8 confounding word combinations

Not sure whether to use ‘ambivalent’ or ‘indifferent?’ You’re not alone. Here are several confounding terms —and how you can tell them apart.

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I recently had trouble explaining the difference between “epigraph,” “epigram,” “epithet” and “epitaph.” (More on those later.)

To cut down on the confusion, I demystify eight perplexing combinations.

1. Accede and exceed

Accede means to agree to a request; to give consent.

I will not accede to your request to put a video of dancing kittens on the website.

Exceed means to be greater or more than something; to extend beyond or outside of.


The results from our new email campaign have exceeded all expectations.


2. Ambivalent and indifferent

Ambivalent means to simultaneously experience contradictory feelings, beliefs or motivations.


Because it often under-performs, I’m ambivalent about my new car.


Indifferent means showing no interest or concern.


I am indifferent to your arguments against the use of the serial comma.

3. Classical and classic

Classical means relating to the ancient Greeks or Romans, especially their art, architecture, or literature.

I’ve always preferred classical drama, such as “Medea” and “Lysistrata.”


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