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Pail and Pale

Commonly Confused Words

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Pail and Pale

Adapted from a sentence in Etta, a novel by Gerald Kolpan (Ballantine, 2009)

The noun pail refers to a bucket--a container for holding and carrying something.

The adjective pale means unusually light in color or weak. As a verb, pale means to become pale or to seem weaker or less important. As a noun, pale means a post, a fence, or a boundary (as in the expression "beyond the pale").

Examples:

  • To wash his little red wagon, the boy brought a pail of water, a sponge, and some clean cloths.

  • Marie walked along the path in the pale light of the dawn.

  • What passes for paella at most restaurants is a pale imitation of the real thing.

  • Engels thought that the inmates of workhouses were people beyond the pale of the law.

Practice:

(a) In the glare of the sun, Jennifer's red hair seemed brighter than ever, emphasizing her _____ complexion.

(b) The young woman carried a large _____ of milk on her head.

(c) Colonel Kurtz was operating without any restraints, totally beyond the _____ of acceptable human conduct.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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