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A commodity is any useful or valuable thing, especially something that is bought and sold. Grain, vegetables, and precious metals are commodities, but so are personal qualities that can be used to make money: Originality and imagination are rare commodities in the film business.

Farmers closely follow the commodities' markets, where the future value of the crops they grow are traded, and on any given day assigned a different value. Commodity descends from Middle English commodite "benefit, profit," from Old French, from Latin commoditās "fitness," from commodus "convenient, appropriate," from the prefix com- "with" plus modus "measure."

Choose your words

Caught between words? Learn how to make the right choice.

bazaar/ bizarre

Bazaar and bizarre might sound alike but a bazaar is a market and bizarre describes something kooky. There could be a bizarre bazaar run by monkeys selling people feet.

marital/ martial

Marital and martial look almost alike, but the only time they overlap is when you declare war on your spouse. Marital has to do with marriage, and martial is concerned with fighting.

naval/ navel

Your navel is in the center of your belly, while naval ships belong out at sea.

practical/ practicable

Choosing between practical ("sensible") and practicable ("possible") often depends on context. read more...

who's/ whose

Knock knock. Who's there? It's an apostrophe telling you that who's is short for "who is." Whose silly idea was it to make these words sound alike? Who knows? But whose shows possession and who's is a contraction. read more...

who/ whom

To Whom It May Concern: who is a subject and whom is an object. Who acts and whom receives. Say what? Who is like "he" or "she" and whom is like "him" or "her." Who is collecting money for homeless kittens? He is! Then to whom does the money go? Send the money to him. read more...

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