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Is a Fly Exacerbating or Exasperating?

The answer to the question posed in the title depends on what you are trying to say. Most of the time a fly is exasperating. Exasperating means annoying, as anyone who has tried to shoe away a relentless fly well knows.

Exacerbating, on the other hand, means to make worse or intensify.

As Maria pored over the 80-line GRE passage on quantum physics, a fly buzzed in her ear, exacerbating the situation.

Usage Note

We exacerbate a situation or condition. We can also exacerbate pain. We don’t, however, exacerbate a person, much like we can exasperate a person.

Right:

His little brother always exasperated her while she tried to do her work.

Wrong:

Her brother exacerbated her so she couldn’t study.

 

EXACERBATE

(A) persuade

(B) intensify

(C) reinvigorate

(D) ameliorate

(E) exhaust

Ans: (D). Ameliorate means to improve a condition.

 

 

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