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April 21, 2009

Biannual — twice a year or every two years?

"When we describe something as 'biannual,' we can mean either that it occurs twice a year or that it occurs once every two years. So how does someone know which particular meaning we have in mind? Well, unless we provide them with a contextual clue, they don't. Some people prefer to use 'semiannual' to refer to something that occurs twice a year, reserving 'biannual' for things that occur once every two years. This practice is hardly universal among English speakers, however, and 'biannual' remains a potentially ambiguous word. Fortunately, English also provides us with 'biennial,' a word that specifically refers to something that occurs every two years or that lasts or continues for two years."
[via Burdujan Radu and Cary Sternick]

April 21, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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I knew a real estate investor (shark) that used this trick when he made an offer on a property. He would propose a biannual payment of $X in the contract.

The seller would think he was getting two payments a year.

Posted by: Ray | Apr 21, 2009 8:45:52 PM

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