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. Many scholars maintain 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

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82 Comments on Regardless vs. Irregardless, Sneaked vs. Snuck, Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

82 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. Allyson says:

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

    • Jane says:

      That would make me cringe too. I’m glad you are enjoying GrammarBook.com. Thanks for writing.

    • Reuven says:

      The best one you hear around in this regard is burf-day. It is hard to know whether such changes are due to local dialect, cultural dialects, lack of knowledge of English, a desire to rebel against “elitists”, or just plain laziness in learning correct pronunciation.

      Another regular mispronunciation is the word in-SHUR-unce, said with the accent on the first syllable: IN-shu-runce. And the tendency of most ESL people to think the “car of my mother” is an acceptable alternative to “my mother’s car”.

      • Jonathan says:

        ESL people that say “car of my mother’s” instead of “my mother’s car” is because 9 out of 10 times in their mind they use their native sentence structure which is opposite that of English. Take spanish for instance, if you translate “car of my mother’s” verbatim it would fall correctly into Spanish sentence structure. Vice versa native English speakers have a tendency to say “blanco caballo”(white horse) rather than “caballo blanco”

  4. Karen says:

    Another word that will make you cringe (it makes ME cringe), is when people say, “supposebly” instead of “supposedly.” There is no B in the word at all, never was, never will be.

  5. 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?

    • We believe that the commercial’s use of “comforble” was just a sloppy way of saying “comfortable.” We 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.

      • Victor Auguste says:

        Thanks Jane for clearing this up for me. In the Caribbean,(in St. Lucia where I am from) from since then many “elite” (government officials and tv personalities)persons have substituted “comforble” for comfortable. It’s the case of monkey hear and monkey say. I will stick to what I know to be proper at all times. Once again thanks.

    • Francesca Modine says:

      I have never heard “comforble” but “cumf-tubble” makes me cringe, along with “vun-rubble”!

  6. 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.

    • The dictionaries that we have seen identify irregardless as nonstandard English for regardless.

    • Claire says:

      I have been really surprised (shocked) to see “snuck” being used for “sneaked” in mainstream novels over the last few years. If people really have not heard the word “sneaked” and think it is a mispronunciation (as I saw at another grammar site), that’s really weird.

  7. 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!

    • Former President George W. Bush may have sensitized your ears to that pronunciation but he isn’t the first to use it. Our 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.)

    • Wes says:

      Do a little research and you will find that Eisenhower, Carter, and Clinton all pronounced the word the same way Bush did. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2002/09/why_does_bush_go_nucular.html

    • Ralph T Byrns says:

      Okay. [Supposedly derived from references to President Martin Van Buren as “OK”. And, regarding presidential influences on common parlance: I’ve seen the word “finalize” attributed to President Eisenhower, whose speech patterns apparently borrowed bits of military bureaucratese.]

    • Maureen says:

      The one that really bugs me is the word “unthaw” instead of “thaw.” If one were to unthaw a frozen item, it would mean that they are actually freezing it. Right?

      • While we agree with you, we should mention that Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has this to say about unthaw: “Although unthaw as a synonym of thaw is sometimes cited as an illogical error, it has persisted in occasional use for more than four centuries. It occurs in both American and British English.”

  8. 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.

      • Your distinction between assure and ensure is consistent with the definitions contained in the original grammar tip. However, we’re 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 standard word at all, while you can reassure someone who was assured but then lost faith again, necessitating that he be reassured.

  9. 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?

    • We think it is still a great way to check that you are using the correct word. We 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!

      • 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?

          • We 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.

          • Deb says:

            I’m confused by ads prompting you to “preplan your funeral”, as opposed to what? Doesn’t planning equal preplanning, especially in this case?

          • We agree with you that preplan is usually a redundancy.

          • Mary-Jane Berman says:

            Definitely a Department of Redundancy Department entry!

  10. 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!

  11. John Harrison says:

    I’m English, as opposed to American. Until fairly recently nobody here said “snuck”; it was always “sneaked”. Just in the last few years, some people have started to say “snuck”, almost certainly picked up from American TV programmes and/or films. To me it just sounds, even feels, wrong; sure, some irregular verbs have prefect participles/past tenses formed by vowel changes, but never from long ‘ee’ to short ‘u’, not in English or in any other Germanic language.

    I know there is a counter-argument that says that no language is set in stone and that today’s incorrect usage is tomorrow’s acceptable grammmar, but, as far as I am concerned, snuck seaks.

    • In formal writing, sneaked is still preferable to snuck.

    • Richard says:

      I can assure you that in England, as in America and Canada, the word “snuck” is as legitimate as “sneaked”.

      If you doubt me, go to Youtube and enter into the search engine Conan O’Brien and Jennifer Garner.

      That settles it.

      I don’t know where the former poster from England hails who said only recently she’d heard “snuck” but I’ll wager she’s not a member of the Royal Family.

  12. Budd Pippin says:

    I have coined my own word to use for “without regards”. I will, tongue in cheek, say “disirregardless” when I hear the word irregardless. Regardless of this fact, and irrespective to other matters, it usually gets a laugh.

  13. Ed says:

    One that I hear a lot is “orientate”. I understand orientation is correct. But I thought the proper word is “orient”.

    “He spun around a lot and got disorientated.”

    “Can you orientate the rectangles 90 degrees from the way they are shown?”

    I see that it is accepted in various places to mean the same thing… It’s just that I hear it a lot from people who say “probly” instead of “probably”, “supposably” instead of “supposedly”, and “for all intensive purposes”… So I don’t really trust it. Drives me nuts!

  14. Jerry says:

    When someone says “Irregardless” I usually cant focus on what they’re saying after that. Have you heard someone say “sunt” instead of “sent”. “They sunt the mail to the wrong address”. I almost fell out of my chair, when I heard this. Thank you for the knowledge on Assure and Ensure.

    • Michael Bedwell says:

      A second and more technical use of “assure” is as in “life assurance.” You can’t insure yourself against dying, but while living you can invest money to compensate your loved ones when you do die. This is in addition to any monies covered for example by your vehicle insurance.

  15. Irregardless says:

    Do you use a Dictionary? Yes, there there is a use for the word irregardless and it is a word.
    Irrgardless has been in the dictionary more than 100 years. It happens to be a way to add emphasis to regardless. Please have a look in a few Dictionaries…
    you will see a definition. So let me use it in a sentence for you…Irregardless of what you think, the word irregardless is a word.

    • Of course irregardless is a word, and takes its place proudly alongside other actual words, like “thunk,” “slud,” “tooken” (past tense of take), “tutee” (someone taught by a tutor) … why, the list is endless.

      So don’t let the consensus of 100% of all language scholars dissuade you. Go forth and proudly proclaim “Irregardless!” to the world. We’re behind you (several blocks, actually).

  16. Karen says:

    Awp! I just ran across a new one – “analysising” – in a software tool I just installed. Googling the word turns it up in a number of sites, mostly referencing software but not all. It’s used instead of “analyzing” and I’m guessing it was coined by someone whose first language is not English.

  17. Jeannie says:

    Please Clarify: Could care less vs. Couldn’t care less.
    My take: COULDN’T care less should be the phrase used to express the lowliness of something’s existence; and based on the fact that if one COULD care less, then the original idea IS of some importance, which defeats the purpose of expressing its absolute lowliness. If one COULD care less, then why bother mentioning it? What’s up with this battle, GrammerBook?

    • There is a sarcastic attitude implicit in this elliptical statement. “I could care less” means “I suppose if I really thought about it, I could care less.” Our objection to it is that it is tired and unoriginal.

  18. Gloria says:

    We should teach the realtors that they are REALTORS. Not REALATORS. The vast majority of individuals in this profession mispronounce their own title.

  19. Jennifer Maxwell says:

    One of the words that drives me nuts is “gifted”, as in “He gifted me with a new bicycle this morning”. I almost cringe when I hear this!

    • Aidan says:

      It might drive you nuts, but it is not incorrect; its use goes back centuries.

      There is a tone of melodramatic ceremony in such a usage, but “gifted” can be more nuanced than “gave.” And if a man can be gifted, then one may have gifted him with such bounty.

  20. Teresa says:

    I discovered this thread when my daughter asked about dived vs. dove. I had recently researched sneaked vs. snuck, so I had some understanding of traditional vs. nontraditional.

    Very interesting conversation going here, and I thought I would give a shout out for the one pet peeve that gets me every single time I hear it: saw vs. seen. Correct me if I am wrong, but “I seen (insert anything)” is not acceptable ever. If it is, please educate me because I can’t seem to look at people the same after they say it.

  21. Jemima says:

    Love this site…. it has all the pronunciation, words and phrases that have been driving me mad ever since I arrived in the USA 9 years ago. thankfully I have stopped shouting at the TV now.

  22. ruvimbo says:

    My entire class received an email from our professor with this site attached; turns out our constant use of “irregardless” has him quite worked up.

  23. STACEY BUSTOS says:

    I honestly thought the correct word was snuck. It’s hard for me to wrap my tongue around sneaked. Happy to have this correct information.

  24. Dave Barrell says:

    What drives me batty is the constant use of ” Very Unique” by CEO’s referring to their product or service, Nothing can be more than unique as it describes one of a kind.

  25. Jae says:

    I am so thrilled that I’ve found this site. Growing up, I was taught the Queen’s English in school, however, over the years, being exposed to so many American shows etc., I’ve lost my way a bit, grammatically. Thank you, I will keep this site close at hand always. I fell into the “irregardless” trap for a bit, but found my way back, thankfully.
    Keep up the good work.

  26. Paul Murphy says:

    It’s reassuring to know there are others to whom the correct use of our English language is important. I have little formal education but I have found that the ability to speak correctly can take one far in life. We must all remember the purpose of language is to communicate. As time passes our language changes, as indeed does everything! We speak to communicate and be understood. One may speak differently to a doctor than one would to a longshoreman.

  27. Ron Shirley says:

    Another misuse that makes me cringe is using the word hung when hanged is meant. The traitor was hanged for his crime. The picture was hung on the wall.

  28. Clark Crimcops says:

    My name is Kory Stamper and I am a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster. That means I am a writer and editor of dictionaries.
    One word that gets a lot of vitriol is the word “irregardless.” There is a dictionary entry for “irregardless.” “Irregardless” is a word. This inspires specific vehement hatred in people. “Irregardless” is a word and we’re duty-bound to enter it.
    “Irregardless” is a word. It is related to “regardless.” It is actually a blend of two words. It’s a blend of “irrespective” and “regardless.” People hate it because they say that it has no use — why not just use “regardless”?
    But actually in the dialect that “irregardless” comes from, it has a specific use that doesn’t translate well in print. It’s basically an emphatic use of “regardless.” So if you’re a native speaker of certain dialects that use “irregardless” you use “irregardless” to shut down further conversation on a topic. I might say, “Dad, let me borrow the car. I’m a really good driver.” And he’ll say, “Regardless, I’m not comfortable.” I’ll say, “Oh but come on. I’ll get it detailed, and I’ll put gas in it.” He’ll say, “Irregardless, no.”
    The point of the “irregardless” is to shut down conversation. So “irregardless” is a word. It has a specific use, in particular dialects.

  29. Val says:

    I would go further than saying “The -ir prefix is redundant” on “irregardless.” Saying “irregardless” is the same as using a double negative and double negatives, by definition, become a positive.

  30. R Thurston says:

    I think that the word “irregardless” is fine to use. If we are to break down the word according to the prefix, -ir means “not” (irregular = not regular; irreparable = not repairable; irresistible = not able to resist; I’m sure you get my point). The root word “regardless” meaning without regard, would technically make the word “irregardless” mean “not without regard”. As I have often heard the term irregardless used, I would think the speaker is simply stating that their opinion or objection is “not without regard” to whatever issue is being debated.

    • As we stated in our reply of November 29, 2019, to Val, “So if irregardless means anything, it means ‘not regardless’ when the person using it is trying to say the exact opposite.” Thus, the word irregardless is a double negative.

  31. Carolyn David says:

    This was a wonderful experience today! There are many misused words in the American – English language that often upset me and drive me crazy. Generally, I cannot explain why they’re wrong, but I just know. A few years ago, I was lectured on my use of the word “often.” I was told the “t” is not pronounced. In looking it up, I found an explanation that both agreed with and refuted her comment as “personal choice.” So, I’ve decided to no longer let her criticism sit in the “maybe” box for me. Irregardless is one of the misused words or phrases that always irritates me. I do understand and avoid double negatives. “I’ve got”… is another. Misused possessive pronouns also irritate me, however I can no longer remember the rules. I know I use them correctly, but I can no longer explain why. And at 74 I no longer remember the correct method for explaining correct sentence structure. When I was in high school, I did well and was rewarded with “A”s. But since my stroke, there are many things I’ve forgotten. Your website puts the correct vs. incorrect usage of these words in perspective for me. Thank you so much. I will continue watching this website to learn more, since I thoroughly enjoy hearing our language spoken correctly.

  32. Shaun Reen says:

    Here’s another cringeable word (not that one, this): Pundits. Next time that you hear a talking head refer to all the talking heads as pundits see if you can hear the speaker put an ‘n’ in there. Pundints. Maybe it’s my hearing but I could swear I hear it. I even playback the script to re-listen and yep, there it is again.

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