In this edition of Grammar Corner, we discuss some of the most widely used grammar errors in the English language. We don’t just correct you, though; we pinpoint exactly why a particular word/phrase/idiom is used incorrectly, while providing the context for each mistake, and then providing the right word/phrase/idiom.
Most of the time, a grammar error occurs because of homophones. Homophones are two words that sound exactly the same, but mean vastly different things. But it’s not just their meaning that’s different; homophones can also function as vastly different parts of speech.
In this edition, we discuss a common grammar error: loss vs. lost. Both words have something to do with losing, whether it’s misplacing a thing or losing your sense of direction. However, despite their similar meanings and spellings, both have very different connotations, not to mention different functions.
When to Use Loss
When we use the word ‘loss’, we are using it to describe the act of losing something or someone, or the instance of losing something or someone. For example:
My grandfather’s retirement was a huge loss to the company, considering he was the top egg salesman 5 years in a row.
The fire that destroyed the Platypus Sculpture was a terrible loss to John, who poured his heart and soul into that artwork.
“I’m so sorry for your loss”, Justine said with a smile, as Miguel tried frantically to put out the fire that was gutting his house.
To sell something “at a loss” means that you’re selling an item for less than what you got for it.
David’s motorcycle was stolen; what a huge loss to our cross-country cross-stitch club!
“I’m at a loss for words”, Timothy said in sign language.
The loss of our beloved gerbil has led us to declare bankruptcy. Don’t ask why.
An early winter meant a terrible loss in crop output; how will Farmer Anthony feed his family now?
The loss of his hair was a huge source of insecurity to Mark, something Tom took advantage of fully.
Pop culture suffered a huge loss today following the death of multiple meme lords in a food poisoning incident.
When to Use Lost
When we use the word lost, we’re using it as the past tense and past participle of the word lose. In this instance, lost functions as a verb, this means that we’re supposed to see it follow a subject. However, lost can also be used as an adjective. Examples of both:
Zachary lost his briefcase after a night out with his friends, which is unfortunate considering the case contained nuclear secrets.
After years of passive-aggressive banter with his wife, James finally lost his mind and ran away to the nearby forest, where he now lives in a cave he carved out of a boulder.
What do you mean you lost our baby in the Guns and Sharp Knives Convention again?
I can’t believe you lost 20 pounds in one month! That ‘air and water’ diet is really working out for you!
It doesn’t matter that you lost the videogame tournament, what matters is that you shouldn’t have slammed the console onto your opponent’s face. Now, you have the right to remain silent… -Lost as verb.
My lost briefcase! I found it! Thanks, guy-with-sunglasses-indoors!
If you’re looking for my lost husband, he’s out there in the yard playing caveman in his makeshift treehouse. He’ll be in when he’s hungry.
This lost child literally threw a knife straight across the room with deadly accuracy!
I know I’m on a diet, but I think I’m going to gain back all my lost weight tonight! Now, stand back as I devour this entire pizza in 2 minutes. –Lost as an adjective.
Which One to Use: Loss or Lost?
Remember: loss is the act of losing something, while lost is the past tense of loses.
You’re at a loss for words as to how you lost that game.