Grammar Trap: Sensuous vs. Sensual

This semester, I found these words confused in a student paper, and I heard a chef do the same thing last night on the Food Network. (That means it qualifies for a "Grammar Trap.")

Granted, both "senuous" and "sensual" are adjectives meaning to appeal to the senses, but there's a significant difference that outweighs this similarity.

"Sensuous" means to appeal to the senses or to have strong sensory appeal.

Examples: The experience of reading an actual book is sensuous in a way that reading from a screen is not. The sauce is sensuous in its richness.

"Sensual" is altogether more carnal in meaning. It basically pertains to fleshly or sexual appeal.

Example: They think the movie is too sensual for young viewers.

Hint: "Sensual" and "sexual" both end in "ual."

Do you have a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like to see discussed? Do you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one? If so, please let me know.


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