Easily Confused Words: Basis vs. Bases

Basis and Bases 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 suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Basis is a noun. It means a specific or a limited timeframe of availability.

Bases is a plural noun form of “base.” Base has multiple forms:

  • Base, in baseball and softball, is a bag or square used to indicate a player’s progress around the field.
  • Base, in chemistry, is a chemical that feels slippery to the touch, and is capable of neutralizing acids.

Base can also be a verb, meaning the documentation, source material or other justification for an argument, or for a piece of literature, film, or art. Many movies are based on novels for example.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Basil was a promising ball player, he had a great pitcher’s arm and he ran the bases faster than anyone else. When journalists asked about his performance secrets, he just shrugged, “I approach each game on a case by case basis, no two are exactly alike.”

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