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Using the Word “Use” Too Often? Here Are Alternatives [+Examples]

Mica Mesina
Mica Mesina
January 28, 2022
Using the Word “Use” Too Often? Here Are Alternatives [+Examples]
Illustrations by Yuxuan Wu

Have you ever wondered how often you use the word “use”? The verb “use” can be used in many ways, and it is really easy to use in a sentence. It’s so easy to the point that the word can sometimes be used too often.

Re-read the previous paragraph. There is nothing wrong with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but a particular word is repeated several times. In this article alone, we have repeated the same word 19 times (excluding strikethroughs)! And in that paragraph above alone, we have mentioned the word six times.

The more you use the same word in your writing, the lazier it looks. Substituting a generic term like “use” with a more appropriate and specific word will significantly improve your writing — and your vocabulary.

Here are some words you can use instead:

Operate

Operate means to perform a specific skill for something to function. The word especially applies to using a machine, material, or device to control its mechanical operation. We can’t say that we can operate a paper and pencil, but we can operate a drawing tablet, for example. Objects can range from simple devices like remote controls to complex machines like computers.

Let’s look at this example:

I don’t know how to use a sewing machine

While using the word “use” in the sentence is not wrong, replacing it with “operate” sounds more appropriate and specific. Anyone can try to use the sewing machine, but not everyone is skilled to operate it. A sewing machine can only do its function by a person who knows how to operate the sewing machine.

I don’t know how to  ̷u̷s̷e̷ operate a sewing machine.

But we can use the word operate on non-mechanical objects as long as it makes something work. 

The brain  ̷u̷s̷e̷ operates on as much power as a 10-watt light bulb.

Other words to try: run, control, wield, ply, manage, pilot, manipulate, manoeuvre, work, handle.

Consume

While we use “consume” often to refer to an act of ingesting food or drink, the word can also apply to resources in general when we spend or use up resources (often wastefully) such as time, fuel, money, or energy. 

The village  ̷u̷s̷e̷d̷ consumed up all of its resources before seeking help.
I can’t read the entire book because it  ̷u̷s̷e̷s̷ consumes too much time.

Other similar words you can try: deplete, exhaust, spend, utilize, squander

Apply

There are three situations where we can replace the word use with apply:

1. To make use of something suitable and fitting.

We can  ̷u̷s̷e̷ apply Newton’s Third Law to solve our experiment.

2. To put a specific object to use or bring into action, especially for a particular purpose. 

The pilot  ̷u̷s̷e̷s̷ applies full power to the engines before the aircraft can climb.

3. To put on the surface of

For example, we put on or spread a substance such as cosmetics, topical medicines, and skincare on the skin or apply a varnish or paint on a wood surface.

She  ̷u̷s̷e̷s̷ applies lipstick as the last step of her makeup routine.

Other words you can try: put in, try, practice, administer.

Adopt

Most use the word “adopt” when we accept the responsibility of taking a child as our own. The same applies to rules, laws, practices, beliefs, behavior, religion, or principles.

When you adopt a principle, for example, you take it as yours and take responsibility to ensure that you practice it. To adopt means to start a particular method as your own or to show a particular attitude towards somebody/something. For example, to adopt a plan means to approve and execute it. To adopt an attitude means you choose to present yourself in a way and eventually becomes a part of you.

There is no need to  ̷u̷s̷e̷ adopt such measures; it can even be risky.
Because of climate change, small companies decided to  ̷u̷s̷e̷ adopt eco-friendly practices.

Other similar words you can try: embrace, take on, acquire, implement, execute


Charlotte Chen, Designer @Duolingo

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