Angela’s ABCs – Words Easily Confused: Rein and Reign by Angela Caldin
You often see mistakes with these two and that one letter ‘g’ makes a big difference.
- He held the horse’s reins tightly and felt the animal champ on the metal bit between its teeth.
- When her father retired she successfully took over the reins of the family business.
To give a horse free rein is to hold the reins loosely to allow the animal freedom of movement – it’s the opposite of keeping a tight rein on the horse. These terms are also often used metaphorically:
- The new CEO was given free rein to put a stop to the company’s decline.
- It was vital to keep a tight rein on the food budget.
To rein means to control a horse by pulling on the reins and has an additional figurative sense of to keep someone or something under control – usually seen with ‘in’ and ‘back’:
- She realised that she would have to rein in her spending if she wanted to go on holiday.
- He decided to rein back his drinking which had been getting out of control.
- Queen Victoria’s long reign lasted for sixty three years.
- Mrs Thatcher’s reign as prime minister came to an abrupt end when some of her colleagues engineered her resignation.
To reign is used to indicate that a king or queen ruled or held royal office and can also be used to indicate that someone or something is in a position of control or power:
- King Edward VIII, who was never crowned, reigned for only 325 days.
- This spring, the colour pink reigns supreme.
- Steve Jobs reigned for many years at Apple Computers, but not without problems.