Word Confusion: E’er vs Ere vs Err

Posted December 5, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Ere long you’ll not be wanting to err…e’er…in this trio of heterographs. Lord knows, I felt like I needed a cheatsheet throughout this post, trying to keep ’em all straight!

You may be curious about other posts involving -er which include “Air vs Err vs Heir” and “‘Em, ‘Er, ‘Im…“.

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.

If you found this post on “E’er vs Ere vs Err” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

E’er Ere Err
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: e’er

Cover design for lyrics includes drawing of two hearts with a background of flowers.

“The Only Girl I E’er Did Love” was scanned by NYPL and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sweet song from 1899 that had an alternate title, “My Katie was as true to me as woman e’er could be”.

A graphic image of a Geoffrey Chaucer quote

Chaucer quote picture is courtesy of Picture Quotes

“Oon Ere It Herde, at Tother Out It Went” translates into modern English something like “One Before It Heard, at the Other It Went”.

A woodcut of poverty, sickness, lust and death thwarting the ascension to heaven. Illustration from a 1531 edition of Cicero's De Officiis.

Sin “Thwarting Ascension into Heaven” uploaded by Årvasbåo is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t think he’ll make it as he errs in poverty, sickness, lust, and death.

Part of Grammar:
Contraction of ever, an Adverb Conjunction; Preposition Verb, intransitive

Third person present verb: errs
Past tense or past participle: erred
Gerund or present participle: erring

[Literary, poetic, archaic] Ever

[Usually with negative or in questions] At any time

  • Used in comparisons for emphasis

At all times

  • Always

[With comparative] Increasingly

  • Constantly

Used for emphasis in questions and other remarks, expressing astonishment or outrage

Conjunction and Preposition:
[Poetic, literary, archaic] Before (in time)
[Formal] Be mistaken or incorrect

  • Make a mistake

To stray from the right course or accepted standards

  • [Often used as adjective, erring] Sin
  • Do wrong
  • Be incorrect

To act with bias, especially favorable bias

To go astray in thought, morals, or belief

[Archaic] To deviate from the true course, aim, or purpose

She had lived alone e’er since her husband died.

I am e’er grateful, my lord.

They lived happily e’er after.

“And she spoke to him e’er courteously and kindly, even as though he had been a holy man and worthy of all reverence.” – Amélie Rives’ A Brother to Dragons and Other Old-time Tales

“A taking hand will never want, let the world be e’er sae scant.” – Alexander Hislop’s The Proverbs of Scotland

“And as to learning, I make no query she can talk you over the Latin grammar as fast as e’er a gentleman here.” – Fanny Burney’s Camilla

I was driven for some half mile ere we stopped.

“Three times,” he says angrily, “thou shalt betray me ere the cock crows.” – Ivan Solotaroff’s 28 June 2014 article, “The Stacks: The Judas Priest Teen Suicide Trial

We hope you will return ere long.

“Slope downwards to thy depths, O sea, that ere it be for ever too late, Ahab may slide this last, last time upon his mark!” – Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

The judge had erred in ruling that the evidence was inadmissible.

The erring brother who had wrecked his life was back.

I had erred in asking Emma to be my wife.

Both 2016 presidential candidates have erred in their moral choices.

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” – Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism

Adverb: erelong, erewhile [both archaic] Adjective: errable, errant, erring
Noun: errability, errancy, errata, erratum, erroneous, error
History of the Word:
Old English ǣfre is of unknown origin. Old English ǣr is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch eer and German eher. Middle English in the sense of wander, go astray is from the Old French errer, from the Latin errare meaning to stray.

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

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Howdy, Howdy from the Brown Twins” is Artsuaga’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.