Compulsive and compulsory

Compulsive and compulsory These two words are both adjectives, and they are both related to the verb ‘compel’, which means to force someone to do something. However, the two adjectives do describe different things, and do have slightly different meanings. If something is compulsory, it is something that must be done because of the law, or because someone orders you to do it. For example: • In China it is compulsory to register a new born baby with the local police. • In England, there are 11 years of compulsory education for children. • At the moment, as a result of the financial crisis, many companies are reducing their size by making compulsory redundancies. In contrast, we use compulsive to describe someone’s behaviour. It means that it is very hard for that person to stop doing something. For example, someone may be a ‘compulsive’ eater, which means that he or she cannot control their eating habits; they eat all the time, even when they are not hungry. In general, we use compulsive with behaviour that we think is negative, or which is the result of psychological problems. So, there are ‘compulsive’ eaters, ‘compulsive’ gamblers and ‘compulsive’ liars. There is one other use of the word compulsive, which is slightly different. We can describe a book as ‘compulsive’ reading, or a film as ‘compulsive’ viewing. This means that it is so good that you cannot stop reading or watching it. Interestingly, we can also say that a book is a ‘compulsory’ read, and this means that the book is a very important one and everyone should read it. Students at university may get a reading list for their course, and some of the books will be ‘compulsory’ reading, while others may be optional. Obviously, the books in the compulsory category are the ones that the lecturers think the students must read.

Gut and guts

Gut and guts The basic meaning of gut is the body organ through which food passes from your stomach, which is more often called your intestine. In the plural form, guts, it means the intestine and other organs inside your body, including your stomach. With regard to the example you have seen in a health magazine, when they say ‘lose your gut’ they mean lose the fat around your stomach. In particular, this often refers to men, especially if they drink too much beer and eat too many chips. However, we also use guts to refer to courage or bravery. If we say that someone has the ‘guts to do something’, then they have the courage to do it. For example: • Only Sarah had the guts to tell the boss that his idea was a bad idea. This means that everyone else in the office was too scared to tell the boss he was wrong. Only Sarah had the guts to do it. In fact, we can say that the other people in the office were ‘gutless’; they did not have the courage or determination needed to talk directly to the boss. We also talk about ‘gut reactions’ or ‘gut feelings’. These are feelings you have when you are sure that you are right or correct, but you cannot give a reason for those feelings. You do not have a logical reason for why you feel something is correct, but you are certain that it is correct. For example: • I had a gut feeling that Simon was lying to me about the money, but I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t have any proof. Lastly, we also use the word ‘gutted’ to say that we are really disappointed by something. For example: • I was gutted when Manchester United lost the football match against Chelsea.

Bored and boring

Bored and boring ‘Bored’ and ‘boring’ can be used as adjectives, but they describe things in different ways. I shall begin by giving two examples: • I feel bored because this TV programme is boring. • I am frightened because this film is frightening. In both of those examples, I had certain temporary feelings – I was bored and I was frightened. What were the causes of those feelings? Well, the TV programme was boring and the film was frightening. These ‘-ing’ adjectives describe the qualities of something, whereas the ‘-ed’ adjectives describe a temporary state or feeling, which is caused by something. If I stop watching the film, I won’t be frightened any longer, but the film is still a frightening film. We can see this difference between a temporary feeling and a permanent quality if we look at the words you asked about – boring and bored. Here are two examples: • I don’t like David. I think he is boring. • Oh, I’m bored. Let’s go out and do something fun. In the first example, I don’t like David because he is boring, and this is a permanent characteristic or quality of his. In my opinion, he was boring yesterday, he is boring today, and he will be boring tomorrow. However, in the second example, I have a temporary feeling – I am bored – and if we do something fun I will not have that feeling anymore.

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