dictionary and thesaurus

As our Glossary of Confusing Words winds down for the summer, I want to take care of all the words and phrases that are still waiting in the queue.  So if your word hasn't been addressed yet, it will be in this hodgepodge, omnibus (two good words!) post.

1) What's the correct preposition?

...graduated secondary school vs ...graduated FROM secondary school

It is technically correct to use the preposition and say that someone "graduated from" their school.  "I graduated from college in 2008."

In the U.S. you may hear people drop the preposition to say, "I graduated college in 2008."  Those people are not using a slang expression - they would probably accept that sentence as equally grammatically correct.  It even appears in some professional and academic writing.

One thing you would be unlikely to hear someone in the U.S. say, though, is "secondary school."  The three basic levels of schooling for American children are elementary school, middle school (or junior high school) and high school.

Thank you of or Thank you for?

Thank you for.

"Thank you for the gift.  It was exactly what I wanted!"

2) Word Pairs

Assessment vs Evaluation

In some fields, such as education, medicine or finance, there can be a technical difference between assessment and evaluation.  For example, if your house were damaged, your insurance company would assess the damages, meaning they would provide a monetary estimate of the damages.  In everyday speech, though, the words are pretty much synonyms.

See vs Watch

To see is to perceive with your eyes.  To watch is to observe or to fix your attention on, usually over a length of time.

"Do you see that man? Watch him to make sure he doesn't move."

"I have been watching that house and I haven't seen anything suspicious."

"I was watching TV and saw that commercial you like."

3) More Definitions


"Should" implies obligation or desirability. It is typically used to describe something you have to do but have not yet done, or to give advice (or lament not taking advice).

"You should try that restaurant.  It's good."

"I should go.  I'm already late."

"I should have listened to my mother."

It can also express an expectation that something has happened, will happen or was supposed to have happened but did not.

"I should be at work by 9:00. Call me then."

"The plane should have landed by now. It must be delayed."


When something is scarce, there is not much of it or not enough of it.

"There was a scarcity of food, so the children had to go hungry."

Okay, that's a lot of words, and that officially clears out our queue of Glossary submissions. Feel free to keep submitting words - we will bring the Glossary whenever our bloggers are on vacation. And if you submit a word specifically related to studying in the U.S., we'll define it anytime. Submit your words in the comments or using the form below.