Confusing words - words that need watching


If the student has now learned fully that words must be studied in grammar according to their function or use, and not according to form, he will be able to handle some words that are used as several parts of speech. A few are discussed below, - a summary of their treatment in various places as studied heretofore.

That may be used as follows: (1) As a demonstrative adjective.

That night was a memorable one. - Stockton.

(2) As an adjective pronoun.

That was a dreadful mistake. - Webster.

(3) As a relative pronoun.


And now it is like an angel's song, That makes the heavens be mute. - Coleridge. (4) As an adverb of degree.

That far I hold that the Scriptures teach. - Beecher.

(5) As a conjunction: (a) Of purpose.

Has bounteously lengthened out your lives, that you might behold this joyous day. - Webster.

(b) Of result.

Gates of iron so massy that no man could without the help of engines open or shut them. - Johnson.

(c) Substantive conjunction.

We wish that labor may look up here, and be proud in the midst of its toil. - Webster.


(1) Relative pronoun.

That is what I understand by scientific education. - Huxley.

(a) Indefinite relative.


Those shadowy recollections, Which be they what they may, Are yet the fountain light of all our day. - Wordsworth. (2) Interrogative pronoun: (a) Direct question.

What would be an English merchant's character after a few such transactions? - Thackeray.

(b) Indirect question.

I have not allowed myself to look beyond the Union, to see what might be hidden. - Webster.

(3) Indefinite pronoun: The saying, "I'll tell you what." (4) Relative adjective.

But woe to what thing or person stood in the way. - Emerson.

(a) Indefinite relative adjective.

To say what good of fashion we can, it rests on reality. - Id.

(5) Interrogative adjective: (a) Direct question.

What right have you to infer that this condition was caused by the action of heat? - Agassiz.

(b) Indirect question.

At what rate these materials would be distributed, is impossible to determine. - Id.

(6) Exclamatory adjective.

Saint Mary! what a scene is here! - Scott.

(7) Adverb of degree.

If he has [been in America], he knows what good people are to be found there. - Thackeray.

(8) Conjunction, nearly equivalent to partly... partly, or not only...but.

What with the Maltese goats, who go tinkling by to their pasturage; what with the vocal seller of bread in the early morning;...these sounds are only to be Pera. - S.S. Cox.

(9) As an exclamation.

What, silent still, and silent all! - Byron.

What, Adam Woodcock at court! - Scott.


(1) Co├Ârdinate conjunction: (a) Adversative.

His very attack was never the inspiration of courage, but the result of calculation. - Emerson.

(b) Copulative, after not only.

Then arose not only tears, but piercing cries, on all sides. - Carlyle.

(2) Subordinate conjunction: (a) Result, equivalent to that ... not.

Nor is Nature so hard but she gives me this joy several times. - Emerson.

(b) Substantive, meaning otherwise ... than.

Who knows but, like the dog, it will at length be no longer traceable to its wild original - Thoreau.

(3) Preposition, meaning except.

Now there was nothing to be seen but fires in every direction. - Lamb.

(4) Relative pronoun, after a negative, stands for that ... not, or who ... not.

There is not a man in them but is impelled withal, at all moments, towards order. - Carlyle.

(5) Adverb, meaning only.

The whole twenty years had been to him but as one night. - Irving.

To lead but one measure. - Scott.


(1) Subordinate conjunction: (a) Of time.

Rip beheld a precise counterpart of himself as he went up the mountain. - Irving.

(b) Of manner.


As orphans yearn on to their mothers, He yearned to our patriot bands. - Mrs Browning. (c) Of degree.


His wan eyes Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven. - Shelley. (d) Of reason.

I shall see but little of it, as I could neither bear walking nor riding in a carriage. - Franklin.

(e) Introducing an appositive word.

Reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village. - Irving.

Doing duty as a guard. - Hawthorne. (2) Relative pronoun, after such, sometimes same.

And was there such a resemblance as the crowd had testified? - Hawthorne.


Modifier of a noun or pronoun.

(1) An adjective.

The aforesaid general had been exceedingly like the majestic image. - Hawthorne.

They look, indeed, liker a lion's mane than a Christian man's locks.-SCOTT. No Emperor, this, like him awhile ago. - Aldrich. There is no statue like this living man. - Emerson. That face, like summer ocean's. - Halleck. In each case, like clearly modifies a noun or pronoun, and is followed by a dative-objective.

Introduces a clause, but its verb is omitted.

(2) A subordinate conjunction of manner. This follows a verb or a verbal, but the verb of the clause introduced by like is regularly omitted. Note the difference between these two uses. In Old English gelic (like) was followed by the dative, and was clearly an adjective. In this second use, like introduces a shortened clause modifying a verb or a verbal, as shown in the following sentences: -

Goodman Brown came into the street of Salem village, staring like a bewildered man. - Hawthorne.

Give Ruskin space enough, and he grows frantic and beats the air like Carlyle. - Higginson.

They conducted themselves much like the crew of a man-of-war. - Parkman.

[The sound] rang in his ears like the iron hoofs of the steeds of Time. - Longfellow. Stirring it vigorously, like a cook beating eggs. - Aldrich. If the verb is expressed, like drops out, and as or as if takes its place.

The sturdy English moralist may talk of a Scotch supper as he pleases. - Cass.

Mankind for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. - Lamb. I do with my friends as I do with my books. - Emerson. NOTE. - Very rarely like is found with a verb following, but this is not considered good usage: for example, -

A timid, nervous child, like Martin was. - Mayhew.

Through which they put their heads, like the Gauchos do through their cloaks. - Darwin.