5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!

Hello everyone! It’s Miss Elysia, an English teacher at Lil’ but Mighty!

Today, we’re going to touch on something I’ve been excited to talk about – creative writing and composition! I’m sure most of you are aware that the composition paper tests both content and language. You need to have a good story that links to the topic, but you also need to have outstanding phrases that will do justice to the storyline in your head!

5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!

Some of you may already have pet phrases you like to use to enhance your writing, such as certain idioms and proverbs you are familiar with, and that’s a perfect start. I’m going to add to that list by sharing 5 commonly used but often confused phrases that, if used erroneously, will probably cause your teachers to scratch their heads rather than nod in appreciation. For each phrase, I will also share the right way to use it in your writing. Let’s hop right into it!


1. Baited breath vs. Bated breath 

Correct: Bated breath
Incorrect: Baited breath
Meaning: feeling anxious or excited about something

I have seen one too many student misspell “baited breath” when they were really trying to say “bated breath”! One day, I could not help but ask one of them why they often spelt “bated” as “baited”. It turns out, there’s a bit of a misconception here. Many students see “baited” and assume that it means something exciting, like when you bait a fish. That’s why they assume that bated breath, expressing excitement, is spelt “baited breath” where you bait your breath.

While I was convinced for a few milliseconds, eventually I had to explain to the student that the word “bate” in bated breath actually means “to lessen in severity or amount”. When used in “bated breath”, it means for you to almost hold your breath in anticipation of an upcoming event. Hopefully, that clarifies this phrase for you, and you’ll no longer make this mistake in your compositions!

5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!


 

2. Nip it in the butt vs. Nip it in the bud 

Correct: Nip (something) in the bud
Incorrect: Nip (something) in the butt
Meaning: to stop something before it becomes a bigger problem

Often, when I mention this phrase in class, I get more than a handful of giggles. “Butt!!” a brave student would mock-whisper under his or her breath. It’s hilarious, and I love it as it gives me an opening to tell them that unfortunately, they’re thinking of the wrong “bud”. It is tempting to think of kicking someone in the butt to prevent him or her from becoming a problem in future, as many students have expressed was how they understood this phrase.

However, the actual meaning is much more demure. This phrase makes reference to horticulture, where the unwanted plants are trimmed when they are still budding to prevent them from blossoming into a flower or fruit. Thus, to nip something in the bud is to stop something before it develops into something bigger and more difficult to handle.

5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!


3. Peaked my interest vs. Piqued my interest 

Correct: Piqued my interest
Incorrect: Peaked my interest
Meaning: To make you feel interested in something

Many people have the misconception that the word “piqued” should be spelt as “peaked” because “peaked” indicates maximum interest in something.

However, if you look at the meaning of this phrase, it is actually used to indicate a sudden interest, or the beginning of an interest. It does not mean that you’re extremely excited to learn about it! Therefore, the correct word to use is “piqued”, which means to arouse something – in this case your interest or curiosity – in someone or something.

5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!


4. Tow the line vs. Toe the line

Correct: Toe the line
Incorrect: Tow the line
Meaning: To do something that other people say you should do, whether you agree with them or not 

I’m not certain where this misconception came from, but I did have one student tell me that he simply doesn’t think that toes are very much linked to following orders and instructions. Well, he does have a point!

In this case, to “toe the line” means, in its most basic sense, to keep in line. Simply imagine a line in front of you, and all of your classmates touching the tip of their toes to the imaginary line. Immediately, you have a straight line of students, all perfectly lined up and ready to follow instructions from the teacher! With this image in mind, to “toe the line” is a metaphor used to express how one follows instructions perfectly and does what other people request, especially when unwilling to do so in the first place.

5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!


5. Breach the subject vs. Broach the subject

Correct: Broach the subject
Incorrect: Breach the subject
Meaning: To bring up something that may be embarrassing, unpleasant, or cause an argument

In this case, the key to understanding if we should use “broach” or “breach” lies in the definitions of the words themselves. To broach is to bring up something that is difficult to talk about. In contrast, to breach is to break something (eg. breach a contract, breach a dam). Once you are aware of the difference in meaning between broach and breach, it becomes more difficult to mix them up. After all, it is impossible to break a subject, isn’t it?

5 Commonly Confused Phrases Used In Compositions!


I hope this post was helpful in clarifying these commonly confused phrases for you! While it is great to use good vocabulary and fancy english phrases in your composition, you must take extra care to ensure that you use these phrases correctly.

To all the budding writers out there, don’t be afraid to take the leap of confidence and use phrases you might be unsure of in your composition practices. Making these errors early in your writing endeavours will help you learn from your mistakes and produce better stories in future attempts. Remember that writing is a process, and you will learn from trial and error. Keep writing, little writers!

Do you have a favourite idiom or phrase you have used in your writing? Share with us in the comments below!


 

 

 

 

The Write Recipe

The Write Recipe | Plan for Success

Learn about how to plan your writing

Know the key ingredients to create exciting content during planning

See the flow of your story with our unique paragraph-by-paragraph structure (New!)

Application to questions with the PSLE format

Ms. Elysia

It is Miss Elysia’s passionate belief that every classroom experience holds the potential to both nurture and challenge a child. As such, her classes are fun, dynamic, and never a bore! As an educator, she strives to make every class an enriching one for her students and feels most fulfilled when her students leave class learning how to study hard, and study smart.

Have something to share? Drop us a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Share
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Other related posts

Insert Exciting Dialogue Tags to Your Primary School Composition!
To start off with, let me share with you the power of using dialogue. Dialogue is an essential part of the story.
Teachers Who Love English, We Want You!
5 Commonly Confused Pairs (or is it Pears?)
Steps to Score Well in Situational Writing for PSLE English
I Love Reading | 3 Tips for Reluctant Readers
The First Write Recipe Workshop at Greenridge Primary School!
Understanding IF Conditionals!
Fans of Fiction: 3 Websites to Check Out This Holiday
NYT Copy-Edit This: Free Editing Resource
3 Writing Skills to Start Nurturing from Primary 2
5 Ways to Start a Primary School Composition
2 Common Errors to Avoid When Sharing Oral Stories
4 Lively Literary Devices to Use in Your Compositions
Comprehending Comprehension: 3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Understanding Questions
3 Composition Techniques You Can Reap From Reading
4 Fun & Interactive Classroom Display Tools!
How to Pronounce the /th/ Sound?
In this post, I would like to help you to start mastering the /th/ sound with 2 simple steps.
Perfecting the Paragraph: Know When To Start A New Paragraph
We all know that to write a good story, we need to have a clear structure. But how do we structure our stories? If your answer is, “by having paragraphs”, then you are very nearly correct.
7 Essay Types at the O Level
Five Essentials to Score for Formal Situational Writing
Let’s Go On A Learning Journey | Two Awesome Places To Visit During the December Holidays!
Activities for the Holidays!
Between Two Commas: How to Deal with Extra Information
Continuous Writing: 3 Specific Things to Check For!
PSLE English Specialist Teacher Wanted!
Paper 2: Don’t Lose the Marks Everyone is Getting!
5 Graphic Novels To Check Out This Holiday
Authentic Learning Activity | Editor on the Move!
Free News Sources for Kids
Holiday + Learning = Fun!
Primary 4 Marching Onto Primary 5: Changes You Need to Know for English
Continuous Writing | 4 Tips to Address the Topic
Reading | Video: A Totto-ly Delightful Read!
Conquering Correlative Conjunctions in Sentence Synthesis: 3 Commandments to Comply with
Drawing From Your Own Experiences To Write Well In Primary School Compositions
3 Ways to Build A Confident Child With Your Choice of Words!
Look Back in a Flash! 3 Ways to Craft Effective Flashbacks
Building Grammar Foundations: Start Young, Start Now
“E” is for Empathy | What Every Primary School Child Needs!
3 Tips On How To Prepare For Primary School Oral | Stimulus-Based Conversation
Primary School Vocabulary: Confuse, Confused, Confusing? Which is Which?
Introducing: Mighty Monsterella!
Study Smart! | 3 Revision Tips for Primary School Students!
Announcing the Winner of our ‘Queen of Your Heart’ Mother’s Day Contest!
Accuracy in Situational Writing: Check for These 3 Things!
Comprehension | 6 Steps to Tackle “Support With Evidence” 2-Part Questions
Previous
Next

Like what you are reading?

Subscribe now to receive news and tips hot off the press!

Primary School English Tuition| Lil' but Mighty English