Word Confusion: Presence versus Presents

Posted December 22, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 4 2017

My primary reason for exploring this word confusion is presence and the plural presents as it is this combination that is frequently confused. Again, it’s one of those sound-alikes. And as writers, we’re supposed to be aware of the details, and those details include words, an important tool in any writer’s toolbox.

It’s possible to have presence and to have presents, but one is less tangible than the other. To have presence is to have an aura of a person or an area. For people to be aware of that person’s, country’s, a metaphysical force’s existence. An intangible.

To have presents means an occasion. It could be a birthday, an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s or Father’s Day, Christmas…events which occasion gifts from the others in a person’s life.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Presence Presents
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Statue of Liberty

“Statue of Liberty” is Gavcos‘ own work under the GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5via Wikimedia Commons

The Statue of Liberty has presence.

Presents under a tree

“Xmas Gifts” by Kelvin Kay, en:user:kkmd, is under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

Christmas presents!

Part of Grammar:
Plural for the noun: presence
Plural for the noun and third person present for the verb: present

Noun 1, 2;

Verb 2, intransitive & transitive

Past tense or past participle: presented
Gerund or present participle: presenting

State or fact of existing, occurring, being present in a place or thing

A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen or visible

[Law; plural noun] The document or instrument in question 1

Gifts 2

Verb, intransitive:
To manifest as a part of a disease or medical condition

To make a presentation

[Medical] To be positioned in a particular way

Verb, transitive:
To introduce, especially with formal ceremony

  • To introduce a young woman to society with conventional ceremony

To bring before the public

The giving of something to another as a reward or gift

  • To make a gift to

To offer for observation, examination, or consideration

  • Show or display

To afford or furnish

To turn or position in the direction of another: presented his face to the camera

To attach (an antigen, for example) on the surface of a molecule for detection by other molecules

To hold, carry, or point a weapon in a particular manner as a salutation or sign of honor, usually along the center axis of the body

[Ecclesiastical] To recommend a cleric for a benefice

[Law] To offer to a legislature or court for consideration

[Law] To bring a charge or indictment against

Very successful actors have a presence that causes people to be aware of them.

Luke sensed a presence in the Force.

He had the presence of mind to remain calm.

The United States maintains a military presence in volatile areas.

Be it known by these presents.

Yeah! Christmas presents!!

Verb, intransitive:
She presents an offer for our consideration.

The default position is if the foetus presents with its head first at the mouth of the uterus.

Verb, transitive:
The situation presents us with a chance to improve our knowledge.

He presents his face to the camera.

The Broadway Theatre presents a new play this fall.

The president presents the lieutenant with the Purple Heart.

The Academy Awards presents Oscars as a prize in a televised ceremony.

Noun: nonpresence Adjective: self-presented, unpresented
Adverb: presently
Noun: presentness
History of the Word:
Middle English 1 Middle English from Old French, from Latin praesns, praesent-, the present participle of praeesse meaning to be present: prae- from the combination of pre- + esse meaning to be.

2 Middle English presenten, from Old French presenter, from Latin presentre meaning to show, from praesns, praesent-, is from the present participle of praeesse meaning to be in front of.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

The Presence Chamber at Kensington Palace from Pyne’s Royal Residences (1819), which was uploaded by Merchbow-commonswiki and Pile of Gorgeous Gifts; both are in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.