In this list you will find some pairs of words which look or sound similar. Some others (for example lay and lie) are explained in other parts of the book. Look in the Index to find out where.
- Beside = ‘at the side of or ‘by’.
Come and sit beside me.
Besides = (a) ‘as well as’ (preposition)
(b) ‘also’, ‘as well’ (adverb)
a. Besides German, she speaks French and Italian.
b. I don’t like those shoes. Besides, they’re too expensive.
- Clothes are things you wear: skirts, trousers etc.
Cloths are pieces of material for cleaning.
Clothes has no singular: we say something to wear, or an article of clothing, or a skirt etc, but not a clothe.
- Dead is an adjective. a dead man Mrs McGinty is dead That idea has been dead for years.
Died is the past tense and past participle of the verb die.
Shakespeare died in 1616. (NOT Shakespeare dead . . .)
She died in a car crash. (NOT She is dead in . . .)
- Economic refers to the science of economics, or to the economy of a country, state etc.
economic theory economic problems
Economical means ‘not wasting money’. an economical little car an economical housekeeper
- Elder and eldest are often used before the names of relations: brother, sister, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter. Older and oldest are also possible.
- My elder/older brother has just got married.
His eldest/oldest daughter is a medical student.
If I say my elder brother/sister, I only have one brother or sister older than me. If I have more, I say eldest.
We say elder son/daughter when there are only two; if there are more we say eldest.
Elder and eldest are only used before brother, sister etc.
In other cases we use older and oldest.
She likes older men
I’m the oldest person in my office.
- The tests which scientists do are called experiments.
- female and feminine; male and masculine
- Female and male say what sex people, animals and plants belong to.
- A female fox is called a vixen.
He works as a male nurse.
Feminine and masculine are used for qualities and behaviour that are supposed to be typical of men or women.
- She has a very masculine laugh.
It was a very feminine bathroom.
Feminine and masculine are also used for grammatical forms in some languages.
- The word for ‘moon’ is feminine in French and masculine in German.
- its and it’s
- Its is a possessive determiner, like my, your, his and her.
The cat’s hurt its foot (not . , . it’s foot.)
It’s is a contraction for it is or it has.
It’s late, (not Its late.) It’s stopped raining.
- last and latest
- We use latest for things which are new.
What do you think of his latest film?
Last can mean ‘the one before this’.
I like his new film better than his last one.
Last can also mean ‘the one at the end’, ‘final’.
This is your last chance.
- look after and look for
- Look after = ‘take care of’.
Will you look after the children while I’m out?
Look for = ‘try to find’.
‘What are you doing down there?’ Looking for my keys.’
- lose and loose
- Lose is a verb — the opposite of find.
I keep losing my keys. (NOT . . . loosing . . .)
Loose is an adjective — the opposite of tight.
My shoes are too loose.
- presently and at present
- Presently most often means ‘not now, later’.
- ‘Mummy, can I have an ice-cream?’ Presently, dear.’
He’s having a rest now. He’ll be down presently
Presently is sometimes used to mean ‘now’, especially in American English. This is the same as ‘at present’.
- Professor Holloway is presently researching into plant diseases.
- price and prize
- The price is what you pay if you buy something.
What’s the price of the green dress?
A prize is what you are given if you win a competition, or if you have done something exceptional.
She received the Nobel Prize for physics.
- Newton did several experiments on light and colour.
(NOT . .. severahexperiences . . .)
We also use experiment for anything that people do to see what the result will be.
- Try some of this perfume as an experiment.
Experiences are the things that you ‘live through’; the things that happen to you in life.
- I had a lot of interesting experiences during my year in Africa.
The uncountable noun experience means ‘learning by doing things’ or ‘the knowledge you get from doing things’.
- Salesgirl wanted experience unnecessary.
- Principal is usually an adjective. It means ‘main’, ‘most important’. What is your principal reaion for wanting to be a doctor?
The noun Principal means ‘headmaster’ or ‘headmistress’ (of a school for adults).
If you want to leave early you II have to ask the Principal.
A principle is a scientific law or a moral rule.
Newton discovered the principle of universal gravitation.
She’s a girl with very strong principles
- Quite is an adverb of degree — it can mean ‘fairly’ or ‘completely’.
- Our neighbours are quite noisy.
Quiet is the opposite of loud or noisy.
She’s very quiet. You never hear her moving about.
- If you are sensible you have ‘common sense’. You do not make stupid decisions.
- I want to buy that dress.’ ‘Be sensible, dear. You haven’t got that much money.’
If you are sensitive you feel things easily or deeply — perhaps you can easily be hurt.
- Don’t shout at her — she’s very sensitive, (not … very sensible.)
- Shade is protection from the sun.
I’m hot. Let’s sit in the shade of that tree.
We say shadow when we are thinking of the ‘picture’ made by an unlighted area.
In the evening your shadow is longer than you are.
- Some time means ‘one day’. It refers to an indefinite time, usually in the future.
- Let’s have dinner together some time next week.
Sometimes is an adverb of frequency . It means ‘on some occasions’, ‘more than once’.
- I sometimes went skiing when I lived in Germany.