Don't lose accuracy with loose grammar | Bangkok Post: learning

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Don't lose accuracy with loose grammar

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The words loose and lose are often mixed up and misused in place of one another. Many people write loose when they really mean lose. Perhaps the source of confusion is related to the obvious visual resemblance, or occasionally shared verb status. 

But don't lose your mind worrying about this! Let's explore the differences to gain more than a loose understanding.

- Lose is a verb that means to come to be without something, to suffer the loss or deprivation of, to fail to keep track of something, or to fail to win.

You could potentially lose your wallet, job, body weight, temper, tennis game, loved one due to death, and your mind. Examples: Don't lose your place in the queue; It is sad to lose someone you love; and Did you lose your keys again?

- Loose is most commonly used as an adjective. It can mean not firmly attached, free, lacking in restraint, or not tight-fitting. It can also mean imprecise or vague.Things that can potentially be or get loose are clothes, animals, prisoners, interpretations, morals, structures, teeth, muscles, screws and knots. Examples: The child has two loose teeth; There are many loose dogs in Bangkok; and My shoelaces are loose.

Loose can also be used as a verb. (When used as a verb, it usually takes the form of loosen.) It can mean to free from restraint, to release from obligation or penalty, to make less tight,to slacken or to relax. Examples: We can loose birds as an offering; He had to loosen his muscles before the race; and, She was loosed from the law.

This is not a losing battle! With simple caution and better understanding of the words' meanings, writing loose when meaning lose can be avoided.

Quick tip

One useful mnemonic to remember the difference between the two words is to think that "lose has lost an 'o' ".

Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. She can be contacted at heatherv@isb.ac.th .

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