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Regardless vs. Irregardless, Sneaked vs. Snuck, Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

Regardless vs. Irregardless

Some words in the English language are so overused that we don’t notice that they are incorrect or don’t even exist. A perfect example is irregardless. There is no such word as irregardless because regardless already means “without regard.” The -ir prefix is redundant.

Sneaked vs. Snuck

Both sneaked and snuck are commonly used as the past and perfect tenses for sneak. However, in formal writing, sneaked is still preferable to snuck. A writer can’t go wrong using sneaked.

Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

These three words can be confusing.

Assure = to promise or say with confidence
Example: Let me assure you that I will be at the meeting.

Ensure = to make sure something will or won’t happen
Example: To ensure my family’s safety, I have installed an alarm.

Insure = to issue or purchase an insurance policy
Example: I will insure my home with an additional fire policy.

 

Pop Quiz
Choose the correct word:
1. She sneaked/snuck out of the house in the middle of the night.
2. I assure/ensure/insure you that I have been honest about the money I spent.
3. I will assure/ensure/insure my car as required by law.

Pop Quiz Answers
1. She sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night. (Correct)
2. I assure you that I have been honest about the money I spent.
3. I will insure my car as required by law.

Posted on Saturday, August 9, 2008, at 6:40 pm


38 Comments

38 Responses to “Regardless vs. Irregardless, Sneaked vs. Snuck, Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

  1. Terri says:

    I just want to say thank you! So many people use words like “irregardless” all the time. My favorite of all time is “conversate.” I cringe when I hear someone say that!

  2. rose says:

    what about the word ASK vs ax? whats going on with this? even a newsreporter in upstate NY says ax instead of ask. does it have something to do with a deformity of the tongue? i dont think so; i have repeated each one to myself over & over and all that is different is in axe the sss or hissing sound is not heard.

    • Carbrown says:

      Metathesis is the switching of sounds, or phones, within a word or between 2 words (like when you say “he source” instead of “sea horse”, “interduce” instead of “introduce”, or “aks” [i.e., "ax"] instead of “ask”). It occurs in almost all languages by nearly all speakers at some point or another in the history of any language. It is not caused by a deformity of the tongue. It is a natural, extremely common change in every language.

  3. Jane says:

    It seems that “ax,” as a substitute for “ask,” is sneaking into mainstream conversation. I cringe whenever I hear it.

  4. Allyson says:

    Burt-day instead of birthday makes me cringe! I just found your web page…I love it…thank you!

  5. Karen says:

    Lately, I’ve been hearing some people use this mysterious word, “funna”, as in, “I’m funna go to my house”. It should be, “I’m going to go to my house”, not “funna go”.

    • Jane says:

      I have never heard anyone say “funna” in place of “going to go.” Are we Californians not always first when it comes to language alterations after all?

    • Jenn says:

      Funna is actually finna which is derived from “fixing to.” Several of the last things mentioned occur mainly in African-American speech and are common. No big deal.

  6. Mitch says:

    Years back a car commercial on TV substituted “comforble” for “comfortable”. Seemed to be done to make the sentence flow. I wonder how many people even noticed.

    Just found “irregardless” in my 1970 Am Heritage Dictionary. Dos that make it an actual word? Is described as a double negative and improper. But is it a word?

    • Jane says:

      I believe that the commercial’s use of “comforble” was just a sloppy way of saying “comfortable.” I have never seen “comforble” used in written English and do not recall seeing the commercial you’re referring to.

      Unfortunately, in spite of the double negative, “irregardless” is recognized as a word in some dictionaries, although it is non-standard English. The definition is the same as regardless, which is the proper word.

  7. leslie weddell says:

    I believe “funna” might be short, or slang for “fixin’ to”, which is a term I used to hear a lot when I lived in Dallas….a southern term?

    • Jane says:

      The slang dictionaries define this term as a cross between “fixin’ to” and “gonna” (going to). The word is not listed in the traditional English dictionaries.

    • Suzanne says:

      I have never heard the word “funna” and I have lived in Texas my whole life. I do know that down here we do tend to run words together. But “funna” doesn’t even make sense as run together words. It would be fixing to or gonna, but you never are “fixing to gonna” do anything. It is redundant.
      I know, because I am writing a novel and have spent many hours listening to myself and those around me, that sometimes, especially in the south, what is spoken is not always reflected in the way a person writes. I write “you would have” but when I speak it comes out “you’d've” which sounds like “U dove”. You might never know from my writing that I talk that way. But I think with spoken language, there is an natural sway towards efficiency in getting your message across.

  8. Tessa Myren says:

    Thought this discussion was very interesting. Wasn’t sure about snuck and sneaked. I agree that irregardless is not a proper word, however, there is one way some dictionaries say it is correct. The only way you could use I would be as a double negative (although incorrect still). Then it would be “with regard.” though no one uses it that way.

  9. Heather says:

    Ever since former U.S. President George W. Bush mispronounced ‘nuclear’ as ‘new-cue-luhr’, I have heard it increasingly mispronounced as such in the news media. Precedent set by a President does not make it proper English!

    • Jane says:

      Former President George W. Bush may have sensitized your ears to that pronunciation but he isn’t the first to use it. My old 1973 Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary shows the nyu-kye-ler pronunciation but indicates that it is “nonstandard.” Some of us may not like it, but modern dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary lists two acceptable pronunciations of the word: ‘nu-kle-er OR ‘nyu-kye-ler and The American Heritage Dictionary lists noo-klee-er, nyoo- or, by metathesis, -kyuh-ler [metathesis meaning "transposition within a word of letters, sounds, or syllables"]. (By the way, when referring to a president in the generic sense, as in your second sentence, it does not need to be capitalized.)

  10. Jude Smith says:

    Why are people putting themselves first in their sentences?

    For example, “Myself and Mary went to the movies”. Even people I expect to know rules of grammar do it. I was taught to place my link last in a sentence, ‘Mary and I went…’.

    It’s as though they know that ‘Me and Mary…’ is unacceptable, but ‘Myself and Mary…’ is OK. Am I just being picky?

    • Jane says:

      I do not believe you are being picky. You are just more conscious of proper grammar than some people. There is no formal rule regarding putting I or me last when referring to yourself and others. It is a matter of courtesy. “Mary and I went to the movies” is correct rather than “Myself and Mary” or “Me and Mary” because Mary and I are the subjects of the sentence. The subject form of the pronoun is I. Myself is used only when it refers back to another word in the sentence.

  11. RB says:

    Many people, especially in formal or corporate situations, think that it’s okay (and in fact, super formal and fancy) to replace the word “I” or “me” with the word “myself” whenever they want to. For example, they think it’s okay to say “Please submit the financial report to either Sally or myself.” The irony is that they are using the word “myself” to sound sophisticated, when in fact it only makes them sound uneducated.

    • Jane says:

      You’re right, it is not grammatically correct to use the reflexive pronoun myself unless it refers back to another word in the sentence. An example of correct usage would be: I worked myself to the bone.

      • jk macdonald says:

        It’s not “refers back;” “re” means back so the word “back” is redundant, just like the word “tooth” in tooth dentist or “woman” in widow woman is redundant. LEAVE OFF THE WORD “BACK”. JUST SAY “IT REFERS TO ANOTHER WORD.”

        • Jane says:

          In this case, the word refer means “to direct attention usually by clear and specific mention.” Since it is not explicit that attention is directed forward or back, I felt it made the point more clearly to say “refers back” since the pronoun myself must come after the related word in the sentence.

        • Jen says:

          Hahahaha! JK, even though my reply is about 100 years old, I couldn’t resist. Your ‘correction’ of Jane’s use of ‘refers back’ makes you sound pompous, and it’s even more hilarious due to the fact that you’re completely wrong.
          Don’t mess with Jane – you’ll no doubt be taken to school.
          Ha, thanks Jane! Your site is great!
          Jen

  12. Allison says:

    Thank you on the clarification of sneaked and snuck. I recall being taught snuck but have recently seen “sneaked” in novels and it had me confused for sure. As for other grammar mishaps, I also notice when people THINK they are catching themselves and sounding sophisticated when they say “It was a really fun time for Billy and me….I mean Billy and I.” Or just “The present was for Amy and I.” People think that “I” is always right when it’s not the case. I hear this mistake EVERYWHERE. Drives me nuts. And like another responder said… the irony is the person is all proud and confident that they are speaking correctly.

    • snark43 says:

      ‘Correct’ grammar in a living language is typically archaic usage that lags behind common vernacular, often by centuries. Occasionally revisionists will try to ‘improve’ common usage by demanding that words that have a long history be struck from our language. Snuck is an excellent example. as for Assure and Ensure, they actually have different definitions and are not strictly synonymous. You may assure someone that they are safe, but that does not ensure that they truly are. I also would like to point out that while irregardless may be a redundancy, it is certainly no more so than reassure, which is considered quite correct.

      • Jane says:

        Your distinction between assure and ensure is consistent with the definitions contained in the original grammar tip. However, I’m not in agreement with your statement that reassure is no more of a redundancy than irregardless. Irregardless is used by some as though it means the same as regardless but actually is not a word at all, while you can reassure someone who was assured but then lost faith again, necessitating that he be reassured.

  13. Mare says:

    I remember long ago being taught to mentally “check” my grammar when it came to using “Joe and I…” vs “Joe and me…” by taking out the other person’s name and the word ‘and’. The sentence should still sound right.

    Example: Joe and I felt that stinging wind.

    Take out “Joe and” and you’re left with
    “I felt that stinging wind.”

    “Joe and me felt that stinging wind”. = “Me felt that stinging wind.”

    Doesn’t work, right?
    Is this still a good check for grammar?

    • Jane says:

      I think it is still a great way to check that you are using the correct word. I demonstrate the use of this method in the grammar blog “I vs. Me.” Hopefully there are still teachers who are sharing that tip in their classes.

    • Jessica says:

      I learned this trick too, and it’s a great tip… sadly, it doesn’t work with “between” (hence the common mistake “between you and I”):

      “Between Joe and me, we had $15 left” -> “Between me, I had $15 left.” Drat!

      • Jane says:

        Since the shortcut doesn’t work in this one case, just remember that between is a preposition and thus Joe and the pronoun are objects of the preposition. Therefore, you must use the object pronoun me rather than the subject pronoun I. Between Joe and me, we had $15 left is correct.

        • Martin says:

          Can anyone explain why the majority of businesses now ask us to ‘pre-order’ goods – what’s wrong with just ‘ordering’ them?

          • Jane says:

            I sympathize with you on the overused prefix pre. What do people mean when they say they’re doing some preplanning? Are they planning before they begin the real planning? Maybe if we stretch the meaning of pre (before)–when companies allow special customers to order a popular item before it is released to the general public–is that preordering? Your guess is as good as mine.

  14. Debbie Crawford says:

    I just happened upon your site (solving the dilemma of “irregardless”), and I am so glad I did! I have always been a “wordster” and thoroughly enjoy finding others that are grammar addicts. I have several friends that are going to love this!

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