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…

pray / prey

The word pray is a verb, and it means to talk to God or to any spirit or deity that is the object of worship: The mother is praying for her son to recover from his illness. The tribe prayed to the gods for rain. The noun form is a prayer (referring to the words…

ago / back / before

Ago and back are used for past times from the present moment: I graduated from high school ten years ago. (ten years in the past from today) We sent the package three days ago. (three days in the past from today) I moved here about five years back. (informal – five years in the past…

gut / guts

The word gut refers to a part of the body, but it has some metaphorical meanings, too. Your “gut” is your stomach. Some men have a “beer gut” (a big stomach from drinking too much beer!) and some people talk about wanting to do exercise to “lose their gut” (make their stomach smaller). We also…

know / meet

Meet has two meanings: When you have first contact with a person: “I met him last year.” (NOT “I knew him last year.”) When you will encounter someone you already know. In this case, we often use “meet with” or “meet up with”: “I’m meeting up with some friends at the bar after work.” Know…

ceiling / roof

The upper interior surface of a room is called the ceiling. The upper exterior surface of a building is called the roof. A tall apartment building has many ceilings inside it, because each level has its own ceiling – but it only has one roof, at the very top.

scream / shout

Shouting is simply speaking loudly or making a loud sound. If you saw your friend some distance away at a crowded park, you might shout her name to get her attention. A soccer coach might shout instructions to the players on the field. Shouting can be angry, joyful, or neutral. When you scream, you make…

poison / venom

Both of these words describe substances that cause injury, illness, or death when they get into your body. The difference is that poison gets into your body if you inhale it (breathe it in), ingest it (eat or drink), or touch it. Venom gets into your body if it is injected in, such as through…

good evening / good night

Evening is the time when the sky starts to get dark – usually around 6-8 PM. Night is the time when it is dark and people are generally sleeping. Say “Good evening” to say “hello” after 6:00 PM. “Good evening” is commonly used at restaurants, in a professional context, and in speeches (when you speak…

could / should / would

Use should and shouldn’t to ask for and give advice and suggestions: “I’ve had a really bad headache for the past week.” “That’s not good – you should go to the doctor.” “I want to make more friends, but I don’t know how.” “First of all, you shouldn’t spend so much time on the computer….

early / soon

The word soon means a short time after now, a short time in the future. If right now it is April, and Harry will graduate from college in May, then he’ll be graduating from college soon. If it’s 5:30 and I will be home at 6:00, then I will get home from work soon. The…

I / my / me / mine / myself

I is the subject – the person who does the action in the sentence. I gave John the book. Me is the object – the person who receives the action in the sentence. John gave me the book. R: John gave the book to me. Most people get confused when there are multiple subjects or…

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…

by / until

When talking about a date in the future… Use by if a single event will happen before that point: I will send you the information by Friday. (= before Friday) Use until if a continuous event will continue and then stop at that point: ur guests will arrive by 6:00. (= before 6:00) I’ll be…

stuff / things

The word thing / things is countable. It refers to specific objects, or a collection of specific objects: There are five things in the box. I forgot my wallet, my phone, and a few other things when I left home today. The word stuff can also refer to a general collection of things (usually someone’s…

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…

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…

female / feminine / woman

Woman is a noun (used with a/an/the) and female is an adjective (which describes a noun). So we say: She is the country’s first female president. woman president The president of the country is a woman. a female There is a similar rule with male (adjective) and man (noun): Male life expectancy is often lower…

so / very / a lot

Use a lot of before nouns to mean a large quantity or a high number. “A lot of’ can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns. There were a lot of students in the classroom. I drank a lot of water during the marathon. Use verb + a lot to mean “very much” or…

wish

We can use wish + infinitive to mean want. Wish is more formal. I wish to see the manager, please. For the diffferences between wish, want, expect, hope and look forward to, We can also use wish to express regrets — to say that we would like things to be different. We use a past…

peak / pique

These two words are pronounced the same. To pique is a verb and it means to provoke or arouse. There is an expression, “It piqued my interest.” -this means that something attracted your interest or attention. However, some people write it incorrectly as “It peaked my interest.” A peak is a noun, it means the…

difficult / hard

Difficult is the opposite of easy. It means that something requires lots of effort to do it. Hard can be the opposite of “soft” (such as a hard pillow and a soft pillow) but it can also mean “difficult.” For example, you can say: The test was difficult. = The test was hard. It’s difficult…

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.

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…

will / would

Use will: 1. to talk about the future Ex) The bus will leave at 8:30. Ex) Elections are next month. I think the president will be re-elected. 2. to make promises and offers – when in statement form (not in question form): Ex) Sorry I was late to class today. I’ll be on time tomorrow….

good / well

Good is an adjective; it describes nouns: – That’s a good idea! – The food at that restaurant is really good. – She performed good. Use good before the noun (good idea) or after a form of the verb “to be” (the food is good; the drinks are good; the party was good). Well is…

look / see / watch

These are all actions you do with your eyes, but there are some small differences in the ways we use each word: Look is to direct your attention towards something. “Look” is intentional, and it is often used in the form: look + at + (object) – Look at the sunset – it’s so beautiful!…

ignore / neglect

If you ignore someone/something, it means you don’t pay attention to it: – The president ignored the criticism and continued with his plan. – My best friend has been ignoring me ever since we had a fight – she hasn’t been answering my calls. – Ralph drives way too fast; he totally ignores the speed…

sale / sell

Sell is a verb and sale is a noun: – I’m going to sell my car and buy a new one. – She’s selling bottles of water at the football game. – Yesterday I sold all of my old college textbooks on the internet. – The bookstore is having a Christmas sale – everything is…

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…