just / only

The word “just” has several possible definitions: 1) Recently Be careful – I just washed the floor, and it’s still wet. or ( I washed the floor a few minutes ago) He just finished a big project. or ( he finished the project very recently) 2) Only I have just one brother. or ( I…

job / work / career

A job is a regular and official activity that you do, and receive money for your activity. It is also called a profession or an occupation. You can have a full-time job (40 hours a week) or a part-time job (around 25 hours a week). The word job is a countable noun: Right after graduating…

pass the time / spend time

Use spend time to talk about the time you do an activity: I pass spend a lot of time reading. We passed spent an hour discussing the best way to finish the project. The expression pass the time is different – it means doing something to make the time pass faster while you are waiting…

become / get / turn

Words like turn, become, get, and go can describe changes and transformations -but they’re each used in different expressions. Use turn for colors: Bananas turn black if you put them in the refrigerator. The sky turned pink and orange during the sunset. My uncle’s hair is turning white. Use turn into when talking about a…

beautiful / pretty

These words describe something that is attractive, nice to look at. The word beautiful is stronger and more complete. You could describe a spectacular sunset as beautiful, or a very attractive woman in a fancy dress as beautiful. The word pretty is more informal and superficial. A nice arrangement of flowers could be described as…

what / which

We usually prefer to use which when choosing between a limited number of options (like two or three, or options from inside a category) and what when there is no limit to the number of options: Which do you like better – ketchup or mustard? (only two options) Which philosophy books do you recommend? (options…

guarantee / warranty

The word guarantee just refers to a promise that certain conditions will be fulfilled. We can use it with products, or with things that are not products: All our products come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. I guarantee you will enjoy the experience. We guarantee the accuracy of the information in our reports. A warranty…

lay / lie

This is the technical difference between lay and lie: You lay an object onto a surface. Could you lay those mats on the floor, please? She laid the books on the table. The workers are laying the carpet in the new building. Again, you lay an object onto a surface. But a person/thing lies (itself)…

late / lately

Late can be an adjective or an adverb that means after the correct time. I’m not hungry because I had a late lunch. (adjective) He slept late and missed his first class. (adverb) Lately is an adverb that means the same as recently. I haven’t studied a lot lately. Work has been busy for the…

answer / reply / respond

These verbs have essentially the same meaning. You can: answer an email reply to an email (most common when talking about e-mail) respond to an email When someone calls you, you answer the phone (or pick up the phone). When you make a statement or some comments, we usually say the other person replies or…

automobile / car / vehicle

The word automobile is just another name for a car. In casual everyday English, we usually use the word car. The word vehicle describes the more general category – it means a device for transporting people or things. Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, military tanks, sleds, horse-drawn wagons, even bicycles can all be considered vehicles. All…

allow / let / permit

These verbs all have the same meaning. The difference is in their grammatical structure: LET + PERSON/THING + VERB (base form – without “to”) Examples: I don’t let my kids watch violent movies. Mary’s father won’t let her adopt a puppy because he’s allergic to dogs. Our boss doesn’t let us eat lunch at our…

dirt / earth / soil

These words refer to the substance composed of particles of rocks and organic matter. We usually use the word soil when talking about agriculture: The soil here is too sandy to grow crops. Fruit trees flourish in the fertile soil. Toxic waste from the factory has contaminated the soil in this area. We usually use…

afraid / scared / frightened

When using these words to describe someone’s emotional state – after the verb “to be” and before “of” – you can use afraid or scared with no change in meaning. She’s afraid of spiders. = She’s scared of spiders. “Frightened of” can also be used, but it’s not as common. However, when used in the…

definitely / definitively

Definite (adjective) or definitely (adverb) means certain, without a single doubt: We have definite plans to move to New York. (it is 100% certain that we will move there) I’m definitely going to the party. (it is 100% certain that I am going) This $50 jacket is definitely overpriced. I saw the exact same jacket…

lose / miss

Use lose with objects (when you don’t know where they are) or with sports games (the opposite of “win”): I’ve lost my calculator. Can I borrow yours? My favorite soccer team lost 3-0 in the semifinal. When YOU don’t know where you are, you are lost or have gotten lost: I took the wrong train…

confident / confidant / confidence

The adjective confident describes when you feel certain – especially of a good outcome, like success. It can also describe a person who feels good about himself/herself. I’m confident that all the problems will be resolved soon. The company is confident of a successful winter season. I’m attracted to women who are strong and confident….

alien / foreigner / stranger

A stranger is a person you don’t know: – When I was a child, my mother taught me not to get into a car with a stranger. – When my car broke down, a kind stranger stopped to help me. A foreigner is someone who comes from another country: – This town is a popular…

enough / too

Enough means you have what is sufficient/necessary; too means you have more than what is sufficient/necessary. There are a few important details about their word order in the sentence: TOO too + adjective This shirt is too expensive. It costs $30 and I have only $25. too much + uncountable noun I drank too much…

inhabit / live / reside

Live is the most common word: My family lives in a big house. They live on the East Coast. I’ve lived in Canada my whole life. We’ve been living here for five years. Reside is a more formal word for live. It usually implies that you live in a place permanently or for a long…

close / shut

You can use both close and shut with doors and windows: Please close/shut the door. I closed/shut the window because it was getting cold. (the past tense of “shut” is also “shut”) With eyes and mouths, “close” is probably a little more common than “shut” (especially with mouth): He closed his eyes and tried to…

also / as well / too

These words are all used to show similarity or sameness: Jeff plays soccer. Greg plays soccer, too. Jeff plays soccer. Greg also plays soccer. Jeff plays soccer. Greg plays soccer as well. The only difference is in their placement in the sentence. Too and as well are used at the end of a sentence. (As…

award / reward / prize

A reward is something nice given to a person who has done well. For example: If an employee has worked hard, the boss might give her an extra vacation day as a reward. If a child cleans their room, the parent might buy them a special toy as a reward. If you lose your cell…

collect / gather

The word gather simply means to bring together or come together: I gathered all my books and put them into my backpack. A crowd gathered around the TV to watch the World Cup game. If something is getting faster or stronger, you can say it gathers momentum or gathers strength: The charity campaign gathered momentum…

kinds / types / sorts

When talking about different varieties of things, kinds, types, and sorts are essentially the same: I like many different types of music. All sorts of people come to this club – students, professionals, artists. This restaurant has fifty different kinds of sushi. When asking questions, we usually use the singular form: What type of music…

borrow / lend / loan / owe

To lend or loan is to GIVE something to a person temporarily, and to borrow is to RECEIVE something temporarily (and you will need to give it back). If Maria is in class and she doesn’t have a pencil, she could ask her friend Daniel: “Could I borrow a pencil?” Or: “Could you lend/loan me…

think about / think of

The two most common prepositions used after the verb “think” are “about” and “of.” They are very similar, but there is a small difference. Usually when you think of something, it is a brief moment – just a few seconds. It is also used for opinions. When you think about something, you are considering it…

incite / insight

Insight (pronounced IN – site) is a noun that means an in-depth understanding: The biography offered many insights into the life of a famous artist. The research will provide insight into the development of the brain. She has lived in Mongolia for 30 years, and has valuable insight into the local culture. Incite (pronounced in…

do / make

DO generally refers to the action itself, and MAKE usually implies that there is a result. For example, if you “make breakfast,” the result is an omelet! If you “make a suggestion,” you have created a recommendation. Use DO for actions, obligations, and repetitive tasks: do the laundry do homework do the shopping do business…

few / little / less / fewer

Few is used with countable nouns, and little is used with uncountable nouns: I have a little money. (money = uncountable) I have a few dollars. (dollars = countable) There’s little entertainment in this town. (entertainment = uncountable) There are few nightclubs in this town. (nightclubs = countable) ne important detail: little is used with…