Easily Confused Words: Connive vs. Contrive

Connive and contrive are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Connive is a verb. If a person connives, it means he/she plots secretly to achieve a specific purpose. Connive can also mean failing to speak up or act when it’s appropriate to do so, or act in a way you know others find inappropriate.

Contrive is a verb.  If a person contrives, he/she plots or plans with unique talent or genius. Contrive can also mean to plot with evil or malicious intent.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Carmine was saddled with the cooking chores for an upcoming dinner meeting. A gifted but reluctant cook, he learned most of the crowd hated chives. So he connived to put chives in everything but dessert. He hoped it would offend all the diners so he would never be saddled with the cooking chores ever again. Unfortunately, his food won over the diners, they were oblivious to any contriving on his part, and asked that he supply food for their meetings from now on. 


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