who ever, what ever, how ever etc

These express surprise, or difficulty in believing something. Who ever is that girl with the green hair? What ever are you doing? How ever did you manage to start the car? I couldn’t. When ever will I have time to write some letters? Where ever have you been? Why ever didn Y you tell me…

hope / wish

The word wish is usually used for hypothetical (imagined) situations, when you want something in the present or past to be different. When you’re wishing a present situation was different, use wish + simple past: I live near the beach, but I wish I lived near the mountains. I wish my mother knew how to…

dinner / supper / meal / snack

The word meal means any time when you eat a large amount of food. There are typically 3 meals per day – breakfast (in the morning), lunch (mid-day), and dinner (at night). A snack is a smaller amount of food (for example, a bag of chips or a piece of fruit) and you can eat…

critic / critical / criticism / critique

Let’s start with the difference between criticism and a critique. Criticism is negative comments – identifying faults or bad points. A critique is simply an evaluation – it can comment on the good points and/or the bad points. My project idea received a lot of criticism from my colleagues – they said it would never…

will

Forms Will is a ‘modal auxiliary verb’. It has no -s in the third person singular; questions and negatives are made without do: after will, we use an infinitive without to. Will the train be on time? Contractions are ‘II, won’t. Do you think it’ll rain ? It won’t rain. Future We can use will…

notable / noticeable

Something that is noticeable means that it is easy to be seen or observed: He has a noticeable accent – he must not be a native English speaker. The new medicine resulted in a noticeable improvement in her health. The differences between the old software and the new software are barely noticeable. Something that is…

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…

decline / deny / refuse / reject

To deny something is to say something is not true, or say that you DID NOT do something: The teenager denied stealing the DVDs from the store. The businessman denied the accusations that he had stolen money from the company. (He said he didn’t do it) To refuse is NOT to do something, or to…

girl / lady / woman

In the past, the distinction between lady and woman used to be clearer: woman = general word for a female adult man = general word for a male adult lady = an honorable woman with good manners and refined behavior gentleman = an honorable man with good manners and refined behavior Nowadays, however, there is…

enquire / inquire

Both of these verbs are used for asking about something or looking for information. The nouns for the request / investigation are enquiry and inquiry. Technically, enquire is used for “ask” in general (“He enquired about prices for the products”), and inquire for a more formal investigation (“The police will make an inquiry into the…

overtake / take over

Overtake (v.) means to catch up with something and then pass it. This can be in terms of movement/physical speed, or in terms of getting higher numbers: With a final burst of speed, Gary overtook Paul and won the race. The number of women in college has now overtaken the number of men. Sales of…

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…

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…

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:

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…

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…

adverse / averse

The word adverse refers to something that is opposing – it goes against what you want, and is often unfavorable, harmful or challenging. Heavy rain, high winds, or icy roads are adverse weather conditions (because they interfere with the operation of normal life and transportation). If a medicine makes the patient’s health get worse, not…

farther / further

The word farther is used for distances: I ran 3 miles, but my sister ran 5 miles. She ran 2 miles farther than me. Philadelphia is just a two-hour drive away, but Washington is farther – it takes about 5 hours to get there. You can remember it because farther has the word “far” in…

safety / security

Although the dictionary definitions of these words are the same, they are often used slightly differently. The word safety usually means protection from injury, accidents, and dangerous situations or substances. Seatbelts and airbags are safety measures to protect you in a car crash. Following regulations properly helps keep factory workers safe from accidents. If a…

last / latest

Both last and latest can be used to mean the “most recent”: Did you read the last issue of the magazine? Did you read the latest issue of the magazine? My last post on the blog got a lot of comments. My latest post on the blog got a lot of comments. I saw her…

would

Forms Would is a ‘modal auxiliary verb’ (see 202). There is no -s in the third person singular; questions and negatives are made without do; after would, we use the infinitive without to. Meaning We use would as a past form of will, or as a less definite, ‘softer’ form of will. Compare: I’ll be…

dilemma / quandary

Both of these words are used for complicated and problematic situations, but there is a small difference between them. A quandary is when you don’t know what to do; you are in a state of uncertainty. A dilemma is a situation where you have to choose between options that all seem bad in some way….

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.

fee / fare / tax

These words describe an amount of money that needs to be paid – but they’re used in different situations. Fare is used only for transportation: The bus fare is the cost of the bus ticket The train fare is the cost of the train ticket The taxi fare is the cost of taking a taxi…

persons / peoples

In everyday English, the plural form of person is people: One person came to the English class. Two people came to the English class. The word peoples means two or more people groups: There are various indigenous peoples living in the Amazon. Many different languages are spoken among the peoples of Africa. The word persons…

city / downtown / town

A city is larger than a town. New York City, Boston, Miami, and Los Angeles are examples of cities. All state or country capitals are cities; cities usually have some significant political, economic or cultural importance. The word town refers to a smaller population center. And a very small population center – even smaller than…

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…

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…

little / small

Small is only used for physical size (a big apartment / a small apartment). Little can be used for: Size (The cake is decorated with little flowers.) Amount (Can I have a little milk for my coffee?) Degree (I’m a little nervous.) Size with an emotional expression. This emotional expression can be: Adoration: Look at…

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…