But a quick look on the web or tv shows plenty DO. And it's all too easy, when we hear or see words used incorrectly, to repeat them without knowing we're wrong.
Often good advertising, articles or books deliberately break grammatical rules. But when you break the rules without knowing it, you can look like a right plonker. Here're some commonly misused words: some pretty basic - others more obscure and just interesting to know.
Averse / Adverse: Averse - reluctant. Adverse - unfavourable. ("I'm averse to go sailing in such adverse conditions").
Carnage: This is being used regularly and wrongly by young tv weather reporters. Carnage means a great slaughter, a massacre. A storm cannot deliver carnage unless it claims many lives. Heavy rainfall is not carnage.
Complement / Compliment: Complement - something that adds to or supplements something else. Compliment - something nice someone says about you.
Criteria: Criteria (standards by which something's judged) is plural - criterion is singular.
Empathy / Sympathy: Empathy is relating to someone's feelings, without them having to say anything. Sympathy is supporting the emotional experience of that person.
"I empathise with how Sam must feel over losing his father."
"Sam, I offer my sympathy at the loss of your father."
Farther / Further: Farther talks about a physical distance: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How much farther is it?" Further is talking about an extension of time or degree: "Take your business further by buying X!" But then again, anxious Little Timmy may well be enquiring about the timeframe of the journey…!
Fewer / Less: If you can count it, use fewer. If you can't, use less.
"There're fewer zits on my face after using Product X."
"James has less incentive to do what I say."
Historic / Historical: Historic means an important event. Historical - something that happened in the past.
Hopefully: Use hopefully only if you're describing someone's manner. Correct: He looked at her hopefully. Incorrect: Hopefully, she says yes.
Imply / Infer: Imply means to suggest indirectly (you’re sending a subtle message). To infer is to come to a conclusion based on information (you're interpreting a message).
Insure / Ensure: Insure is correct only when you call an insurance company for cover. Ensure means to guarantee.
Irregardless: Irregardless is not an accepted word, though said regularly. Use regardless or irrespective.
Literally: "I’m literally starving to death." Er, no...not unless you’re in Somalia! Literally means exactly what you're saying is accurate. Everything else is figurative (ie: a figure of speech).
Principal / Principle: Principal as a noun means the top dog; as an adjective, it means the most important of any set. Principle is a noun meaning a fundamental truth, a law, a rule that always applies, or a code of conduct.
Unique: Here's one that really gets up my nose! Unique means (literally) one of a kind. Saying something is very unique is horribly terribly grossly wrong…and this error is not unique!
Sadly, with today's bastardisation of English, so much correct usage just doesn't sound right any more. And I haven't even touched on common pronunciation errors…don’t even start me!
Ah well, now you know some of the rules, feel free to break 'em... just about everyone else does!