Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adverse vs. Averse: Commonly Confused Words

Kate writes:
My Language Arts class teacher says she'll give extra credit for finding examples of grammar and vocabulary errors in the media. I think this headline uses the word 'adverse' incorrectly. Am I right?
Great job, Kate! This headline on The Weather Network website confuses the words adverse and averse. Here's the lowdown.

  • averse (adj.) - seeking to avoid; having a strong dislike; being strongly reluctant or opposed. The conservative investors are averse to risk. Karen hates studying and is averse to using flashcards.
  • adverse (adj.) - negative; harmful; unfavorable. The boy had an adverse reaction to the medication. The scandal had an adverse effect on his career.

Although both words are adjectives that convey a similarly negative feeling, they are used in different situations.

Averse (pronounced a-VERSE) usually describes a person or entity trying to avoid something. Averse shares the same root with the verb 'avert', which means to avoid. Very often, averse is followed by the proposition 'to'; someone is averse to something else. After drinking too much at the New Year's party, Stephanie is now averse to champagne.

Adverse (pronounced AD-verse) typically describes a negative reaction, effect or consquence. Sleep deprivation can cause adverse mood swings. After partying all semester, Jeff worried about an adverse decline in his GPA.

  • Arctic reindeer averse to rain, says new study


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