Easily Confused Words: Changes vs. Chances

Changes and chances 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.

Changes has multiple forms.

  • As a verb, it is used with pronouns he, she, and it. It means alterations or effects made by a person or thing to their environment or timeframe. She changes clothes at the gym, He changes his mind about joining friends for lunch.
  • As a plural noun, it means the effects or alterations made. My editor liked my article, but made some changes I need to review.

Chances is a plural noun. It means another word for risk, or an opportunity where the outcomes could be good or bad. The outcomes could affect the risktaker’s reputation or financial status for good or evil. Crossing the street during a green light is taking chances with your life. Gambling means taking chances with your money.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Chan was reluctant to make changes her future plans. She had had it all figured out at 13. But junior year, her mom got sick. Suddenly, it was clear her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college. She would have to try her chances in the job market instead.

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