Challenges of English Vocabulary

I’m often happy that English is my first language. There’s one exception after another whether it’s irregular verbs, spelling, pluralizations, and the list goes on. It’s house and houses but not mouse and mouses. It geese not gooses, but more than one moose isn’t meese.

So brace yourself for Janus words, sometimes called auto-antonyms. They mean one thing and also the opposite depending on usage. It sounds crazy, and it is, but you’ll recognize them easily:

Sanction: to approve… and to punish. (The riot occurred when the administration sanctioned the sanctions.)

Cleave: to stick together… and cut apart. (They cleaved together while he cleaved the steaks before grilling them.)

Dust: to remove dust… and to add dust. (The maid dusted the house while the pastry chef dusted the cake with sugar.)

Seed: to remove seeds… and add them. (She seeded the watermelon while he seeded the lawn.)

Oversight: supervision… and an error of omission. (Despite the manager’s oversight, an oversight occurred.)

Weather: to endure… and erode. (We weathered the storm by hiding under the weathered cliff.)

Yield: to produce… and concede. (The debate yielded few facts, and neither candidate yielded to the moderator.)

Ah, English. No wonder some many people hate its intricacies.

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