The Most Commonly Confused Legal Terms Explained: Part One

Building a contract between two or more parties can be a time-consuming endeavor. This is especially true when one or more of those parties are new to contractual obligation under law. Part of the reason is grammar! For example, do you know the difference between the words “affect” and “effect?” Depending on the way they are used, you have either a noun or a verb — and if you don’t know the grammatical differences, then you might misread your contract and not know exactly what it means!

We’ll start with our example. The word “affect” is a verb that usually means to influence. When you pour milk into coffee, you’ve influenced or affected the taste. But you’ve also had an “effect” on it, but is like the noun version of the aforementioned verb. The effect is the end result of the influence or alteration. But it can also be used as a verb! You won’t usually won’t see this use in contract law.

 A similar problem arises when people see the words “assure” and “insure.” When you assure someone of something, it means you’ve tried to make a convincing argument. When you insure something, it means you’ve placed protections in place. In contract law, these protections are almost always financial. Don’t confuse these two terms!

You might also run into abbreviations that don’t actually seem like abbreviations. For example, many contracts will use the abbreviations “i.e.” and “e.g.” These can confuse people. The former means “that is.” The latter means “for example.” 

Do you know what the words “imply” and “infer” mean? We run into trouble when clients can’t tell the difference. When you imply something, it means you’ve suggested it, usually in an indirect way. Place your hand on someone’s arm during an argument, and you might imply a warning. But the person whose arm was touched might “infer” a warning. An inference is more of a deduction.