United

However, there is some confusion because sometimes Americans say “British” to mean “English” (from England) when in reality the island of Great Britain contains three countries.

below / under / beneath / underneath

The word under is the most common. It is usually used for three-dimensional objects: I found my textbook under the bed. The cat is lying under the table. The papers are under that magazine. Under can be used both when the objects are touching (as in the papers and magazine) and when the objects are…

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…

regretful / regrettable

A person who feels regret is regretful. The incident or situation that causes regret is regrettable: The murderer said he was deeply regretful of the pain he had caused the victim’s family. I’m regretful of my decision not to study abroad. I should have traveled when I had the chance. The church had to be…

blanket / comforter / quilt

A blanket is a large piece of cloth covering a bed, which helps keep you warm when you sleep. A comforter is a very thick blanket, usually filled with soft and fluffy material inside. It will keep you extra-warm… and comfortable! A quilt is a type of blanket made by sewing different pieces of fabric…

imply / infer

To imply something means to suggest it in an indirect way, without saying it directly. Larry’s remarks implied that he’d be leaving the company soon. The evidence seems to imply that the suspect is innocent of the crime. To infer something is to form a conclusion from the information available (especially if the information available…

awkward / embarrassing

Something that is embarrassing makes you feel uncomfortable in front of other people. Your face turns red and you wish you could disappear! If you are singing a song in a performance, and you forget the words, that would be embarrassing. If you are introduced to somebody, and then later you call them by the…

Britain / England / the United Kingdom

These words are different because of their geography: England is a single country. The capital of England is London. Great Britain is an island that contains three countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom is a political unit that includes four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

year-old / years old

When you say the age of someone or something, you can say subject + is + # years old: I’m thirty years old. That boy is fourteen years old. These houses are 200 years old. When you want to say the age before the subject, then use #-year-old: My twenty-year-old sister A fourteen-year-old boy The…

have to / must / need to

These words are all used for obligations – things that are necessary and required. Must is the most formal. It is usually used in official rules (and is not as common in spoken English): Students must register for classes by August 1. You must possess a valid driver’s license to apply for this job. NEVER…

ill / sick

Sick is the less formal word, and it usually describes a more temporary health problem – often nausea, although not always. If you’re feeling sick, you might need to vomit. If you get the flu, you might be sick for two weeks. If a child is sick, he stays home from school that day. Taking…

assure / ensure / insure

Assure means to tell another person something to remove doubt or anxiety. I was afraid we’d miss the flight, but my husband assured me we’d get to the airport in time. I assure you that the water here is perfectly safe to drink. After assure, we always have a person: assure you, assure him/her, etc….

aid / assist / help

There is no difference in meaning between these three words, but there are some slight differences in the way they fit in the sentence. Help is the most common and most informal (aid and assist are both more formal). Aid is more commonly used as a noun, not a verb: a hearing aid is a…

defect / fault / flaw

A flaw is a problem or err or (small or large) that makes something less effective or valuable. The word flaw can be used for problems in objects, ideas, or people’s character: Objects: This diamond is less expensive because it contains several flaws. Ideas: There’s a major flaw in your plan – it will never…

politics / policy

Politics means the world of government in general: The vice-president has a long career in politics. I hate discussing politics with my family because it always turns into an argument. Sometimes people talk about “office politics” outside the context of government -this means the connections and actions that people inside a company take in order…

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…

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…

clever / intelligent / smart

Intelligent and smart are the same. Smart is more informal. In an official report or scientific article, we would probably use “intelligent,” and in everyday speaking, we would probably use “smart.” The stereotype that blondes are less intelligent is unsupported by scientific evidence. Your daughter is 3 years old and she already knows how to…

especially / specially

Use especially when something stands out from all the others (similar to the meaning of “particularly.”) The whole book was terrible – especially the ending. He loves animals, especially dogs. I can’t wait for the trip to New York. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty. Especially can also be used before…

administrator / boss / manager

A manager is somebody who has a level of control and responsibility over other people in a company or organization. For example, in a small clothing store, the salespeople would be responsible for selling clothes and helping customers… and the manager would be responsible for making the salespeople’s schedule, organizing the store’s finances, training new…

although / though / even though

These words are all used to show contrast. The difference is where we place them in the sentence. Although and even though are used at the beginning of a sentence or clause – never at the end: Although I exercise a lot, I can never seem to lose any weight. Even though I exercise a…

die / died / dead

Die is the verb in the present, and died is the verb in the past: He’s very sick; the doctors say he’s going to die. The nurse comforted the dying soldier. One of the country’s most famous authors died last week. Dead is the adjective, so we often use it with the verb “to be,”…

remember / remind / reminder

Remember (v.) is when you think of a memory (a past experience): I remember the first time I ever swam in the ocean, when I was 5 years old. Do you remember that great presentation on marketing that we saw at the conference? I don’t think he remembers that we met 30 years ago. Remember…

await / wait / hope / expect

To wait means to pass the time until something happens: – It’s 6:45. I’m waiting for the 7:00 bus. – We waited in line for three hours to get tickets to the concert. – You need to wait for the computer to finish updating. Await is simply a slightly more formal way to say wait…

say / tell / speak

Tell means “to give information to a person” – so tell (present) and told (past) are always followed by a person. Examples: Tell me about the movie. Did you like it? Peter, I told you not to eat any cookies before dinner! Did you tell Sam about what happened at school today? The police told…

every day / everyday

Everyday (one word) is an adjective to describe something else: It’s easy to get stressed out by everyday problems. (everyday describes problems) These shoes are great for everyday wear. (everyday describes wear) When talking about how frequently something occurs, use every day (two words): I study English every day. I walk my dog every day.

relation / relationship

Relationship can describe a connection between two people (this connection may be romantic or not): I’ve been dating my boyfriend for three years. We have a great relationship. He has a terrible relationship with his father. My sister and I have a good relationship. Both relationship and relation can describe connections between two things or…

big / small / long / short / tall / huge / tiny

Use big and small to talk about the general size of something. Elephants are big. Mice are small. The word huge means “very big,” and the word tiny means “very small.” Their new house is huge! I think it has 50 rooms. “Do you want any cake?” “Just a tiny piece. I’m on a diet.”…

discreet / discrete

These words are pronounced the same, and they are both adjectives. Discrete means separate, distinct, individual: The two companies have a partnership, but they are discrete entities. We offer three discrete service plans: internet only, internet + cell phone, and internet + cell phone + TV. Discreet describes something that is modest and does not…

any / some

Some is used in positive statements; any is used in negative statements and questions: Positive: I want some bread Negative: I don’t want any bread. Question: Do we have any bread in the house? There is an exception – some is used in questions if you are offering something to someone, or asking for something:…