growth or both. Loathe is a verb meaning “to hate intensely.” It ends with a soft th like the sound in smooth or breathe. Examples: He was loath to admit that he was included in the deal. (He was unwilling)

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Ought with Have or Had

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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Seen/Saw

Seen is a past participle. It must be used with an auxiliary verb such as has, have, had, am, is, are, was, were, be or their contractions. Often saw works better. No auxiliary verb is used with saw. Incorrect: We seen all three of them. Correct: We saw all three of them. Correct: We have

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Luxuriant/Luxurious

Luxuriant means “characterized by thick or abundant growth.” It is usually applies to the growth of plants, fur, or hair. The noun form is luxuriance. Luxurious means “characterized by wealth and comfort,” more directly from our modern word luxury. The noun form is luxury or luxuriousness. Examples: Captain Cook named the place Botany Bay because

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