Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

When you’ve only heard and spoken a word, but never written it, getting the right spelling can be quite the challenge. This is particularly true with words that you don’t use very often. A great example of this is expatriate. Does the spelling look odd to you? It might.

An expatriate (called an “expat” for short) is a person who is currently living outside of their native country. A great example of this would be an American or Canadian who has taken a temporary position with a company overseas. We see this all the time. You can also use expatriate as a verb or as an adjective. This job may require you to expatriate. Many expatriate engineers live in that complex.

Because the term “expatriate” does refer to countries, it is very common for someone to think that it should be spelled as expatriot or ex-patriot. And those would be incorrect. Like the confusion between queue and cue, expatriate and ex-patriot would have entirely different meanings.

An expat is as I describe. An ex-patriot (which isn’t really a word) would more closely refer to someone who used to be a patriot (a person who vigorously supports his/her country), not unlike an ex-girlfriend or ex-military personnel.

A common place where you may hear about an expatriate is in the context of an expatriate bar (expat bar). In places like Taipei and Hong Kong, there can be several expat bars where people from their home countries can feel like they are home again.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 post? I’d love to hear from you! Use the comment form on this post to let me know.