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Pail and Pale

Commonly Confused Words


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").


  • 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.


(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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