The difference between “practice” and “practise”

In British English – like “licence/license” and “advice/advise” – “practice” is a NOUN and “practise” is a VERB:

NOUN
Safeguarding clients’ personal data should be standard practice in the company.
He has been a lawyer for many years, but he only opened his own practice last month.

Practice makes perfect.”

VERB
If you want to be a professional pianist you must practise for several hours every day.
So you’re a lawyer? When did you start practising?

In American English, however — and in contrast to the rule for “license” — “practice” is used for both the noun and the verb. “Practise” is a less common spelling variant.

 

 

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The difference between “licence” and “license”

“Licence” is the British English NOUN – The bar has received a licence to sell alcohol.

“License” is the British English VERB – We are now licensed to sell alcohol.

You can remember this because it is the same as “advice” (noun) and “advise” (verb). But of course, unlike advice/advise, licence/license are both pronounced the same.

“Licensor” and “Licensee” always have an s.

In American English, however, “license” is used for both the noun and the verb.

You may think this is very sensible, but check out the next tip on “practice” and “practise”.

 

 

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The difference between “prescribe” and “proscribe”

The verbs “prescribe” and “proscribe” are very close in spelling and pronunciation but almost opposites in meaning. Don’t get them confused!

Prescribe” means “stipulate” or “order”. Perhaps the most common usage is in the field of medicine – where a doctor prescribes a course of treatment for a patient.

Proscribe” means “condemn”, “prohibit”, “forbid” or “outlaw”.

So, a doctor could prescribe one course of action while proscribing another: Eat more vegetables. Stop smoking.

“Prescribe” is in common everyday use, but “proscribe” is not commonly used.

Other examples:

Prescribe
The doctor prescribed a course of very strong antibiotics.
The regulations prescribe that employees must undergo an eye examination every five years.

Proscribe
The government has proscribed far right and ultra-nationalist organisations.
Eating pork is proscribed by their religion.

The noun deriving from “prescribe” is “prescription”. A doctor writes you a prescription which you take to the pharmacy in order to buy the prescribed medicine.

“Prescription” also has a specific legal use. It refers to the right to use land owned by another person following continued and regular use of that land without receiving any complaint from the owner for a certain period of time (usually around five years). A claim to such a right is called a “prescriptive claim”.

The noun deriving from “proscribe” is “proscription”. A proscription is a ban or prohibition.

 

 

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How to translate “przedsiębiorca”

“Przedsiębiorca” is usually translated as “entrepreneur”. Although this is one of several possible translations, 99% of the time it is the wrong word.

First of all, look at a Polish definition of “przedsiębiorca”:

Zgodnie z definicją  zawartą w art. 431 kodeksu cywilnego przedsiębiorca to: „osoba fizyczna, osoba prawna i jednostka organizacyjna, która nie jest osobą prawną, a której ustawa przyznaje zdolność prawną, prowadząca we własnym imieniu działalność gospodarczą lub zawodową”.

I have underlined “osoba prawna i jednostka organizacyjna, która nie jest osobą prawną” because the key difference between “przedsiębiorca” and “entrepreneur” is that “przedsiębiorca” includes this meaning while “entrepreneur” does not.

“Przedsiębiorca” has a very broad meaning, ranging from an individual natural person who carries out economic activity to a large company.

In contrast, “entrepreneur” has a very narrow meaning. It only means an individual natural person who carries out economic activity – and is usually used to describe businessmen who built successful businesses with a great deal of initiative and risk-taking. So Steve Jobs was an entrepreneur, Virgin’s Richard Branson is an entrepreneur, Tesla’s Elon Musk is an entrepreneur, Jan Kulczyk was an entrepreneur.

If you use “przedsiebiorca” to refer to an entity rather than an individual natural person, then you cannot use “entrepreneur”.

Instead you should use one of the following, which may depend on the context. I find “business entity” is usually the best-fit:

            business entity
            enterprise
            company
            business
            economic operator
            business operator
            operator
            business venture
            undertaking

Translate rejestr przedsiębiorców as “companies register”, NOT “register of entrepreneurs”.

 

 

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The difference between “commitment” and “commission” (and “committee” and “committal”)

The verb “commit” has numerous related noun forms: commitment, commission, committal and committee. Many people – native English speakers included – do not know all the differences between them.

A criminal “commits a crime”. But we cannot talk about the “commitment of a crime”. Instead we say “commission of a crime”.

We use the word “commitment” to describe something that you have to do or something that requires time and responsibility – i.e. something you have promised to do or have to do due to, e.g., work or family reasons. We can talk about “family commitments” or “work commitments”.

When we promise to do something or take on a responsibility, we “make a commitment”.

For example: I’d like a dog, but it would be such a commitment, and I simply don’t have the time.

This usage of the noun is countable.

If you “show commitment” you demonstrate that you are willing to do something.

For example, an employer might include the following in a reference about a former employee: David is a very diligent worker and showed enormous commitment to the job.

This usage of the noun is uncountable.

 

The word “commission” can be a noun and a verb.

We can talk about the “commission of an offence/murder” as well as a crime.

A “commission” can be a request to do a piece of work or carry out an activity: We’ve got a commission to investigate allegations of corruption.

As a verb, “commission” has the same meaning: I’ve been commissioned to write a series of articles on alternative energy sources.

A “commission” can be a fee for an agent to carry out certain work: As a sales rep I don’t earn a salary, I get a 20% commission on each sale.

A “commission” can also be a group of people appointed and given the power (i.e. commissioned) to perform certain tasks.

 

A “committee” is also a group of people, but differs from a commission in that its members are representatives of a parent body. A committee makes decisions on behalf of the parent body.

 

A “committal” is an act of entrusting something or someone to the care of another person. So, for example, you can have a committal of property to an attorney, or a committal of a person to a mental health institution. In the latter case we talk about someone being committed to an institution.

 

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Common mistakes with the Present Perfect tense

The Present Perfect tense is made up of have/has and the past participle of a verb:

He has eaten all the chocolates.
I have included your amendments in the draft agreement.

It is perhaps the most difficult of all verb tenses in English. This is partly because many other languages don’t have an equivalent, so speakers of those languages find it difficult to understand the concept.

In this post I will not try to explain what the Present Perfect tense means – instead I will show you how to avoid some of the most common mistakes.

 

WRONG
We have finally received the requested documents on Monday.
We have submitted the information before we filed the application.
I have phoned him yesterday.
We have not completed the report last week.
The transaction has not been finalised by 31 December 2017.
We have analysed the contracts during the first due diligence process.
This issue has been discussed prior to executing the transaction.

All the above examples are mistakes because the Present Perfect cannot be used with expressions of finished time (i.e. specified times in the past – underlined in the above examples).

An expression of finished time is any word or phrase that tells you when something happened or did not happen. If an expression of finished time describes when an action happened (or did not happen) you should use the Past Simple:

RIGHT
We finally received the requested documents on Monday.
We submitted the information before we filed the application.
I phoned him yesterday.
We did not complete the report last week.
The transaction was not finalised by 31 December 2017.
We analysed the contracts during the first due diligence process.
This issue was discussed prior to executing the transaction.

 

The Present Perfect often goes with adverbs of indefinite time: 

already
as yet
before
ever
just
never
recently 
since
so far
still
to date
until now
yet

We’ve already met a couple of times.
So far the regulator has not indicated that this type of activity is contrary to the provisions on insurance activity.
We still have not received payment of the invoice.
Have you ever seen anything like this before?
Mr Smith has just arrived.
We have recently received a new instruction from this client.
We have not heard from the tax authority yet.

 

The Present Perfect may be used for expressing an action that continues up to the present time. Compare the following:

I have worked at the company for three years.
(And I work there now.)

I worked at the company for three years.
(I no longer work there.)

WRONG
I am working at the company for three years.

Our lawyers have represented many high profile clients.
(And continue to do so.)
Adam is a highly experienced investigator who has worked on numerous cases of this type.
(And continues to do so.)

This form is useful in marketing material and CVs.

 

The Present Perfect is used in sentences that contain the following constructions:

this is the first time…
it is the second best…
it is the worst…
this is the only time…
etc.

This is the second time that we have asked you to send us the documents.
This is the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in.
This is the heaviest suitcase I have ever carried.

 

In time clauses with after, until, when, as soon as, once, we often use the Present Perfect to refer to future events:

As soon as we have heard the verdict from the court we will contact you.
I won’t contact the client until I’ve received your instructions.
I’ll give you further details when I’ve discussed the situation with John.
Once I have read all the documentation I assume the matter will be clear.

In US English, however, it is more common to use the Present Simple in the same kind of sentence:

As soon as we hear the verdict from the court we will contact you.
I will not contact the client until I receive your instructions.

WRONG
As soon as we will hear the verdict from the court we will contact you.
I won’t contact the client until I will receive your instructions.

 

If we talk about something that happened before something else happened, we do NOT use the Present Perfect:

WRONG
During the inspection it was found that the provision for an average 5-day working week has been violated.

RIGHT
During the inspection it was found that the provision for an average 5-day working week had been violated.

“had been violated” is in the Past Perfect tense – i.e. the inspection is in the past and the violation happened before the inspection.

WRONG
The Company has admitted in the course of the proceedings that the boundaries of the tunnel have been measured incorrectly.

RIGHT
The Company has admitted in the course of the proceedings that the boundaries of the tunnel were measured incorrectly.

“were measured” is in the Past Simple tense ­– i.e. the proceedings are ongoing (we know this because “has admitted” is the Present Perfect, which expresses action that continues up to the present time) and the incorrect measurements were made before the proceedings.

 

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When to use “a” and when to use “an”

We say “an old man” but “a young child”. What is the rule for using “a” and “an”?

The rule is that we use “a” before a consonant sound and “an” before a vowel sound. Note that it’s the sound that matters, not the letter the word begins with.

Examples:

a desk an old desk
a new office an office
a task an impossible task
a year an ear
a holiday an hour
a university an uncle

Words that begin with “h” or “u” can sometimes be confusing, but you should stick to the above rule.

We say “an hour” because we pronounce “hour” without the h-sound. Similarly we say “an honourable person” because “honourable” is pronounced “onrable”.

In British English the word “herb” is pronounced with the h-sound – so we say “a herb”, but Americans tend to pronounce it as “erb”, so they write “an herb”.

One area of debate is how to use the word “historic”. Do we say “an historic achievement” or “a historic achievement”? On Google “an historic achievement” gets over 94,000 results, while “a historic achievement” gets just over 80,000 results – so, on that measure it seems “an historic…” wins – even though we usually pronounce the h-sound.

We use “a” with words like “university”, “utopia” and “European” because, although they start with a vowel, they are pronounced with a consonant sound – “you-niversity”, “you-topia”, “your-opean”.

But words like “uncle” and “onion” start with a vowel sound, so we say “an uncle”, “an onion”.

But the word “one” is pronounced “wun”. So it takes “a”. For example, “a one-track mind”.

Abbreviations and acronyms also take “a” or “an” depending on their pronunciation – so we say “a NATO member”, but “an MBA” – where NATO is pronounced “nayto” and MBA is pronounced “em-bee-ay”.

 

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