for / since

Use for with periods of time: I’ve been studying English for two years. for… three years two weeks four days five hours ten minutes three decades two centuries Use since with measuring the time after a specific point in time: I’ve been studying English since 2010. since. 9:00 1973 Monday February last Christmas I was…

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…

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…

bill / invoice / receipt

Bill and invoice both refer to a document that is requiring money to be paid for goods or services provided. In everyday conversation, we usually talk about bills: The electrical company sends you an electrical bill. The phone company sends you a phone bill. After you get treated in a hospital, if you don’t have…

capital / capitol

The word capital, in politics/geography, refers to the town or city that is the official center of a country’s government: Washington D.C. is the capital of the U.S. The word capitol is very specific – it refers to a building or complex of buildings where the government meets to make laws. t The capitol building…

hundred / hundreds

Use hundred when there is a specific number, and use hundreds when you don’t know or can’t count how many. This rule also applies to thousand/thousands and million/millions. This skeleton is thousands of years old. This skeleton is three thousand years old. When saying numbers, always use the singular form: 250 = Two hundred and…

all ready / already / all right / alright

All ready and all right (two words) mean that everything is ready or everything is correct / OK: – The students are all ready for the test. – Your answers are all right. or All your answers are right. Already means that something happened earlier than expected: – He’s only 14 and he’s already graduated…

alone / lonely / only

Alone means “by yourself” – there is nobody else with you: I like to take long walks alone so that I have time to think. He got up and left the restaurant, leaving me alone at the table. Lonely means “feeling sad and isolated” – it is a negative emotion. I was lonely on my…

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…

close to / near / next to

If two things are next to each other, it means they are immediately beside each other: Ex) There’s a bank next to my house. With the word “next,” we always use “to”: Don’t say “There’s a bank next my house.” If two things are near or close to each other, it means they are in…

last / past

In some situations, you can use last and past interchangeably with no difference in meaning: The economy has improved in the past month. The economy has improved in the last month. When used with time, the word past always requires the or this – but the word last does not. Last weekend I went to…

allude / elude

If you allude to something, it means you refer to it indirectly, without saying it specifically. For example, if there is a software program with lots of bugs and errors, the developer might allude to the problems by saying “The process of developing the software has been very challenging.” – He does not mention the…

carpet / mat / rug

These three words all refer to floor coverings – but they are of different sizes. A carpet usually covers the entire floor, from wall to wall: A rug covers a medium-sized area: A mat covers a very small area – like a doormat or a yoga mat:

explore / exploit

To explore (verb) is to investigate or travel to a new area in order to discover things. Exploration is neutral: The satellite will explore the area outside our solar system. We are exploring the possibility of a business partnership. To exploit (verb) is to take advantage of something, usually in a selfish or unethical way….

rob / thief / steal

The nouns robber and thief refer to the person, the criminal: imaae source The robbers ran away from the police. The thief took my laptop and cell phone. “Give me all your money!” the robber said. The thieves were tall, white men who looked about 22 years old. The robbery (n.) is the event: Police…

apology / excuse

If you give an apology, you say you are sorry for doing something wrong. If you give an excuse, you provide a reason or explanation for the problem (this can be seen as trying to avoid responsibility). Apology: “I’m sorry I was late. It won’t happen again.” Excuse: “I was late because my car wouldn’t…

angry / upset

If someone is upset, it means they are in an agitated mental or emotional state. If somebody is angry, it means they are NOT happy, they are hostile. Being angry is stronger than being upset. If somebody accidentally spilled coffee all over your new clothes, you would probably be upset (because it is inconvenient to…

can / could / able to

“Can” and “able to” are the same in the present tense: Can you take on this project? Yes, I can take on this project. Are you able to take on this project? Yes, I’m able to take on this project. The negative forms are can’t and not able to – or unable to: Sorry, I…

then / than

Although these words are spelled differently and have different meanings, in fast spoken English they often sound the same: then and than. Than is used in comparatives: I’m older than my brother. A car is faster than a bicycle. I learned more from my parents than I learned from my teachers. Then is used in…

bring / take

Bring shows movement TO the speaker; take shows movement AWAY FROM the speaker: Could you bring me a fork from the kitchen? Could you take the mail to the post office? or take the mail from here to the post office

house / home

A house is a specific type of building. It is different from an apartment. A house is a physical thing – we can talk about a big house, a small house, a blue house, etc. You can also talk about doing work on your house – painting your house, remodeling your house, building a house,…

concern / concerned / concerning

If you say someone is concerned, it means that person is worried: I’m concerned about my son – he’s not getting good grades in school. I live in a big city, and my mother is concerned for my safety. We’re concerned that we won’t be able to finish the project in time. You can also…

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…

wander / wonder

These are two completely different words, but sometimes students confuse them because of their similar spelling and pronunciation. Wander is a physical activity. It means to move around (usually walking) without a specific destination or purpose: On the first day of my trip, I spent a couple hours wandering around the city. We wandered through…

worth … -ing

We can use worth . . . -ing in two structures. [it is (not) worth … -ing (+ object)] It isn’t worth repairing the car. Is it worth visiting Leicester? It’s not worth getting angry with her. [subject + is (not) worth … -ing] The car isn’t worth repairing. Is Leicester worth visiting? She’s not…

effective / efficient

If something is effective, it means it achieves the desired effect/result: This vaccine is quite effective against the disease. or ( the vaccine has the desired result of preventing the disease) The new law was ineffective in reducing crime. or ( the law did not achieve the desired result of reducing crime) As you can…

already / yet

Both yet and already are used with the present perfect tense. Already is usually used in positive sentences. Yet is usually used in questions and negative sentences. Imagine that you and your friend are going to travel. There are many things to do, and you ask your friend if he has done these things: Have…

broad / wide

Both of these words describe something that is large from side to side: A wide/broad river When measuring things, we usually use wide: The river is 100 feet wide. There was a six-inch-wide hole in the wall. We also have these expressions with broad: broad shoulders (when a person’s shoulders are far apart from each…

lose / loose

Lose is a verb; it is the opposite of “win” and also the opposite of “find.” The baseball team is losing 5-2. I lost my favorite hat. I can’t find it anywhere! Loose is an adjective, it is the opposite of “tight.” These pants are too loose – I’ll need to wear a belt. My…

I = subject

Jim = object The teacher called Sarah and me. The teacher = subject Sarah = object me = object My and mine show possession. Use my before the word, and use mine after the word: Paul is my friend. Paul is a friend of mine. Those are my glasses. Those glasses are mine. The word…